Courses & Degree Requirements

Distinguishing Features of Our Public Policy PhD Curriculum

  • Interdisciplinary study at both the theoretical and the applied levels, drawn from the disciplines of economics, management, sociology, philosophy, political science, public administration, public policy, and urban planning
  • Our program is committed to social equity and bringing a critical lens to the study of public policy
  • The PhD consists of 67 credits arranged over 14 required core classes including a 1-credit Pro-Seminar during the first three fall semesters, 6 elective courses, successful completion of a comprehensive exam, a dissertation proposal and a dissertation

Required Core Curriculum

Fall and spring classes meet once a week. Classes are typically scheduled Mondays through Thursdays.

Course catalogue for all Public Policy courses.

Sample Electives Courses

Students will enroll in 18 elective credits (6 courses). Please note that most courses are offered on a rotating basis.

Nonprofits, Nongovernmental Organizations and Public Policy
Social Welfare Policy
Advanced Quantitative Methods
Topics in Health Care Policy
Scientific and Political Change
Organizations and Social Change

Internship Work

Through the program's elective internship option, students work on a policy project and apply relevant theory and technical skills to a public policy issue.

Sample Internship Projects 

  • Policing in Massachusetts: Setting a Policy Agenda
  • Foster Parenting in Maine: A Study of Those Who Cease to Foster
  • The Impact of Welfare Reform on Individuals with Disabilities in the TANF System
  • Process, Politics, and Policy: What's Wrong with the 3Ps Model of Congressional Policymaking
  • Homeless Management and Information Systems
  • Public Participation in Hydropower Relicensure in Massachusetts and Vermont

Comprehensive Exam

In addition to course and dissertation credits, students must pass a competency exam (at the end of the second year for full-time students) to reach doctoral candidacy.

Public Policy Dissertation

One of the most important requirements of the Public Policy PhD Program is the completion of a dissertation: an original empirical project that makes a substantive contribution to knowledge about public policy.

The student's dissertation work is supervised by a primary advisor (Dissertation Chair) and a dissertation committee who are responsible for approving the research proposal, overseeing the data collection and analysis, and reviewing the written draft of the dissertation.

The dissertation consists of rigorous academic research on a topic of the student's choosing, must culminate in a written piece of publishable quality, and must be successfully defended before the PhD degree is conferred.

Earn a PhD in Public Policy on a Part-Time Schedule

Our part-time program is open to applicants who are able to attend daytime classes on a part-time basis.

All core classes are held during the day and require students to have flexible work schedules. Due to the sequence of the curriculum, the first semester requires completion of three courses which is one and one-half days on campus. The remainder of part-time study requires the completion of three courses most semesters, which is typically two days on campus.

Candidates for the part-time program are required to meet the same admissions standards as applicants for the full-time program.

En Route MPP in Public Policy

Although we do not offer a terminal master's degree study option, our students are awarded an en route master's degree (MPP) after successful completion of core courses and successful completion of the comprehensive exam.