The Woodrow Wilson School offers three degree-granting programs—the Master's in Public Affairs (M.P.A.), the Master's in Public Policy (M.P.P.), and the Ph.D. in Public Affairs. Princeton undergraduates can major in the School, and the School also offers a Junior Summer Institute for college students with a demonstrated interest in and commitment to cross-cultural and social issues and public service.
Each year, 160 Princeton juniors and seniors major in the School, making it one of the University’s largest departments. In a typical year, there are 140 candidates in the M.P.A. program, 20 - 25 in the M.P.P. program, and 40 in the Ph.D. program. The total number of graduate students in residence is approximately 200.
In addition, the School sponsors the Scholars in the Nation’s Service Initiative (SINSI), designed to encourage, support and prepare the nation’s top students to pursue careers in the US federal government, both in international and domestic agencies.
Bachelor of Arts
The undergraduate program, open to Princeton undergraduates in their junior and senior years, stresses the study of major problems of contemporary public policy through a multidisciplinary program rooted in the social sciences. The program is unique both in its emphasis on the description of social and political reality and in its adherence to its foundational principle that rigorous analysis can be marshaled to enhance the well-being of individuals and societies.
The undergraduate program, which admits about 90 juniors each year, attracts students with a wide range of interests. While there are no specific requirements for admission, it is recommended that candidates have taken courses in such disciplines as economics, politics, history, sociology, and psychology, that both reflect their interests and demonstrate that they can do well academically in the social sciences. Policy conferences and task forces, offering students the opportunity to explore domestic and international policy issues, are the most distinctive features of the program. Topics for conference and task force study are usually controversial and timely, and consequently change from year to year. The thesis, the culminating experience of a student’s work in the School, addresses a current, domestic or international policy issue.
Master in Public Affairs (M.P.A.)
The M.P.A. program trains generalists who are able to deal with public policy problems in manageable components. Students are taught sophisticated analytic techniques, making them adept at administration and incisive in analysis. Their preparation also allows them to recognize the wide range of cultural values inherent in public affairs problems. The School teaches individuals to create, implement, analyze, and interpret public policy in the domestic and international arenas.
The School is committed to diversity in the classroom and has worked to encourage people of color, international students, and women to pursue their graduate studies at Princeton.
Each M.P.A. candidate selects a policy field in which to specialize. The School offers four fields of concentration:
- Field I: International Relations concerns the international system and the behavior of states, encompassing political and security affairs as well as international economics.
- Field II: Development Studies examines the factors involved in economic development and political and social change in the developing world.
- Field III: Domestic Policy focuses on the domestic policy agenda; policymaking at the federal, state, and local levels; and the relationships among government agencies.
- Field IV: Economics and Public Policy cuts across the other three fields and allows more intensive training in economic analysis for students whose substantive interests lie in Fields I, II, or III.
These four fields are sufficiently broad to accommodate the study objectives of most students, although some students choose to combine a specialization in their major field with a supplementary concentration in a second field. The variety of courses available through the School and the associated departments of Princeton University make it possible to tailor programs of study to the interests of individual students.
Policy workshops, required in the fall semester of the second year, are an important part of the School’s graduate curriculum. They are designed to give students the opportunity to apply skills emphasized in the core curriculum to a collaborative, client-oriented project. The workshops culminate in a report that is presented to a panel of policy professionals.
In addition to the degree programs, the School offers five certificates—Health and Health Policy (HHP), Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP), Urban Policy (UP) and Urban Policy and Planning (UPP) and Demography (OPR). Each certificate program carries requirements beyond those of the four fields of concentration and gives students the opportunity to gain a greater depth of knowledge and develop expertise in these key areas of public policy.
To complement its graduate curriculum, the School helps M.P.A. students gain professional work experience in public affairs. Summer employment and work-study internships during the academic year allow students to reinforce academic skills, develop a better understanding of opportunities in public affairs, and learn more about their own strengths in work settings.
Some students want to combine the study of public policy with the study of a related discipline. To accommodate these students, the Woodrow Wilson School offers joint-degree programs.
Master in Public Affairs-Juris Doctor (M.P.A.-J.D.)
The Woodrow Wilson School offers a four-year M.P.A.-J.D. program in cooperation with the law schools of Columbia University, New York University, and Stanford University, and on an individual-case basis, with Yale Law School and a few other selected institutions.
Master in Public Policy (M.P.P.)
M.P.P. candidates come from a variety of educational and professional backgrounds; their courses of study at the Woodrow Wilson School naturally reflect this diversity. Faculty advisers work with students to ensure that their programs of study are tailored to their particular needs, while also retaining the rigor and coherence they and the School will expect of an advanced degree program. Applicants to the M.P.P. program must have had at least seven years of relevant professional work experience. They must demonstrate leadership, creativity, the capacity for professional development, a commitment to public service, and the intellectual ability to thrive in a demanding academic environment.
The M.P.P. year begins with an intensive six-week summer program in economics, statistics, and policy analysis, designed to strengthen students’ skills in preparation for graduate-level Woodrow Wilson School courses. During the academic year, M.P.P. candidates select their courses from among the offerings available to all Woodrow Wilson School graduate students. In consultation with their faculty advisers, M.P.P. candidates may devise programs of study that combine fields of concentration and specialized programs, as well as draw on courses offered outside the School by other departments of the University.
Ph.D. in Public Affairs
The School offers a small program (typically enrolling six students each year) leading to the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs. The Ph.D. program produces sophisticated analysts able to apply research skills to careers in public affairs and to further the state of knowledge about a broad range of policy problems. Recipients of the degree have a variety of potential career paths, including positions in academia, public and private agencies, and research organizations.
All Ph.D. students select a field of concentration, known as a “cluster,” and define a topic for intensive study leading to the dissertation. Clusters of concentration are based on existing faculty strengths in the Woodrow Wilson School and cooperating departments. Two clusters are open to new admits:
- Security Studies
- Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy