General Info

  • Faculty working with students: 42 primary appointments, 19 secondary appointments, adjunct and visiting
  • Students: 30
  • Students receiving Financial Aid: 100%
  • Part time study available: No
  • Application terms: Fall
  • Application deadline: November 30
Application Info


Anna Gassman-Pines
Director of Graduate Studies Attn: Ph.D. Program
Sanford School of Public Policy
Duke University, Box 90243
Durham, NC 27708-0243

Phone: (919) 613-9214



Program Description

The Ph.D. in Public Policy is an interdisciplinary social science degree. Graduates of the program are prepared for academic positions in public policy, public administration, policy-oriented schools, social science departments, and for professional positions in domestic and international public agencies and research organizations. The program aims to matriculate 6-8 students per year, enabling each student to receive individual faculty attention in courses and in research.

The core of the program is research mentoring with one or more faculty members, as the student becomes expert in an area of inquiry.  Initially, the student's research is closely tied to that of faculty members but, by the dissertation, the student becomes an independent scholar.  The program requires a two-course sequence in theories of public policy, and coursework in three other social science disciplines. Students designate both a disciplinary concentration such as political science, sociology, or psychology in which they take a minimum of five courses, and a policy focus, such as social policy, globalization and development, health policy, or other policy area. Students interested in environmental policy should apply directly to the University Program in Environmental Policy, but may enroll in Public Policy Ph.D. courses.


Application Information

Application Terms Available: Fall

Application Deadline: November 30

Graduate School Application Requirements
See the Application Instructions page for important details about each Graduate School requirement.

  • Transcripts: Unofficial transcripts required with application submission; official transcripts required upon admission
  • Letters of Recommendation: 3 Required
  • Statement of Purpose: Required (See departmental guidance below)
  • Résumé: Required
  • GRE Scores: GRE General Required (GMAT not accepted)
  • English Language Exam: TOEFL, IELTS, or Duolingo English Test required* for applicants whose first language is not English
    *test waiver may apply for some applicants
  • GPA: Undergraduate GPA calculated on 4.0 scale required

Department-Specific Application Requirements (submitted through online application)

Joint Degree
Students will also have the option to apply to the joint degree program in each of our allied disciplines: political science, psychology and sociology. There are a limited number of spots for the joint degree program. You can find more information for this program here: Joint Degree.

Statement of Purpose Guidelines
We carefully review each applicant’s essay. Please utilize this essay to discuss your goals in pursuing the PhD in Public Policy at Duke University. We are interested in your academic and professional experience, your intended course of study (including a disciplinary concentration and policy area focus) and your longer-term career objectives.

Writing Sample
A writing sample is not required.

Allied Disciplines
Applicants to the joint Ph.D. program in Public Policy and Allied Disciplines must submit an additional essay for admission to the program. Regardless of your selection of primary department, please respond to the following prompt:

In 500 words or less, please explain your interest in the joint Ph.D. program offered between Public Policy and an Allied Discipline. Highlight how your research interests and past experiences lie at the intersection between Public Policy and the Allied Discipline and how participation in the joint program will facilitate your professional goals after receiving your degree.

We strongly encourage you to review additional department-specific application guidance from the program to which you are applying: Departmental Application Guidance