The Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Affairs is offered in two research clusters: Security Studies; and Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP). The School aims to enroll eight Ph.D. students each year, evenly divided between the two clusters.

Admissions Timeline

Graduate Admissions Timeline 2023

Statement of Purpose

Clusters of Study

Security Studies

This five-year program is designed to prepare Ph.D. students for rigorous, policy-relevant research on the major threats to international and national security and the relevant strategies, institutions, and capabilities that will be needed to confront those threats.

The cluster combines social science training in international security and national defense policy, focused study of specific regions of the world, and exploration of the technical and scientific aspects of proliferation, weapons innovations, terrorist and counterterrorist operations, and insurgency and counterinsurgency warfare. This is an in-residence program, though absences may be taken for approved field research.

Areas of concentration include:

  • Grand strategies
  • Great powers and stability
  • Civil-military relations
  • Humanitarian intervention
  • Insurgency
  • Arms control and proliferation
  • The threat and use of force
  • Cyber warfare
  • Biological and chemical weapons
  • Terrorism and civil conflict

For more information on program and curriculum specifics, visit the Security Studies page.

Science, Technology, and Environment Policy (STEP)

The STEP curriculum helps practitioners develop a deeper understanding of the nature of scientific and technological problems and opportunities, the specialized methods used for analyzing scientific and technological issues, and the dynamics of science and technology development and application. The course of study for a STEP Ph.D. student is developed by each student, working closely with a faculty advisor.

The STEP group focuses on applications of natural and social science methodology in the policy arena. Emphasis also is placed on the interactions among natural and social science in policy analysis.

Areas of concentration include:

  • Global climate change
  • Air pollution
  • Conservation biology
  • Tropical disease transmission
  • Information technology
  • Nuclear power
  • Renewable energy

For more information on program and curriculum specifics, visit the STEP page.

DEI graphic of people figures
Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

At SPIA, we see our diversity as a strength. Having varied perspectives, diverse races and ethnicities, different abilities, cultures, and gender identities in the classroom not only enriches conversation, but it also prepares students to evaluate an issue from multiple angles to help develop thoughtful and effective policy. We welcome people from small towns and big cities, from the United States and different countries all around the world, from large public schools and small private ones, as well as individuals with a whole host of distinctive lived and experienced realities. All are welcome here.

Fund your future icon with dollar sign
Fund Your Future

Other schools ask you to invest in your education. At SPIA, we invest in you. If you are accepted into one of our programs, then you are eligible for full financial support for tuition and required fees plus a generous living stipend. There is no extra essay or separate application process.

Our Ph.D. Students

footer hero image
Add your voice to our conversation and help change the world. How do you serve?