MA in Philosophy and Social Policy


Dr. DeGrazia teaching a graduate course


GW’s MA in Public Policy with a concentration in Philosophy and Social Policy addresses questions of public policy from a humanistic perspective. Through small classes, students apply the normative, historical and logical tools of philosophical inquiry to today’s policy issues. And through case studies, they analyze the underlying concepts and implications of policies relating to welfare programs, access to health care, the environment, health and safety, human rights and equal opportunity.

While most policy programs train students to be quantitative analysts, our program emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach. In addition to philosophy and policy material, MA students choose from a wide variety of courses in the Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration (TSPPPA) and interact closely with graduate students from all over the university. Many pursue internships in think tanks and government agencies, often leading to full-time positions upon graduation.


Program Highlights

  • Part-time or full-time options available, and evening classes designed to accommodate working professionals.
  • Customizable curriculum tailored to professional and academic ambitions.
  • Undergraduate degree in philosophy not required.

  • Networking opportunities through social events and lectures both on campus and around Washington, D.C.
  • Non-thesis option leading to the degree.
  • Strong foundation for students pursuing a PhD in public policy and other social sciences or humanities.



A version of the Philosophy and Social Policy Program option has been offered continuously since the mid-1970s, when it was titled the Master of Arts in Special Studies. The program is administered by a committee within the Philosophy Department. While the committee cooperates closely with TSPPPA, curricular and admissions decisions are decided by the Philosophy Department.


Course Requirements

The following requirements must be fulfilled:

The general requirements stated under Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, Graduate Programs.

Thesis and non-thesis options are available at the discretion of the faculty. Thesis option—30 credits, including 24 credits in required courses and 6 credits in thesis; non-thesis option—36 credits, including 24 credits in required courses and 12 credits in elective courses.

Four of the following:
PHIL 6230Ethical Issues in Policy Arguments
PHIL 6231Seminar: Economic Justice
PHIL 6238Feminist Ethics and Policy Implications
PHIL 6242Philosophy, Law, and Social Policy
PHIL 6250Topics in Health Policy
PHIL 6262Normative Issues in Foreign Policy
PHIL 6281Environmental Philosophy and Policy
One course from each of the following groups:
Group A
PPPA 6010Politics and The Policy Process
PSC 8212Urban Policy Problems
Group B
ECON 6217Survey of Economics I
ECON 6237Economics of the Environment and Natural Resources
ECON 6248Health Economics
Group C
PSC 6103Approaches to Public Policy Analysis
PPPA 6006Policy Analysis
SOC 6248Race and Urban Redevelopment
WGSS 6240Gender and Public Policy
WGSS 6265Women, Welfare, and Poverty
HIST 6011Reading and Research in History and Public Policy
Group D
PPPA 6002Research Methods and Applied Statistics (or substitute as approved by the advisor)
For thesis option:
PHIL 6998Thesis Research
PHIL 6999Thesis Research
Electives may focus on a particular policy area (e.g., biomedical/health care, urban/welfare, or environmental policy), or may explore varied approaches and policy issues.
Other requirements
Successful completion of a master's comprehensive examination.