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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

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

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

In the News

Reading Kindleberger in Beijing: Xi Jinping’s China as a provider of global public goods

Carla Freeman wrote in British Journal of Politics and International Relations, 9/11

The changing Middle East landscape as Israel moves to normalize ties with Arab states.

Sanam Vakil interviewed on Australian Broadcasting Corporation Radio, 9/18

Four years of Trump. The U.S. and the world.

Erik Jones contributed to an ISPI report, 9/17

Whose America is it?

Seth Jones cited in The New York Times, 9/16

The increasing fragility of democracy in a divided world.

Anne Applebaum cited in National Post, 9/15


Oct 8 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm Online SAIS Event

Hopkins-Nanjing Center Virtual Information Session

Thursday, October 8, 2020 at 8:00 PM until 9:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time

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

Oct 9 3:15 pm - 4:15 pm Online SAIS Event

SAIS Europe MAIA Information Session with Leiden University

SAIS Europe MAIA Information Session with Leiden University

Friday, October 9, 2020 at 3:15 PM until 4:15 PM (CEST)
Come learn about the unique cooperative degree between Leiden University's Master...

Oct 12 10:00 am - 11:00 am Online SAIS Event

SAIS Europe MAIA/HNC Cert Info Session

Monday, October 12, 10AM EST -  4PM CEST
Gain a professional edge in your career and further your Hopkins-Nanjing Center studies with a Master of Arts in International Affairs degree...