PhD in Demography & Population Studies

From immigration law to public health initiatives, demographic research is an essential first step in creating policies to better our world. With a Ph.D. in demography and population studies, candidates have the opportunity to conduct research that can make a difference.

How to Earn a Ph.D. in Demography and Population Studies

A Ph.D. in demography and population studies sets graduates up for careers in statistical analysis and research. To apply, students must have a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field and GRE test scores. Most Ph.D. programs are completed within population studies centers, so students have 3-5 years of access to resources and experts to help them complete a unique research project.

Research Methods

In the first two years of a Ph.D. program, candidates complete graduate-level coursework in research methods, demographic analysis, and applied statistics. Students learn the basic techniques and analysis tools for collecting data about marriage, mortality, fertility and immigration rates. After finishing these prerequisite classes, students spend the remainder of the program completing and defending a unique research project about a topic of their choice.


One important area Ph.D. candidates can choose to focus on is immigration and refugee studies. Within this specialization, students explore immigration patterns and economic consequences of immigration. They apply their statistics know-how to develop insights on national policy and international law. Graduates can go on to further research, or they may choose to work for the United Nations, another NGO, or a government organization.

Social Statistics

Social statistics is a technical field linked to building a better future. Within this specialization, candidates attempt to build a statistical model that could create social change. They may also choose to study the methodology itself, analyzing and critiquing the limitations of census and survey research practices or other analysis tools.

Demography and Economics

In this specialization, Ph.D. candidates focus on the economic consequences of demographic change. For example, they could study the economics of divorce, population growth, or population aging. Candidates apply their research in the real-world by using numbers and statistics to make policy recommendations. Some programs offer candidates the chance to complete a minor in economics alongside their Ph.D. research (so at graduation students receive both a Ph.D. in demography and population studies and a master's degree in economics).

Public Health and Demography

Understanding demographics is an increasingly important way to predict and improve health outcomes. Ph.D. candidates may choose to research the relationship between health outcomes and fertility, mortality, migration, marriage or divorce. Some universities offer a full Ph.D. program in population and health. Others allow Ph.D. candidates to pick up a master's degree in public health alongside their research.


The goal of the Ph.D. program is to produce excellent social scientists who can use math and statistics to improve our world. To this end, many Ph.D. programs require candidates to work in population centers or other nonprofit organizations as they complete their research. An apprenticeship affords future social scientists the opportunity to learn hands-on skills alongside experts in the field.

Jobs with a Ph.D. in Population and Demography Studies


Most demography jobs require only a master's degree; however, a Ph.D. can establish you as an expert and help you rise to a managerial position. Demographers are social science researchers. They work for government agencies, news organizations, corporations and nonprofits collecting data, performing analysis and providing predictions about future trends.


A Ph.D. in demography prepares students with the technical skills and research background to perform analysis of human behavior. Graduates can apply their skills and expertise working as sociologists for research firms, large corporations or government agencies. A sociologist with a Ph.D. in demography may collect and report census or labor data for the United States or population data for the United Nations.

Data Scientist

A data scientist can gather, read, analyze and interpret massive sets of complex data. Because data blocks are the building material of the modern world, there is a huge need for data scientists among large corporations (like Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) and government agencies. A Ph.D. in demography comes with the required skills to rise in the field of data science.


The vast majority of Ph.D. graduates continue on to research at universities. Professors teach the next generation of statisticians and social scientists. They also have the resources and connections to pursue their own research projects.

Careers with a Masters of Population and Demography Median Salary (2018) Job Growth (2018-28)
Demographer $75,0001% (survey researcher)
Sociologist $82,050 9%
Data Scientist $96,089 16% (computer and information researcher)
Professor$78,47011% (post-secondary teachers)

* BLS - Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you love statistics and want to use math to build a better world, a Ph.D. in demography and population studies provide you with the resources to complete meaningful research.