Ph.D. in Public Affairs With a Focus on STEP

The Woodrow Wilson School offers a doctoral program with a focus on Princeton University's Program in Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP).  STEP blends scientific knowledge and methods with social science and practitioner perspectives in ways that yield practical solutions to the major scientific, environmental and technological challenges facing the world today. Students apply to and are admitted by the Woodrow Wilson School admissions office in consultation with the STEP program.  Pairing of students with faculty advisors will take place at the time of placement.

Overall degree requirements are set by the Woodrow Wilson School. For the STEP Ph.D. program in particular, the following is required:


Students must successfully complete, with an average grade of B+ or better, a minimum of eight (8) courses chosen from each of the four categories below. Exemptions based on comparable courses, preceptorial teaching or suitable substitutes may also count toward this requirement. Students are expected to take the majority of their courses during their first year.

  1. STEP and Subject Area Courses:
    A minimum of three courses relevant to the student's interests, either from within WWS or in another department, selected with approval of the primary adviser and the faculty coordinator of the STEP Ph.D. cluster.
  2. Quantitative Analysis Course: WWS 508c, Econometrics and Public Policy (Advanced):
    Please note that auditing WWS 507c is helpful, but not required. Only WWS 508c (or an approved substitute) will count toward the STEP quantitative analysis requirements.
  3. Economics (Two Courses Required):
    a. Microeconomic Theory: WWS 511c: Microeconomic Analysis for Policymakers (Advanced);

    b. Advanced Economic Analysis: Choose one of the following, selected with approval of the primary faculty adviser and the STEP cluster coordinator:
    WWS 523 Legal and Regulatory Policy Toward Markets,
    WWS 524 Advanced Macroeconomics: Domestic Policy Issues,
    WWS 525 Microeconomic Analysis of Government Activity,
    WWS 543 International Trade Policy,
    WWS 562c Economic Analysis of Development (Advanced),
    OR a course from the WWS 581/2 series, including WWS 581c Energy Economics.
  4. Politics:
    a. WWS 595b, Ph.D. Seminar in Research Design or POL 506 (or an approved substitute); and
    b.  One of the following:
    WWS 521 Domestic Politics,
    WWS 541 International Politics,
    WWS 561 The Comparative Political Economy of Development,
    OR an approved substitute. 

Paper Requirement: An advanced policy paper to be written either in an independent reading course or as the term paper for a fourth course (beyond the three taken to fulfill the core and focus area requirements) related to the student’s interests. This paper should be of publishable quality and ideally should be submitted for publication.

Research Milestones

  • Develop and discuss with their advisor a directed reading list (first semester)
  • Prepare a research prospectus, outlining a tentative thesis project (summer after first year)
  • Engage in actual research related to either their tentative thesis project or to a potential publishable paper (summer after first year)
  • Complete the publishable paper requirement (third or fourth semester)
  • Refine and revise the research prospectus (no later than fifth semester)
  • Develop full thesis proposal (after the completion of general exams)

General Examinations

There are two topical written examinations in areas selected by the student. An oral exam follows if the examination committee feels it is necessary. 


A dissertation, based on the research plan created no later than the fifth semester, is completed by each successful Ph.D. student.

Application information can be found at: