Skip to main content
Expand AU Menu

Graduate Admissions

Director's Message

Laura Langbein

The PhD programs at The American University's School of Public Affairs have several characteristics that distinguish them from other PhD programs. One of the most obvious advantages is our location in the northwest district of Washington, DC. The nation's executive agencies, Congress, interest groups and numerous associations are just a few miles from our campus. Our faculty and students take advantage of this by conducting research using primary sources unequaled in the country. Besides being able to interview elected and appointed officials in Washington, our students can consult the Library of Congress, various agency libraries, the National Archives, and other print sources.

Students are also attracted to our programs because we offer three Doctoral degrees in the School of Public Affairs: 

Although our students graduate with one degree, all have the opportunity to combine their studies in each of the three fields. This combination is supplemented by strong fields in Policy Analysis and Comparative Politics. We offer students the flexibility to build a program that suits their own interests. In addition to offering six fields within our School (American Politics; Comparative Politics; Policy Analysis; Public Administration; Justice, Law and Criminology; and methodology) our students are able to concentrate in one PhD field outside the school. Currently, for instance, our PhD candidates are taking fields in International Relations, Economics, and International Development.

Every member of our faculty who teaches in the PhD program is a leading scholar who is active in his or her field and in the Washington community. This involvement opens doors for our students in conducting research and gaining employment after graduation.

Our emphasis is on preparing people to enter the academic world. Half of our graduates in the last five years have entered academia, and most of our current PhD candidates plan to enter academia after graduation. Those who do not choose academia frequently enter consulting as policy analysts, work on the Hill, or continue in jobs they held while PhD students at American University. To ensure that our candidates are qualified for these positions, we require that each student develop extensive capability in empirical theory and research methods. Only PhD students participate in most of our seminars, so that the focus of coursework can be on mastering knowledge of relevant literature and producing significant research. These seminars challenge students and encourage individual creativity. We invite you to read through the following description of our program. It is designed to give you an idea of what our program values and the benefits we have to offer. 

Dr. Laura Langbein
Director, Doctoral Programs