Our next deadline to apply to the class starting in Autumn 2024 is December 6—apply now. As you begin your application process you may be wondering which of our programs is the best fit for you. Check out our comparison chart and more information below.

comparison of master's degrees
MPP: 2 years, For those with a variety of academic backgrounds and experiences
MA full-time: 1 year, For those with another graduate degree or 5+ years of work experience
MSCAPP: 2 years, For those with an interest in public policy and computer science; relevant professional experience and a strong academic background
MACRM: 15 months, For those planning to pursue a PhD or career in research, very strong quantitative academic background
MA Part-time (EMP)* 15 months, Downtown location. For those working full-time, average of 5 years work experience. Cohort program.

Below we’ve shared some frequently asked questions with Senior Director of Recruitment Devon Reber Drehmer.

Which program at Harris receives the most applications?

The Master of Public Policy (MPP) receives the most applications. Do not let the number of applications deter you, however, because the MPP is also our largest program at Harris and students come from very diverse academic backgrounds and succeed in this program. Check out some of our student profiles to learn more:

  • Natalia Zorrilla Ramos, MPP Class of 2025—Zorrilla Ramos plans to strengthen her quantitative and evidence-based policy skills to return to Mexican foreign service and improve Mexico’s foreign policy.
  • Hallie Lovin, MPP Class of 2025—Lovin hopes to explore the intersections between socioeconomic and gender equity, religious policy, and urban planning to find the policy areas that spark her interest.
  • Kashif Ahmed, MPP’22, Pearson Fellow—Ahmed is a Junior Economist at IDinsight, a global advisory, data analytics, and research organization.

What level of math do I need for the MPP?

Students do not have any required prerequisite coursework for the MPP. Students come from a variety of academic backgrounds and years of experience. For example, former English major Katy Koon, MPP'20, combined her background in storytelling with the quantitative skills learned at Harris to shape environmental policy that serves vulnerable populations.  She said, “My background in English taught me to think critically, build strong arguments, and understand the limits of your own point of view. The one thing I didn’t have was the ability to analyze data sets to approach policy with precision and use evidence to solve them. I want my MPP to help me understand data, and Harris has already begun to equip me with the data and analysis skill sets I need to impact environmental policy.”

I’m interested in the MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) but I don’t have a background in computer science. Can I still apply?

You do not need a background in computer science or any other particular degree to apply to the MS in Computational Analysis and Public Policy (MSCAPP) program. The program does look for students who have strong quantitative backgrounds and usually a few years of work experience. You can learn more about current students from some of the profiles listed below:

  • Cole von Glahn, MSCAPP'23—von Glahn seeks to use his MSCAPP skills to focus on ethical development of data tools for environmental or urban policy fields.
  • Idalina Sachango, MSCAPP'23—Sachango's experience seeking her American citizenship greatly influenced her interest in public policy. Sachango plans to view policy through the lens of women’s lives in a way that improves outcomes for children and families, especially immigrants.
  • Angela The, MSCAPP'23—Angela The wants to work with governments at the local level to develop thoughtful and creative solutions to improve digital accessibility to public benefits and services.

I’d like to eventually do a PhD. Can I do that with the MPP, or only the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM)?

Students can pursue a PhD after completing an MPP program, however the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) degree is designed to prepare students for PhD programs and careers in research. In fact, a number of students have been admitted to the Harris PhD program through MACRM. You can learn more about MARCM program outcomes in this blog post. We also encourage you to read some of our MACRM student profiles:

  • Alex Gordon, MACRM'22—Gordon seeks to use the tools he gains from his Harris MACRM to better understand and address the substitute teacher shortage.
  • John Spence, MACRM'22—A Financial Markets Analyst at the Fed, Spence pursued the MACRM program to gain advanced research experience in economics, opening doors to future PhD programs or research careers.
  • Zi Ye, DPSS’19, MACRM’22—Ye is currently using her MACRM skills as a research assistant for two faculty members at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

I’m interested in the one-year MA in Public Policy Program (MA) program. What do you look for in candidates to this program?

The full-time MA is condensed into one year for those who already have experience and are looking to pivot to or level up in the policy space. Candidates typically have another graduate degree or 5+ years of work experience. Read about our MA candidates below:

  • Shruti Kapoor, AM’19—Kapoor enables meaningful career opportunities for underprivileged youth in India in her role as Lead for Economic Opportunities for Youth at the UNICEF (YuWaah) India Country Office.
  • Candy Page, AM'23—Page founded Nuts About Education (NAE), Inc., which sells cashew products in the United States and uses the proceeds to fund quality education for girls in Senegal and The Gambia. While managing NAE, Page continually ran into policy issues that impacted the company and its goal of educating girls in Senegal and The Gambia.

Who should apply to the Evening Master's Program (part-time MA)?

Conveniently located downtown, the Evening Master's Program (EMP) is ideal for people with about 5 years of experience who are looking to continue working full-time while earning their MA in public policy. Read about our EMP candidates below:

  • Glenda De Leon, AM'23—De Leon aims to employ the analytical and data skills she gains from the EMP to pivot into Environmental Social Governance (ESG), and impact how companies approach environmental policies.
  • Joel Jackson, AM'23—As Director of Inclusion and Equity Strategies at UChicago Medicine, Jackson aims to use his policy degree to enact real, positive change in Chicago.

I’m interested in the MA in Public Policy with Certificate in Research Methods (MACRM) program. What level of quantitative skills do successful applicants have?

While students applying to the MPP program have a variety of academic backgrounds, applicants to the MACRM program should exhibit strong quantitative backgrounds (including exposure to mathematical probability and statistics, multivariate calculus, and matrix algebra).

I’m interested in a PhD. What type of profile are you looking for?

PhD candidates typically have GRE scores in the top percentile, and a strong background in research with coursework that includes exposure to mathematical probability and statistics, multivariate calculus, and matrix algebra. The PhD program is highly competitive. We receive several hundred submitted applications and typically only offer admission to 15-20 students.

When applying to the PhD program you can indicate on your application that you would like to be considered for a graduate degree program. This will not harm your chances of being accepted to the PhD program, but will flag to our team that you would like to be considered for other programs.

I’m interested in more than one program, should I start two applications?

Please do not start more than one application. If you would like to be considered for more than one program please apply to the program you are most interested in pursuing, and indicate on your application the other programs for which you would like to be considered.

When students start multiple applications, they receive additional communications that often create confusion and can lead to challenges during the review process. For example, if students have both an MPP and MSCAPP application started, and they submit one and not the other, you will receive communications that your application has not been submitted.

I’m not sure what type of work I want to do after completing graduate school, but I know I want to work in a specific policy area. Which degree is the best fit for me?

Typically the MPP program will be the best fit. After completing the core you will have the opportunity to choose from a wide range of elective courses. The elective coursework in the MPP can help you to explore policy areas and solutions from different perspectives. Additionally, you can take up to six electives outside of Harris to gain a well-rounded perspective in your policy area.

We hope this post is helpful in selecting the program that best fits your needs.