Frequently Asked Questions about Pardee RAND

Topics: General Information | The Academic Program | The Application Process | On-the-Job Training (OJT) | Careers

General Information

What degree programs do you offer?

We offer two degree programs: a master of philosophy (M.Phil.) and a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in policy analysis. The M.Phil. is similar to the first two years of the Ph.D. program. Each program has its own application.

Learn more about the M.Phil. program Learn more about the Ph.D. program

What is the basic preparation for admission? Is there a minimum GPA?

Applicants must have a completed bachelor’s degree by the program start date. All majors and disciplines are welcome. While we do not require a minimum grade point average (GPA), in general, successful applicants have maintained at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and demonstrate strong quantitative skills. The GRE or GMAT exam is optional. We invite you to fill out a short pre-application to receive individualized feedback on your qualifications.

Learn more about our admissions process

How many people are in each incoming class?

We typically have a total incoming class of 20-25, a mix of M.Phil. and Ph.D. students. We currently have 130 enrolled students.

Learn more about the Pardee RAND student body

Why is your master's degree an M.Phil.?

Unlike a Master of Public Policy (MPP) or Master of Public Administration (MPA), a Master of Philosophy degree typically includes a significant research requirement — which is the case at Pardee RAND. Our M.Phil. in Policy Analysis is a professional degree that combines the academic focus of an MPP or MPA with the additional requirement that students complete 150 days of policy research.

The Academic Program

How much does the program cost?

Tuition at Pardee RAND is $50,000 per year. For Ph.D. students, the program is fully funded through a combination of scholarships and fellowships and includes a living stipend. M.Phil. students are expected to complete 75 days of research-based project work each year, which will generate pre-tax earnings upwards of $30,000 that can be applied to tuition. Scholarships are also available.

Learn more about tuition and aid

Can I do the program part-time or online?

The M.Phil. and Ph.D. programs are full-time, in-person programs. Courses are held during normal business hours at the RAND headquarters in Santa Monica, California. In addition to taking courses, students work as part of RAND research teams (and, for Ph.D. students, also conduct research and write their dissertation).

Learn more about student research

Can I transfer credits from another program?

We do not accept transfer credits from other institutions. For some courses in which a student has a strong background, they may request permission to waive a requirement, but they will still need to complete the total unit requirement for graduation. Exempted courses will not appear on the transcript.

Learn more about our curriculum

Is a thesis required for the M.Phil. degree?

We do not require a thesis. Successful completion of two years of rigorous coursework is required, along with working 150 days of on-the-job training on RAND research teams. By working alongside RAND researchers on interdisciplinary teams, students can synthesize and apply the knowledge and skills gained through classroom learning to real world policy topics.

Learn more about the M.Phil. in Policy Analysis

Can I take courses at other universities to fulfill requirements?

Pardee RAND students may enroll in graduate-level courses at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs, per availability and approval. No additional tuition is required.

Are the M.Phil. and Ph.D. considered STEM degrees?

Yes. And for our international students, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, allows certain F-1 Visa students who receive science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) degrees to apply for a 24-month extension of their visa, extending their time to stay and work in the United States up to three years. All of our international students are eligible for this program.

Learn more about our STEM designation

The Application Process

When is the application deadline?

The application deadline is January 4, 2024. Both programs start in the fall quarter.

Learn more about the admissions process

What does the admissions committee look for?

We look for students with intellectual power and creativity, coupled with an interest in multiple disciplines and a commitment to confronting and helping to resolve domestic and global policy challenges. We look for evidence of passion and dedication. We look carefully at candidates' ambitions and ideals, and of course at what candidates have done and have written. Pardee RAND seeks and celebrates diversity, and we have a dynamic and diverse student body. Complete a pre-application to learn more about your potential fit, and to receive periodic updates from the admissions team.

Learn more about our "ideal" candidate

What kind of quantitative background is expected?

Students must have a strong command of univariate calculus and, preferably, multivariate calculus by the time they enroll. It is common for applicants to undertake introductory or review classes in calculus to prepare for the course of study. Coursework in statistics, economics, linear matrix algebra, and more advanced calculus are helpful but not required.

We offer a course in multivariate calculus and linear algebra in the first quarter so Ph.D. students may gain additional preparation for the core curriculum in analytical methods, economics, statistics, and econometrics. For students who enter with a significant quantitative background, Pardee RAND offers a wide range of courses in advanced analytic methods as well as opportunities for independent study with a RAND researcher specializing in that methodology.

Learn more about our elective courses

Is the GRE or GMAT required?

Applicants are encouraged, but not required, to submit scores from either the GRE or GMAT. If you choose not to submit a GRE or GMAT score, the admissions committee will review the rest of your application for quantitative and writing preparation.

Learn more about how we review standardized test scores

Are international applicants required to take the TOEFL or IELTS?

International students whose native language is not English and who have not studied at least two years at a higher education institution where courses are taught in English are required to take an English language proficiency exam (TOEFL, IELTS, or PTE Academic). Students can be exempted from the requirement.

Learn more about our English proficiency requirements

Can you apply to both the M.Phil. and the Ph.D. programs in the same year?

We encourage applicants to decide which program feels like a better fit for their career goals and aspirations and apply to either the M.Phil. (a 21-month degree program) or the Ph.D. (a 4- to 5-year program). Some students might prefer the shorter option so that they can return to the workplace and begin earning a full-time salary again. Others are ready to commit to a longer period and desire to research and write a dissertation. Students who apply but are not accepted to the Ph.D. program may be considered for the M.Phil. program, space permitted.

Can students in the M.Phil. program be considered for the Ph.D. program?

Yes. Students in the M.Phil. program who are interested in continuing to the Ph.D. program are eligible to apply and be considered in the competitive process along with other Ph.D. applicants for that year. M.Phil. students will be encouraged to perform well in the coursework and OJT components and to take the qualifying exams (which are optional for M.Phil. students) as evidence of their qualifications for advancing to the Ph.D. If accepted, the first two years of coursework would already be completed, leaving 2-3 years to complete the dissertation and other OJT components.

Where are you located? Can I come visit the school?

Pardee RAND’s picturesque location is two blocks from the Pacific Ocean in iconic Santa Monica, California. Students get to experience the cultural diversity and international vibrance of being part of the greater Los Angeles area and are steps away from the activities, nature, and tranquility of the coastline. Public transportation is plentiful with buses and the metro rail available a few minutes away.

While we do not offer campus tours due to the secure nature of the RAND facility, students can get a sense of campus life through our short campus tour video. Students who are admitted to the program will be invited to join us on campus. Attending any one of our recruiting sessions or office hours is a fantastic way to learn more about the school and our programs.

Learn more about student life

When will admission decisions be made?

Applicants are notified in early March.

Are scholarships available?

Yes. Pardee RAND offers scholarships for domestic and international students. Students do not need to fill out a separate application. Scholarships are awarded at the same time as the admissions decision. Our financial aid office also provides information about external financial aid opportunities for U.S. citizens and eligible non-U.S. citizens.

Learn more about our research fellowship plus scholarship funding model

Do you offer student housing?

Pardee RAND also has a limited number of two- and three-bedroom apartment units for students to rent, a few miles from campus. Many students find housing in the local areas of Santa Monica, Venice, Palms, Mar Vista, Brentwood, West Los Angeles, Culver City, and beyond.

Learn more about our housing options

On-the-Job Training (OJT)

What is OJT and how does it relate to the research fellowship?

Pardee RAND has the distinction of being the only policy school in the United States based at a public policy research institute. While pursuing their graduate degree, all students work on interdisciplinary research teams at RAND as assistant policy researchers and gain practical experience through on-the-job training or OJT. This is an academic requirement of the degree program. Students work on a variety of topical and methodological areas and the work helps fund their research fellowship.

Learn more about OJT

What is it like working at RAND (a research organization) versus at a university?

Being at the RAND Corporation offers Pardee RAND students access to more than 1,000 of the world’s foremost policy experts, who collaborate with students on projects for clients worldwide. Our students benefit from having multiple mentors and working in multidisciplinary research teams; by contrast, students in traditional policy Ph.D. programs are typically assigned one faculty mentor.

By working at RAND, our students develop a sophisticated understanding of the role analysis plays in real policy problems. Students participate as full-fledged members of interdisciplinary research teams throughout their degree program. They receive a broad-based policy education, not just in one policy area. Students who are willing to be flexible and willing to grow do really well here. This unique experience provides them with insights and practical experience that are unmatched among their counterparts at other graduate schools.


What is the typical time to completion?

The M.Phil. program is designed to be completed in 21 months, and students can take up to 24 months without any additional tuition. For the Ph.D., we expect that the typical student will be able to complete the program in fewer than five years. Some students may be able to complete the program in as little as three years, and some require five or more years to finish.

What percentage of students successfully completes the Ph.D. program?

Approximately 75 percent of entering Ph.D. students successfully complete the program. This is quite high – comparable to or better than the completion rate at other top universities.

Learn more about Ph.D. graduation rates

What jobs do graduates take?

Graduates pursue careers in federal, state, local, and international government (39%); private industry (25%); research institution settings (23%); academia (11%); and in non-profits and foundations (2%).

Learn more about alumni careers

How can I find out more?

Attend an online recruiting event, faculty coffee chat, stream and topic-focused event, and admissions office hours. We also encourage prospective students to submit a pre-application to receive immediate feedback on their candidacy.

Learn more on our recruitment calendar