Public Policy, PhD

Master policy analysis and implementation and prepare to be a leader in the policy world with the doctoral program in Public Policy at George Mason University's Schar School of Policy and Government.

At every level of government, and throughout the private and nonprofit sectors, there is a need for expert policy analysis and implementation. The expertise and academic interests of the Schar School faculty is extensive, so you can choose from a wide variety of research topics. The advantage of the Schar School’s interdisciplinary approach to public policy is that there is no defined list of fields from which you must choose. In fact, you can define your own field of research. You can also conduct your research through one of the emphasis areas.

Customizable to Your Schedule

  • Campus is located on the metro line in the Washington, D.C., area
  • Choose to study part time or full time
  • Classes are held in the evening in case you want to balance work and school

PhD Fields of Study in Public Policy

Economic Policy 

The economic policy area emphasizes the application of economic theory and econometrics to analyzing a wide variety of public policy issues. Course offerings build from the PhD core and include both more advanced methods and various applied fields of economics. Topics included in this area include employment, inequality, taxes, retirement, health, entrepreneurship, poverty, development, productivity, international trade and investment, and all the public policies relevant to these issues, both in the U.S. and in other countries.

Affiliated Faculty
John Earle
Maurice Kugler
Catherine Maclean
Anh Pham
Ken Reinert
Sita Slavov

Energy and Environmental Policy 

Students pursuing the energy and environmental policy field of study investigate how public policy and governance more generally shape the extraction, transformation, exchange, and consumption of natural resources and how these activities, in turn, impact human and natural systems, including attempts at creating sustainable policy instruments and governance that enable conservation, preservation, or restoration, of those resources. The specialization also focuses on corruption and illicit trade in natural resources. Energy and environmental policy is made at multiple levels of governance, from local to global, in every corner of the world, all of which lie within the scope of this field of study. Students develop a diverse, interdisciplinary tool kit with which to carry out analyses of energy and environmental policy formation, implementation, and impact and the conditions that may also lead to the abuse of these natural resources. They learn to employ both quantitative and qualitative methods and draw on analytical traditions in political science, economics, public administration, sociology, and others, with the capacity to enhance these traditions through normative analysis. This knowledge base and the original work carried out for the dissertation provide a foundation to pursue energy and environmental policy research careers in academia, government, non-governmental organizations, and business

Affiliated Faculty
James Conant
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera
David Hart
Todd LaPorte
Andrew Light
Jessica Terman

Foreign and National Security Policy

Faculty and students in the ScharSchool interested in foreign and national security policy come to the School from a wide range of academic and applied settings. Research efforts focus both on critical international and transnational issues facing America and the world – for example, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, energy security, interstate conflict, and the emergence of new potential threats and adversaries – and on the challenges of policy-making itself. Employing a broad set of historical and social scientific research approaches and methods, Schar School research examines the functioning of executive branch, legislative branch, private-sector, and international institutions, and explores the role of political, economic, cultural, and intellectual pressures and constraints in determining options and outcomes. Degree recipients pursue careers not only in academic and research settings, but in U.S. government, business and consulting, and non-profit sectors.

Affiliated Faculty
Colin Dueck
Michael Hunzeker
Jerry Mayer

Population, Migration, and Public Policy

Students working the field of population, migration and public policy study how changes in the movement and composition of populations create challenges for public policy, and seek to develop creative and effective solutions. These challenges include responding to marked changes in the volume and sources of immigration; adjusting to how internal and international migration shape labor markets, politics, and identities; coping with changes in the age structure of society and how that affects the costs and demands for pensions, health care and social services, as well as the nature of work and cross-generational social contracts; understanding how shifting ethnic composition impacts social and political cohesion and conflict; and devising functional national and international legal frameworks to govern international migration and asylum. Students working in this area will be prepared for careers in an increasingly vital field, with job opportunities in government, the private sector, academia, NGOs and international organizations.

Affiliated Faculty
Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera
John Earle
Justin Gest
Jack Goldstone
Eric Max McGlinchey
Sita Slavov

A photo of Angelo Gabrielle Santos wearing a white shirt in front of a blue background.

“The program always has something to offer, regardless of how developed your research skills might be. What truly enriched my experience, however, was the focus on effective communication. Given the varied audience in the policy world, it's vital to adapt our message. Through courses and workshops, I've been introduced to diverse writing styles, from policy drafts to ethnographic narratives and academic writing. Particularly impactful was an empirical writing course that guided us through the empirical writing process. Here, with constructive feedback at every stage, I learned the nuances of research planning, time management, and articulating my decisions, all while keeping an open mind to continuous learning and improvement.

Angelo Gabrielle Santos
PhD in Public Policy

Prestigious Faculty

With George Mason University's prime location in the Washington, D.C., area, PhD in Public Policy students gain access to leading scholars and practitioners closely connected to the epicenter of policy-making and public service, and the hub of the nonprofit sector.

The Schar School has 90+ faculty members, as well as hundreds of adjunct faculty, allowing students to gain access to a variety of perspectives and subjects through elective courses. Notable faculty members in the public policy program include Program Director John Earle, Alan Abramson, Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, Justin Gest, Jack Goldstone, David Hart, Anne Holton, Naoru Koizumi, Jim Olds, Ken Reinert, Louise Shelley, J.P. Singh, Sita Nataraj Slavov, Faye Taxman, Stefan Toepler, Janine Wedel, and many more.

Employers of Recent Graduates

American Councils for International Education
George Washington University
Georgetown University
Harvard University
Indiana University
Johns Hopkins University
Sejong University
Supreme Court of Virginia
U.S. Department of Energy
U.S. Department of Defense
U.S. Department of the Treasury
U.S. Government Accountability Office
University of Maryland
University of New Hampshire
Virginia Department of Transportation
World Bank Group

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