Carnegie Mellon University

Graduate Program Overview

The Social and Decision Sciences doctoral program emphasizes multi-disciplinary approaches to complex problems.

One hallmark of the program is that it is research-centered. The small size of the program makes it possible for students to work closely with its internationally distinguished faculty on diverse projects and to engage in research at the outset. A second hallmark of the program is its flexibility.

Although there are core requirements for all students, the program is designed to make it easy to combine interests in several academic areas.

SDS offers seven areas of focus for its Ph.D. program:

  • Behavioral Decision Research
  • Cognitive Decision Science
  • Social and Decision Sciences
  • Behavioral Marketing and Decision Research (Joint with the Tepper School of Business)
  • Behavioral Economics (Joint with the Tepper School of Business)
  • Psychology and Behavioral Decision Research (Joint with the Department of Psychology)
  • Medical Scientist Training Program MD-PhD (Joint with the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine)

Students may also create an individually tailored program.

Each of the doctoral fields of study have the same general requirements and milestones. The first stage of requirements is known as precandidacy for the Ph.D.

To reach precandidacy, students must:

  • Complete a minimum of twelve Ph.D. level courses, including four courses in methodology;
  • Attend the first two semesters of the Social and Decision Sciences Ph.D. seminar, which is not counted as part of the above twelve courses;
  • Complete a research paper by May of the second year (maximum 27 months);
  • Qualifying exams due by January of the third year, but more typically by beginning of August of the second year (maximum 29 months);
  • Dissertation proposal due by beginning of August of the fourth year (maximum 48 months).

Students achieve candidacy for the Ph.D. upon completion of the above requirements. The remaining Ph.D. requirements include writing and defending a doctoral dissertation within a recommended five years after entry into the program.

If you have general questions about the SDS Graduate programs, our application page includes several "frequently asked questions." You may also send your questions via email, to the appropriate contact found on the right.