Doctor of Philosophy in Social Policy

The Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University

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Doctor of Philosophy in Social Policy

Doctor of Philosophy in Social Policy

Research into Action

U.S. News & Word Report logoU.S. News & Word Report logo

The Heller School’s PhD in Social Policy

Are you interested in applied research, where the audience for your findings expands beyond colleagues and peers at academic conferences?

Are you interested in producing work that informs policy changes because it is rigorous and timely?

Do you believe in interdisciplinary research, where your lens is broader than a single discipline?

Do you value diversity not only in your academic pursuits but also in the community around you?

If these elements ring true and you see doctoral work as an attractive and worthwhile challenge, the Heller School’s social policy PhD program could be in your future.

We are looking for passionate, smart, analytical, creative, socially conscious students who seek to pose thoughtful questions – and engage in rigorous research to develop solutions – aimed at creating an equitable society.

A unique interdisciplinary approach

An interdisciplinary perspective is woven into the fabric of the Heller School. Students benefit from an academic environment where disciplines and ideas merge, and where thought leaders converge. Our faculty and researchers – trained in political science, economics, social work, anthropology, public policy and sociology – are well-versed in working across disciplines because they and their predecessors have been doing so since Heller’s founding in 1959. 

Heller is also where opportunity abounds in the enormous amount of funding pouring in for social policy research. This creates a myriad of research projects for doctoral students that align with Heller’s nine research/policy centers and institutes. These institutes cover the fields of:  

  • Poverty alleviation
  • Health
  • Behavioral health
  • Children, youth and families
  • Disabilities
  • Philanthropy
  • Aging
  • Global health and development

A veritable candy store for the aspiring researcher, the Heller School enables you to be a colleague in the investigation of some of the most exciting, current and groundbreaking social policy questions under consideration.

An intellectual and ambitious community

The Heller School’s top-ten standing in U.S. News & World Report reflects the excellence and rigor of the training and mentoring we provide to students. The talent and skill one finds in this active, inquisitive environment offers the serious researcher exceptional learning and career opportunities related to social policy.

Our social policy doctorate program gives students many chances to connect with the broader Heller and Brandeis communities as well as the vibrant, intellectual community of university-rich Boston. Doctoral studies at Heller also provide a portal to diverse opportunities in the larger universe of social policy research.

As a PhD in Social Policy student, you will:

  • Master applied research methods taught by faculty with significant expertise in econometrics, longitudinal and time series analyses, case study research, survey research, intervention studies and mixed-method research. The opportunities to work closely with talented professors and research staff are numerous. If you enjoy learning alongside others, and collaborating in teams, Heller is likely a place where you can flourish.
  • Connect with students who are committed to social justice and to creating new insights to solve pressing societal issues within nine policy research institutes. Heller students have experience in a variety of fields, including nursing, public health, social work, law and economics, and often come to Heller from the not-for-profit sector. They share a commitment to acquiring the skills to analyze evidence for social change, and an eagerness to build a strong social policy knowledge base. If you have been frustrated by the limitations of your field or your own skill base, and want to use research skills to advance social justice, Heller may be the perfect place to begin.
  • Receive preparation to succeed in all sectors of the economy. Heller alumni make a difference in every type of organization, including universities across the U.S. and around the globe, research collaboratives, think tanks and consulting firms. In all of these settings, alumni use the research skills acquired at Heller to contribute to solutions to social problems, particularly those affecting vulnerable populations.

Visit Heller

Visit Heller

We offer a variety of opportunities to connect with us, including Visit Days, Virtual Events, and our annual Fall Open House, all of which enable you to learn about our program offerings and the admissions process. You can also meet us on the road, both in the US and at select international locations. Learn more and register online.

Course Correction

Course Correction

Through her dissertation research, PhD student Megan Madison is examining the effects of professionalization on the diversity of early care and education teachers.

PhD student Robyn Powell receives Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award

PhD student Robyn Powell receives Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award

Powell received the award from the American Association of People with Disabilities for her work as team leader and cofounder of the Disabled Parenting Project.

Knowledge Advancing Social Justice

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