Education Policy, PhD

Students in the Education Policy Ph.D. program pursue an individualized program of study that reflects their specific interests in education policy at the local, state, national, or international levels.

The Education Policy Ph.D. program equips graduates with the knowledge and methodological tools to use, understand, and conduct research on the pressing educational issues of the day. Students pursue an individualized program of study that reflects their specific interests, and are required to write a significant qualifying paper and complete a dissertation on an issue in education. At the heart of the Ph.D. program is the research apprenticeship, where students work on research projects alongside faculty members. Doctoral students are matched with Education Policy faculty members whose research interests align with their own. Our program prepares students for a variety of careers, including faculty positions at institutions of higher education, and policy research positions at research firms, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies.

View the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs.


A total of 16 course units is required for graduation.

Disciplinary Foundation Courses
Select two of the following:2
Philosophical Aspects of Education Policy
American Education Reform: History, Policy, Practice
Sociology of Education
Politics and Education
Economic Aspects of Educational Policy
A course approved by your advisor
Research Design
EDUC 5760Applied Research Methods to Inform Policy and Practice1
Quantitative Research Methods
EDUC 7762Introduction to Applied Quantitative Methods for Education Research: Pre-K to 201
Select two intermediate or advanced level quantitative methods courses approved by student's advisor2
Qualitative and Mixed Methods
EDUC 7460Qualitative Research: Concepts, Methods and Design1
Select one of the following:1
Advanced Qualitative and Case Study Research
Or another qualitative research or mixed methods course approved by the student's advisor
Educational Policy
Select four Education Policy-related courses approved by the student's advisor. Two options are:4
Methods of Economic Evaluation in Education
Advanced Analysis in the Economics of Education
Select four electives 14
Total Course Units16

Elective courses may be taken at any school at Penn. Courses must be at the 5000 level or above and taken for a letter grade.

Required Milestones

Qualifications Evaluation (Also known as Program Candidacy)

A Qualifications Evaluation of each student is conducted after the completion of 6 but not more than 8 course units. The evaluation is designed by the specialization faculty and may be based on an examination or on a review of a student’s overall academic progress.

Preliminary Examination (Also known as Doctoral Candidacy)

A Candidacy Examination on the major subject area is required.  The candidacy examination is a test of knowledge in the student's area of specialization, requiring students to demonstrate knowledge and reasoning in the key content areas in their specialization as defined by their academic division. This examination is normally held after the candidate has completed all required courses.

Oral Proposal

All doctoral candidates must present their dissertation proposals orally and in person to the dissertation committee.

Final Defense of the Dissertation

The final dissertation defense is approximately two hours in length and is based upon the candidate’s dissertation. 

The degree and major requirements displayed are intended as a guide for students entering in the Fall of 2023 and later. Students should consult with their academic program regarding final certifications and requirements for graduation.