Apr 13, 2024  
2012-2013 Graduate Catalog 

Public Affairs Ph.D.

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The Ph. D. in Public Affairs is an interdisciplinary degree drawing upon the faculty throughout the college. The Mission of the Ph.D. in Public Affairs is to serve as the nexus between the academic community and the world of service and practice in the private, non-profit, and public sectors.

The degree will prepare individuals to study issues facing society in the context of public, private, and nonprofit organizations and institutions. Students entering the program will have the ability to follow two career paths: 1) to conduct research, consult, and serve as analysts within and to organizations; or 2) to enter the academic world at the college or university level.

The degree program is designed to promote scholarship and innovation in public affairs. The degree program will provide for significant interaction between students and faculty in learning, research, and application of expertise to public issues. In addition, the degree will prepare those students interested in entering the academic world with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to be successful teachers and researchers at the college and university level.

The program will provide students with carefully supervised teaching experience as graduate assistants; offer mentoring in research and publication through graduate seminars; and mentor them in attending professional meetings and presenting papers.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the program is done only in the fall semester. Applicants should check the School of Environmental and Public Affairs and the Graduate College web sites for the specific application deadline, http://sepa.unlv.edu/ and http://graduatecollege.unlv.edu/

Admission requirements include:

  1. Completed Graduate College Application.
  2. An earned master’s degree (or another advanced graduate degree, i.e. J.D.) from a regionally accredited institution with a minimum GPA of 3.50.
  3. Three letters of recommendation including one letter from an individual who can evaluate the applicant’s ability to conduct graduate work at the Ph.D. level. A second letter of recommendation must come from someone who has supervised the candidate in a work setting.
  4. A current resume.
  5. A statement of purpose explaining the applicant’s career goals and why the doctorate would enhance the likelihood of achieving those goals. The statement should also explain why the applicant believes that he or she is qualified to conduct academic work at the advance graduate level. Finally, the statement should address the specific area of specialization the student would like to emphasize.
  6. A writing sample from previous graduate work or a significant publication completed in the work setting that is directly attributable to the applicant.
  7. A satisfactory GRE score (the expected minimum score is a combined 1,000 for the verbal and quantitative sections; equivalent LSAT scores would be acceptable).
  8. Students may be asked to meet with a member of the admission committee for a personal interview.


Degree Requirements

A minimum of 46 credits beyond the master’s degree level is required. Credit distribution is in four areas. The four areas include:

Public Affairs Core Required Courses

The four courses include:
PAF 700 - Public Programs 


Analytical Studies Core

Analytical Studies Core. Students are required to take twelve credits in research methods and analysis.



The remaining six credits will be selected by the student with the approval of his or her advisor. Optional courses should be selected to enhance the individual’s ability to conduct research in the student’s area of interest.

Area of Specialization

Students must take twelve credits at the 700 level in a specific area of interest. Courses may be taken from more than one department. Approval of the plan of study in the area of concentration must be received before taking any course. Examples of area of specialization include: Social Policy, Public Management, Criminal Justice, Communications and Public Discourse, Human Resource Management, and Program Evaluation.


Students are expected to write a dissertation demonstrating both knowledge of a specific topic and the ability to conduct high quality original research. Students enroll in six credits of dissertation work each semester they are working on the dissertation. The minimum number of dissertation credits required for graduation is twelve.


Students will take the equivalent of four exams before completing the degree. At the end of the core public affairs course work and the analytical studies work, students will take exams in each area. A student must pass both written comprehensive exams to remain in the program. Exams are expected to be taken at after the third semester of course work.

The equivalent of a third exam will be taken by the student when the student completes and defends the dissertation prospectus. The prospectus should demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the subject area under investigation and a detailed plan on how the student will conduct her/his original research.

Students, on completion of their dissertation, will present their findings to the public (and their Examination Committee) and orally defend the research.

General Information

In the first three semesters, and the intervening summer, students in the program enroll in courses as a cohort. Except for one semester where the students take seven credits, all students must enroll in the designated six credits. Students will, in conjunction with the  PAF Ph.D. Program Coordinator, obtain an advisor who will be the lead member of the student’s Doctoral Examination Committee.

Students should be aware that the Graduate College limits course work for a degree to six years. Students should obtain a copy of the Graduate College handbook for graduate students available on the Graduate College web site.

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