PhD in Education Policy

Become a world-class researcher in equity-driven educational policy.

Our PhD in Education Policy provides you with a deep and nuanced understanding of the education policy process, including policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation, and the methodological approaches used to examine these processes and their effects. As a student, you will also explore how the (re)design of policies and systems create substantive improvements in learning opportunities for learners of all ages.

Through apprenticed research experiences and coursework, students will be prepared to engage in collaborative partnerships with a range of policy stakeholders including educators, leaders, policymakers, students, and communities across local, national, and international contexts

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Program Facts

Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


90 credits



Time Commitment



5 years on average

Enrollment Term


Application Deadline

December 1

Admissions Requirements

No GRE Exam required

Program Overview

The PhD in Educational Policy is a 90-credit doctoral program. Through apprenticed research experiences, students will gain expertise in policy analysis necessary to prepare them to do independent research and pursue careers in policy research.

Flexible Curriculum

Students have the flexibility to choose courses that match their interests. Many options for customization exist within the curriculum and through the choice between electives or the completion of an optional Area of Concentration (ARCO).

Specialization Option

In place of the elective requirement, students have the option of completing an Area of Concentration (ARCO) as part of the degree. An ARCO is a University of Pittsburgh credential that provides specialization within a specific discipline of education policy. The doctoral ARCO pathway is 18 credits and does not result in any added cost, time, or credit hours.

  • Comparative and International Education ARCO

See details about the ARCO courses in the curriculum section below. 


For expanded class descriptions, visit the University of Pittsburgh Graduate and Professional Studies catalog.

Minimum of 90 credits required

Students are required to complete both courses:

  • EFOP 3010 – Educational Systems, Macro Policy, and Politics  (3 credits)
  • EFOP 3011 – Education Policy: Students, Families, Educators and Policymakers (3 credits)

A total of 21 credits is required.

Students take the following three schoolwide PhD core research courses (9 credits): 

  • EDUC 3100: Intro to Quant Methods: Descriptive and Inferential Statistics (3 credits)
  • EDUC 3103: Quantitative Methods 2 (3 credits)
  • EDUC 3104: Introduction to Qualitative Methods (3 credits)

12 additional credits should be taken, based on interests. Recommended research methods courses include but are not limited to:

  • EDUC 2201 Introduction to Research Methodology
  • EDUC 2205 Field Methods
  • EDUC 3000 Advanced Applied Statistical Analysis
  • EDUC 3106 Advanced Applied Qualitative Analysis
  • EDUC 3107 Ways of Knowing
  • EDUC 3418 Causal Moderation and Mediation Analysis
  • EDUC 3501 Critical Policy Analysis
  • EDUC 3503 Historical Research Analysis & Archival Methods
  • EDUC 3505 Research-Practice Partnerships
  • EDUC 3506 Mixed Methods Research
  • EFOP 2018 Statistics 1: Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
  • EFOP 2019 Statistics 2: Analysis of Variance
  • EFOP 2030 Experimental Design
  • EFOP 2353 Applied Anthropology of Education
  • EFOP 2410 Applied Regression Analysis
  • EFOP 3012 Qualitative Data Management Analysis and Presentation
  • EFOP 3201 Introduction to Educational Evaluation
  • EFOP 3208 Case Study Methods in Education
  • EFOP 3408 Hierarchical Linear Modeling
  • EFOP 3471 Constructing Questionnaires and Conducting Surveys
  • EFOP 3472 Causal Inference in Educational Research
  • TLL 2405 Introduction to Action Research Methods
  • TLL 3003 Research Interviewing

Students can either take program electives or select from an approved list of courses in the Comparative and International Education ARCO.

Program Electives (18 credits)

Social context

  • EFOP 2133 Gender and Education
  • EFOP 2305 Sociology of Education
  • EFOP 2306 History of Education
  • EFOP 2307 Politics and History of Higher Education
  • EFOP 2310 Contemporary Philosophy of Education
  • EFOP 2343 Education and Culture
  • EFOP 2352 Anthropology of Education
  • EFOP 2398 Economics of Education
  • EFOP 3003 Theories of Educational Inequality
  • EFOP 3310 Philosophy of Education, Equity & Justice
  • EFOP 2353 Applied Anthropology of Education

Education Policy 

  • EDUC 3501 Critical Policy Analysis
  • EDUC 3505 Research-Practice Partnerships 
  • EFOP 3141 Policy Studies in Higher Education 
  • EFOP 3315 Education Politics: Power & Inequality in K-12 Education Systems
  • TLL 3021 Learning Sciences and Educational Change
  • TLL 3008 Educational Policy
  • TLL 3095 Organizational Perspectives on Education Improvement
  • TLL 3540 Design of Educational Systems

Higher Education

  • EFOP 2129 Social Justice in Higher Education Settings
  • EFOP 3015 Ethical Issues in Higher Education
  • EFOP 3131 Student, Campus, & Society
  • EFOP 3141 Policy Studies in Higher Education
  • EFOP 3150 Foundations for the Study of Higher Education

Special Courses

  • EFOP 2096 Internship in EFOP
  • EFOP 2089 Special Topics
  • EFOP 3089 Special Topics
  • EFOP 3098 Directed Study

Area of Concentration (ARCO) Option (18 credits)

Instead of completing program electives, students can opt to add an ARCO in Comparative and International Education Policy.

To meet the criteria for the area of concentration in Comparative & International Education, students complete at least 18 credits from the courses listed below, including 3 required credits of EFOP 3085. 

  • EFOP 3085 Comp & Int’l Ed Seminar
  • EFOP 2106 International & Global Education
  • EFOP 2359 Gender, Education, and International Development
  • EFOP 2398 Economics of Education
  • EFOP 3136 Comparative Higher Education
  • EFOP 3301 Social Theories & Education in Global Context
  • EFOP 3343 Comparative Education

All students are required to take 9 credits of general electives. Students can select from any graduate-level courses relevant to their program of study, with advisor approval.

As an interdisciplinary program of study, PhD students in the Education Policy program are required to take 9 credits outside of the School of Education representing a coherent disciplinary or thematic focus.

We encourage students to consult with their advisors about selecting courses that best align with their goals. Courses taken at a previous institution may be transferred to meet the Supporting Field requirement, if approved by the advisor.

No modifications to this requirement are permitted, unless approved by a majority of the program faculty.

  • EDUC 3102: First-Year Seminar (1 credit)
  • EDUC 3105: First-Year Seminar (2 credits)
  • EFOP 3097: Supervised Research (6 credits)
  • Dissertation Credits (18 credits)

Degree Requirements

  • Completion of all coursework
  • Dissertation defense
  • Doctoral comprehensive examination


  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • Interest in a career related to education policy and in exploring how policy can contribute to more just and equitable education systems

Upcoming Info Sessions

General Info Session (Virtual)

June 3, 2024 | Noon-1 PM

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Career Pathways

Popular pathways include the following:

  • Faculty position at a higher education institution
  • Senior policy fellow
  • Policy researcher for a government agency, non-governmental agency, or nonprofit institution