About the Ph.D. Program
The doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) program offers advanced specialized education for a career in academic research and teaching or in policy research and administration. Degrees have been granted to more than 270 students.
Recent Ph.D. graduates in city and regional planning have gone on to distinguished careers as professors at institutions including the University of Toronto, University of Florida, University of Illinois, Temple University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University of Texas at Austin, Tsinghua University (China), and Oregon State University. They also hold major positions in the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank as well as in federal agencies and nonprofit research, policy, and cultural organizations.
CRP's program combines intensive Ph.D. seminars and an individualized program of study supervised by a three-person faculty committee. Students design their own course of study in conjunction with their committees. The committee chair is selected from the CRP faculty and represents the student's major subject concentration. Possible concentrations are:
- Economic development: communities and regions
- Land use, environmental planning, and design
- International studies in planning
- Historic preservation planning
Minor concentration-field committee members come from departments across the university. Recent graduates have worked with faculty from anthropology, transportation engineering, development sociology, political science, regional science, and economics. You choose your minor committee members after taking seminars and courses in departments across Cornell and after deciding on a dissertation topic.
The CRP department offers a series of seminars taught by senior faculty with considerable experience in research and publication to help you to develop a dissertation topic and to complete the degree. Seminar topics are advanced planning theory, urban and regional theory, and research methods. The seminars give you a thorough knowledge of the field and help you to identify critical questions.
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Admission to the program is highly competitive. We accept only a small number of students each year. Most applicants have a master's degree and experience in planning practice. Because students partially design their own programs, the admissions committee also considers whether appropriate advisers are available in the applicant's preferred concentration. We strongly recommend a campus visit by prospective students.
Students typically receive three to four years of funding. Doctoral candidates gain important teaching experience through teaching assistantships and can participate as lecturers in the Knight Writing Program. Research assistantships provide the opportunity to work with faculty on projects leading to further funding and publication.
Our students are very successful in raising funds to support dissertation field research. Current students have received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Program, and private foundations.
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Many fields in the social sciences (psychology, economics, and geography in particular) provide Ph.D. students with a three-paper option in lieu of a dissertation. Fields in which this option is most prevalent usually place greater emphasis on refereed journal articles than monographs in considerations of promotion and tenure. Some view the three-paper option as a way of giving students a competitive advantage in landing a first job.
Those who do not favor the three-paper option argue that writing a dissertation from proposal, research design, and literature review through concluding chapter is an important part of the formative process of becoming a research scholar.
Standards for the three-paper option in CRP include the following:
- The three papers should be thematically linked and reflect a trajectory of work with depth of inquiry in a common area.
- Each paper must contribute significantly to the frontiers of knowledge and be deemed publishable in a reputable refereed journal.
- There should not be considerable overlap in the material covered in the papers.
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Ph.D. Core Curriculum
Read more about the core curriculum of Ph.D. program
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