Gain critical skills in core research methods, and enjoy the flexibility to choose your own electives, all in a top-ranked school of social policy and health policy.

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 PhD students learn to design and conduct policy research in a program with a 100% employment rate at a top-ranked graduate school of social policy, home to 9 renowned research centers and institutes that cover social policy areas ranging from disability policy to economic and racial equity. Discover how to generate knowledge that can improve people’s lives and effect structural change.

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Diversity, Equity and Inclusion 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.

EID at Heller

Virtual Visit Options

From September through January, we'll be hosting events with our program directors and administrators, student panels, career outcome events, and more.

Student Research Stories

Alexandra Kritikos

Alexandra Kritikos, PhD’21, Health and Behavioral Health Concentration

Pioneering new methods and data sets to uncover real-world trends among medical marijuana patients
Giselle Routhier, Heller PhD candidate

Giselle Routhier, PhD'21, Economic and Racial Equity Concentration

Study Shows that Over Half of Urban Renter Households Experience Some Form of Housing Insecurity
Diana Serrano, PhD'19

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

Evaluating Waltham’s Two-Way Immersion School

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 features on unequal treatment of WWII veterans under the GI Bill, the “fissured workplace” and child labor, and increasing access to community-based mental health care; and Q&As on analyzing how hiring algorithms impact people with disabilities and supporting youth and young adult populations.

Read the full Impact Report

Alumni Outcomes

Linda Mills, PhD'94

Linda Mills, PhD'94

President, New York University (NYU)

"The Heller School sits high amongst my fondest memories of transformative education. Intellectually challenging, politically engaged, my experience at Brandeis was crucial in my career as a scholar and academic administrator."

Sasha Albert, PhD'20

Sasha Albert, PhD’20

Senior Researcher, Massachusetts Health Policy Commission

“I feel especially grateful to have had the opportunity to work as a graduate research assistant for Heller’s Lurie institute for Disability Policy…I learned so much about the research process and got really great hands-on experience.”

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