Doctor of Philosophy in Criminology

The Ph.D. in criminology is designed to prepare students to produce theoretically informed empirical scholarship related to issues of crime and justice policy. After completing graduate courses in criminological theory, criminal justice policy, and empirical methods, Ph.D. students take advanced graduate coursework consistent with their research focus. The program trains students to produce scholarly research that is disseminated to researchers and policymakers through refereed publications.

Advanced coursework typically involves courses in data science, econometrics, law, and sociology. The dissertation is completed under the supervision of faculty in the Department of Criminology. Normally Ph.D. students complete the degree within four academic years. Details on individual faculty research interests can be found here. Details on recent Ph.D. graduates of the program can be found below.


  • Students are admitted directly into the Ph.D. program.
  • Each student is assigned two faculty mentors and works with the graduate chair to design a hand-tailored curriculum. Typically Ph.D. students take several “core” criminology courses 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 or data science.
  • The “comprehensive exam” for the program consists of a working paper that may be part of a future dissertation proposal.
  • The Ph.D. dissertation typically includes three publishable papers.



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)

David Mitre Becerril (University of Connecticut)

Mary Cavanaugh (Hunter College, CUNY)

Ruiyun (Frances) Chen (Georgia State University)

Olivia Choy (Nanyang Technological University)

Reagan Daly (CUNY, Institute for State and Local Governance)

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)

Alex Knorre (Boston College)

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 (Behavioral Health Group)

Viet Nguyen (Center for Justice Innovation))

Evelyn Patterson (Georgetown University)

Jill Portnoy Donaghy (RAND Corporation)

Meredith Rossner (Australia National University)

Jane A. Siegel (Rutgers University)

Rebecca Umbach (Google)

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

Yuhao Wu (Peking University)