University of Minnesota
myU OneStop

The Humphrey School of Public Affairs is the University of
Minnesota's school of policy and planning.

PhD in Public Affairs

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Affairs offers students opportunities for rigorous, advanced study in the areas of public affairs, policy analysis, and planning. The goal of the PhD program is to train researchers who will enter academia or join highly respected public or nonprofit institutions involved in cutting edge research in public affairs, policy, planning, and management. Successful applicants to the program will be clear about the research they wish to undertake and why they think the Humphrey School is the best place to do that research.
Students are expected to make original theoretical, methodological, or substantive contributions in the area of their specialization. Specializations are available in:

Download the Information Sheet on one of the top MPP programs.

  • Public Policy
  • Urban and Regional Planning
  • Public and Nonprofit Management
  • Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy

Students take a common set of core classes, choose one of the four academic sub-plans for specialization, select a customized set of courses within the sub-plan in consultation with their advisor, and complete a dissertation. Each sub-plan requires advanced training in theory, research design, statistics, and other quantitative and qualitative methods. Students will also complete training in pedagogy and gain experience in teaching.

Read about the Humphrey School's inaugural PhD cohort.


For more information on the curriculum of the doctor of philosophy (PhD) in Public Affairs, visit this page

Applicant Profile

Admission to the PhD program is highly selective and competitive. The PhD program enrolls a limited number of students annually to ensure opportunities for close collaboration with faculty advisors and mentors and the availability of financial assistance. Admitted students are provided financial aid in the form of tuition fellowships, stipends, or research or teaching assistantships.

The School welcomes candidates from all fields. Successful applicants to the program will be clear about the research they wish to undertake and why they think the Humphrey School is the best place to do that research. Most students admitted into the program will hold a master’s degree from an accredited college or university, although exceptionally well-qualified candidates with bachelor’s degrees will be considered. The Humphrey School’s mission is to inspire, educate, and support innovative leaders to advance the common good in a diverse world, and seeks highly qualified, diverse candidates for all of its programs.

Program Fit

Experts in our field have identified factors that contribute to the success of doctoral students. Two of these factors are whether students have strong faculty advising and financial support. Students who have strong relationships with faculty mentors based on shared research interests and who receive funding from their school or department are more likely to be successful in completing their doctorates than those who do not. Research also shows that full-time students are more likely to complete their degrees than part-time students.

Because our goal is to help each student we admit succeed, we will limit admissions to those applicants with research interests closely aligned with the interests of one or more of our faculty members. In addition, the number of applicants we admit will be constrained by the amount of funding we have to support students. For these reasons, the number of students we admit annually is likely to be small, and the selection process will be competitive. Qualified applicants with strong GPAs, GRE scores, and letters of recommendation who otherwise would be strong candidates may not be admitted if their research interests are not a good match with those of a faculty member.

As an applicant, in your “Statement of Purpose and Research Interests,” it is important for you to be as clear as possible about your research interests and how they align with the interests of a faculty member. We understand your interests will evolve over time, but clarity and specificity in your application will maximize the probability of admission.

We encourage you to review our faculty biographies to identify faculty members who are doing research related to your interests and read some of their papers to confirm that your interests align with theirs. This type of exploratory work will help you determine whether the Humphrey School is the best place for you to pursue a doctorate. From the biography page which lists brief descriptions of research expertise, when you find a person whose interests align with yours, click on their name for further details about their work, including a link to their CV which lists specific research and publications to explore.

Admissions Process

For information on the admissions process, please visit this page.


For further information, send an e-mail to

Humphrey School
University of Minnesota
280 Humphrey School
301 19th Ave. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55455