Ph.D. in Public Affairs

Robertson Hall classroom

The Woodrow Wilson School offers a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Affairs in two research clusters: Security Studies; and Science, Technology and Environmental Policy (STEP).

These clusters encompass serious policy challenges that need to be analyzed from multidisciplinary perspectives. Both clusters also include a substantial group of WWS faculty whose current research interests are central to the themes of the cluster.

The purpose of the WWS doctoral program is to train top-quality researchers in these critical areas of public policy. Increasingly, the top analytical positions in government and nongovernmental organizations require doctoral training.

It is also envisioned that some graduates will go on to tenure-track positions in academic institutions that value multidisciplinary training. The goal is to admit and enroll an incoming class of six students each year, with three in each cluster.  

Degree Requirements

  • Five-year program; residence required (absence for approved field research)
  • Core courses and individual requirements determined by faculty in each cluster; both clusters require advanced economics and econometrics training for social science research
  • Eight to 12 courses during the first two years (depending on cluster)
  • Ph.D. seminars in research design and research ethics (noncredit) 
  • Maintenance of overall grade average of 85 (B) or higher
  • Completion of an original research paper of publishable quality
  • General examination: two written exams and possibly an oral exam, depending on the cluster
  • Six-hour teaching assignment (precepting) usually following the general examination
  • Oral defense of a dissertation prospectus, to be approved by at least two WWS faculty members
  • A dissertation of original scholarly research; admission to the dissertation phase is granted by the Ph.D. Program Committee after the candidate successfully completes the general examination and defends a written dissertation prospectus.
  • A final public oral examination (required by University regulations), after the dissertation has been recommended for acceptance by the Woodrow Wilson School