UMass Boston

Public Policy PhD

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Prepare to lead public, private, and nonprofit organizations with an eye toward social equity.

UMass Boston's Public Policy PhD program starts with a commitment to social equity. Our students conduct interdisciplinary research and examine policy issues related to economic development, education, immigration, health care, housing and urban affairs, nonprofit organizations, and racial justice.

Small classes promote the personal and intellectual growth of each cohort member. The student-faculty ratio is often less than 10:1. Graduate assistantships cover full tuition and partial fee and health insurance charges for the first three years of study. Research opportunities available in our McCormack Graduate School centers and institutes provide students with hands-on research experience.

Sample Alumni Positions

  • Energy Policy Research Analyst
  • Executive Director of a community organization offering services for Latino immigrants in metro-Boston
  • Executive Director of a large, nonprofit child welfare and re-unification agency in Michigan
  • Health Planner
  • Policy Advisor to a regional office of a federal health agency
  • Post-doc Fellow and Environmental Consultant at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
  • Regional Capacity Building Director for a national nonprofit, health promotion agency
  • Researcher/Community Liaison at a university policy institute
  • Senior Project Manager at Jobs for the Future
  • Superintendent of Schools, Knoxville County, Tennessee
  • Tenure-track, visiting, and adjunct university faculty

Start Your Application

Plan Your Education

How to Apply

Statement of Purpose

Submit a personal statement (1,500 words) highlighting your research and career interests and goals, and your motivation for pursuing a PhD in Public Policy. Please include answers to the following questions:

  • What are your career objectives and how will a PhD in Public Policy advance those objectives?
  • What professional, personal, and academic experiences have prepared you to pursue a PhD in Public Policy?
  • What research and public policy issues are you interested in pursuing at UMass Boston?

Official Transcripts

  • Include official transcripts of all prior academic work, including evidence of a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution.

Letters of Recommendation

  • Solicit three letters of recommendation, at least two of which should come from individuals who can assess academic preparation for advanced graduate work.

Writing Sample

  • Include a short (3-5 page) academic writing sample or professional policy brief.

GRE Scores

  • (Optional). Submit official GRE scores. Previous scores less than five years old will be accepted.
  • Our institutional code is 3924 when you register for the exam.

Résumé or CV

  • Attach a current résumé or CV listing your educational background on the top of page one with degree(s) earned, name(s) of school(s), major(s) and overall GPA(s)

Application Fee

  • Don't forget the application fee of $75.


Deadlines & Cost

Deadlines: February 1 (priority) and April 1 (final) for fall

Application Fee: The nonrefundable application fee is $75. UMass Boston alumni and current students that plan to complete degree requirements prior to graduate enrollment can submit the application without paying the application fee.

Cost: For additional information regarding tuition and fees, please visit the Bursar’s Office or send an email to Please refer to Graduate Student Financial Aid for more information on financial aid.


Course Requirements

Core Interdisciplinary Courses (27 Credits)

  • PPOL-G 602 - Political Economy of Class, Race and Gender 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 609L - Qualitative Methods and Field Research 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 611 - Public Policy Processes: Environments, Power and Outcomes 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 612 - Approaches to Policy Analysis: Epistemology, Theory and Institutions 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 621 - Microeconomics for Policy Analysis 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 622 - Public Finance and Budgeting 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 711 - Multi-Disciplinary Topics in Public Policy 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 716 - Public Policy ProSeminar 1 Credit(s) - complete three credits
  • PPOL-G 760 - Sociological Perspectives on Public Policy and Social Justice 3 Credit(s)

Core Research and Quantitative Methods Courses (12 Credits)

  • PPOL-G 604L - Statistical Methods in the analysis of Social Problems I 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 605L - Statistical Methods in the Analysis of Social Problems II 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 630 - Research Methods I for Policy 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 631 - Research Methods II for Policy 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 891 - Dissertation Workshop for Public Policy 3 Credit(s)

Electives (18 Credits)
Complete six courses from below.

Students may also elect to complete an internship working on a policy project.

  • PPOL-G 740 - Political Institutions 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 749L - Scientific & Political Change 3 Credit(s)
  • PPOL-G 753L - Epidemiological Thinking and Population Health 3 Credit(s)
  • Dissertation (7 Credits)

Dissertation (7 Credits)

  • PPOL-G 899 - Dissertation 1-12 Credit(s)

Graduation Criteria

The PhD consists of 67 credits arranged over 14 required core classes including a 1-credit Pro-Seminar during the first three fall semesters, 6 elective courses, successful completion of a comprehensive exam, a dissertation proposal and a dissertation.

Candidacy: Passage of two competency exams given at the end of the first and second years.
Dissertation: Compose and defend a dissertation based on original empirical research.

En Route Master’s Degree: Students may, with the approval of the program director, apply to receive a Master’s in Public Policy (MPP) en route to the PhD. To qualify, students must complete all core courses and electives and pass both competency exams.

Statute of limitations: Eight years.

Learning Outcomes

Public Policy Learning Outcomes

  1. Attain scientific literacy in public policy theory and methods.
  2. Demonstrate theoretical knowledge in the interdisciplinary field of public policy.
  3. Plan and execute a dissertation project advised by a faculty committee.
  4. Acquire professional skills to communicate research ideas and policy arguments.
  5. Understand and practice scientific ethics and values.


Program Director Amit Patel
Amit.Patel [at]

Hearing on immigration and higher ed at Kennedy Institute.

Public Policy & Public Affairs

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