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Application Requirements

To be eligible for admission review, applicants must provide a complete application package as outlined below through the online application system

The MS/PhD program at ILR is very selective, with less than 15% of applicants accepted. Application and supplemental materials are accepted once a year, for a fall matriculation.

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Applicants must have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution, or an equivalent international degree. 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.

You must upload unofficial transcripts from all colleges or universities you have attended. There is no specific minimum grade point average used as a cut-off, although undergraduate coursework and grades are a factor in the admission decisions. Please note that admitted applicants who accept their offer will be required to submit official electronic transcripts to the Graduate School Admissions Office. Official transcripts are not required unless admitted.


Recently updated work history and experience, skills and areas of expertise, academic achievements, and any information that is pertinent to your application.


We recommend that you submit two academic recommendations. If you are unable to submit two academic recommendations, we strongly encourage you to submit at least one academic reference with one professional reference. You can submit your application without completed letters of recommendation, but your recommenders must upload their letters within 10 days of the application deadline.


In the form of an essay, describe:

  1. your academic interests,
  2. your academic background, preparation, and training, including any relevant experiences,
  3. your reasons for pursuing graduate studies in this specific program, and
  4. your academic and/or professional goals.


The personal statement allows you to provide the admissions committee with a sense of who you are as a whole person, and you should use it to describe how your personal background and experiences influenced your decision to pursue a graduate degree.


The writing sample should be academic in nature and may be in the form of an essay, short paper, research paper, etc. It can be published or unpublished. We do not recommend co-authored works unless you provide excerpts that were entirely completed by you. The document you provide should help the review committee better understand your writing, analytical, and/or communication abilities. It does not necessarily need to be on the same topic of your application field.


All applicants must provide proof of English language proficiency. There are 3 ways this may be done:

  1. Submit Scores – Provide official IELTS Academic or TOEFL iBT test scores that meet the Graduate School’s minimums. For TOEFL, ILR recommends applicants have a minimum total score of 100 score and sub-scores of 25 in each category.
  2. Request a Standing Exemption in your application for admission – On the first page of the application form, you will attest that you meet one of the standing exemptions. Provide documentation if required.
  3. Request a Special Exemption – In exceptional cases, applicants may ask for a special exemption.

GRE / GMAT (required)

  • GRE school code: 2098
  • GMAT school code: 5JW-7J-88

Finacial 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.

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.

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