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The Heller PhD program is built on a strong foundation in core research methods, allowing for considerable flexibility in choosing your own electives.

Choose a concentration that aligns with your long-term interests and select courses that will give you a multifaceted perspective on today's—and tomorrow's—most critical social policy issues. In addition to two years of coursework, PhD students participate in a doctoral seminar, complete a comprehensive exam and successfully defend a dissertation within four to six years. Every full-time student receives tuition and stipend support.

Doctoral students learn from Heller faculty and researchers in the classroom, through their concentration and in their dissertation committee. Heller is a top 10 school of social policy, home to 10 renowned research centers and institutes that cover social policy areas ranging from disability policy to asset inequality. 

Equity, Inclusion and Diversity at Heller

The Heller School seeks to ensure a safe and inclusive environment in which community members respect and value others. In the pursuit of the Heller motto, “Knowledge Advancing Social Justice,” we are committed to equity, inclusion and diversity in our research institutes, academic programs, policies and community relationships.

Student Research Stories

Giselle Routhier, PhD candidate

Giselle Routhier, PhD candidate, Assets and Inequalities Concentration

Study Shows that Over Half of Urban Renter Households Experience Some Form of Housing Insecurity
Diana Serrano

Diana Serrano, PhD'19, Children, Youth and Families Concentration

Evaluating Waltham’s Two-Way Immersion School

Tim Creedon

Tim Creedon, PhD'19, Behavioral Health Concentration

Did the ACA impact behavioral health treatment disparities?
More Student Research Stories
The Heller Social Policy Impact Report showcases a selection of high-impact research, publications, grants, awards and public engagement from the faculty, researchers and students of the Heller School from the past year. The report includes federal testimony and contributions to policy platforms; features on transforming youth employment in Ethiopia, supporting working adults with mental illness and attacking COVID-19 from every angle; and Q&As on health disparities for people with disabilities and the stress of food insecurity on mothers and children.
Read the full Impact Report

Alumni Outcomes

Brenda Bond-Fortier, PhD'06

Brenda Bond-Fortier, PhD'06, Professor, Suffolk University’s Institute for Public Service

“Heller was appealing because of the interdisciplinary nature of the training. I was so fortunate to receive a fellowship through NIAAA — working with Connie Horgan and her team was really life changing. Heller has a phenomenal reputation and had a community of individuals like myself, who had some experience but who knew they wanted to learn more and build more capacity to have an impact.”

Sara Chaganti, PhD'18

Sara Chaganti, PhD'18, Deputy Director, Regional & Community Outreach, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

At Heller, “I got a sense, in theory, of what we would hope for this to look like and then, in practice, what it's actually like doing research with human lives with all their complexities and in a constantly changing context. Heller was an environment where I was able to develop as a researcher, to do the kind of work that I wanted to do.”

Rajan Sonik, PhD'17

Rajan Sonik, PhD'17, Director of Research, Institute for Health Equity, AltaMed Health Services

“Having the ability to run a regression or pick which econometric model you're going to use is critical, but it's not enough. Social issues are complex and messy and require creative thinking—Heller prepared me for that.”

More Alumni Career Profiles