Predoctoral Training at CDE

CDE's training program is organized around three goals: (1) to foster an interdisciplinary community of junior scholars; (2) to build expertise in demographic theory, methods, and analysis; and (3) to cultivate students' professional skills, including the organization, execution, presentation, publication, and critique of research.


A central component of the CDE training program is coursework, including courses specific to the individual disciplines comprising CDE as well as a core of common training designed to foster an inclusive and cohesive environment and to train population scientists who can work effectively across disciplines. The Predoctoral Plans of Study table shows representative plans of study for students in the three primary disciplines that comprise CDE. It shows typical classes taken within the disciplines, required courses and seminars, interdisciplinary and crosslisted courses, and timelines for the completion of major milestones, such as master's theses and preliminary exams.

Core courses and seminars

Students develop a core set of skills and enter an interdisciplinary community of scholars by taking classes required by all CDE trainees. Four courses are required of all trainees:

Advanced Demographic Techniques is taken by all trainees. This course covers standardization, decomposition, stable and nonstable population theory, multistate demography, population renewal models, quantum-tempo distinction, indirect estimation, and macrosimulation. The course is taught in conjunction with CDE-funded training in R programming and students are taught how to use R to estimate multistate lifetables and multiregional population renewal models. Use of a matrix-programming language provides an important complement to students' training in Stata, GIS, and Mplus in other methods classes. Because new methodological developments in demography have largely been created in R, it is critical for the newest generation of demographers to be trained in the software.

All trainees are also required to attend the weekly meetings of the Demography Seminar (Demsem), and the weekly Graduate Training Seminar in Demography, which combines professional development meetings for graduate students, Perspectives in Demography (methodological and substantive training sessions), and presentations of Next Generation Research by graduate students and postdocs. At the weekly Demography Seminar, in addition to presentations by CDE training faculty, we invite prominent scholars to present their cutting-edge research each semester. Recent presenters have included Andrew Cherlin, Eileen Crimmins, Noreen Goldman, Rob Mare, Steven Ruggles, Shripad Tuljapurkar, and Tyler VanderWeele.

Research opportunities

CDE faculty are well-known for extensive collaboration with current and former students and postdoctoral fellows. All trainees are eligible to participate in any CDE faculty member's research projects. Almost all CDE students work extensively with at least two and often three or four faculty members during their periods of study. This is especially true of postdoctoral fellows. When students are employed as research assistants, the supervising faculty member often provides as much or more training than the student's primarily academic advisor.

CDE working groups offer an informal collaborative environment that is focused on research development and provide students with an opportunity to observe and engage in "research in action." In working groups, faculty discuss new methods and ideas, grapple with difficulties, engage in academic debate, and work to develop collaborative projects. Participation in working groups is an exciting and engaging way for students to learn that is very different from classroom instruction or one-on-one mentoring. Working groups are organized around CDE's four signature themes: Demography of Inequality, Families and Households, Health and Mortality, and Data & Methodology.

Working groups typically meet every other week in a given semester to discuss preliminary research by participants or newly released working papers, or to review topic-specific methodology. The working groups are research-focused by design and do not have an explicit instructional component. It is clear, however, that there is great training value for advanced graduate students who are able to contribute and participate in the research and for first- and second-year students who are able to witness the research process in action. The working groups and other informal workshops (e.g., health econometrics) play a major role in enhancing interdisciplinary interaction (of faculty and trainees alike) and providing a forum for examining frontier problems and methods.


Every CDE student is matched with a primary faculty mentor who shares his or her interests. Students and their mentors craft individualized academic experiences that are suited to the interests of the student and the requirement of the discipline. A committee of faculty also provides advice, feedback and approval for the student's Master's Thesis and PhD dissertation.