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Doctor of Philosophy in Sustainable Development

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  • Course description
    The sustainability of development presents some of the most important policy challenges concerning the future of our planet. None of these central issues can be understood from the sole perspective of a traditional discipline, whether in the social, natural, engineering or health sciences. The PhD in Sustainable Development combines a traditional graduate education in the social sciences, particularly economics, with study in the natural sciences and engineering, to prepare scholars who are uniquely situated to undertake serious research and policy assessments in furthering the goal of sustainable development. The program includes a set of rigorous core requirements in the social and natural sciences designed to provide a deep understanding of the interaction between natural and social systems, and provides students with the flexibility to pursue in-depth research in a broad variety of critical policy areas. No other doctoral program produces graduates with the unique combination of diverse skills and deep insight into the most challenging problems of future human welfare. Together with experts and faculty at Columbia, students in the program conduct research in a wide variety of areas including climate change and its social consequences, causes and solutions to extreme poverty, energy systems, agricultural transitions, water resources, infectious disease, global demographic change, ecosystems, disasters and conflict. Students also benefit from being part of the Earth Institute's research and practice programs that focus on sustainable development.

    Many graduates will pursue academic careers in interdisciplinary graduate and undergraduate programs with a focus on policy and the environment as well as in the more traditional social science disciplines. Others will choose nonacademic positions, taking leadership roles in government ministries in the United States and throughout the world, working on environmental and sustainable development policy for NGOs; in international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank; or in private firms engaged in environmental and development projects.

    Housed at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), the PhD program continues Columbia's recent initiatives in multidisciplinary doctoral education and also reflects SIPA's longstanding commitment to interdisciplinary graduate social science education for policymakers and analysts.

    In just six years our PhD program, with its unique emphasis on rigorous scholarship and research at the boundary between social and natural sciences, has become the most sought after advanced degree of its kind in the world.

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