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PhD in Public Policy

For Those Who Aspire to Conduct Research That Matters

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:

Catherine Herrold PhD’13 in Cairo“The biggest challenge was researching an event as it was happening in real time. Everything was evolving so quickly and drastically," explained Catherine Herrold PhD’13. While in Cairo for her dissertation research on philanthropy, Herrold found herself in midst of the political unrest of the Arab Spring.

Learn about her experience of Egypt and Sanford.

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.

Dania Francis PhD’14 portrait“At Sanford, there are well established researchers who have lots of contacts to help you, but there are also junior professors who can put themselves in your shoes because they just came from grad programs themselves.” —Dania Francis PhD’14, Assistant Professor of Economics and Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Learn more about Francis and her mentors at Sanford.

 If you have questions not addressed in the FAQ section, please contact PhD Program staff via email so we can help you.