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.

Information for Economics Majors also Majoring in Public Policy

Students who choose to double-major in Economics and Public Policy can use some of their 200-level (or above) Economics courses to fulfill requirements for their Public Policy Studies major.

The Economics Major offers a Standard Track, which itself comes in two varieties, Track A and Track B, along with two Specialization Tracks, one in Business Economics, and one in Data Science. The course requirements differ among the various Economics tracks, and these differences also affect the opportunities for Economics double majors to fulfill Public Policy requirements with their Economics courses.

Public Policy Studies requires either STAT 22000 Statistical Methods and Applications or STAT 23400 Statistical Models and Methods.

An adequate substitute for PBPL 20000 Economics for Public Policy is ECON 20000 The Elements of Economic Analysis I (or ECON 20010). The Public Policy requirement of PBPL 22200 Public Policy Analysis can be met with a combination of two courses, ECON 20100 The Elements of Economic Analysis II (or ECON 20110), and a Public Policy (PBPL) elective at the 200-level or above. Most students in the Business Economics track do not take ECON 20100; these double-majoring students should take PBPL 22200.

The Methods course requirement for Public Policy can be met with ECON 21020 Econometrics (or ECON 21030). Generally 100-level courses (such as ECON 11700 Introduction to Behavioral and Experimental Economics or ECON 10700 Introductory Game Theory or ECON 11020 Introduction to Econometrics) cannot be used to satisfy Public Policy major requirements. ECON 23950 Economic Policy Analysis also cannot be used to satisfy the Public Policy Methods requirement.

Public Policy generally does not accept course substitutions for the core courses PBPL 22100 Politics and Policy, PBPL 22300 Policy Implementation, or PBPL 26400 Quantitative Methods in Public Policy.

Public Policy requires that at least one of the three courses in an acceptable Area of Specialization be a PBPL-listed course. Many 200-level (and above) Economics courses can form part of an acceptable Area of Specialization. ECON 23950 Economic Policy Analysis generally cannot be used for a Public Policy Area of Specialization, and courses that are used to fulfill the Foundations of Business Economics requirement within the Business Economics track also cannot be double counted as Public Policy Area of Specialization courses.

Other Academic Opportunities

Registering for a Harris graduate level PPHA course/section?

Undergraduate students can use UChicago graduate level courses toward specializations or practicum requirements. Click here for additional registration and waitlist guidance specific to Harris School courses.

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.

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).

Independent Study - Public Policy Reading and Research Courses

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. Students received a quality letter grade.
  • BA Paper Preparation: Public Policy (PBPL 29900) is for independent study related to BA research and BA paper preparation. Students receive a quality letter grade.
  • 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. At the end of the term, students should submit a short paper summarizing the policy-related internship work. 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.

College Catalog

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

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