Public Policy PhD Vs. Economics PhD

May 29, 2019

PhD in Public Policy and PhD in Economics programs have some similarities but offer distinct concentrations and coursework pertaining to their respective subject area. Explore each degree and how to apply to find which is right for you.

While public policy programs may discuss topics in economics, these Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) programs in the 2 subjects are unique. Either degree program may offer additional areas of concentration and typically require a dissertation. Find out more similarities and differences between the programs here.

Comparing a PhD in Public Policy to a PhD in Economics

PhD in Public Policy

PhD in Public Policy degree programs train students in the theory and methods surrounding policies that address real-world issues at the national and even international levels. Many of these doctoral programs offer areas of concentration, such as urban and regional policy, health care policy and management, international economic policy, environmental and natural resource policy, or international development. Typically, students in the program must pass comprehensive exams, complete a dissertation, and attend various seminars throughout the program, but some programs may also offer unique research experiences, such as a summer research residency program. These are usually full-time programs, may require around 16 courses or 48 credits, can be completed in 5 years, and may include course topics in microeconomics, research methods, policy making, and a student's given area of policy concentration. Graduates with this degree usually work in public policy research in academia, industry, nonprofit organizations, international agencies, policy consulting firms, think tanks, and other organizations.

PhD in Economics

PhD in Economics programs focus on the theories and methods needed for economic analysis at the national or international level. Some of these programs provide different areas of study, including international economics, environmental economics, regional economics, political economy, and public economics. Students in the program may be required to maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the program, may have the opportunity to earn a master's degree during the program, and usually must complete comprehensive exams, a dissertation, and seminar courses. These programs are full-time, take around 5 years to complete, may require around 72 credits, and may include coursework in subjects like econometrics, microeconomics, macroeconomics, quantitative methods, and the history of economics. Graduates typically work as professional economists and researchers in academia, the government, business organizations, or other research organizations.

Common Entrance Requirements

Both PhD in Public Policy and PhD in Economics programs usually require students to have at least a bachelor's degree and may require them to meet a minimum GPA. Most of these programs also typically require applicants to take the GRE and submit their test scores. The big difference between these programs when it comes to admission is that public policy programs may require applicants to have prior coursework in areas like calculus, statistics, and microeconomics, while economics programs may expect prior coursework in various areas of economics and mathematics, including linear algebra and calculus. Applicants to either program are likely to need to include their transcripts, letters of recommendation, resume or CV, and/or a personal statement with their application. Students applying to public policy programs may also need to include a writing sample, which may be a prior research paper with a policy focus.

Students can usually earn a PhD in Public Policy or a PhD in Economics in 5 years and must complete a dissertation. Public policy programs generally prepare students for research-based careers in various areas of policy, such as health or environment, while graduates of economics programs pursue research-based careers in the specific field of economics.


What is your highest level of education?

Some College
Complete your degree or find the graduate program that's right for you.
High School Diploma
Explore schools that offer bachelor and associate degrees.
Still in High School
Earn your diploma or GED. Plan your undergraduate education.

Schools you may like:

Popular Schools

The listings below may include sponsored content but are popular choices among our users.

Find your perfect school

What is your highest level of education?