Academics and Degree Program

Prof Matt Lewis teaches a course with some unusual content

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. Situated within the RAND Corporation, the school draws its 200+ faculty from the more than 1,000 RAND researchers who work on client-sponsored projects in health, education, national security, labor and population, justice, environment, infrastructure and science and technology.

Our academic program takes full advantage of this rich and varied research environment and is composed of five integrated elements: an interdisciplinary curriculum that includes three different analytic concentrations; project-based research that encourages specialization in a policy research area, and a policy-relevant dissertation.

An Interdisciplinary Curriculum

Students complete a rigorous core curriculum in their first year and explore a range of analytic techniques. They are tested on their mastery of this material during qualifying exams. In the second year, they complete the remaining required curriculum and begin their elective coursework.

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Concentration in an Analytic Technique

As part of their elective courses, students interested in developing a deep understanding of economic, quantitative, or social science analysis techniques are encouraged to choose electives within one of those analytic concentrations.

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Project-Based Research (or "On-the-Job Training")

At Pardee RAND, experiential learning has been a graduation requirement since the School’s inception. Students begin acquiring practical experience by working as paid members of RAND research teams starting in their first year. In later years, students often pursue additional experiential learning opportunities outside of the RAND environment.

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Specialization in a Policy Research Area

We strongly believe that students should leave the program having a deep substantive understanding of at least one policy research area, such as national security, health, or civil justice. Students define their own area of specialization and demonstrate that they have acquired a thorough understanding of the topic through course work, on-the-job-training experiences and work related to their dissertations.

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A Policy-Relevant Dissertation

To complete their Ph.D., students develop, write, and defend a doctoral dissertation. The process includes identifying relevant policy problems and appropriate research questions, orally defending a written dissertation proposal, conducting a rigorous analysis, and addressing the policy implications of their work.

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