Apply big data to big problems, and prepare yourself for a career at the intersection of public policy and data science.

As decision-making becomes more data driven, issues of data use, data sharing, transparency, and accountability have become increasingly important from both a public policy and a technological perspective.

The Master of Science in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) is offered by Harris Public Policy and the University of Chicago Department of Computer Science. This two-year program provides training in:

  • Public Policy:  policy analysis and strategy, program evaluation, organizational decision making, and substantive specializations in an area chosen by the individual student.
  • Computer Science: computer programming, data analytics and machine learning, and databases.

The program is unique in its focus on the intersection between policy analysis and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). It's an excellent option for people without a strong background in computer science to gain competency in all of these important areas.

Graduates will be poised to make meaningful contributions in the public sector and seeks new ways to harness the potential of the vast data now available. MSCAPP graduates go on to serve as consultants in private firms and as Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Technical Officer (CTO), or Transparency Officer (TO) in federal, state, and local governments.


Students in the program take courses at both Harris Public Policy and in the department of Computer Science. In the first year, students complete both a one-year programming sequence and a core set of classes in statistics and economics. In the second year, students enroll in an integrative lab course, focused on applications of the core curriculum to a real-world problem. At the end of the first academic year, students choose an area of concentration for their second-year elective classes.

  • 18 graduate-level courses (1800 units of credit) 

  • 7 core courses provide a foundation in critical analysis, reflecting Harris' belief that mastering quantitative and analytical skills prepares students to be effective public policy practitioners. 

    • PPHA 31000 or PPHA 31200 Statistics for Data Analysis I

    • PPHA 31100 or PPHA 31300 Statistics for Data Analysis II:  Regressions

    • PPHA 32300 or 32310 or 44100 Principles of Microeconomics and Public Policy I

    • PPHA 32400 or 32410 or 44200 Principles of Microeconomics and Public Policy II

    • PPHA 30800 Analytical Politics I: Strategic Foundations

    • PPHA 34600 Program Evaluation OR PPHA 31920 Decisions and Organizations

  • 3 curricular path courses in your area of specialization 

  • Capstone Lab Course

    • CAPP 30524 Machine Learning for Public Policy

    • CMSC 12100/CAPP 30121 Computer Science with Applications I

    • CMSC 12200/CAPP 30122 Computer Science with Applications II

    • CMSC 12300/CAPP 30122 Computer Science with Applications III

    • CAPP 30235/CSPP 53001 Databases

  • Workshop Series

    • In addition to the course work, a periodic workshop series on recent research and innovation in public policy and the use of public data is an integral part of the program. Students and faculty interact with experts from inside and outside academia, learn about current challenges, and establish professional networks with potential future employers.

  • Summer Internship

    • Students gain further exposure to real policy issues through the summer internship program in a placement related to their area of interest. Past internships have included roles in government and in organizations that have strong relationships with government agencies. This experience provides hands-on learning and assists students in determining their second-year specialization

Other Requirements
  • A cumulative grade point average of 2.7 or above for all courses used toward the degree, based on a 4.0 scale

  • A grade of C- or better in the core courses

  • Completion of the math requirement (support available)

    • Pass algebra exam

    • Pass calculus exam

  • No more than 2 reading/research, independent study, or internship courses

  • No more than 2 courses taken pass/fail

  • Courses with grades of F, I, W, or courses with no reported grade do not apply towards the 18 course requirement for the program

Sample Schedule
MSCAPP First Year CoursesMSCAPP Second Year Courses



“The MSCAPP program was just launching and offered a whole new dimension of computer programming, which felt like the natural extension of a quantitative program. And it built upon my pre-existing interest in coding. It was an amazing opportunity to have everything I wanted: the quantitative piece, public policy, and a whole new mastery of computer programming."

- Natnaell Mammo (MSCAPP '16) is an Applied Data Scientist at Civis Analytics

“What I found compelling about CAPP was that it was taking all of the things that I was interested in and then applying them to things that actually matter, that are really important for people’s everyday lives, in a way that would prepare me for a career of making decisions and helping make things happen. This program can’t be found anywhere else.”

-Alden Golab (MSCAPP '17)

"I decided to learn how to code so that I could help build systems that would act as intermediaries between public officials and the citizens they serve, both asking and answering questions relevant to making choices that have a lot of impact on peoples’ lives. And so I came to the CAPP program."

-Emily Webber (MSCAPP '17)

Brett Goldstein
Faculty profile

Urban Legend

Harris Senior Fellow Brett Goldstein is helping city officials unleash the potential of their data.