Certificate in Population Studies

The Office of Population Research, in connection with the Program in Population Studies, offers a non-degree Certificate in Population Studies that appears on students’ transcripts. The Certificate Program is designed to provide specialized training for scholars in multiple disciplines and does not lead to an advanced degree at Princeton on its own. Students cannot be admitted to Princeton University through the Certificate in Population Studies Program as it is not a degree program.

As detailed below, students must complete four requirements to earn the certificate: (1) take for credit and earn a grade of B or better in two core courses; (2) take for credit and earn a grade of B or better in one approved elective full-semester graduate course (or two half-semester graduate courses) related to Population Studies, (3) participate (attend regularly) for at least one semester in the weekly Notestein Seminar Series or one of the research working groups organized by OPR faculty , (4) write a research paper- which could be part of a graduate course assignment- or (at least) one chapter of the dissertation in a population related topic.


The Certificate in Population Studies program is open to Princeton University graduate students currently enrolled in a Ph.D. or master’s program in any department except the Program in Population Studies, as those students earn a Ph.D. in demography. Students must be currently enrolled to be eligible. Students who are interested in pursuing the Certificate in Population Studies are encouraged to meet with the OPR Director of Graduate Studies to discuss their interest and the classes they are planning to take to fulfill the Certificate requirements. Students register by submitting a form to the OPR Graduate Program Administrator. Students must register for the Certificate program in time to complete course requirements while they are still in an enrolled status that allows them to complete courses.  Ph.D. students who have entered Dissertation Completion Enrollment (DCE) status are not eligible to complete courses at the University. Therefore, Ph.D. students interested in the Certificate should register while still in their regular program length.

Course Requirements

To obtain the Certificate students need to complete two core graduate courses in population studies: POP 501/SOC531 is offered in the fall semester and is a prerequisite for POP 502/SOC532, which is offered in the spring semester. This requirement is designed to ensure that all students who earn the certificate have a solid foundation in the fundamental topics and methods in Population Studies. Students need to earn a grade of B or better in both two core courses.

POP 501/SOC 531 Survey of Population Problems (Fall)

This course provides a broad overview of the field of population studies. Topics covered include: a survey of past and current trends in population growth, analysis of the components of population change (fertility, mortality, migration) and their determinants, the social and economic consequences of population change (environmental, ageing, and the welfare state), racial/ethnic and spatial inequality and population policy. The readings cover issues in industrialized as well as low-income countries, with a focus on the U.S. for several topics.

POP 502/SOC 532 Research Methods in Demography (Spring)

This class covers formal and mathematical demographic methods. It teaches students, among other things, standard procedures for the measurement of fertility, mortality, natural increase, migration, and nuptiality; and uses of model life tables and stable population analysis and other techniques of estimation when faced with inaccurate or incomplete data. Topics include 1) how populations change as a function of the interaction of multiple demographic processes, (2) how aggregate population changes and individual life-course experiences are connected, and (3) how demographic phenomena can be modeled in the absence of perfect information.

Elective Course

Students are also required to take one full-semester equivalent elective graduate course. Students can also fulfill this requirement by taking two half-semester graduate courses. This requirement is designed to give students additional training in population-related topics. The following list of courses includes a sample of courses taught by OPR, SOC, and SPIA faculty that have already been approved for previous informal certificates. Students may take these graduate courses to satisfy their elective requirement. The list of courses below is not exhaustive and students have taken many other relevant courses in the past. Additionally, the elective course can be selected from any graduate-level course on campus if the course contains a significant population component. Each elective course must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies, based on information submitted in the certificate program enrollment application. 

A grade of B or better is required in the elective course. 

Examples of suitable elective courses include but are not limited to: 

SPI 593R/POP 593R    Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term): Gender and the World Economy

SPI 594T / POP 594T   Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term): International Migration: Challenges and Policy Responses

ECO 531          Economics of Labor    

ECO 562          Economic Development I       

SOC 512          Seminar in Sociogenomics and Biodemography

SOC 560          Topics in Social Stratification (Half-Term): American Poverty and Public Policy

SOC 575          Topics in Migration and Development (Half-Term): Immigrant Integration

SPI 527B          Topics in Domestic Policy: Immigrant Integration and Public Policy

SPI 593M         Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term): Machine Learning for Policy decisions

SPI 562B          Economic Analysis of Development

SPI 562C          Economic Analysis of Development (Advanced)

SPI 590B/POL 598       Politics of Inequality and Redistribution (Half-Term)

SPI 593E/SOC 585       Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term): Surveys, Polls and Public Policy

SPI 597 Public Policy Approaches to Health and Health Care

SPI 565/SOC 565/POP 565      Social Determinants of Health

SPI 566A/POP 566      Topics in Health: Global Health Challenges

SPI 572A          Topics in Development: Migration Policy

SPI 594C/ POP 594C    Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term): Reproductive Justice and Public Policy

SPI 598/POP 508         Epidemiology

ECO 532          Topics in Labor Economics

ECO 552          International Trade II

ECO 563          Economic Development II

SOC 505          Research Seminar in Empirical Investigation

SPI 593H          Topics in Policy Analysis (Half-Term): Policymaking in Diverse Societies

Additional requirements

Students are required to regularly attend at least one semester of the Notestein seminar series (Demography seminar) organized by OPR. This seminar meets every week on Tuesday from 12:00-1:00 during the fall and spring semesters. Alternatively, students can fulfill this requirement by regularly attending one of the research working groups organized by OPR faculty. These working groups meet every week or every other work, typically for an hour or hour and a half.

Writing assignment: Students are required to write a term paper (at least 15-20 pages) on a population related topic. This requirement can be satisfied by completing a relevant graded class assignment in the elective class of their choice or in any other graduate class. Ph.D. students are also able to fulfill this requirement by writing one or more chapters of their dissertation on a population-related topic. The DGS will ask a faculty member with relevant expertise to read the student’s paper and evaluate whether it meets our expectations (a grade of B or higher). 

Guiding Principles for course selection

1. If a department requires degree students to take a certain number of core courses, none of those taken to meet this requirement can count towards the Certificate in Population Studies.

2. If a department requires students to select a given number of courses as core courses that indicate preparation for research, none of these courses can count towards the Certificate in Demography.

3. Beyond “core courses”: if a department requires a designated number of electives, students can use these electives to meet the course requirement for the Certificate in Population Studies.