PhD Programs in Public Policy and Management

A Ph.D. program in public policy and management prepares you to help influence decisions in areas like education, urban affairs, the environment and more. Read about the formats available for this degree program, and explore the typical coursework requirements. Get more info about job options for graduates with public policy doctorates. Schools offering Public Administration degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

How Do I Earn a Ph.D. in Public Policy and Management?

Ph.D. programs in public policy and management are less common than those simply in public policy, though the programs are often similar. To gain acceptance into a public policy Ph.D. program, you'll usually need a strong record of academic achievement, a master's degree, GRE scores and letters of recommendation. Some schools accept students with bachelor's degrees if they meet certain GPA criteria.

Once accepted, you'll take core courses, analysis or research courses and concentration courses. Many public policy Ph.D. programs also require a dissertation, which you'll research, write, present and defend during the course of your studies. Some schools may waive some core courses if you've completed a master's degree in public policy.

Prerequisites Bachelor's degree is required, but most schools require a master's degree; GRE scores; letters of recommendation
Course Topics International development, urban development, health, environment, justice
Online Availability Fully online programs are rare, but hybrid programs are available
Potential Work Environments Schools, government agencies, non-profit organizations, consulting firms
Median Salary (2018) $117,570 (for all political scientists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 3% growth (for all political scientists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Courses Will I Take?

Most public policy and management Ph.D. programs require you to take general doctoral-level courses on conducting scholarly research and applying analytical methods. You'll also take courses that require you to conduct research on public policy and management issues, like education, healthcare or nonprofit management. Many programs also require specialized courses in areas of your choosing - some options include the environment, international development, health, justice and urban development. Some programs allow you to create your own concentration area.

Your dissertation will take up much of your time in a Ph.D. program since it usually must be book-length, provide new information and adhere to strict academic standards. You'll probably spend around two years working on your dissertation, from the proposal stage to the defense stage.

Are There Alternative Options?

Online Ph.D. programs in public policy and management are rare. While some for-profit schools offer these programs online, most schools require you to spend time on campus to earn your Ph.D. An online program may have in-person residency requirements, which allow you to network with other students and meet faculty advisors.

Other options are available if you need a flexible schedule. Some schools offer part-time tracks, and you can often enroll in evening classes so you can continue working. In some part-time programs, you're given up to eight years to complete all degree requirements, so you can take some time off if necessary.

What Can I Do with the Ph.D.?

Graduates of a public policy and management Ph.D. program have become school administrators, government advisors, health planners and more. Governments, non-profit organizations, schools, consulting firms and other groups hire public policy Ph.D. holders, says the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
The schools in the listing below are not free and may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users. Tuition and costs will vary across programs and locations. Be sure to always request tuition information before starting a program.

Popular Schools