Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology

The Ph.D. in criminology is designed to be a highly interdisciplinary program that prepares students to produce theoretically informed policy relevant empirical scholarship related to issues of crime and justice. After basic coursework in criminological theory, criminal justice policy and practice, as well as empirical methods, Ph.D. students will undertake additional advanced coursework consistent with their research focus. This additional coursework can include courses within criminology, sociology, demography, statistics, law and other fields. Preparation of a dissertation under the guidance and supervision of faculty in the Department will normally be completed within four years. For details on recent graduates of the program, see below. Additional details on individual faculty research interests can be found here


  • Admission is directly into the Ph.D. program.
  • Soon after arriving, each student selects a mentor and with the mentor, the graduate chair and one other member of the graduate group, designs a hand-tailored curriculum. That curriculum will include several “core” courses taken in the first and second year. These include two courses in criminological theory, two courses in criminal justice policy, and two semesters of graduate level statistics. 
  • There is a “comprehensive exam” designed by the student, the mentor and at least one other member of the graduate group. The exam can take a variety of forms depending on what seems most appropriate. For example, it could be a traditional written examination, an oral presentation, or one or more review papers meant to synthesize areas in criminology and/or related fields. The paper(s) could draw from the material already covered in coursework and additional readings to broaden and deepen coverage. Ideally, a significant part of this work will serve as a literature review for the dissertation.
  • The Ph.D. dissertation can be a single document or a set of several published papers consistent with the rules of the Graduate Division of the School of Arts and Sciences.



Who is eligible to apply?

We expect a successful applicant to have earned a Bachelor’s degree by the time she/he begins the doctoral program. A strong background in research is highly recommended. Admission is very competitive.

Should I apply to the master’s program or doctoral program in criminology at Penn?

The master’s program is designed for individuals interested in furthering their knowledge of criminology and criminal justice policy in preparation for a range of professional opportunities in government, research, and academia. The doctoral program is designed for individuals with demonstrated excellence in academic research interested in generating scientific research on the causes of crime and the consequences of criminal justice policy.

How should I decide if the Penn doctoral program is a good fit for me?

Visit Penn criminology faculty member web pages to find out what projects faculty are currently working on. Read their published studies. If you are excited by the research questions and/or methods being used, then Penn could be a good choice for you. You should be able to identify one or more faculty research areas that align with your own interests. 

Who makes admissions decisions?

Doctoral admissions decisions are made by the graduate admissions committee, which is composed of criminology faculty members.

How does funding normally work?

Admitted students will be given four years of fellowship funding. This includes tuition and stipend support during term time. Summer stipend support for three years is also included in the fellowship. 


Recent Doctoral Program Alumni

Colleen Berryessa (Rutgers University)

Ruiyun (Frances) Chen (Georgia State University)

Mary Cavanaugh (CUNY-Graduate Center)

Olivia Choy (Nanyang Technological University)

Reagan Daly (CUNY)

Ellen Donnelly (Delaware University)

Charlotte Gill (George Mason University)

Ben Grunwald (Duke University)

Seunghoon Han (Chung-Ang University)

Jordan Hyatt (Drexel University)

Jacob Kaplan (Princeton University)

Carla Lewandowski (Rowan University)

Shichun (Asminet) Ling (CSU Los Angeles)

Wendy McClanahan (McClanahan Associates)

Caroline Meyer Angel (University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing)

Ruth Moyer (University of Pennsylvania)

Ben Nordstrom (

Viet Nguyen (Duke University)

Evelyn Patterson (Vanderbilt University)

Jill Portnoy (UMass Lowell)

Meredith Rossner (London School of Economics)

Jane A. Siegel (Rutgers University)

Rebecca Umbach (Google)

Daniel Woods (U.S. Department of Homeland Security)

Yuhao Wu (Peking University)