The program of study for the BA degree in Public Policy is designed to train visionary, inspired leaders in policy analysis and implementation; equip them with quantitative, theoretical, and critical-thinking tools; enhance their communication skills; and provide them with a thorough grounding in one or more specific policy areas.

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Summary of Academic Requirements

Students pursuing the Public Policy major complete various curricular essentials. All courses counting toward the Public Policy major must be taken for quality grades.

General Education

  • Calculus (200 units) - typically MATH 13100-13200 Elementary Functions and Calculus I-II or MATH 15100-15200 Calculus I-II
  • Statistics (100 units) - either STAT 22000 Statistical Methods and Applications or STAT 23400 Statistical Models and Methods

Core Public Policy Courses (500 units)

The core courses bring perspectives from political science, economics, and sociology to bear in developing a foundation for the critical analysis of public policies. With the exception of PBPL 20000, the courses can be taken in any order over multiple academic years. Most foundational courses are offered once per academic year and students should plan in advance to be able to complete all the requirements in time for graduation.

  • Economics for Public Policy | PBPL 20000 (ECON 20000 is an acceptable substitute) *must be taken before PBPL 22200
  • Politics and Policy | PBPL 22100
  • Public Policy Analysis | PBPL 22200
  • Policy Implementation | PBPL 22300
  • Quantitative Methods in Public Policy | PBPL 26400

Area of Specialization (300 units)

Three related courses form a Specialization with respect to a policy domain. Students can use advanced courses from multiple disciplines for their specialization.

Learn more about declaring your specialization.

Practicum (200 units)

The two-course practicum requirement is designed to help students learn research methods (e.g., demography, interviewing, GIS mapping, survey design) and then apply their methodological skills in a “real world” context, opening a “window” from the ivory tower to the outside world.

Learn more about declaring your practicum.

Capstone Experience  (100 units)

Students can choose between two ways of completing this requirement:

  • BA Thesis Seminar | PBPL 29800 or
  • BA Project Seminar   | PBPL 29500

Learn more about choosing your capstone experience.

Other Academic Opportunities

Special Honors

Fourth-year students are eligible for honors within the Public Policy major if their overall GPA is 3.4 or higher. Students with qualifying GPAs are recommended for honors only if they completed the BA Thesis Seminar and their thesis is judged to be of superior quality.

Each year, the program awards three graduating students with the Richard P. Taub Thesis Prize in Public Policy for exceptional thesis research.

The Albert C. Svoboda Fellowship

The Albert C. Svoboda Fellowship provides summer research fellowships for rising fourth-year College students majoring in Public Policy to engage in faculty-guided research in the Chicago area on Chicago-based topics.

Awards are for various amounts, typically between $1,000 and $4,000, based on the research proposal and proposed budget. Svoboda Fellows are responsible for submitting a post-research report at the end of the summer.

Independent Study

Students can receive course credit for independent research conducted under the supervision of a faculty member: 

  • Reading and Research: Public Policy (PBPL 29700) is for independent study not related to BA research or BA paper preparation.
  • BA Paper Preparation: Public Policy (PBPL 29900) is for independent study related to BA research and BA paper preparation. 
  • Policy Internship: Public Policy (PBPL 29600) is for work undertaken in a qualifying position with a public body or a nongovernmental organization or in a policy-relevant private-sector internship. PBPL 29600 is graded only on a Pass/Fail basis.

Students must discuss their interest in pursuing an independent study with the Public Policy program and their college advisor prior to submitting the College Reading & Research Course Form for approval to enroll in any independent study courses.

Joint Degrees (BA + Master's)

The University of Chicago offers two options to earn a bachelor of arts degree and a Master's degree in public policy while enrolled in the College: 

  • Five Year Master in Public Policy with the College (BA/MPP)
  • Five Year MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy with the College (BA/MSCAPP)

Learn more about Joint Degrees (BA + Master's).

Public Policy's Reading and Research Courses

Public Policy has 3 reading courses:

  • PBPL 29600 for a policy-related internship
  • PBPL 29700 for a general reading course
  • PBPL 29900 for the Public Policy BA paper

These courses all require consent to register. Obtain consent by completing the College Reading and Research Course Form and obtaining signatures from a faculty person (or preceptor) and the Public Policy director.

Obtain R&R course forms from the College advisor or the advisor's desk on the 2nd floor of Harper Library. These courses receive letter-quality grades only.

College Catalog

Review the College Catalog for details about every requirement and an overview of selected courses.

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