The admissions process for the Fletcher School PhD Program is highly competitive. The PhD admissions committee seeks students with a history of academic success and the potential to achieve their research goals in the future.
In addition to a strong academic background, successful applicants generally also have professional experience that they can draw upon. While some have worked before their MALD or equivalent master’s degree, others will also have gained experience between completing their master’s degree and applying to the PhD.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to ensure that their research can be supported by a member of the Fletcher faculty. Even among highly accomplished applicants, the final requirement is that a professor is interested in advising the student. Reaching out to faculty members during the application process is not required, but can be a useful way of ensuring that there is a good match with a potential advisor. Adjunct and visiting professors cannot serve as PhD advisors.
Please note that the Fletcher PhD Program currently offers tuition funding and limited stipend support, generally for two years, to incoming students who have applied for financial assistance. Further details on the application process can be found on the Office of Admissions website, with additional information for PhD applicants also available.
Frequently Asked Questions
The questions that follow pertain specifically to the PhD program. Please also review the general Admissions FAQs.
The PhD program is a full-time on-campus program and neither part-time nor remote study can be pursued at this time. Students are generally on campus for three years or until they have defended their dissertation proposal. After that, they may move elsewhere to research and write their dissertation.
Once students have completed their coursework, they generally take one year or less to complete their comprehensive exams, and an additional year or less to prepare a formal dissertation proposal. Once the proposal has been approved, research and writing the dissertation averages about three years, but the time needed depends on how many other activities, besides the dissertation, the student is pursuing.
Applications from external candidates to the PhD program are due on December 20 for enrollment in September of the following year. There is no Early Notification application for the PhD program. Note that internal (MALD or MIB) candidates should contact the Office of Admissions regarding application procedures.
Although Fletcher provides scholarship support to PhD students who demonstrate financial need, the school does not routinely waive tuition. Scholarships are awarded on the basis of need and merit, and are renewable for students who remain in good academic standing while taking required classes. Following completion of coursework, students are responsible for a relatively modest Enrollment Fee, for which they can receive a scholarship for up to five years.
For students who are not sponsored by another organization, Fletcher aims to provide stipend support for the first two years in the program, after which most students find employment on or off campus, or they apply for external fellowships.
No. Although Fletcher PhD students may wish to pursue teaching or research opportunities within Fletcher or elsewhere at Tufts University, most Fletcher scholarships come with no teaching, research, or other work obligations.
Applicants are encouraged to reach out to Fletcher professors to discuss their research interests, but they are not required to identify an advisor. The match between incoming students and future advisors is made through the application review process.
Admission to Fletcher's PhD program requires a prior master's degree similar to Fletcher’s MALD, lasting at least three semesters (one and a half years) and requiring at least twelve semester-long courses. In establishing this requirement, the Fletcher faculty were aware that some very interesting students would not be able to directly apply for the PhD program.
Prospective students whose master’s degree does not make them eligible to apply directly to the PhD program can pursue the MALD program, and later apply to the PhD program. The majority of the students in Fletcher’s PhD program have previously pursued a MALD.
Although standardized tests are optional, and there is no required minimum for those who choose to submit scores, the PhD Admissions Committee seeks students who can demonstrate strong academic potential. Prospective applicants may want to note that, among those who take standardized tests, competitive scores are above the 50th percentile in all categories. Applicants interested in pursuing a quantitative field of study may choose to submit scores to demonstrate their quantitative ability.
For those applications that include standardized test scores, the PhD Admissions Committee views the scores in the context of the applicant’s background. For example, verbal scores tend to be lower than the average for non-native English speakers, while quantitative scores tend to be higher than the average for students pursuing quantitative subject matter.
Fletcher may accept one Visiting PhD Scholar each year. Interested PhD researchers will be required to identify a Fletcher faculty member who agrees to be your advisor or mentor for the time you are here. For more information, please contact the Office of Admissions.
Visiting PhD Scholars start their year at Fletcher in September. Application materials are due by January 1 of that year. The selected Visiting PhD Scholar will pay $5,000 per semester to Fletcher for use of facilities (access to library, computers), and must also arrange his/her own housing. We regret that we are not able to provide an office to visiting scholars, but a library carrel will be available.