Admission Requirements
The Public Policy Program admits only in fall semester and has a priority deadline (to be considered for full financial support) of February 15th and an April 1st final deadline. Students who want to be considered for a competitive Fellowship must submit their materials by February 1st.
The following are general guidelines for successful admissions into the Ph.D. in Public Policy Program:
  1. A master's degree in a social science or other field related to policy studies is required for admission to full standing in the Ph.D. in Public Policy.
  2. Exceptional performance at the master’s level is required. This means a GPA of at least 3.3 in a master’s degree program is required for admission. Students with baccalaureate degrees may be admitted on a conditional basis if they have an overall undergraduate GPA of at least 3.5 and are currently enrolled in a master’s level program at UNC Charlotte in a field related to policy studies. But such students will not formally be admitted to the Ph.D. program until completion of the requirements for the master's degree.
  3. Admission to the program will require strong scores on the verbal, quantitative, and analytic sections of the Graduate Record Examination. The Graduate Record Examination is a required part of the application package.
  4. Three strong, positive letters of recommendation, at least two of which must come from faculty in the student’s previous academic programs. All letters should be written by individuals in a position to judge the applicant’s likely success in a Ph.D. level program. Letters should address the applicant's suitability for a Ph.D. program and ability to complete the program in a timely fashion. Letters from the student’s master’s level program are preferred.
  5. Admission to the program of students who are not native English speakers will require strong scores on the TOEFL exam.  The TOEFL exam is a required part of the application package for non-native English speakers.
  6. Students entering the program will be expected to remedy any coursework deficiencies identified by the Admissions Committee and Program Director in the first semester after enrolling in the Program. The amount and kinds of remedial coursework required for the program will depend on the background of the student and will be established by the Admissions Committee and the Program Director. Possible deficiencies are indicated in the prerequisites for the required core courses of the program. This program emphasizes the quantitative and analytical skills necessary to confront the challenges of contemporary policy dilemmas that communities face at the local, state, federal, and international levels.
Admission Assessment
An Admissions Committee will review applications and recommend to the Program Director whether each applicant should be admitted and, if so, under what conditions. The Program’s Admissions Committee will assess each student's previous academic coursework in light of the student’s stated direction of study. This assessment will be used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the student’s previous academic history and to suggest specific coursework for the student’s public policy program. Any remedial coursework required for the program will depend on the student’s background and will be established by the Admissions Committee and the Program Director. The Admissions Committee may also suggest specific coursework based on the student’s intended direction of study within the program. The Admissions Committee will conduct this assessment upon the student’s acceptance and formal declaration of intent to attend.  For each entering student, the Director of the Public Policy Program serves as her or his major advisor for the first year in the Program before the student chooses his or her committee chair.
Student Responsibility
Students entering the Program must present evidence that their background is sufficient to undertake the course work required of them.  Ideally, such evidence includes:
  • Familiarity with political and legal processes, behaviors, and institutions
  • College coursework in both macro- and micro- economics (micro is required)
  • Substantial background in a public policy specialty area
  • The nature of urban regions
  • Graduate level social science quantitative methods or statistics course
  • A course in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)
Students may have completed appropriate courses to provide this background elsewhere. Normally, transcripts will provide the evidence required by the Admissions Committee; however, if the student’s previous experience is offered as evidence, the student must document such experience.
Special Note
In most cases students will have been adequately prepared by course work in their master's level work or, in some cases, in undergraduate course work.  To provide some direction on the types of preparation necessary, the following list examples the types of course work at UNC Charlotte a student would need to satisfy the minimum requirements listed above:

For political and legal processes, students would need at least one course in the following areas:

  • American Politics
  • Urban Politics, and/or
  • Legal/Institutional Foundations of Public Administration

For the nature of urban regions, students would need at least one course in the following areas:

  • Urban-Regional Analysis
  • Urban Studies
  • Regional Planning
  • Internal Structure of the City
  • American Cities or
  • Urban Sociology

For graduate level social science methods or statistics, students at UNC Charlotte should include one of the following:

  • Graduate Econometrics
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Applied Probability
  • Advanced Quantitative Analysis
  • Applied Statistics

For micro and macroeconomics, students should have taken the equivalent of a micro-economics class.

For GIS, students should have taken the equivalent of an Introduction to Geographic Information Systems.

Students admitted to the doctoral program in Public Policy are from diverse backgrounds with respect to their experience and academic training. We view that diversity as a strength, if not fundamental component, of our program. The PhD in public policy from UNC Charlotte requires students to complete 2 courses in economics for public policy analysis. Further, students take a minimum of three advanced analysis classes (Quantitative Methods II and Quantitative Methods III and one other) as well as courses in research design and program evaluation. In preparation for this course of study, we expect that students have taken a preparatory course in microeconomics and quantitative analysis. Students who are not prepared for this course work should seek out courses prior to attending or they will have to take additional course work and will then be a year behind since they are unable to take the exams at the end of their first year (see below).  Students might consider some of the following to strengthen their preparation for the program:

  • Click here to be taken to a good site for the fundamentals of Microeconomic Principles.
  • Virtually any Principles of Microeconomics text for review. It doesn’t need to be the latest edition. Edwin Dolan is a good choice. It is inexpensive and reasonably challenging. Bradley Schiller, et al. is another option. In reality, most intro texts will suffice.
  • Students will benefit if they at least familiarize themselves with an intermediate level Microeconomics text to see what they can expect. Nicholson (2005) Microeconomic Theory: Basic Principles and Extensions, 9th Edition, is a good choice; it is primarily graphical and algebraic, and does not require calculus. But again, most Intermediate Microeconomic Theory texts will do.
  • Finally, an online course, such as the course offered at MIT on Microeconomic Principles, taught by Jonathan Gruber, may be useful to some, but it is Calculus-based. There is an Intermediate course at this site as well. That course can also be accessed from this link, as can a Microeconomic Principles course by Brad DeLong, but the latter requires iTunes.

In addition to the above preparation for Economics, the program requires students to take a course, PPOL 8050 Accelerated introduction to Public Policy Quantitative Techniques or “Math Boot Camp,” in basic quantitative techniques in preparation for the economics and quantitative courses. This required course begins in early August, roughly two weeks prior to the start of the Fall academic semester (8/6/15-8/19/15) so students joining the program must make sure to arrive sufficiently before the regular start of the semester to enroll in this class. Besides serving as review, PPOL Students who do not perform adequately will begin their quantitative sequence with Quantitative Methods I that is a remedial course that requires students to receive an A or B before they can proceed to the regular Quantitative Methods sequence.


Application Materials

Payment of the US $65.00 application fee (domestic applicants) or US $75 application fee (international applicants) using a credit card is required before the online application can be submitted.

  1. The UNC Charlotte Graduate Admissions Application
  2. Official GRE scores (verbal, quantitative, and analytical)
  3. Official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended
  4. Three letters of reference from academics who have taught or worked directly with the applicant.
  5. An essay that addresses professional goals and motivation for pursuing the degree, suitability for the program, career goals following the degree, and the policy specialty the applicant would pursue within the Program
  6. TOEFL scores (if the student is not a native English speaker)
For application materials and more details on admission requirements, please visit the Graduate School's web site.