PhD in Public Policy

Frequently Asked Questions

Faculty and student talkingThe University of Southern Maine (USM) PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy program is designed for education professionals in the fields of K-12, higher education, and educational nonprofits. 

As an interdisciplinary program, we offer the expertise and resources of the University's School of Education and Human Development and the Muskie School of Public Service. Doctoral students gain an advanced education in two complementary disciplines while practicing the research and analytical skills needed to influence and inform education policy.

If you don’t see an answer to your question below, please contact us.

How does the curriculum reflect the partnership between the School of Education and Human Development and the Muskie School of Public Service?

  • Our doctoral program features a balance of courses in two complementary disciplines:
    • Courses in educational leadership, education policy, and research taught by faculty in the School of Education and Human Development. 
    • Courses in public policy and policy analysis taught by faculty in the Muskie School of Public Service.
  • By situating the study of educational leadership and policy in the broader context of public policy, our program offers diverse political, economic, and ethical perspectives. 
  • Additionally, students engage in dissertation proposal and research process, which is facilitated by faculty within the School of Education and Human Development.

Learn more about our curriculum.

How would I be supported during the dissertation process?

  • Our faculty are deeply invested in the success of our students. Faculty serve on dissertation committees, providing guidance throughout the dissertation proposal, research, and writing process.
  • You’ll select the members of your dissertation committee based on research area. Each three-member committee includes:
    • A program chair within the University’s School of Education and Human Development.
    • Two additional faculty who specialize in the research area of the dissertation. These can be faculty of the University of Southern Maine or another college or university.

Learn more about the dissertation process.

Does the PhD program lead to teaching, principal, or superintendent certification?

  • Our PhD program does not include coursework required for certification as a teacher, principal, superintendent or other school administrative positions in the state of Maine. 
  • Our School of Education and Human Development offers several master’s degree and certificate of advanced study programs that lead to certification as a teacher, principal, or superintendent. Explore options.

Can I continue working full-time while enrolled in the program?

  • Our PhD program is designed to accommodate the schedule of full-time working professionals. Courses are held in-person on weekday evenings and on weekends on our Portland campus. Learn more about program delivery.

Are there any online courses?

  • This is a face-to-face program based on our Portland campus. There are no online courses. As a member of a cohort, you’ll benefit from meeting with faculty and fellow students in-person. In our collaborative on-campus setting, our faculty provide guidance and support. You’ll also have opportunities to network with fellow students, in addition to alumni and state policymakers. 
  • Learn more about program delivery.

What is a cohort?

  • Our PhD follows a cohort-based program model, which generates strong communities of educational leaders. 
  • As a member of a cohort, you’ll progress through courses and the dissertation process along with fellow doctoral candidates. This model creates a dynamic, interactive setting, which is ideal for collaboration and networking both during doctoral studies and after graduation.

What is the next admissions deadline?

  • Our PhD in Public Policy with a concentration in Educational Leadership and Policy program admits students every 3 years. The upcoming application deadline will be in spring, 2024 for enrollment in the fall 2024 semester. View admission information.

Are there test requirements for admission?

  • If you are an international applicant or an applicant whose primary language is not English, there are additional test requirements. Please review the admission information for details.

Does the program accept credit transfers from prior coursework?

  • The PhD program does not accept credit transfers. All required credits are obtained through the program.

Can I take any course before applying to, or enrolling in the program?

  • You must be accepted to the University and enrolled in the PhD program in order to enroll in any required courses.

Are there scholarships and financial aid available?

Are there graduate assistantship positions available?