Frequently Asked Questions about Pardee RAND

What does the admissions committee look for?

The mission of the admissions committee is to select students on the basis of intellectual power and creativity, coupled with interest in multiple disciplines and a commitment to confronting and helping to resolve domestic and global policy challenges. We look for many kinds of evidence of passion and dedication. We look carefully at candidates' ambitions and ideals, and of course at what candidates have done and have written. The best way to get an idea of what's being sought is to have a look at current students' biographies.

How does diversity factor in to the admissions equation?

Pardee RAND seeks and celebrates diversity, and we have a dynamic and diverse student body. At Pardee RAND more than at most other graduate schools, learning is a collective activity. The great diversity you see among Pardee RAND students contributes immensely to the educational experience. For more information please see our Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion page.

Learn more about our Diversity Scholarship »

I'm not very quantitative; will this be a problem?

It is entirely possible to succeed at Pardee RAND even if you haven't previously majored in math or statistics. However, you do need a lot of quantitative ability and a strong desire to master advanced problem-solving tools.

Most entering Ph.D. students have already completed coursework in calculus, and some statistics and economics. Given these, Pardee RAND will provide the additional background you need. In the fall of the first year, we offer a fairly fast-paced course in multivariate calculus and linear algebra that will get you ready for the core curriculum in analytical methods, economics, statistics, and econometrics.

If you have not completed the coursework mentioned above, you should probably make plans to take these courses before you apply. If you are not currently a student, you may want to check out the course offerings at a community college, university extension program, or online.

What if I do have a very strong quantitative orientation?

You can fly as high as you want here. Pardee RAND offers a wide range of courses in advanced analytic methods. Additionally, you can design your own independent studies with RAND staff members, not only with the faculty but with any of the more than eight hundred RAND Ph.D.-level researchers who may share your interests. In fact, one independent study course is a required part of the program for you to explore deeper into an area — quantitative or not — that you would like to.

Is an advanced degree required for acceptance into the Ph.D. program?

No. Every Pardee RAND cohort includes students who are coming directly from undergraduate programs, and we would be delighted to see more.

Do you accept transfer credits, or can I request a waiver for graduate coursework I've already completed?

We do not accept transfer credits from other institutions. For some courses in which a student has a strong background, they may ask the academic dean for permission to waive a requirement, but they will still need to complete the total unit requirement for graduation. Exempted courses will not appear on the transcript.

In our experience, however, even very well-prepared students have found that they learned a tremendous amount from core courses, as these courses present RAND experts' understanding of how to best apply the tools of economics, statistics, and policy analysis to policy problems.

For example, before coming to Pardee RAND, alum Angela Hawken was a junior faculty member who had taught microeconomics at the graduate level. As she notes, "Before arriving at Pardee RAND I already had seven years of microeconomics coursework behind me from previous degrees. I thought I had paid my dues to the study of microeconomics. Looking back, it is clear to me that my previous economics background had provided me with the skills to be a good theoretician but not with the hands-on skills I needed to be a good analyst or practicing economist. Pardee RAND classes take you beyond the theory."

What is the core curriculum?

See the Core Courses section of the Program Curriculum page.

How does the Research Fellowship work, and how does it relate to OJT?

The Pardee RAND research fellowship is akin to a work-study program, but so much more! As part of the fellowship, students receive on-the-job training (OJT) by working on RAND research projects. The research fellowship is paid to students on a bimonthly basis throughout the full calendar year. Some students bring outside sources of support as well, and they are of course more than welcome to do so.

What is it like working at a research organization (RAND) versus at a university?

Some research organizations have an ideological flavor. RAND prides itself on quality and independence. Suffice it to say that you're free to think big, think creatively, and think rigorously. Both students and faculty are diverse in their politics, but they put objectivity before ideology. When clients ask RAND to do research, they can help determine the questions investigated but never the answers obtained.

In fact, RAND often redefines the questions our clients and partners bring to us. This is what our sponsors—public, private, and non-profit institutions, or mixtures of them—come to demand: creativity as well as rigor. This does not at all mean that RAND researchers are insensitive to the realities their clients face. RAND embraces the real world. The bottom line is objective, high quality research that makes a difference.

RAND also appreciates the value in bringing many points of view, diverse ideas, and perspectives to bear on a problem. We use them, analyze them, bounce them around, and see what happens. Research results are rigorously vetted and refereed, and then they are published.

How does this compare with universities? Probably the research is more practical, more interdisciplinary, and more adventurous, all at the same time. The work is less theoretical, and more aimed to a greater extent at problem solving. And the highest intellectual standards burn brightly here, as well.

What if a student works more than the minimum number of OJT days in a given year?

In the first year, a student who works more than the minimum number of days still receives the same amount of fellowship dollars, but the number of required OJT days in the following year is reduced.

In year two and thereafter, working more than the minimum number of days translates into higher fellowship earnings. See the Research Fellowships page for more information.

What are Pardee RAND dissertations like?

We encourage our students to undertake "policy-relevant" dissertations, to bring value or try to make a real difference on a real problem. You can see some of the topics students work on elsewhere on this site. (See the complete list of Pardee RAND Dissertations.) These are Ph.D. dissertations, with all that implies. The Pardee RAND doctoral dissertation is a contribution to knowledge, with the distinctive feature that it aims to solve problems with new policies. There is a dissertation committee of at least three members, at least two of whom are Pardee RAND faculty. It is recommended that the students choose one specialist for their committee from outside the Pardee RAND faculty.

How long does it typically take to complete the Ph.D.?

We expect that the typical student will be able to complete the program in fewer than five years. Some students may be able to complete the program in as quickly as three years, and some require five or more years to finish.

What percentage of Pardee RAND students successfully completes the Ph.D program?

As of 2021, just over 74 percent of entering students successfully complete the program. This is comparable to or better than the completion rate at other top universities.

What jobs do Ph.D. graduates take?

Graduates pursue careers in academic and research institution settings, public service and private industry. According to a recent poll of alumni, Pardee RAND graduates were employed as follows:

  • Research Institutes – 23%
  • Academia – 11%
  • Government – 39%
  • Private Sector – 25%
  • Non-profit – 2%

(See information on Pardee RAND alumni careers.)

How can I find out more?

After you explore the website, if you want to talk to us or e-mail us, please do. We will also provide an individualized response if you submit a pre-application. And, of course, feel free to check out current student profiles and to send them e-mail with any questions you might have. You can also watch a recording of one of our online admissions events.