Princeton social policy PhD

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

ocial Policy

ACADEMIC YEAR: 2020-21DEPARTMENT FOR PROGRAM: Princeton School of Public and International AffairsAFFILIATED DEPARTMENTS: EconomicsPoliticsPopulation StudiesPsychologySociologyADDRESS: Robertson HallPHONE: 609-258-5894WEBSITE: Social Policy Joint Ph.D. Degree Program(link is external)PROGRAM OFFERINGS: Joint Degree

Director of Graduate Studies

Kathryn Edin(link sends e-mail)

Graduate Program Administrator

Regina Foglia(link sends e-mail)


The Joint Degree Program (JDP) in Social Policy is a collaborative effort of the School of Public and International Affairs and the Departments of Politics, Psychology, Population Studies, and Sociology.  The Department of Economics also affiliates with the program, but not as a joint degree participant.

The JDP follows a “discipline-plus” structure. The “discipline” means that all students complete a Ph.D. in a basic social science; the “plus” means that they will deeply engage with multidisciplinary perspectives on the problems of economic insecurity and inequality in advanced post-industrial societies and the developing world.

The program is designed to appeal to students who want to pursue academic careers in a traditional discipline but who see themselves as committed to the study of social issues of public importance. The program in social policy addresses some of the most pressing problems we face in the U.S. and other parts of the world where inequality generates conflict, poverty and prejudice; diminishes political participation; and reduces opportunities for social mobility. We seek to bring the most rigorous tools of social science to bear on these important social questions.

JDP students earn doctoral degrees in politics and social policy, psychology and social policy, demography (population studies) and social policy, and sociology and social policy. These titles reflect a fundamental characteristic of the program: students are simultaneously full members of their disciplinary departments and participants in an inter-disciplinary community.

For graduate students in economics, we also offer a special non-degree fellowship to be completed in the third or fourth year of graduate school.

Students in the Joint Degree Program must first be admitted to the University by their home (disciplinary) department, and then by the multidisciplinary social policy faculty. Only those who are admitted by both committees will be eligible to participate in the program, insuring complete integration of the students into their disciplinary departments as well as the social policy community. The application process, outlined below, differs based on the students’ home departments.

Students interested in the joint degree with sociology or population studies have the option of applying to the program at the time of their initial application to the Graduate School.  Otherwise, students may apply to the program after their first or second year of graduate study. Students applying after their first or second year of graduate study must complete the internal application for admission by March 3 and submit to Regina Foglia, program administrator for the joint degree program. 


Complete 1.5 years of course work, including the year-long course “Issues in Inequality and Social Policy,” followed by the one-semester “Advanced Empirical Workshop.” GENERAL EXAM:

Complete a general exam in social inequality or social policy. (This requirement applies to Sociology and Population Studies students only; students may count one of their home department exams toward this requirement.) ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS:

Participate in the Monday lecture series, “Dilemmas of Inequality,” held each fall.

Complete an empirical paper for the “Advanced Empirical Workshop.” (Students may count one of their home department papers toward this requirement.) 

Course Information

Semester Hours

Princeton University generally and the Graduate School specifically do not operate on a credit-hour system.  However, because our graduate programs require full-time enrollment, Princeton considers graduate students to be taking the equivalent of at least 12 semester hours for each semester enrolled.  This may include coursework and/or supervised research, not all of which may appear on the transcript.

Transfer Credit

Because the Graduate School does not operate on a system of semester-hour credits, no provision exists for satisfying any portion of Graduate School degree requirements by transferring credit received for work at other institutions. Ph.D. students who have completed graduate-level work elsewhere, however, should be able to present themselves for the general examination in a correspondingly shorter time, after meeting the Graduate School residence requirement and any departmental requirements.

Course Requirements

Course requirements are set at the level of the department, not by the Graduate School. Graduate students are urged to confer with their DGS if they have questions regarding departmental course requirements.

Course Enrollment

Graduate students may enroll in courses at Princeton throughout the length of their regular program provided they have completed academic year sign-in and are not registered in absentia.  (Students enrolled in DCE status are not eligible to enroll in courses.) Courses are selected with guidance from the DGS or adviser(s) and are selected before the start of each term. Students enroll in courses using the TigerHub(link is external) system.

Course Selection Procedure

Graduate students should meet with their DGS or designated adviser(s) before the start of the term to select courses. It is recommended that students print two copies of the course enrollment worksheet. After courses are selected, the DGS or adviser(s) signs both copies: one for the student’s records and one for the department or program office.  Certain departments have their own program-specific processes for course selection and review of courses; students are advised to check with their department and DGS for information about program-specific processes. 

New students are encouraged to speak with their DGS before selecting fall term courses. 

Auditing Courses

Graduate students eligible to enroll in courses are permitted to enroll in a course on an audit basis if this enrollment option is allowed by the relevant instructor(s).  There are no limits set by the Graduate School on the number of courses that may be audited in a single term.  However, students who wish to audit a course should review their course enrollment with their adviser(s) and must discuss with the course instructor(s) the requirements for receiving audit credit on the transcript.  Requirements for audit credit may vary from course to course and from instructor to instructor.  If the requirements for audit credit given by the instructor(s) are not met, the course is automatically dropped from the student’s academic record. 

Proposed Independent Reading Courses

Independent Reading Courses are courses that Princeton faculty who are approved to teach graduate courses may offer during a specific semester to help students fulfill a particular interest or requirement toward the student’s studies.  Generally, one student or a small group of students (up to seven) may be enrolled in a course, which must first be approved by the deputy dean for academic affairs or the deputy dean’s designee.  Courses are proposed on behalf of students by departments through an electronic form submission process that is administered by graduate program administrators. Reading courses should be approved before the start of the semester in which they will be offered.  Students in DCE status are not eligible to enroll in these courses. Cross-registered students from other institutions may participate only if a Princeton graduate student is already enrolled in the course; a reading course may not be created solely for a cross-registered student.

Changes to Course Enrollment

Normally graduate students may make changes to their course enrollment record through Friday of the twelfth week of the semester. Such changes include dropping a course and changing the grading basis of a course (for example, from graded to pass/fail or audit).  All allowed changes may be made via the TigerHub system up until the deadline for that semester.  Students should consult with their DGS and/or adviser(s) before making any changes. 

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs sets its own deadlines for graduate students to make changes to their course enrollment record; graduate students in the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs should consult with administrators there for guidance on their deadlines and processes for changes.

Exceptional Requests for Enrollment Changes

Graduate students may, with appropriate permissions, be approved to enroll in a course with a grading option not otherwise allowed by the instructor and therefore not available as a choice in the TigerHub course enrollment system. This occurs most commonly when graduate students are approved by their adviser to take a graduate-level course outside their department and need the approved course to be graded in a way that satisfies requirements within their program.  Students may also be approved to enroll in a course that conflicts with a course in which they are currently enrolled.  Such changes require the permission of a student’s DGS as well as the instructor for the course; these permissions are indicated by signatures on the Graduate Student Request for Enrollment Changes.  The completed form must be submitted in person to the Office of the Registrar, according to the normal deadline for changes to course enrollment.

Dates for Course Enrollment 2020-21
August 1Fall term course enrollment for continuing graduate students reopens
August 20Fall term course enrollment for new graduate students begins
August 31First day of fall term courses
November-JanuaryMeetings with DGS or adviser(s) to select courses for spring term
November 30Spring term course enrollment for graduate students begins
December 4Last day for fall term course enrollment changes
February 1First day of spring term courses
April 23Last day for spring term course enrollment changes

Incomplete Coursework

Academic work should be completed during the academic term in which the course was taken. A grade of incomplete should only be awarded in exceptional circumstances when there are compelling reasons discussed in advance between the course head and the student. According to the Graduate School’s policy on incomplete coursework(link is external), the coursework for an incomplete course must be completed by the extended deadline given by the course head, but in no case later than one year after the course began.  If incomplete work is not submitted by the deadline, the incomplete (INC) grade will be changed to an administrative F by the Graduate School. 

Curricular Practical Training

Curricular practical training (CPT) allows enrolled graduate students within their regular program lengths to hold off-campus employment that is directly related to their field of study.  Students approved by their departments and the Graduate School to participate in CPT are enrolled in a program-specific CPT course.  Work completed through approved employment is evaluated academically by the CPT faculty instructor.  CPT courses must be approved by individual programs as part of their curriculum and must be commensurate with degree level. 

Please note – Students who intend to apply for summer external opportunities, through the external opportunities system, will currently experience a delay in processing until there is clarity regarding the COVID-19 situation and summer travel.  If you have questions related to CPT or external opportunities approvals, please be in touch with Christine Murphy ([email protected](link sends e-mail)(link sends e-mail)) if you are a graduate student in the natural sciences and engineering or Geoffrey Hill ([email protected](link sends e-mail)(link sends e-mail)) if you are a student in the humanities and social sciences.  They will work with you on your individual circumstances.  MFin and MPA students should contact their departments for further guidance internship approval and Davis IC around CPT approvals.

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