PhD in Refugee & Migration Studies Degree Program

In a Refugee and Migration studies PhD Program, candidates conduct original research and seek solutions for the complex problems that stateless persons and migrants face.

Degree information for a Ph.D. in Refugee & Migration Studies

Ph.D. students will generally spend 3-4 years conducting original research and writing a thesis to present their findings, they will work alongside experts in the field, and are expected to have extensive background knowledge in refugee studies either with a Bachelor's or Master's degree in a similar field. Students complement their research project with supplementary classes that help them grow their social science skill-set and they may choose to focus their thesis research in any of the following areas:

Research Methods

In general, Ph.D. programs do not require coursework. Instead, students focus on an independent research project under the mentorship of their advisors. However, students who do not have a background in statistical analysis, quantitative research methods and qualitative research methods, may be admitted under the condition that they complete methods courses before proceeding on to their research. Once Ph.D. candidates have completed prerequisite courses in research methods, they are qualified to set off into a research specialty of their choosing.

Immigration Policy and Reform

As you search for Ph.D. programs, it is important to keep in mind the specific research areas offered within a university's Ph.D. program. A university's unique resources and faculty members affect which areas a Ph.D. student can choose to focus on. One important area a Ph.D. candidate might choose to explore is immigration policy and reform. Students design a research project centered on how international or national laws affect the plight of immigrants and refugees. Graduates can go on to become policy advisors, lobbyists, or political advisors to NGOs, government organizations, and nonprofits.

Asylum and Refugee Law

In this specialization, a Ph.D. candidate may choose to research some aspect of the national and international laws affecting asylum seekers and refugees. They might look at how refugee law operates and when it breaks down. They may study the economic repercussions of changing refugee laws. Or even ask important questions about how policymakers can create laws that afford better treatment for stateless persons.

Forced Migration

Forced migration is a term used for instances wherein people move for reasons outside of their control, like war, genocide, or natural disaster. Forced migrations are often linked to humanitarian crises and come with a web of interconnected and complex problems. Ph.D. candidates may choose to focus on a specific example of forced migration, or policy, laws, history or economics connected to forced migration studies.

International Conflict Management

Candidates in this research area choose to focus their research on better understanding intercultural dynamics of global conflict and international conflict management theory. This specialization tends to be fairly theoretical and offers students the chance to contemplate philosophical paradigms in which to think about migration issues. Graduates are prepared to understand and address complex global conflicts and seek solutions through policy advising.

Public Health and Refugee Studies

Migration can come with serious health hazards. In fact, oftentimes migrants and refugees find themselves in dangerous situations without access to healthcare. Ph.D. candidates in migration studies can choose to focus their research on a range of issues related to health care and migration. For example, they may study health trajectories in immigrants or laws related to refugee's healthcare rights.

Jobs with a Ph.D. in Refugee & Migration Studies

Emergency management director

Emergency management directors work for local governments, disaster relief agencies, and NGOs. A Ph.D. in migration studies prepares directors with a deep understanding of the issues facing victims of the disaster. Directors must have excellent managerial skills, an ability to cope with and solve complex and multifaceted problems on the fly, and the technical training to apply data in solving logistical issues during a crisis.

Head of Training

A head of training manages educational programming for an organization's staff members. They may also design and coordinate educational programs. With a Ph.D. in migration studies, graduates are prepared to prepare programming specific to refugee and migration centered organizations. They might work for the United Nations running programming for a peacekeeping station in a remote area or help develop staff education programs for an NGO's headquarters.


The vast majority of Ph.D. graduates go on to teach and research at universities. A Ph.D. is the minimum requirement for tenure track lecturer positions. So if you want to spend your life researching, designing and sharing policy ideas at the academic level while also teaching the next generation of human rights professionals, a Ph.D. in migration studies can set you up for success.

Careers with a PhD in Migration Studies Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2018-28)*
Emergency Management Director $74,420 5%
Head of Training $111,3408%
Lecturer/Professor $78,470 11% (post-secondary teacher)

* BLS - Bureau of Labor Statistics

If you want to become a worldwide expert in migration and refugee policy, there are Ph.D. programs tailored for your research interests. By finding the right university program with faculty members and resources specialized in your niche research interest, you can find rewarding work at the Ph.D. level that leads to a career in research and humanitarian service.

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:

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.

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