Home Graduate Doctoral Program Program Overview

Program Overview

Doctoral students complete their program in a variety of ways that are mostly dependent on their individual topic of interest. In order to make adequate academic progress, doctoral students should follow this recommended timeline:

  • Confirm a professor’s agreement to function as Faculty Advisor.
  • Complete PLCY 798R: Quantitative Research Methods and Public Policy within 3 semesters of entry.
  • Complete PLCY 798Z: Qualitative Research Methods and Public Policy within 3 semesters of entry.
  • Complete 24 other graduate credits (typically, 8 courses), as advised, within 4 semesters of entry.
  • Confirm a Faculty Advisor’s agreement to function as Dissertation Committee Chair.
  • Sign up for your Advisor’s section of PLCY898: Pre-Candidacy Research
  • Pass all Comprehensive Exams, normally within 4 semesters of entry — but, more realistically, when well prepared and on a schedule negotiated with all examiners.
  • Compose a Dissertation Committee.
  • Successfully defend a well advised dissertation proposal (alternately called a prospectus) and thus “advance to candidacy” no later than 5 years after entry.  Note that 5 years is a hard deadline set by the Graduate School.
  • Sign up for your Advisor’s section of PLCY899: Post-Candidacy Research.

Additionally, students should consult their faculty adviser for information concerning their research area and how best to advance to candidacy on their planned schedule. Doctoral Candidates should consult their adviser about structuring their research, forming a committee, nominating special members and subsequent activities. See the FAQ for current PhD students for more detail.

Make a plan

Students should make a written plan of for their activities that lists requirements and a schedule for completion. Students with a clear written-plan are often best prepared to keep focus and to complete the program within their desired timeframe.

Outside courses

Students should strongly consider taking courses across the University. School of Public Policy students often take courses from the Agricultural and Resource Economics (AREC), Economics (ECON), Education (EDUC), and the Joint Program in Survey Methodology (SURV) to name a few popular choices. These units have a wide spectrum of research topics that complement the interdisciplinary nature of Public Policy. Students should review the department websites and course syllabi for more information. 

General Funding

Graduate Assistantships (GA) are the primary funding mechanism for students in the School of Public Policy. Students should seek them in order to offset the cost of schooling and to gain experience in research or teaching. Outside opportunities exist in a variety of units in the University. Many outside positions are posted at ejobs.umd.edu.

Students should discuss funding opportunities with their Faculty Adviser. Advisers can critique a work opportunity for its adherence to long term goals. Advisers are also able to help a student consider workload balance with respect to research, coursework and a GAship. Outside perspective often helps.

Conference and Travel Funding

Doctoral students may apply for funding that is specifically for conferences and travel. These funds are a good way to offset the cost associated with the conferences that are necessary for exhibiting research and professional networking. Learn more.

Individual Responsibility

Students should strive to meet their intended completion date. Unfortunately, the nature of research will add some uncertainty to the process. Despite that uncertainty, student who respond to adversity, are often able proceed at their intended pace. Students also must make a judgment call about the value of opportunities that compete with traditional academics for time and energy. Additional activities can enhance a student’s stills, but activities may have diminishing returns when compared to the options that completing the program opens. The individual student must determine the appropriateness of a schedule. This determination is often made through trial and error, but it is also a part of the learning experience.


See the FAQ for current PhD students for more detail.