Frequently Asked Questions for the Public Policy PhD Program
How would you describe your doctoral program?
Do you offer financial aid?
What distinguishes your Public Policy Program from others?
What are the qualifications of the faculty?
How would your students describe your program?
What do your graduates do?
How are the job-placement figures for newly minted PhDs -- particularly in academic institutions?
How would you characterize your current student body?
What are your students' research interests?
What is the history of your doctoral program?
Because I am interested in returning to my home country for teaching and policy work, does the program prepare students for international work?
When are classes offered?
As a full-time student, will I be able to keep my full-time job?
Is it possible to complete the program on a part-time basis?
How long will it take me to earn the PhD?
Do you offer any specialized concentrations?
On what basis do you assess admissions applications?
How many applicants are admitted every year?
Do I need a Master’s degree to apply for the Public Policy PhD Program?
My previous degree(s) are not in public policy. Can I still apply?
When are applications due and when can I expect to receive a decision?
May I, and should I, contact individual professors?
Do you accept late applications?
Is the GRE required if I already have a Master's degree?
Do you accept any other entrance tests in lieu of the GRE?
If I already took the GRE, do I have to take it again?
How high do I have to score on the GRE to be accepted?
Is the TOEFL test required for international applicants? Do you require a minimum score?
Do I need to choose an advisor during the application process?
How closely do the faculty members work with individual students?/Does a student work with a faculty supervisor from the outset or is one assigned later?
What if my application is incomplete on the deadline date?
Must I begin in the fall semester?
Once accepted, may I defer my admission a semester or two?
Is it possible to transfer credits from previous graduate work?
Does UMass Boston have student housing?
How can I learn more about your program?
The PhD Program in Public Policy at UMass Boston offers challenging courses that provide students with a solid background in economics, policy analysis, political theory, and research methods. Our students gain a hands-on approach to real-world issues through research and policy projects, as well as internship and practicum opportunities. Our focus is on local and state policy and multicultural approaches to urban issues.
All full-time students in the program are typically offered full tuition credits, partial fee credits, a health insurance credit and assistantship stipends to cover educational expenses and to help defray living costs for their first 3 years of study.
In return for a full stipend award students are expected to provide 18 hours of research, teaching or administrative assistance per week to the campus. Continued financial assistance is dependent upon satisfactory academic and assistantship work performance during the previous semester(s).
After the third year, our post-residency students can often find paid employment in our department or within the McCormack Graduate School’s policy centers and institutes. These research or teaching appointments can be related to or complement a student’s own policy interests.
*Please visit our financial aid page for a more detailed explanation of options and accompanying financial payments.
Interdisciplinary Study: The program provides interdisciplinary study at both the theoretical and the applied levels, drawing on the disciplines of community planning, economics, law, management, philosophy, political economy, political science, public administration, and sociology.
Curriculum Design: Our curriculum offers a solid grounding in a wide range of political and economic philosophies and theories of public policy and emphasizes a commitment to multicultural perspectives and a focus on state and local policy issues.
Small Classes: UMass Boston’s Public Policy Program is dedicated to the personal and intellectual growth of a small group of students. A maximum of ten to twelve students are enrolled in a new cohort each year.
Financial Aid: We offer graduate assistantships with full tuition credits, partial fee credits, a health insurance credit and stipends to all full-time students for their first three years of study.
Research Opportunities: Students and faculty in the program engage in research and policy projects closely connected with several University policy centers and institutes, including:
- Center for Social Policy
- Center for Peace, Democracy and Development
- Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy
- Center for Survey Research
- Center for Social Development and Education
- Massachusetts Ocean Partnership
- Center for Rebuilding Sustainable Communities after Disasters
- Edward J. Collins, Jr. Collins Center for Public Management
to name a few.
These nationally and internationally known research centers provide students with opportunities for jobs, internships, and other types of assistance including possible dissertation data. Students also have access to activities, events, and presentations organized by these policy centers.
All our faculty hold doctoral degrees in policy-related fields. They also have applied policy experience working with the urban, public sector on projects involving policy development, implementation or analysis.
Our faculty are changing the face of public policy in local, state, national and international arenas in specialized fields in applied sociology, dispute resolution, education, economics, management, philosophy, and political science.
Please visit our PhD Program in Public Policy Faculty and Staff page for profiles of our UMass Boston Public Policy faculty, summaries of their areas of expertise and links to their individual faculty pages.
In a recent survey, our current students praised the
- commitment and quality of faculty
- supportive academic environment
- balance of quantitative and qualitative components
- applied research focus
- diversity of students in terms of gender, ethnicity, and personal and professional backgrounds
- variety of courses based on real-world issues
- small classes
- affordable tuition
- financial aid offered to students
Graduates will be prepared for professional positions in state and local government, community organizations, public and private research firms, nonprofit agencies as well as teaching positions in universities and colleges.
For further details, please see our Public Policy Careers page.
Our graduates are very successful in finding professional positions in state and local government, community organizations, public and private research firms, nonprofit agencies as well as teaching positions in universities and colleges. In response to your question, our alums are teaching in reputable schools in Massachusetts, California, Michigan and Texas to name a few. For a list of where our alums are working, please see our Students and Graduates pages.
In our Fall 2010 cohort, 38% are ethnic minority students, three quarters are female and 26.5 percent are international students. Their average age is 37 years old.
Most students come to us as mid-career professionals and typically have experience in government, the nonprofit sector, or in advocacy and research organizations. More than 2/3 have previously completed a Master's degree.
Approximately two thirds of current students are married/partnered and half of them have children.
Seventy-six percent (76%) of our graduates are female and 40% are people of color including 28% minority students.
What are your students' research interests?
Primary areas of research interest are:
- children, youth and family
- community development
- disability rights and policy
- dispute resolution
- economic development
- education reform
- environmental policy
- health policy
- homelessness and housing
- immigration policies
- labor policy
- law and public policy
- mental health policy
- minority issues
- poverty reduction
- regional development
- welfare reform
- women's issues
Although the PhD Program was established in 1990, we are a still a growing program. Several years ago, we merged with the Master’s degree program in Public Affairs and the Graduate Certificate Program for Women in Politics and Public Policy to form a new department in the newly formed John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies. Since 2006, we have added eight new faculty members (two senior, two junior and four new professors) to our department. Each year, we update our curriculum, develop new electives based on new faculty expertise, and graduate new PhDs whose research in practice will change the face of public policy.
We are primarily a state and local policy program but many international students have taken the lessons learned from US models and comparative studies in class and applied them to international issues like domestic violence prevention in the Caribbean, poverty reduction in Nepal, and HIV/AIDS policies in Kenya, to name a few.
We accept full- and part-time students who enroll in day-time classes. Fall and spring classes meet one or twice a week. Classes are typically scheduled Mondays through Thursdays.
Please see our PhD Courses page for details on full and part-time schedules and current course offerings.
Our students cannot work full-time and still devote the proper attention to their studies. Also, students who accept a full-time assistantship are expected to work as a research or teaching assistant for 18 hours per week each semester.
The Public Policy PhD program has traditionally allowed employees of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to apply for admission to the PhD program on a part-time basis. Beginning in fall 2010, for the next two years, we will broaden the part-time program on a trial basis to all applicants who are able to attend day-time classes and who wish to enroll as a part-time student.
See our Graduate Program page for more details.
Students are required to complete a minimum of 76 credits including 42 credits of core coursework, 24 credits in electives and a minimum of ten (10) dissertation credits
The University specifies that students should complete all degree requirements in a maximum of eight years. Most students are able to complete the degree in five to seven years.
We currently offer concentrations in:
Special Education and Disability Policy
however, this does not mean that these are our only areas of expertise.
Please see our Graduate Program page for more details.
Admission to the doctoral program is selective. A faculty-student committee considers each application weighing such factors as the match between student interest and our curriculum and faculty research specialties, prior academic preparation, letters of recommendation from former professors, and GRE scores. Applicants' career goals and areas of policy interest are also weighed heavily in initial screening and during the interviews scheduled with finalists.
For more complete details, please see our PhD Admissions page and Applying for a PhD program: Some overarching guidelines for applicants
Each year we admit between 8-10 full-time students plus a small number of part-time students.
No, students holding a bachelor's degree are eligible for admissions.
FYI: Our PhD candidates earn a Master of Science degree in Public Policy after successful completion of core coursework and the comprehensive examinations.
Yes. We have admitted students with degrees in a wide range of academic fields.
Applications are due February 10 for the following fall semester. Please note that a new policy now requires that applicants submit their entire application complete in one mailing to the Office of Graduate Admissions by the date noted above.
Members of the Admissions Committee begin review of completed files in late January. Interviews are conducted in March and final decisions are sent to Graduate Admissions by April 1. However, if you receive a decision from another school earlier than ours, please notify us as soon as possible and we will try to expedite the notification process to you.
You are free to initiate contact with individual faculty members during the pre-admissions process about their research interests and current areas of policy work. In fact, this outreach could help to identify a potential academic advisor or mentor. However, there is no requirement to make such contact or any systematic evidence that this improves your chances of being admitted to the program.
Faculty email addresses are available from our Faculty and Staff pages
Yes, all candidates must take the GRE.
The General test is given year-round at computer-based testing centers. For more information on the GRE tests, visit www.ets.org/gre.
FYI: UMass Boston offers Math refresher and GRE prep courses, please call 617-287-700 for details or visit www.ccde.umb.edu/testprep/.
If you took the GRE test within the last five years, we will accept an official notification of that score.
The General test is given year-round at computer-based testing centers. For more information on the GRE tests, visit www.ets.org/gre.
FYI: UMass Boston offers a Math refresher course (8 sessions, twice per week, $250) and GRE prep courses (12 sessions, twice per week, $450), please call 617-287-700 for details or visit www.ccde.umb.edu/testprep/.
We do not require a minimum GRE score, but it is an important component of our competitive selection process.
All applicants who earned their bachelor’s degree from a college or university outside the United States are required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System exam (IELTS).
Applicants are exempt if they have attended an English-speaking college or university in the United States for a period of at least two academic years full time or received at least 4 years of education (including their undergraduate program) in Australia, Canada (except Quebec), England, Ireland, Kenya, New Zealand, Scotland, Singapore, United States or Wales.
Minimum test scores are as follows: TOEFL: Paper-based: 550, Computer-based: 213; Internet-based: 79. IELTS: 6.0
No. All first year students receive group academic advising by a designated faculty member. During the second year, students will choose their own advisors to assist in academic advising and other research, mentoring and career development activities.
Because of our small class sizes, our students work very closely with our faculty members. In fact, the student faculty ratio is often less than 10:1.
- Also, students can have as many as three different advisors.
- All first year students receive group academic advising by a designated faculty member (typically the Graduate Program Director). This year-long advising orients new students to the field of public policy and to doctoral study, in general, and allows students to make connections to University colleagues as well as to researchers at McCormack Graduate School policy centers and institutes. Through these networking opportunities, students can identify future academic and dissertation advisors.
- During the second year, students will choose their own advisors to assist in academic advising and other research, mentoring and career development activities. A student’s academic advisor need not be the same faculty member who eventually becomes his/her committee chair for the dissertation, but, in most instances, it is.
- A third “advisor” can be the student’s assistantship supervisor. We do our best to match students with a faculty member or researcher who shares the same policy interests as the student or one who can provide the student with policy research and practical experience.
- We encourage students to begin to seek out a mentor early in the program. It is not unusual for one faculty member to serve as academic advisor, assistantship supervisor and dissertation committee chair.
We urge you to present a complete application to be fully competitive with other highly qualified applicants. This is especially true of GRE scores; we urge you to sign up for a testing date in early fall because November and December testing slots fill up very quickly.
Yes, due to the sequence of courses, there is no spring admission.
Students who are admitted who cannot enroll in the year for which they applied will have to compete in the following year's applicant pool. They will be ranked no lower than the finalist pool in the subsequent year; they will be guaranteed an interview but will not be guaranteed admission.
Yes, students entering our program with a relevant master's degree completed within the past seven years (of the date of matriculation in the PhD Program) are eligible to waive 12 elective credits for graduation. Relevant advanced degrees would include master's received in social sciences, public administration, public policy, social work, labor relations, public health, education, and criminal justice. We would also consider a JD relevant and some MBAs – depending on the focus of the program attended. In addition, we would not rule out other fields in which the degree program had significant policy content (e.g. international relations). Petition can be made to accept degrees completed prior to seven years ago, and/or in other fields.
In addition, with permission of the Academic Affairs Committee, students who have completed graduate course work at other accredited institutions may transfer towards the completion of a graduate degree at UMass Boston up to the equivalent of six (6) credits from courses: 1) in which the student received a grade of B or higher; 2) which have not been used to fulfill requirements for another degree; and 3) which were earned no more than seven years prior to the student's matriculation at UMass Boston.
The University of Massachusetts Boston does not currently offer student housing. However, we do provide housing referral assistance and have a partnership with several area apartment complexes. Please call 617-287-6011 or consult www.umb.edu/students/housing for more information on prices and availability.
For additional resources to find an apartment or room rental, consult UMass Boston's classified ads, The Community Front Page, or boston.com.
If you live or plan to be in the Boston area, we would be happy to arrange an informational interview and/or a campus visit at your convenience or put you in touch with a student or faculty member who shares your research interests. We also invite you to sit in on a class or two.