PRGS Degree Requirements

A Curriculum Focused on Public Policy Analysis

Pardee RAND Graduate School offers only one degree: The Doctor of Philosophy in Policy Analysis.

The Ph.D. program consists of five elements:

  1. Interdisciplinary Core Curriculum
    In the first year, students take a rigorous core curriculum that covers mathematics, statistics, economics, operations research, political science and other social sciences.
  2. Analytic Concentration (optional)
    In the second and third years, students may elect to concentrate their coursework in one of three analytic concentrations: economics, quantitative methods, or social and behavioral sciences.
  3. Policy Specialization
    Students also specialize in at least one policy area, such as national security, health, education, energy and environment, labor and population, economic development, or civil justice and regulation.
  4. On-the-Job Training (OJT)
    Outside the classroom, students acquire practical experience as paid members of RAND research teams; see the On-the-Job Training page for more details.
  5. Policy-Relevant Dissertation
    Finally, they write a doctoral dissertation that combines analytic rigor and practical utility under the guidance of a committee of RAND faculty and researchers.

The Core Curriculum

Occupying the first year of study, the core curriculum consists of courses that provide students with a foundation in the research techniques used in policy analysis.

The courses are:

Quantitative Analysis

Empirical Analysis (3 courses):

  • Probability and Statistics - introduces the technical and practical statistical knowledge necessary for providing informed and careful policy analysis.
  • Regression Analysis - covers the uses and limitations of regression techniques in policy analysis
  • Econometrics - considers the problem of estimating causal effects of policies.

Operations Research (one course) - introduces an important set of quantitative tools used to assist decision makers with complex problems of choice in uncertain situations.

Decision Analysis and Cost-Benefit Analysis (two half-courses) - introduces some commonly used analytic tools that can be used to structure policy problems and evaluate options: difference equations, decision analysis, and cost benefit analysis.


Microeconomics (2 courses) - The intention of many public policies is to alter the behavior of consumers and firms in order to improve human welfare or alter the distribution of resources in the economy. At its core, microeconomics is the study of how individuals, firms, and organizations make choices in a world in which resources are scarce. The two courses includes consumer theory, theory of the firm, partial equilibrium analysis, market power, principal-agent analysis, decision making over time, and mechanism design, market equilibrium and market failure

Game Theory (half-course) - Game Theory is a branch of economics that studies situations where players choose different actions in an attempt to maximize their returns.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Political Foundations of Public Policy Making (one course) - introduces the political environment in which public policies are formed. It also explores the evolution of policy analysis as a distinct field of study and examines how it influences the policy making process.

Social Science Methods (one course) - helps students learn how to translate policy issues into research questions and to make use of social science methods that can help to answer them.

Qualitative Research Methods (half-course) - Qualitative data come in all shapes, sizes, and levels of complexity, including expert interviews, focus groups, open-ended surveys, medical charts, unobtrusive observations, and field notes (to name just a few). This course provides an overview of a wide range of techniques for collecting and analyzing such data.

Core Course Exemptions

Students may be exempted from any core course whose material they have already mastered, with permission of the professor.

Preliminary Examinations

During the summer after the first year, students take a set of preliminary examinations to test their mastery of the core analytical tools. Along with grades in the courses, the results of these exams are used to determine if a student is ready to proceed to the next phase of the program.

Analytic Concentration (optional)

In addition to understanding the interrelationships between analytic tools, students may also elect to demonstrate depth of understanding of one set of analytical tools drawn from related academic disciplines. Beginning in the second year, students may select and complete an analytic concentration in either Economics, Quantitative Analysis or Social and Behavioral Sciences. They complete at least five units of elective courses in their chosen area. A total of eight units of elective courses is required.

Anticipated Elective Courses

Elective courses are generally taken during the second or third years of study. Most elective courses are therefore offered on a biennial basis (once every two years). Offerings are subject to change. Some elective courses fulfill the requirements for more than one Analytic Concentration.


  • Advanced Econometrics
  • Advanced Econometrics II
  • Applied Microeconomics for Policy Analysis
  • Economic Analysis and the Law
  • Economic Development
  • Health Economics
  • Incentives and Organizations
  • Labor Economics
  • Macroeconomics and International Economics

Quantitative Methods

  • Advanced Econometrics
  • Advanced Econometrics II
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis II
  • Decision Theory and Planning
  • Epidemiology
  • Long Term Policy Analysis
  • Modern Prediction and Modeling Methods
  • Operations Research II
  • Policy Analysis and the Modeling of Complex Problems
  • Risk Assessment
  • Robust Decision Making

Social and Behavioral Sciences

  • Behavior and Health
  • Comparative Political Economy
  • Defense Strategy and Planning
  • Demography
  • History and Public Policy
  • Inequality: Measures and Concepts
  • International Security Politics
  • Organizational Behavior
  • Policy Analyst's Guide to the U.S. Constitution
  • Program Evaluation
  • Pyschometry
  • Qualitative Research II
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Survey Research Methods

Elective course descriptions can be found on the Courses page.

Policy Specialization: Developing Expertise in a Specific Public Policy Area

Each student completes a Policy Area Concentration, typically in a "policy area" where RAND has substantial expertise. At a minimum, those areas would include defense and national security, health, education, civil justice, regulation, labor and population, energy and environment, science and technology and economic development.

To complete the Policy Area Specialization, a student must:

  • Complete at least three substantive policy seminars (i.e., those typically offered in September), at least one related to the chosen Policy Area Specialization
    Note: Substantive Field Seminars are offered each year in the September pre-term. These seminars are designed to orient students to the research agendas within substantive fields of RAND research. Specifically, the seminars familiarize students with classic articles and books in the field, stimulate review and discussion of recent articles appearing in prominent journals, and introduce students to RAND researchers and other pioneers in the substantive field.
  • Complete at least 50 days of OJT related to the substantive policy specialization, or demonstrate other experience that is at least equivalent; and
  • Complete at least one independent study with a specialist (Pardee RAND faculty member, RAND researcher or outside expert) covering topics in the chosen policy specialization.

The Pardee RAND Curriculum is under continuous review. Course offerings and requirements are therefore subject to change.



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