PhD Curriculum

The PhD program in public policy and administration requires completion of 72 credit hours beyond the baccalaureate or a minimum of 48 credits beyond the master's degree. (Students with graduate course work judged to satisfy program requirements may be granted advanced standing of up to 24 credit hours toward the 72 credits required for the PhD.)

Requirements are divided into these general areas:

Prerequisite Courses

Prerequisite courses at the graduate level can be counted as electives toward degree requirements.

PPPA 6017 Survey of Economics: Intermediate Microeconomic Theory (3 credits)
Students who have not completed course work in intermediate microeconomics must take PPPA 6017, an intermediate-level microeconomic theory for graduate students in fields other than economics, or an equivalent course.

PPPA 6002  Research Methods and Applied Statistics
Students who do not have prior course work in statistics at a level equivalent to PPPA 6002 must take PPPA 6002 or an equivalent course.

Core Courses

PPPA 6014  Economics in Policy Analysis
PPPA 8100  Literature of Public Administration
PPPA 8101  Design of Social and Policy Research 
PPPA 8105  Public Finance and Human Capital
PPPA 8022  Econometrics for Policy Research II
PPPA 8023  Mixed Methods in Research Design
PPPA 8191  Dissertation Workshop
 PSc 8229  Politics and Public Policy

See course descriptions for core courses.

Research Methods

The program requires the development of research skills alongside the core curriculum and field studies. These skills complement and support the research interests of students in their applied field of studies. All Ph.D. students must complete an intermediate graduate-level course in quantitative research methods (typically PPPA 6013). In addition, students must complete a more advanced course in quantitative methods and a course in qualitative or mixed-methods research.

PhD Fields of Study

In addition to the core curriculum, each student will complete six or more courses (18 credits) in one of the following public policy and administration fields:

 *New program in the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

Electives and/or Tool Courses

Students, especially those without a previous master's degree, may take between 9 and 15 credits of electives. Generally, students use elective credits to supplement course work in their field of study. However, prerequisite courses at the graduate level can be counted as electives toward degree requirements.

Students who have not completed course work in intermediate microeconomics or statistics may need to use elective credits to fulfill these requirements. In individual cases, students may be required to take tool courses as a foundation for their dissertation research. Any required tool courses are normally be determined by faculty in the student's public administration or public policy field. Students who are required to take tool courses may count these courses as elective credits. In some cases, however, tool requirements may cause the total number of credit hours to exceed the normal 72-credit requirement.


Students must pass a General Comprehensive Examination in Public Policy and Administration. The examination consists of two parts, the core exam and the field exam. In order to pass the General Comprehensive Examination, a student must receive a grade of satisfactory pass on either the core or the field examination and a grade of no lower than bare pass on either examination.

The Dissertation

The dissertation should consist of a scholarly examination of an important public policy or public administration problem or issue. All dissertations should have a solid conceptual grounding and should explore, critique and/or extend existing scholarly literature in the fields of public policy and/or public administration. The dissertation’s findings, conclusions and modes of analysis and argumentation should be of interest to a significant segment of the intellectual community, as well as, and perhaps just as important, to citizens and public officials concerned about the dissertation's topic.

All students are expected to develop and defend their dissertation proposal. When the dissertation is complete and approved by the Dissertation Research Committee the student presents an oral review. The dissertation must be written, defended and accepted (and all course-work completed) within eight years of the student entering the Ph.D. program.