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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

  • Campus: Washington DC
  • Program Duration: Average time to completion 5.5 years; Full-Time

General information regarding the PhD program should be directed to

Admissions-related inquires:
Johns Hopkins SAIS | Office of Admissions
1740 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington DC 20036
+1 (202) 663-5700
+1 (877) JHU-WASH (US toll free)


The full-time only PhD program at Johns Hopkins SAIS will cultivate your expertise as a scholar of international relations. During your studies you will work closely with a faculty advisor to develop a customized academic plan that best supports your dissertation research. You must have already completed (or be in the process of completing) a relevant master’s level degree to apply.

Become an Expert

Throughout your PhD studies you will gain a comprehensive understanding of qualitative and quantitative analytic skills, international relations, economics, and regional studies. The program is divided into a pre-dissertation, resident stage based in Washington DC, and a non-resident, dissertation stage.

PhD students will have one of the following areas of focus (either a policy or region):

International Policy

  • American Foreign Policy
  • Energy, Resources and Environment
  • Global Theory and History
  • International Development
  • International Relations
  • International Political Economy
  • Strategic Studies

Regions of the World

  • African Studies
  • Canadian Studies
  • China Studies
  • European and Eurasian Studies
  • Japan Studies
  • Korea Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Middle East Studies
  • South Asia Studies
  • Southeast Asia Studies

What Your Schedule Will Look Like

The PhD program will provide you with a comprehensive understanding of qualitative and quantitative analytic skills, international relations, economics, and regional studies.

The Pre-dissertation resident stage status lasts up to two years if you have completed the two-year Master of Arts degree at Johns Hopkins SAIS and up to three years without the two-year Masters of Arts degree from the school. You will complete coursework, comprehensive exams, and defend the dissertation prospectus.

During this portion of the PhD program you will be based at the school's main campus in Washington DC and take a full course load or approved independent study. 

Required Courses

In addition to individualized coursework agreed upon by a faculty advisor, all students must complete the following:

  • Research Methodology
  • International Economics
  • Statistics and Econometrics

Research Methodology: all students must successfully pass Theories and Methods of Qualitative Political Research and Research Design and Causal Inference. Prerequisites for Research Design and Causal Inference include fulfilling Statistical Methods for Business and Economics and Econometrics.

Within six months of passing the third comprehensive exam, you must prepare a written prospectus of the dissertation and present it in a formal defense that is open to members of the university doctoral community.


During the dissertation non-resident stage, you can explore opportunities to study at SAIS Europe, the Hopkins-Nanjing Center, or at other prominent global institutions.

You will advance to the dissertation stage after successfully defending a prospectus. You are not required to be on campus, however you are still considered full-time status. You should defend the dissertation within five years of the prospectus defense.


Thomas Rid

Professor of Strategic Studies

Adria Lawrence

Aronson Associate Professor of International Studies and Political Science

Hal Brands

Henry A. Kissinger Distinguished Professor

Jessica Fanzo

Bloomberg Distinguished Professor of Food Ethics and Policy, Director of the Global Food Ethics and Policy Program

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Dec 3 9:00 am - 12:30 pm Online SAIS Event

SAIS Europe Open Day

SAIS Europe Open Day

Thursday, 3 December 3:00pm to 6:30pm CET | 9am to 12:30pm EST

Join us for a virtual Open Day Live at SAIS Europe. Learn about all...

Dec 3 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Online SAIS Event

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Virtual Information Session

Thursday, December 3, 2020 at 8:00 PM until 9:00 PM Eastern Standard Time

The Hopkins-Nanjing Center Washington Office will host an information session on the admissions and financial aid application...

Dec 15 8:00 am - 9:00 am Online SAIS Event

SAIS Europe MAIA Information Session

SAIS Europe MAIA Session

Tuesday, December 15, 2020 at 2:00 PM until 3:00 PM CEST

Join us for a SAIS Europe Information on Master of Arts in International Affairs Program...