M.Phil. or Ph.D.: Which is Right for You?

At Pardee RAND Graduate School, we offer both M.Phil. and Ph.D. degree programs that provide hands-on, applied training in policy analysis.

All students in our M.Phil. and Ph.D. degree programs take the same set of core classes and gain on-the-job training by working on RAND’s research teams. Both programs also offer scholarships and a research fellowship to support your studies.

The M.Phil. program offers the ability to gain work experience while completing a master's degree. This program is ideal for students who are not certain they want to spend the extra time required for a Ph.D., who are eager to gain practical policy skills and experience, and who want to apply those skills in the real world.

The Ph.D. program includes additional required coursework, your choice of a policy engagement stream, a dissertation, and a longer timeline. This program is ideal for students who want to pursue a career in academia or research, as well as the public and private sectors.

Program Comparison: M.Phil. vs. Ph.D.


Academic Program

Core coursework (9 units)
Covers tools of policy analysis, empirical research design, statistics, economics, tech and society, ethics, and more
Elective coursework (9 units)
Faculty drawn from RAND research staff
Strong student community built by taking core coursework together
On-the-job training
Work on RAND research teams for real clients; students can work more days and earn more money
150 days 300 days
Qualifying exams  
Choice of policy engagement stream
Constitutes 3-4 units of the 9 units of elective coursework
Doctoral dissertation

Funding Support

Tuition scholarships
Awarded to all students; amount varies by degree program
Earned research fellowships
All students earn same amount in year 1; amount varies by degree program after year 1
Health insurance

Graduation and Beyond

Time to degree completion 21 months 4‑5 years
Graduate with applied research and analysis work experience, critical thinking, and an analytic toolbelt
STEM designated degree program
International students may apply for up to 3 years of OPT in the United States post-graduation

Note: 1 unit is equal to 1 full-quarter course

Which one is right for you?

 M.Phil. in Policy AnalysisPh.D. in Policy Analysis
What is it? Master’s level degree in tools of policy analysis Doctoral level degree in tools of policy analysis
Who is it for? Variety of disciplines and majors, early to advanced career individuals who seek additional training in policy analysis
  • Launch a policy career
  • Change careers
  • Add to existing experience
Variety of disciplines and majors, individuals seeking comprehensive training in policy analysis
  • Conduct own research
  • Lead research teams
  • Achieve research leadership positions
  • Make significant contributions to the field
How does it differ?
  • Shorter duration (21 months)
  • Earn more money than with a bachelor’s alone
  • Longer duration (4-5 years)
  • Frequently earn more money than with a master’s or bachelor’s alone
  • Higher level of program funding support
Choose this degree if you want to:
  • Perform research but are unsure of committing to a Ph.D.
  • Augment your work experience or master’s degree in another field with real-world research experience
  • Return to the full-time workforce more quickly
  • Appeal to employers looking for master’s degree level candidates and broaden career pathways
  • Strengthen your profile for a future Ph.D. program at Pardee RAND or other institutions
  • Complete original, unique research and complete a dissertation that contributes to the research and knowledge of the policy field
  • Increase your marketability for jobs that require a Ph.D. degree and advanced knowledge in the field
  • Take a deeper dive into policy engagement streams
  • Pursue a career in academia, direct your own research, or hold leadership positions across all sectors
Frequent post-graduate job opportunities
  • Policy Analyst
  • Data Scientist
  • Research Specialist
  • Program Evaluator
  • Program Officer
  • Director
  • Policy Advisor
  • Policy Researcher
  • Consultant
  • Local Government Officer
  • Civil Service Administrator
  • Foreign Affairs Officer/Diplomat
  • Senior Policy Analyst
  • Senior Data Scientist
  • Research Associate
  • Senior Program Evaluator
  • Senior Program Officer
  • Executive Director
  • Senior Policy Advisor
  • Senior Policy Researcher
  • Senior Consultant
  • Professor
  • Economist
  • Methodologist

Still not sure? There’s flexibility.

  • You can apply to both programs.
  • Those who start in the M.Phil. program but decide they want to continue in the Ph.D. program may apply to do so after their first year. If accepted, they would start in year 3 of the Ph.D. program after their M.Phil. degree is completed.
  • Pardee RAND Ph.D. students receive an M.Phil. along the way to their Ph.D.