An individualized doctoral program and an apprenticeship that prepares you for advanced empirical education policy research.

The goal of the Education Policy doctoral program is to produce the next generation of education policy scholars and researchers by providing students with deep content knowledge, disciplinary grounding, and training in the use of rigorous, cutting-edge methods. We study early childhood education, K-12, and beyond, in the United States and around the world. Our program has a proven record of preparing students for a variety of research careers, such as professors at top tier-universities and policy researchers at premier research firms, non-profit research organizations, and government agencies.

What Sets Us Apart

#7 Education Policy has been ranked in the top 10 since the mid 1990s by US News & World Report
4 Full funding for up to 4 years
 Unmatched access: Locally, nationally, and globally, we're connected to the organizations that matter

About the Program

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. Your program of study will be matched to your specific interests in education policy on the local, state, national, or international levels. 

Entry term(s)
Fall
Course requirements
16 courses (12 chosen from required competency areas and 4 electives)
Typical course load

Fall: 4 courses; Spring: 4 courses

Research apprenticeship20 hours per week

Culminating experienceComprehensive examination and doctoral dissertation 

Format(s)
  • Full-Time
Overview

At the heart of the Education Policy Ph.D. program is the research apprenticeship. You will be paired with Education Policy faculty members whose research interests align with your own, and work alongside them in the research process. You will learn to design, conduct, and communicate the results of empirical research, including presenting papers at scholarly conferences and submitting articles to scholarly journals for publication.

In addition to an individualized program of study, our students are required to write a significant qualifying paper and complete a dissertation on an issue in education. 

Transfer Courses

Course units of graduate coursework taken prior to matriculation into the Ph.D. degree program, if approved by both your faculty advisor and the Education Policy Chair, may be substituted for one or more of the above required courses. However, students are still required to complete 16 course units while at Penn GSE.

Program Length

Our Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in four years—two years of full-time coursework and two years to complete exams and dissertation. The University’s maximum time limit for completion is ten years after matriculation.

Preliminary Examination/Doctoral Dissertation

At the end of the coursework, students complete a preliminary examination (also known as the qualifying paper or comprehensive examination) covering relevant areas of education policy. Successful passage bestows doctoral candidacy, at which point students appoint a dissertation committee, orally defend their dissertation proposal, and write and defend their dissertation.

Curriculum

Our program offers a balance of flexibility and rigor. We want our students to be able to tailor their courses to their own interests and expertise while ensuring that they develop methodological and content-area expertise. One of the strengths of our program is that students can take courses in nationally ranked departments across the University of Pennsylvania. Many of our students take courses at the Wharton School, the School of Social Policy and Practice, and in departments including Sociology and Political Science. Advisors work closely with students to design their course of study.

For information on courses and requirements, visit the Education Policy Ph.D. program in the University Catalog.

Our Faculty

The Education Policy faculty study everything from big data in early childhood education to assessment evaluation to the teacher workforce. In addition to the standing faculty in Education Policy, our program is enriched by the scholarship of faculty members from the Literacy, Culture, and International Education, Human Development and Quantitative Methods, Higher Education, and Teaching, Learning, and Leadership divisions. 

Penn GSE Faculty Katie Barghaus
Executive Director, Penn Child Research Center
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty Manuel S. González Canché
Associate Professor
Ph.D., University of Arizona
Penn GSE Faculty Jonathan A. Supovitz
Professor
Ed.D., Harvard University
Penn GSE Faculty Rebecca A. Maynard
Professor Emeritus of Education and Social Policy
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison
Penn GSE Faculty John W. Fantuzzo
Albert M. Greenfield Professor of Human Relations
Ph.D., Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Penn GSE Faculty Stephanie Levin
Research Manager, Learning Policy Institute
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
Penn GSE Faculty A. Brooks Bowden
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Columbia University
Penn GSE Faculty Richard M. Ingersoll
Professor of Education and Sociology
Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania

Affiliated Faculty

Sigal Ben-Porath
Professor of Education
Ph.D., Tel Aviv University

Wendy Chan
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., Northwestern University

Dennis P. Culhane
Professor, Penn Social Policy & Practice
Ph.D., Boston College

Joni Finney
Professor of Practice
Ph.D., Pennsylvania State University

John MacDonald
Professor of Criminology and Sociology, Penn Arts & Sciences
Ph.D., University of Maryland

Laura W. Perna
GSE Centennial Presidential Professor of Education
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Andy Porter
Professor Emeritus of Education
Ph.D., University of Wisconsin

John L. Puckett
Professor Emeritus of Education
Ph.D., University of North Carolina

Rand Quinn
Associate Professor
Ph.D., Stanford University

Daniel A. Wagner
Professor
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Sharon Wolf
Assistant Professor
Ph.D., New York University

Jonathan Zimmerman
Professor of History of Education
Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University

Wendy Castillo, Education Policy, Ph.D., 2018

"I went to Penn GSE because I wanted to understand the education research that drove policy changes, and I wanted to make that research applicable to teachers."

Wendy Castillo

Education Policy Ph.D., 2018

Our Graduates

Our graduates are equipped with the knowledge and methodological tools to use, understand, and conduct research on the pressing educational issues of the day. We have a proven record of preparing students for a variety of research careers, such as professors at top-tier universities and policy researchers at premier research firms, nonprofit research organizations, and government agencies. Some alumni have also gone on to lead schools, districts, and other organizations.

Alumni Careers

  • Chief Research and Accountability Officer, Worcester Public Schools, Worcester MA 
  • Assistant Professor of Education, University of Southern California, Los Angeles CA 
  • Senior Researcher, American Institutes for Research, Washington DC 
  • Associate Director of Research, Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton NJ
  • Senior Researcher, Consortium for Policy Research in Education
  • Director of Research and Data, Relay Graduate School of Education, New York, NY
  • Senior Program Officer, William Penn Foundation, Philadelphia, PA
  • Assistant Professor of International Education, New York University, New York NY
  • Head of School, Christina Seix Academy, Ewing NJ
  • Assistant Professor of Educational Studies, Saint Louis University

Admissions & Financial Aid

Please visit our Admissions and Financial Aid pages for specific information on the application requirements, as well as information on tuition, fees, financial aid, scholarships, and fellowships.

Contact Information

Contact us if you have any questions about the program.

Office of Admissions and
Financial Aid

Graduate School of Education
University of Pennsylvania
3700 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
(215) 898-6415
admissions@gse.upenn.edu
finaid@gse.upenn.edu

Program Contact

Krista Featherstone
Program Manager
(215) 573-8075
kfeat@gse.upenn.edu 

Please view information from our Admissions and Financial Aid Office for specific information on the cost of this program.

All Ph.D. students are guaranteed a full scholarship for their first four years of study, as well as a stipend and student health insurance. Penn GSE is committed to making your graduate education affordable, and we offer generous scholarships, fellowships, and assistantships.

A student listens to a point during class discussion.

Our Students

Our doctoral students engage in research alongside Education Policy throughout the course of their degree. Learn more about our students and their research.

View Doctoral Student Profiles