The PhD in Public Policy at Duke University enables students to collaborate with Duke’s top-rated faculty in public policy and with Duke’s departments of economics, political science and sociology, among others, all on the beautiful Duke campus.

The Sanford School is a national and international leader in the dynamic field of public policy studies, with numerous interdisciplinary centers exploring vital policy questions in the field and in the classroom. Members of our faculty are experts in fields ranging from aging, education, and the environment to international affairs, media and democracy, and welfare reform.

Most of our students pursue doctoral-level public policy research with the goal of working in domestic and international public agencies, research organizations and policy consulting firms. Others seek academic positions in public policy, public administration and policy-oriented schools. They are united by their passion for public policy and their desire to have a positive impact on the world.

Interdisciplinary Nature

Duke’s PhD in Public Policy is distinguished by its truly interdisciplinary nature. The program offers a unique balance of depth in a discipline such as:

  • economics
  • political science
  • psychology
  • sociology

combined with the opportunity to focus on a particular policy area such as social policy, global policy, health policy or environmental policy. Within Sanford and across campus, PhD students interact with leading scholars and numerous interdisciplinary centers such as:

Personal Attention

The relatively low number of students matriculated each year (6-8) enables each public policy PhD student to receive individual faculty attention in courses and in research. In addition to working with Duke’s world-class faculties of public policy, economics, history, political science, psychology and sociology and psychology, PhD students interact with leading scholars from Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, and Duke’s Law and Medical Schools.


Student Story: Travis Dauwalter

“Because of this degree, my eyes are wide open to how public policy and business are intertwined. My training at Duke taught me to think about business problems through a unique lens and I’m looking forward to applying this knowledge in my professional career.” - Travis Dauwalter PhD’22

Travis earned Duke’s first ever joint PhD in public policy and economics. He is now a consultant with Bain & Company.

Read Travis's Story

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PhD Student Experiences

Featured Video

A Community that Cares

Hear fourth-year PhD candidate Marayna Martinez talk about her experience at the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.

Featured Video

Research for a Better Society

Hear Ajenai Clemmons PhD ‘21 discuss her research project and passion for pursuing this work at the Sanford School.