The PhD in Public Policy (PPOL) program balances theory with practical methods to prepare students for careers in academia, in government, at research organizations, or in the private sector.

What do we look for in our PPOL students?

First of all, evidence of your ability to handle the rigor of our curriculum, which is why you’re required to have completed and excelled in the following:

  • A university-level course in microeconomic theory
  • A university-level course in statistics
  • At least two semesters of calculus
  • Mathematics courses up to and including multivariable calculus

A demonstrated ability and drive to pursue public policy research is another important qualification.

Importantly, we look for strong recommendations from individuals in academia or other professional sectors who know you well and can tell us about your qualifications for our program.

What else you should know

You are not required to have a Harvard Kennedy School faculty advisor before submitting your application. You will be assigned to an advisor if you are admitted to the PPOL Program.

We will also look at your GRE scores for any tests you have taken in the past five years. Just note we do not accept the GMAT or LSAT.  There is no minimum GRE score to apply. If you are an international applicant, you will need to submit your TOEFL iBT score if you meet either of these criteria below. The minimum TOEFL score to apply is 103:

  • You hold the equivalent of a bachelor's degree from an institution where English is not the primary language of instruction
  • You are a non-native English speaker (even if you hold a master's degree from an institution where English is the primary language of instruction)

You must also be in residence at Harvard for at least three years. Deferrals are made only on a case-by-case basis. If you began the PPOL Program but haven’t registered for five consecutive years, you will need to reapply and redo all the course prerequisites.

If you are currently a Harvard Kennedy School student

You will need to submit your PPOL application with new supporting documents—we cannot use your academic transcripts, letters of recommendation, or test scores that you submitted with your original HKS application.