Program Overview

Program of Study

The program of study includes coursework, a preliminary qualifying examination, two comprehensive field examinations, a third-year research paper, regular participation in the NYU Wagner Research Colloquium throughout the degree, and a dissertation based on independent and original research defended before a faculty committee.


Expected Time Line for Degree Completion


Expected Completion

Research Methods

year 1 – fall

Advanced Empirical Methods

year 1 – fall

Preliminary Qualifying Exam (PQE)

year 1 – spring

Qualitative Methods

year 1 – spring

Field Comprehensive Exams

year 2 – spring

Completion of coursework

year 3 – fall

Third Year Research Paper

end of year 3

Submit dissertation topic / committee formation    

end of year 3

Transfer Credit Approval (max of 40 pts)

year 3

Dissertation proposal defense

year 4

Presentation at Colloquium

year 5

Completion of Degree/Dissertation Defense

end of year 5

Faculty Advisor

Incoming students will be assigned a Faculty Advisor based on their academic interest and preparation. The Faculty Advisor serves as the student's guide in selecting coursework and fields, and will help the student identify a committee for the dissertation stage.


Prerequisite course: PADM-GP 2902 Introduction to Econometrics (or equivalent)

Required courses:

  • PHD-GP 5902, Research Methods
  • PADM-GP.2172 Advanced Empirical Methods for Policy Analysis
  • PHD-GP 5905, NYU Wagner Qualitative Research Methods
  • PHD-GP 5910, PHD-GP 5911 NYU Wagner Research Colloquium
  • Coursework modules from a choice of research methodologies and theoretical frameworks leading to the third-year paper

In addition, students choose other courses based on their interests and academic background. Students are required to consult with their Faculty Advisor regarding course selection. Seventy-two (72) credits are required for the doctoral degree with a G.P.A. of 3.3/B+ or better average. At a minimum, 32 credits of coursework must be completed at NYU Wagner and/or other graduate divisions of NYU. Of these 32 points, at least 16 must be other than the Core or introductory level courses. In most cases, students may transfer up to a maximum of 40 points of relevant coursework from their masters programs. Note that the courses to be applied to the Ph.D. must be approved by the Doctoral Program Director.

While students only take the Research Colloquium for credit for two semesters, regular attendance and participation is expected throughout the degree.

Preliminary Qualifying Examination (PQE)

The PQE is an essay exam constructed to assess the student's capability to design a research proposal based on a research problem scenario presented to them. It also tests the capacity for clear and logical expository writing. The PQE does not examine specific substantive knowledge from any given course; instead, it relies on the student's general knowledge and the appreciation of the logic of applied social science research.

The PQE is scheduled in the spring semester and must be taken during the first year of matriculation.

Fields of Study

Students choose two fields of study and must pass a Comprehensive Exam for each field at the end of the second year of study.

Fields of study are defined by a coherent body of knowledge: concepts and theories, research, and professional literature. A field is more than just a cluster of courses. However, coursework does contribute to identifying theoretical and substantive bases of a field. Further, fields are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they tend to overlap, even though each field represents a distinctive set of intellectual concerns expressed in theories, topics, approaches and research emphases.

The customized field option is available under special circumstances and upon consultation with the student's advisor.

Comprehensive Examinations

Comprehensive Examinations are the second and final set of exam requirements for the Ph.D. degree. In these examinations, students are expected to demonstrate their capacity to analyze and assess critically the major concepts, theories, and research in each of their chosen fields and their ability to present these perspectives in a well-documented, cogent, clear and logical manner.

  • Both comprehensive exams must be taken in the 2nd year of study.
  • The comprehensive exams may not be waived.
  • Students who do not pass on their first try must retake the failed exam before the beginning of the third year of study.
  • Except under unusual circumstances, students who fail any of the fields twice will be terminated from the doctoral program.

Third Year Paper

In the third year, students are required to demonstrate the knowledge and proficiency gained from their theoretical framework and research methodology modules (and other coursework) by completing a research paper under the guidance of two faculty members.


A dissertation is the result of a scholarly investigation on a topic or problem conducted independently by the candidate under the general guidance of a faculty committee and chaired by a primary advisor. The committee plays a key role in guiding the candidate's proposal, research, and writing. To facilitate the advisory process, the candidate selects his/her faculty committee on the basis of common intellectual interest on the dissertation topic. Two additional external readers are added later in the process, in consultation with the Doctoral Program Director, to participate in the defense. Ultimately, what constitutes a dissertation is the result of an agreement between the student, the chair, and the committee members.