Experiential Learning and On-the-Job Training

Developing expertise and a résumé while conducting research, exploring technology, and working with communities

Claudia Rodriguez talks with Faculty Leaders

Photo by Diane Baldwin/RAND Corporation

As the only policy school in the United States based at a public policy research institute, one of Pardee RAND's key differentiators is the amazing experience our students receive through OJT, or "on-the-job training."

At Pardee RAND, we believe classroom exercises alone are insufficient to create highly-skilled and creative leaders, policy analysts, and technologists. Hands-on experience dealing with real-world problems of direct concern to decision makers and communities is also essential.

OJT is both an academic requirement of Pardee RAND degree programs and a unique way to obtain practical experience. While pursuing their graduate degree, all students work on interdisciplinary RAND research teams in a variety of topical and methodological areas, and this work helps fund their research fellowship.

Additionally, unlike students in traditional policy graduate programs, our students benefit from having multiple mentors and working on a wide variety of research teams during their time in the program.

Students gain exposure to a range of policy areas, research methods, colleagues, and clients. By the time our Ph.D. students graduate, most have accumulated the equivalent of at least two years of job experience in policy analysis and policy consulting—in addition, of course, to their Ph.D. degrees. Our master's students complete a minimum of 150 days of OJT during their two years in the program.

Read our OJT FAQs to learn more

Other Experiential Opportunities

Each Ph.D. policy engagement stream requires hands-on learning in a variety of environments and to meet stream-specific requirements. These opportunities include the Tech + Narrative Lab and immersive projects and residencies to promote policy development in partnership with, and in service of, communities facing complex challenges.

Through a collaboration with the Center for Global Security Research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, students may also apply for three-month fellowships. Students participating in this program are paid by LLNL and earn OJT credit while contributing to an ongoing CGSR project and also pursuing independent research.

Students may also pursue project-based research outside RAND, in the public, private, or non-profit sectors or at other graduate schools.

Finding Project Opportunities

At most graduate schools, students are traditionally assigned to teaching or research assistantships. By contrast, at Pardee RAND, students seek out positions on research projects in the same way as other RAND researchers. RAND has a kind of market economy for project work, through which students' interests, skills, and enthusiasm can lead them to rewarding and diverse opportunities. For Pardee RAND students, like their RAND colleagues, success depends on many of the same skills involved in conducting a job search: proactivity and initiative are especially important.

Students search for potential projects in a variety of ways, from face-to-face meetings to email exchanges. The goal for each student, however, is the same: to develop his or her own network of researchers who work on policy problems or employ specific approaches of interest to the student. Pardee RAND also sponsors a student organization of OJT Brokers whose aim is to market Pardee RAND students within the various RAND business units and help students navigate the internal market more successfully.

OJT Brokers work with RAND's research divisions to facilitate positive project experiences for students and researchers. They cover social and economic well-being, health care, education and labor, and national and international security and defense.

Recent activities of brokers have included:

  • running speed-networking events with RAND researchers
  • hosting “Dinner with RAND Researchers” events
  • disseminating postings for project work
  • deploying the annual project-based research survey to determine the nature and quality of work students are given
  • encouraging students to maintain their online profiles, which helps maximize opportunities for project work, and
  • conducting a panel event on options for dissertation funding.

OJT Brokers

Samer Atshan

melissa diliberti

Melissa Diliberti

katie feistel

Katie Feistel

jim mignano

Jim Mignano

priya gandhi

Priya Gandhi