Ph.D. On Campus

Social Sciences

California Institute of Technology - Caltech

36 months
Tuition fee
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The Social Sciences program of the California Institute of Technology - Caltech offers the opportunity for highly motivated and quantitatively oriented students to pursue interdisciplinary research in areas common to economics, political science, political economy, history, psychology, anthropology, law, and public policy.


Program Features

A foundational belief of the Social Sciences program of the California Institute of Technology - Caltech is that a wide variety of social phenomena are best understood as the consequence of intelligent decisions by individuals pursuing their own ends. Caltech social scientists have established that such decisions can be modeled and that conclusions concerning social events should be based on observable and measurable parameters of those theories.

Caltech was one of the pioneering research institutions to first use laboratory experimentation in the study of economics and political science, and HSS remains one of the top departments—if not the top—in the world in this field. Under faculty supervision, graduate students are major users of HSS research centers, including the Social Science Experimental Laboratory (SSEL) and the Caltech Brain Imaging Center (CBIC).

Graduate students in the social sciences PhD program are encouraged to begin largely independent research early in their graduate career. Many of the research projects involve direct collaboration between members of the faculty and graduate students.

Expected learning outcomes for a graduate student completing the social sciences PhD program include:

  • a strong background in economics, political science, and econometrics;
  • a solid understanding of the technical tools, which themselves require an understanding of different theoretical and empirical approaches, needed to carry out research at the frontier of the social sciences
  • a demonstrated record of independent and high quality research; and
  • an ability to collaborate and communicate across different fields in the social sciences.

Programme Structure

  • The first-year curriculum consists of courses in modern statistical and econometric methods; game theory, social choice, and decision theory; microeconomics; and American political institutions. These required courses give Caltech students the unique perspective and background that faculty believe yields special insights into economic and political interactions. 
  • The second-year curriculum is built around a series of workshops that are used to start students on the road to active, independent research. Emphasis in these second-year seminars is on areas of the faculty's current research interest, offering students a unique opportunity to work closely with individual faculty members in identifying and tackling research problems.
  • During their third year, social science graduate students are expected to complete the transition from coursework to independent research.

Key information


  • Full-time
    • 36 months

Start dates & application deadlines




90 alternative credits


On Campus

Academic requirements

We are not aware of any academic requirements for this programme.

English requirements

We are not aware of any English requirements for this programme.

Other requirements

General requirements

Caltech requires that PhD applicants in any field be able to clearly and forcefully express themselves in written and spoken English. 

Modern approaches to social science require the ability think abstractly and quantitatively. As such, applicants must be skilled in formal reasoning. 

 To be prepared to succeed in the social science PhD program, students should have a solid undergraduate background in mathematics, including at least:

  • two years of calculus, at the level of Apostol's Calculus, volumes 1 and 2; and  
  • linear algebra, at the level of Apostol's Calculus, volume 2.
All applicants are required to submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores.

Tuition Fee

Caltech offers competitive stipends in the form of fellowships and research and teaching assistantships, which are designed to cover tuition.

Living costs for Pasadena

1100 - 1600 USD /month
Living costs

The living costs include the total expenses per month, covering accommodation, public transportation, utilities (electricity, internet), books and groceries.


Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

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Updated in the last 9 months

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Social Sciences
California Institute of Technology - Caltech


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