Graduate Program

Doctoral Program


The doctoral program in Planning and Public Policy is designed to prepare graduates for a career in academia, research, and other professions. These careers require broad-based knowledge of research methods and design combined with a desire to make the world a better place. Our program is multi-disciplinary and covers multiple elements of planning and public policy, including transportation, education, community development, social policy, workforce development and labor economics, gender and inequality, regional planning and development, public health and environmental planning, urban informatics, geographic information science, among many different topical areas.

Our program is highly selective and we use a broad range of criteria in making admission and funding decisions. Our goal is for all students to successfully complete all requirements (course credits and comprehensive examinations) and write a distinctive, high-quality dissertation. When evaluating applications, we consider whether potential students have sufficient knowledge of basic quantitative methods, the ability to write, and some familiarity with their desired topic of study. We admit students across the range of disciplines within the School and with a diversity of backgrounds. Incoming students should have completed a master’s degree (or its equivalent) before starting the program. In rare instances, exceptional students are considered after receiving only a bachelor’s degree or, for students enrolled in Bloustein School master’s programs, after completion of twelve credits of graduate coursework. The course of study—which includes required and elective classes, a comprehensive examination and writing and defending a dissertation— takes a minimum of four years, but often five.


Before applying, it is strongly recommended that applicants identify a proposed faculty supervisor for a fit with their research interests. We do not admit students unless a faculty member is willing to mentor them. Some students do change their focus and, hence, also their mentor as they progress through the program; however, a key criterion for admission is a good fit with a potential supervisor. Students will need to organize a committee of doctoral faculty in addition to their supervisor as they progress through the program.

We require GRE scores. While we consider other metrics, in general, our experience is that students with Quantitative GRE scores below about 145 will have difficulty with the quantitative requirements of the program. Verbal GRE scores should be above 153. Non-native English speakers must take the TOEFL or IELTS. TOEFL scores must be above 105 for full consideration;  IELTS should be above 7.5.

Decisions related to admission and funding are considered separately. While we make every effort to finalize admission decisions by mid-February, ultimate funding decisions are often not made until early to mid-April. Our admissions committee ranks and considers admitted students for funding. Applications should be submitted by Dec 15th for full consideration.

We also welcome those students who wish to enroll part-time. Please be aware there is no program funding for part-time students (full-time Rutgers employees are eligible for tuition remission and should consult the Human Resources website). Prospective students are advised to schedule a meeting (in-person or via Zoom) with the Program Director for further information. Please contact recruit [at] to schedule a meeting.

Graduate Programs

Graduate Faculty

Student & Academic Services

Steve Weston

Assistant Dean of Academic Administration

Courtney Culler

Associate Director for Graduate Student Services

Greg Marrero

Student Counselor, Graduate Student Services

Andrea Garrido

Career Management Specialist for Planning, Policy, and Informatics Masters Students

Cheryl Egan

Career Management Specialist for Health Administration Masters Students

Curriculum and Program Details

the Students in the doctoral program are required to take three courses in theory (9 credits) and three courses in methods (9 credits) that exceed the requirements of coursework taken in completion of a master’s program in urban planning or public policy. Relevant theory and methods courses include Planning, Public Policy, and Social Theory (16:762:624); Advanced Scholarly Research (16:762:626); Advanced Qualitative Methods (34:833:628); and Discrete Choice Methods (34:970:630). This specific coursework in theory and methods, and more generally the classes taken by each doctoral student, must be approved by the Course of Study (COS) committee. (See below.)

To assist the selection of appropriate courses, first- and second-year doctoral students are required to submit a Course of Study (COS) form in the fall semester. The COS is reviewed by the doctoral program director and other faculty members (COS committee) with the doctoral student to develop an individually crafted program. That program should guide the student’s course selection.

Program of Study 

  • 16:970:624 Planning, Public Policy and Social Theory (3) | Syllabus
    Contemporary social theory applied to planning and policy; the role of the state in globalization, space, and scale; gender, race, and culture; citizenship, ethics, and social justice.
  • 16:970:626 Advanced Scholarly Research (3)
    Doctoral-level study of scholarly exposition, peer research review and the preparation of research proposals. Students prepare proposals encompassing doctoral-level synthesis of theory and analytic methods.
  • Additional theory elective (3)
  • 34:833:628 Advanced Qualitative Methods (3) | Syllabus
    Students apply techniques of qualitative research, including interviewing, ethnography, and phenomenology, to help them gain an understanding of which techniques are appropriate for what specific research needs.
  • 34:970:630 Discrete Choice Methods (3) | Syllabus
    This course begins with a review of linear regression and focuses on categorical dependent variables. Methods include linear probability, logit, probit, multinomial, and conditional logit models.
  • Additional methods elective (3)

General elective coursework * (30)

Coursework Total (48)

Research credits (minimum) (24)

Total Credits for the Ph.D. (minimum) (72)

Students holding a master’s degree must complete a minimum of 48 credits of coursework and an additional 24 credits of thesis research, yielding the graduate school minimum requirement of 72 doctoral credits. Up to 24 of the 48 coursework credits may be transfer credits (subject to approval of the doctoral program director); however, these must not exceed half the credits applied toward the master’s degree.

Students who enter the program without a master’s degree must complete a minimum of 63 credits (calculated as 45 credits for a master’s degree, less 6 credits for the master’s thesis, plus the 24 additional didactic credits required of a student already holding a master’s degree) plus an additional 24 credits of thesis research (minimum of 87 credits).

First-year doctoral students are required to attend a doctoral seminar. Attendance at this seminar is expected for all doctoral students in the program.

All doctoral students should present a formal paper on their research at the Krueckeberg doctoral conference held annually at the Bloustein School.

Doctoral Program Procedures

*Transfer of Credits

Graduate courses completed at other institutions may be accepted for credit toward the doctoral degree, subject to conditions outlined by the Graduate School-New Brunswick and the judgment of the doctoral program director. Such credits would not normally include studio courses, independent or directed studies, or master’s thesis research.

Evaluation of Doctoral Students

Student progress is evaluated by the doctoral program faculty at the end of each semester. Failure to maintain a semester average of 3.5 or a cumulative grade-point average of 3.5 is cause for a student to be considered for dismissal. In the event of insufficient progress toward the degree, a conference will be called which will include four persons: the doctoral program director, a member of the faculty of the doctoral program (usually the student’s adviser), the coordinator of student and academic services, and the student. The student will be frankly told of his or her strengths and weaknesses and the opinion of the faculty and staff present as to his or her prospects for completing the doctoral program. The doctoral program director will provide the student with a written statement of the assessment. If a student wishes to continue after being advised of his or her limitations, the doctoral program director has the right to prescribe courses or other remedial action for the student to take in the following semester. Failure to demonstrate an ability to meet the criteria for continuation in the next semester is just cause for dismissal.

Incomplete Grades

A grade of Incomplete (IN) is given only when circumstances beyond the control of the student merit granting extra time for completing course requirements. Students must apply for an IN grade in writing. The application must include a statement of the circumstances meriting the IN grade and a contract that defines the nature of the work missed and the date it is due. The contract must be signed and dated by the student and the faculty member before the IN grade is assigned. Should a student require an extension of the contract, he or she must obtain permission for the extension from the doctoral program director. After one year, the IN grade automatically converts to a PIN (Permanent Incomplete). When this happens, a student will not receive a grade or credit for the course in question. Two IN grades will be allowed to stand for one semester only. If at least one is not converted to a final grade, the student will not be allowed to register for the following semester. Students who receive more than one IN within the first 12 credits of coursework in the program will be given a written warning and must meet with the review committee to discuss the problem (see Evaluation of Doctoral Students).


The student may select his or her own adviser among members and associate members of the Bloustein School graduate faculty, upon mutual agreement. In addition, students will meet periodically with the director of the doctoral program, who may suggest additional coursework or other preparation for program completion.

Preparing for the Qualifying Exam

At least one semester (preferably more) before students present themselves for the qualifying examination, they must select (in consultation with their advisers and approval of the doctoral program director) an examination committee of four members. This committee must include one faculty member specializing in research methods, another Bloustein School faculty member specializing in theory, and two Bloustein School members from the student’s special examination areas (see The Qualifying Examination). The student, in consultation with his or her adviser, may change the composition of the committee, subject to approval by the doctoral program director. The exam committee will come to a mutual agreement with the student as to the material to be covered by the qualifying examination.

Selection of Dissertation Chair

The student may select a dissertation chair among members of the Bloustein School graduate faculty, who may or may not be the student’s faculty adviser. Before presenting himself or herself for the qualifying examination, the student must procure a letter from a member of the faculty of the doctoral program expressing willingness to chair and supervise the student’s dissertation. This letter is to be submitted to the director of the doctoral program and the Bloustein School’s Office of Student and Academic Services.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination comprises written and oral components in the following areas:

1. Theory: of and in planning and public policy.

2. Methods: including research design, qualitative and quantitative analysis, and advanced methods in the student’s field(s) of specialization.

3. Major field: a primary topical specialization within planning and public policy, requiring broad familiarity with substantive literature that is central to the student’s anticipated dissertation research.

4. Minor field: a second topical or substantive specialization closely related to the student’s anticipated dissertation research and defined so that the subject matter does not overlap with the major field (above); or a related field other than planning and public policy (e.g., civil engineering, computer science, economics, geography, political science, sociology, or another field) that the student can show is relevant to his or her degree program. Selection of primary and secondary specializations comprising the major and minor field examinations is the responsibility of the student together with his or her examiner, in consultation with and approved by the doctoral program director (see Preparation for the Qualifying Examination).

5. The oral component of the qualifying examination will be scheduled by the student in consultation with all members of his or her examination committee, upon satisfactory completion of the written component(s).

Students may take the written and oral qualifying examination in methods at any time after completing the required coursework in methods (see Coursework Requirements). To take qualifying examinations in theory, major field, and minor field, students must have completed 48 coursework credits (including transfer of credits), have a minimum GPA of 3.5, and have no outstanding Incomplete grades.

Should the student fail any part of the examination, the examination committee will advise the student to pursue one or more of the following options: (1) take additional courses or submit additional written and/or oral work; (2) retake part(s) or all of the exam at a specified time; (3) resign from the doctoral program.

Passing the qualifying examination constitutes formal admission to candidacy for the Ph.D. degree.

Dissertation Proposal

Following successful completion of the qualifying examination, the student prepares a thesis proposal in consultation with his or her dissertation chair (see Selection of Dissertation Chair). The proposal shall be formally presented for approval at a public meeting of the dissertation committee within no more than four months of passing the qualifying examination. Immediately following the proposal presentation, the student’s dissertation chair, in consultation with the rest of the student’s dissertation committee, will provide the student with a written evaluation of his or her proposal, providing specific suggestions on how the student can improve his or her dissertation research.

Doctoral Dissertation

Doctoral (Ph.D.) dissertations should make an original contribution to planning and public policy through the rigorous analytical examination of theory and evidence supporting a significant argument or testing a relevant hypothesis. The dissertation may draw from a broad array of quantitative and/or qualitative methods reflecting the multidisciplinary nature of the field.

Dissertation Committee

Upon approval of the thesis topic (see Dissertation Proposal), a candidate, in consultation with the chair of the thesis committee and the doctoral program director, shall form a dissertation committee of four faculty members, including one member from outside of the Bloustein School. The members need not be the same as the comprehensive examination committee. Once the committee is constituted, the student should write a memo to the doctoral program director specifying the committee membership. This memo must be approved by both the faculty member who is denoted as chair of that thesis committee and the doctoral program director, and will then be placed in the student’s file.

Dissertation Review and Defense

Upon completion of the first draft of the dissertation, and with the approval of the dissertation committee chair, the manuscript shall be circulated to the members of the dissertation committee for review. The student’s dissertation committee chair will make the decision as to when the dissertation is ready for defense.

At that time, the dissertation shall be publicly presented and defended in an open public forum to be held at the Bloustein School. Scheduling information regarding dissertation defense must be submitted to the Office of Student and Academic Services no less than two weeks prior.

The dissertation shall be defended before the dissertation committee at a time and place approved by the committee members and the director of the doctoral program.

A final copy of the successfully defended thesis will be submitted to the Graduate School-New Brunswick, and this shall complete the doctoral process.

Apply to the Doctoral Program