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Policy Studies (POSI)   

Program Title and Classification

Policy Studies

Graduate Degree Program

College: Public Policy


The School of Public Policy is one of the nation’s leading graduate programs devoted to the study of public policy, management and international affairs, with particular expertise in the fields of environmental policy, international development, international security and economic policy, social policy, non-profit management, public management and leadership, and public finance. The School offers a wide variety of master’s programs, joint degree programs, graduate certificate programs, and one of the nation’s premier doctorate programs. The School’s location just outside of Washington, D.C. attracts a stellar faculty of scholar-practitioners who are experts in the theory and practice of public policy and management and influential participants in the nation’s policy-making process. The location and faculty in turn attract outstanding students by providing them, not only an in-depth, rich curriculum, but extensive exposure to and interaction with the real-life world of policy-making, the federal government, the international diplomatic community, state and local governments, and a host of non-governmental and multinational organizations. It is one of the few policy schools to combine state, national and international policy study under one roof, and to take into account policy interests in all sectors of the economy, thus allowing both faculty and students to study the full range of issues in all courses and in all research. The Ph.D. program trains policy analysts who will make their marks in the practice and teaching of public policy. To this end, a limited number of applicants are admitted annually. In their first year, students develop and demonstrate proficiency in economic, normative, political, and quantitative analysis. They then pursue advanced study within their chosen specialization. Finally, they complete and defend a doctoral dissertation. Those awarded the degree move on to public policy careers in government, research, academia, and the private sector.

Admissions Information

General Requirements:

Program-Specific Requirements:

  • Letters of Recommendation (3)
  • Graduate Record Examination (GRE)
  • CV/Resume
  • Supplementary Application
  • Description of Research: Describe the research areas you are interested in, the research problem(s) on which you would like to work, and their relevance / significance.(uploaded to the Uploads Requirements section of the application)
  • Writing Sample: The writing sample should be relatively recent, and should preferably demonstrate the applicant’s ability to structure and analyze a problem, or critique/develop a viewpoint. (uploaded to the Uploads Requirements section of the application)

For more admissions information or to apply to the program, please visit our Graduate School website:

Application Deadlines

Type of Applicant Fall
Domestic Applicants:
US Citizens and Permanent Residents
15 Mar / 15 Dec (Preferred for funding)
International Applicants:
F (student) or J (exchange visitor) visas
A,E,G,H,I and L visas and immigrants.
15 Mar / 15 Dec (Preferred for funding)

Other Deadlines: Please visit the program website at

Degree Requirements

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Core Requirements

All students are required to choose an advisor within their first year. Students must complete 24 credits of coursework including PLCY 798R and PLCY 798Z. In addition, students must complete 12 credits of PLCY 899: Doctoral Dissertation Research.


The Ph.D. in Policy Studies program enables students to develop in-depth knowledge of the field and to conduct cutting-edge research on public policy and management issues. Students are required to complete at least 24 credits of appropriate coursework, including two required research methods courses. In addition, students must take 12 credits of dissertation research. Students are required to pass exams in the basic disciplines of public policy and two field exams, usually with both a written and oral component, in broad topics relevant to their proposed thesis topics. They then develop and defend a dissertation prospectus followed by the dissertation itself.

The Ph.D. in Policy Studies is principally directed at students who have a master's degree in public policy or a related field, such as economics, statistics, education or international relations, from a program comparable in quality and content to one of the School's own master's programs. Students may apply while in the final year of such a program. Applications will also be considered from recent college graduates without a master's degree who have an outstanding academic record.

Most students will be required to maintain full-time status through completion of the course work leading up to their exams and thesis proposal; this typically requires two to three years. Some students will be admitted on a part-time basis with an agreed schedule to ensure timely completion. A faculty member at the School must agree to serve as the Ph.D. applicant's academic sponsor at the time of admission into the program. To facilitate the selection of a sponsor, applicants should include, as part of their application, a description of the general areas in which they want to study and write their dissertation.


Financial Assistance

The School has financial aid available in the form of fellowships, graduate assistantships, and employment. All qualified applicants meeting appropriate deadlines are considered.



Office of Student Affairs

2101 Van Munching Hall

College Park, MD, 20742

Telephone: 301-405-6331

Fax: 301-403-4675


Associated Information




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