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Public and Social Policy, Ph.D.

Saint Louis University's public and social policy doctoral program provides a Catholic, Jesuit education to prepare students to engage with significant social and political problems. The program prepares students to tackle some of the biggest issues of the times, including persistent poverty both in American cities and in countries around the world, urban renewal, racial and ethnic inequality and health disparities.

SLU's Ph.D. in public and social policy prepares students for scholarly and leadership roles in government, universities, research and public service organizations by providing multiple disciplinary perspectives, advanced methodological skills and the ability to conduct original research in an academic or applied setting. Students will learn how quality research can inform both basic and policy-related questions. They will have the ability to share their knowledge with academic and non-academic audiences.

Curriculum Overview

SLU's doctoral degree in public and social policy requires 33 credits of graduate courses above previous master's-level work and 12 credits of dissertation credit.

Students may enroll as part-time or full-time students, with most courses offered in the evening to accommodate both part-time and full-time programs.

Six concentrations are available within the doctoral program, each with diverse classes and research opportunities.

Public Administration Concentration

Public administration is concerned with how governments are organized, how policies are developed and implemented and the political reality that citizens encounter daily. This concentration helps students acquire proficiency in management principles and techniques; research and evaluation skills; and the analysis of social, economic and political behavior.

Urban and Community Development Policy Concentration

The concentration in urban and community development policy prepares students to address the challenges facing people in Western societies and newly developing countries. It focuses on the process of city-building and all the economic and political conditions involved in the development of urban areas. This concentration allows students to explore the dimensions of urban and community change and social justice from a diverse set of perspectives, including urban ecology, demography and immigration.

International Development Policy Concentration

This concentration addresses international development challenges, including persistent poverty, global differences in development, urban growth in the developing world, racial and ethnic inequality, trade and economic development strategies and political challenges. Students study the development of the state as the dominant form of political organization in the contemporary world and the role it plays in economic development, political competition and international relations.

Health Policy Concentration

Students interested in all dimensions of health policy, whether in the United States or internationally, will profit from the health policy concentration. They will explore legislative health policy, health care organization, health economics and health disparities.

Policy and Geospatial Analysis Concentration

This concentration prepares students to work with big data and geospatial statistics to address applied social and public policy questions at the local, national and global levels. It focuses on three burgeoning areas of knowledge: geographic information science in e-government; accountability, ethics, the law and spatial data; and integrated decision support and spatial science.

Students create spatial data and develop spatial methodologies, interpret advanced spatial statistics, write statistical programs for spatial analysis, create complex and creative visual analytics and offer scientific spatial analysis for public policy challenges.

Law, Crime and Policy Concentration

This concentration is designed to produce academic scholars and leaders in public policy and applied settings. It combines leading-edge social science methods with the disciplines of political science, sociology, law and criminology.

Students who choose this concentration gain the knowledge and methodological skills to conduct policy-relevant research. They also have the opportunity to work with agencies to address contemporary issues related to law and crime.

Fieldwork and Research Opportunities

Public and social policy students engage in community-based projects and interact with faculty and each other through a student planning organization, annual one-day retreat and research colloquia.

When students enter the public and social policy program, they’ll participate in a research pro-seminar, which meets monthly. Participation is required throughout the program, and credit will be given once the dissertation is defended.


Graduates from the public and social policy program have become leaders in the private and public sectors, excelling in such areas as business, commerce, governmental affairs, health and human services, criminal justice and academia.

Admission Requirements

To be admitted into the Ph.D. in public and social policy program, applicants must already hold a master's degree in the social sciences or a related professional degree. Other requirements for admission include:

  • An undergraduate degree from an accredited institution with a GPA of at least 3.2 on a 4.0 scale
  • An M.A. in a social science or related discipline or a professional degree (M.B.A., M.P.A., J.D., M.S.W., etc.) with a GPA of at least 3.4. (Lower GPAs accepted for law schools where grading is on a forced mean.)

Application Requirements

  • Transcript(s)
  • Three letters of recommendation (at least two of them from faculty in the applicant's master's program)
  • Writing sample
  • Résumé
  • Personal statement of purpose
  • In-person or video interview

Requirements for International Students

All admission policies and requirements for domestic students apply to international students. International students must also meet the following additional requirements:

  • Demonstrate English Language Proficiency
  • Academic records, in English translation, of students who have undertaken postsecondary studies outside the United States must include:
    • Courses taken and/or lectures attended
    • Practical laboratory work
    • The maximum and minimum grades attainable
    • The grades earned or the results of all end-of-term examinations
    • Any honors or degrees received.
  • WES and ECE transcripts are accepted.
  • In order to be issued an I-20 for your F-1 visa application, students must submit financial documents. Proof of financial support that must include:
    • A letter of financial support from the person(s) or sponsoring agency funding the student's time at Saint Louis University
    • A letter from the sponsor's bank verifying that the funds are available and will be so for the duration of the student's study at the University

Review Process

Applications are reviewed by a committee of core faculty from the departments of political science and sociology.


Tuition Cost Per Credit
Graduate Tuition $1,370

Additional charges may apply. Other resources are listed below:

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Information on Tuition and Fees

Miscellaneous Fees

Information on Summer Tuition

Scholarships and Financial Aid

For more information about Saint Louis University scholarships and financial aid, please visit the Office of Student Financial Services.

  1. Graduates will be able to identify and evaluate ethical problems related to research and public policy.
  2. Graduates will be able to design and execute methodologically sound policy research that extends the knowledge of both policy and other social science disciplines.
  3. Graduates will be able to evaluate, critique and synthesize competing theoretical explanations in their chosen area of study.
  4. Graduates will be able to identify effects of forms of inequality (racial, gender, class, spatial, etc.) and policy.
  5. Graduates will be able to apply research skills to address social problems.
Required Courses
POLS 6310Policy Process3
POLS 6330Public Finance Theory3
SOC 5060Qualitative Research Methodology3
SOC 5650Principles and Methods of GIScience3
SOC 5850Policy Evaluation and Assessment3
SOC 6100Regression Analysis & Non-linear Models3
Required Course for Concentration
Take one concentration-specific core course3
Public Administration Concentration
POLS 6320
Organization Theory & Behavior
Urban and Community Development Concentration
SOC 6200
Urban Social and Political Theory
International Development Policy Concentration
POLS 5550
Politics of Economic Development
Health Policy Concentration
SOC 6275
Health and Social Sciences
Policy and Geospatial Analysis Concentration
SOC 5670
Spatial Demography – Applied Spatial Statistics
Law, Crime, and Policy Concentration
POLS 5171
Law, Policy, Society
Elective Courses
Select 12 additional credits in consultation with your advisor12
Dissertation Research
PSP 6990Dissertation Research12
Total Credits45

Non-Course Requirements

Other public and social policy program requirements include a written exam after you’ve completed the seven core courses and an oral dissertation defense.

Continuation Standards

Students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.00 in all graduate/professional courses.

Roadmaps are recommended semester-by-semester plans of study for programs and assume full-time enrollment unless otherwise noted.  

Courses and milestones designated as critical (marked with !) must be completed in the semester listed to ensure a timely graduation. Transfer credit may change the roadmap.

This roadmap should not be used in the place of regular academic advising appointments. All students are encouraged to meet with their advisor/mentor each semester. Requirements, course availability and sequencing are subject to change.

Plan of Study Grid
Year One
POLS 6310 Policy Process 3
POLS 6330 Public Finance Theory 3
SOC 5650 Principles and Methods of GIScience 3
SOC 5060 Qualitative Research Methodology 3
SOC 5850 Policy Evaluation and Assessment 3
Elective 3
Year Two
SOC 6100 Regression Analysis & Non-linear Models 3
Concentration Requirement 3
Elective 3
Elective 3
Elective 3
Year Three
PSP 6990 Dissertation Research 3
PSP 6990 Dissertation Research 3
Year Four
PSP 6990 Dissertation Research 3
PSP 6990 Dissertation Research 3
 Total Credits45

Program Notes

Students normally take their required preliminary exam following their fourth semester in the program, before beginning the dissertation.

Electives are distributed according to the student’s chosen concentration. The program offers six concentrations: public administration; urban and community development policy; international development policy; health policy; policy and geospatial analysis; law, crime and policy.

Students can divide up the 12 credits of Dissertation Research (PSP 6990) in a variety of ways. They are divided across four semesters in this roadmap simply for illustrative purposes.

For more information about our program, contact:

Robert Cropf, Ph.D.
Program co-director, Public and Social Policy

Ness Sandoval, Ph.D.
Program co-director, Public and Social Policy