This doctoral degree in public policy is distinctive in its heavy emphasis on the combined influence of technology, culture, and institutions on public policy. Students investigate the increasing tensions created by technologically driven organizational change. This doctoral program prepares its graduates to assume positions of significant responsibility in academia, government, and the private and public sectors. With a focus on analytical and research-based approaches to public policy, our students seek to understand the underlying determinants of public policy choices, analyze and improve the implementation of policy, and identify and assess new opportunities to address emerging issues.

To investigate the policy issues associated with substantive policy areas, students develop in-depth understanding of American institutions, values, and culture; competence in research methods and advanced analytical methodologies; and a comparative, international perspective. At the time of admission, each student is assigned a faculty advisor who assists in the design and development of the student's program.


See Graduate Admission Policies for general information on graduate admission to George Mason University. See Schar Admissions for application requirements and deadlines for the PhD in Public Policy. Students are considered for admission for the Fall term only.


For policies governing all graduate degrees, see AP.6.10 Requirements for Doctoral Degrees.

Program Requirements

Students are required to complete a minimum of 80 credits of graduate coursework, of which no more than 12 may be dissertation credits. Specific coursework requirements include four foundational core courses, one semester of participation in the research colloquium (public policy seminar), two advanced methodology courses, three courses in an area of program specialization, and three advanced courses tailored to the student's research needs and interests. Courses are determined in collaboration with the student's advisor and are drawn widely not only from Schar, but also from other programs at Mason.

At the completion of core skills coursework (Stage One), students must pass a qualifying exam that evaluates mastery of the first year's material, as well as the ability to integrate that material when addressing important and complex public policy problems and issues. Students must then develop their research areas through specialized coursework, and pass a field exam structured around their specific field of proposed doctoral research (Stages Two and Three). Other requirements include the successful preparation and defense of a doctoral research proposal and the ensuing dissertation (Stage Four).

A complete description of the program policies, procedures, and requirements is in the PhD student and faculty handbook, which is published annually.

Reduction of Credit

Students who enter the doctoral program with a conferred master's degree or other graduate credit may have their credit reduced by up to 30 credits, subject to the approval of the program director.

Prerequisites: Methodological and Substantive Foundations

PhD students are required to have competence in the following three areas, either by taking these courses or by proving competence through a placement exam and/or evidence of previous relevant coursework.

Prerequisite courses will not count as part of the 80 credit requirement.

POGO 511Introductory Data Analysis for Policy and Government3
PUBP 720Managerial Economics and Policy Analysis3
PUBP 730US Institutions and the Policy Process3

Banner Code: PP-PHD-PUBP

Degree Requirements

Total credits: minimum 80

Doctoral Coursework and Requirements

Stage One - Core Skills

Four credits of4
Culture and Public Policy
POGO 801Research Design for the Social Sciences and Public Policy3
PUBP 804Multivariate Statistical Analysis in Public Policy4
PUBP 805Foundations of Social Science for Public Policy4
Pass the comprehensive Qualifying Exam
Total Credits15

Stage Two - Policy Fields and Skills

After passing the qualifying exam, students assemble a Field Research Committee. By the end of their third semester, full-time students (fourth semester for part-time) must choose a chair for their Field Committee.

By the start of their fourth semester, full-time students (fifth semester for part-time) must submit to the chair of their Field Committee a plan for their Field of Study. The Field of Study Plan will describe a proposed research area, including citations relevant to current research in that field; four relevant field courses; and the names of faculty who will be involved. The plan must be approved by both the student's Field Committee chair and the program director.

Three courses in an area of program specialization, chosen in collaboration with advisor9
One advanced methods course chosen from the following: 13-4
Advanced Data Analysis for Policy and Government
Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis for Public Policy
Advanced Field Research for Policy: Theory and Method
Advanced Economic Analysis for Policy Research
Big Data Analytics for Policy and Government
POGO 850PhD Professional Development Seminar1
Total Credits13-14

Stage Three - Research Foundations

In Stage Three, students take coursework approved in the Field of Study Plan.

The Field of Study must include one advanced methods course from the approved list for the doctoral program, or be approved in writing by the Field Committee Chair and Doctoral Program Director. Where appropriate courses are not available from Schar School, students may petition the Director of the PhD program for substitute courses to count for their Field of Study Plan.

Students are expected to complete coursework before taking PUBP 998 credits. A student may take no more than six credits of PUBP 998 before completing a field of study plan and having it approved by three Graduate Faculty members.

Three substantive Field of Study courses that will serve as a foundation for their Field 19-12
Regional Development and Transportation Policy
Applied Methods in Regional Development and Transportation Policy
Technology, Science, and Innovation: Institutions and Governance
Analytic Methods for Technology, Science, and Innovation Policy
Entrepreneurship, Growth, and Public Policy
Entrepreneurship, Creativity, and Innovation
Policy, Politics, and American Government Institutions
U.S. Political Behavior and the Process of Policymaking
Social Theory, Culture, and Public Policy
Culture and Social Policy Analysis
Global and International Public Policy I
International Trade Policy
One Advanced Methods course 23-4
Advanced Data Analysis for Policy and Government
Geographic Information Systems and Spatial Analysis for Public Policy
Advanced Field Research for Policy: Theory and Method
Advanced Economic Analysis for Policy Research
Big Data Analytics for Policy and Government
Total Credits12-16

Note: Where appropriate courses are not available from Schar, students may petition the program director for substitute courses to count for their Field of Study Plan.

Dissertation Research

Qualifying Exams

Students must pass a qualifying exam which is taken after the core courses are completed.

When students have completed all coursework, have passed the qualifying exam, have an approved dissertation committee and presented and successfully defended a dissertation proposal, they advance to candidacy.

Stage Four - Dissertation

Twelve credits of PUBP 998 and PUBP 999 must be applied to the degree.  A minimum of six credits must be PUBP 999.

Up to six credits of6
Research/Proposal for Dissertation
Proposal Oral Defense
At least six credits of6
Dissertation Oral Defense
Total Credits12