Academics and Degree Program

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Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

Pardee RAND offers a unique academic learning environment — one in which students and faculty work together to tackle some of the world’s most complex problems.

Ph.D. Students Enter through a Policy Engagement Stream

Our Ph.D. students enter Pardee RAND having applied to study in one of our three policy engagement streams:

Each stream has a unique set of focused learning objectives, requirements, and mechanisms for mastering the skills and techniques students will learn.

Undertake an Interdisciplinary Course of Study

All Ph.D. students follow a rigorous program curriculum with courses in policy analysis, economics, quantitative and qualitative analysis, social and behavioral sciences, and ethics. Qualifying exams test students' knowledge of this material at the end of the first year.

They also take a range of electives and tutorials with Pardee RAND's 180+ faculty, who are drawn from the more than 1,200 members of RAND's research staff. Through those electives, students may choose to complete an analytic concentration.

Woven through the curriculum, and the program overall, are four threads: a focus on social justice and racial equity, communications, ethics, and a global perspective.

Specialize in a Policy Research Area

Our Ph.D. students pursue a deep substantive understanding of at least one policy research area, such as national security, health, or civil justice. Students define their own policy specialization and demonstrate that they have acquired a thorough understanding of the topic through experiential learning, tutorials, and their dissertation research.

Engage in Experiential Learning

At Pardee RAND, experiential learning has been a graduation requirement since the School’s inception. Students begin acquiring practical experience through project-based research (which we call on-the-job training, or OJT), working as paid members of RAND research teams for client-sponsored projects in areas such as health care, education and labor, national security, social and economic well-being, and more.

Each stream requires additional hands-on learning in a variety of environments, including a Tech + Narrative Lab and immersive projects to promote policy development in partnership with, and in service of, communities facing complex challenges.

Complete a Policy-Relevant Dissertation

To complete their Ph.D., students develop, write, and defend a doctoral dissertation. The process begins in the second year of the program with a year-long dissertation workshop to launch their idea. With the guidance of a faculty member and their cohort peers, students identify some of the most pressing and difficult policy problems of the day, research questions, and ways to explore and address the issue. Given the varying requirements of each stream, the dissertation may have a different scope and set of parameters depending on the individual’s program path.