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Program Requirements

Master's Thesis

Students who are admitted to the MS/PhD program must complete a Master’s thesis that is approved by their members of their Special Committee, composed of:

  • a chairperson, representing their major area of specialization (Labor Relations, Law and History, Human Resource Studies, International and Comparative Labor, or Organizational Behavior), and
  • a minor member, representing one of the other areas of specialization within the ILR School.

Students work closely with their committee members in selecting appropriate courses and developing a thesis topic. The thesis is normally completed within the first two years of the program. Upon approval by the committee, the student is admitted formally to the PhD program.

Completion of PhD

To complete the PhD degree, the student will need to add at least one additional minor member, representing a field outside ILR, to their Special Committee. For a PhD, Cornell's Graduate School requires:

  • six semesters of registration, two of them after the A Exam,
  • satisfactory work in a major and two minor subject areas, as determined by the student's Special Committee, and
  • the successful completion of the admission-to-candidacy examination, which is taken before the start of the seventh semester.

Following this examination, students complete a PhD dissertation, which must be approved by the Special Committee members. Cornell's MS and PhD degree programs are governed by the Graduate School. Please visit their website for additional, in-depth information regarding academic requirements.

Applicants who wish to have statistics or economics as their major area of specialization should apply directly to the Graduate Fields of Statistics and Data Science or Economics. They may choose to have a minor in one of the other the areas of study within ILR.

Program Admissions

The MS/PhD program at ILR is very selective, with less than 15% of applicants accepted. Applications are accepted once a year, for a fall matriculation. Students apply by submitting an online application.

Many applicants have an undergraduate or master’s degree in the social sciences (e.g., anthropology, economics, government, history, psychology or sociology), although this is not a prerequisite.

The Graduate Admissions Committee, composed of representatives from each of the areas of academic specialization within the ILR School, makes admissions decisions for the MS/PhD program. These decisions reflect consideration of both applicants’ academic record (grades and standardized test scores), and whether applicants’ academic interests, as expressed in their statement of purpose, can be pursued effectively at ILR, given the interests of faculty members.

Application and supplemental material deadline is December 15.

Application Process

  • Complete the online application form

  • Prepare a statement of purpose

  • Submit two letters of recommendation

  • Submit a copy of your transcripts from each institution attended

  • Submit your resume or CV

  • Submit a writing sample. Applicants are strongly encouraged to submit a writing sample. Applicants who have already completed a master's degree may submit a copy of their master's thesis.

  • Please have an official GRE or GMAT score report sent to the Cornell Graduate School. The GRE/GMAT is required for consideration of admission. There is no defined GRE or GMAT score performance requirement.
    GRE - use school code 2098. Department codes are not needed for matching scores to applications. If ETS requires you to select a department code, you may choose “0000 undecided.”
    GMAT - use school code  5JW-7J-88

  • Official TOEFL or IELTS score report sent to the Cornell Graduate School.


Students whose native language is not English are also required to take the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) or the IELTS (International English Language Testing System), unless they have studied in full-time status for at least two academic years within the last five years in the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, or New Zealand, or with English language instruction in Canada or South Africa. You must submit a transcript that shows you have attended college in one of these approved locations. Minimum scores for the IBT version of TOEFL are:

  • Writing: 20
  • Listening: 15
  • Reading: 20
  • Speaking: 22

The Graduate School requires an overall band score of a 7.0 or higher on the IELTS. When you register for the exam, you may select up to five intuitions to which you would like to have your Test Report Form (TRF) mailed. You may also submit a request to your test center to have additional TRFs sent to institutions not originally listed on your registration form.

Have your TRF mailed to Cornell University — Graduate Admissions. Please do not email a scanned copy, or mail a photocopy of your TRF. Cornell does not currently accept PTE scores as an alternative to the TOEFL or IELTS. For more information about the TOEFL or IELTS test, visit the Graduate School Admissions site.

Please have TOEFL scores sent to the Cornell Graduate School using school code 2098.

Financial Support

Admitted MS/PhD students receive full funding (tuition, stipend, and health insurance) for five years by serving as teaching or research assistants to the faculty. MS/PhD students are still responsible for the student activity fee, for finding their own housing, and working out additional costs of living expenses beyond what the stipend provides. There may be opportunities for advanced PhD candidates to teach their own class, under faculty supervision, before they graduate.

Visit Campus

A helpful map of the ILR School is available at this link. For additional visitor information see the Cornell visitor website and Cornell University Maps. We also encourage you to Experience Cornell through video tours.

Please connect with us at if you are interested in visiting us in-person.