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Public Policy Major

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Gain the tools and perspectives needed to translate your passions into real action. Launch a career as a bold problem solver and fearless changemaker.

The Bachelor of Arts in Public Policy is a hands-on, interdisciplinary program that gives you the analytical and decision-making skills to make a positive difference. Focused on problems and solutions rather than theories or institutions, the public policy major prepares you to be an effective champion of real change. Whether you are passionate about reducing poverty and inequality, tackling climate change, reforming immigration or any issue that inspires you, the public policy major is the foundation you need to make an impact.


  • Take a diverse set of courses that bring together an understanding of how to think about complex problems with the tools and approaches to create real solutions and positive change.
  • Engage in hands-on learning and work with clients on real-world projects through internships and coursework.
  • Access the expansive professional opportunities found in the national capital region, from the corridors of the US Capitol to the hallways of Annapolis.
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The public policy major curriculum consists of two components - a required set of courses that provides a conceptual, analytical and practical foundation in public policy, and an elective set of courses (a pre-designed focus area, a self-designed focus area, or a general set of policy electives) that allow a deeper exploration of particular topics. You must complete 120 total credits (58 credits for the public policy major and your general education requirements) to graduate with a degree in public policy. 

Benchmark Requirements

Students are expected to demonstrate continuing progress in their major by successfully completing the following courses in the specified timeframes:

Benchmark Requirement 1 

Must be completed by the end of two semesters into the major

  • PLCY100 Foundations of Public Policy
  • HIST201 Interpreting American History: From 1865 to the Present
Benchmark Requirement 2

Must be completed by the end of four semesters into the major

  • PLCY101 Great Thinkers on Public Policy
  • STAT100 Elementary Statistics and Probability or higher (STAT100 equivalent accepted)

Core Requirement

  • PLCY201 Public Leaders and Active Citizens 
  • PLCY203 Liberty and Justice for All: Ethics and Moral Issues in Public Policy 
  • PLCY300 Governance: Collective Action in the Public Interest (Pre-req: PLCY100)
  • PLCY302 Examining Pluralism in Public Policy 
  • PLCY303 Public Economics: Raising and Spending the People's Money (Pre-req: ECON200) 
  • PLCY304 Evaluating Evidence: Finding Truth in Numbers (Pre-req: STAT100 or equivalent) 
  • PLCY306 Public Policy Analysis in Action (taken after 60 credits)
  • PLCY309 Policy Internship (OR Approved Study Abroad) 
  • PLCY400 Senior Capstone (taken after 90 credits; Pre-req: PLCY306)
  • PLCY401 Contemporary Issues in Public Policy (taken after 90 credits)
  • ECON200 Principles of Microeconomics  
  • Introduction to Public Policy Focus Area or General Policy elective

In addition to the conceptual, analytical and practical foundation provided by the required courses, the Public Policy Major allows you to dive deeper into areas of particular interest. You can choose from one of the Focus Areas below, work with our advisors to design your own Focus Area, or take four general policy elective courses. 

Focus Areas


Take four courses from the following:

  • PLCY301 Sustainability
  • ARCH460 Measuring Sustainability
  • AREC365 World Hunger, Population, and Food Services
  • BSCI363 The Biology of Conservation and Extinction
  • ENSP330 Introduction to Environmental Law
  • ENSP102 Introduction to Environmental Policy
  • ENST233 Introduction to Environmental Health
  • FGSM340 Energy and Environmental Policy (Restricted to Federal Fellows students)
  • FGSM370 Science Diplomacy: Foreign Policy and Science, Technology, and Innovation (Restricted to Federal Fellows)
  • GEOG130 Developing Countries
  • GEOG330 As the World Turns: Society and Sustainability in a Time of Great Change
  • GEOG331 Introduction to Human Dimensions of Global Change
  • INAG123 Introduction to Sustainable Agriculture
  • LARC160 Introduction to Landscape Architecture
Public Leadership

Take four courses from the following:

  • PLCY311 Women in Leadership
  • PLCY313 Advocacy in the American Political System
  • AASP101 Public Policy in the Black Community
  • AASP314 The Civil Rights Movement
  • AAST222 Immigration and Ethnicity in America
  • FGSM310 Political Engagement and Advocacy (Restricted to Global Fellows Students)
  • FGSM350 Critical Regions and International Relations (Restricted to Global Fellows students)
  • FGSM360 US Diplomacy and Policymaking (Restricted to Global Fellows Students)
  • LASC234 Issues in Latin American Studies I
  • LASC235 Issues in Latin American Studies II
  • PSCY221 Social Psychology
  • PSCY289E The Psychology of Evil
Nonprofit Leadership and Social Innovation

Take four courses from the following:

  • PLCY213 Foundations of Nonprofit Leadership and Social Innovation
  • PLCY214 Leading and Investing in Social Change: Re-defining and Experimenting with Philanthropy (Restricted to iGive students)
  • PLCY215 Innovation and Social Change: Creating Change for Good (Restricted to iGive students)
  • PLCY310 Nonprofit and Social Innovation in Action
  • PLCY388D Innovation and Social Change: Do Good Now
  • PLCY388G Global Perspectives on Leading and Investing in Social Change
  • PLCY388I India: Education and Project Engagement with NGOs and Social Enterprises
  • BGMT289A Social Enterprise: Changing the World through Innovation and Transformative Action
  • BMGT389E Maryland Social Entrepreneur Corps
  • BMGT468U Social Entrepreneurship Laboratory
  • CPPL200/1 Public Leadership Colloquium (Restricted to College Park Scholars Public Leadership students)
  • FGSM380 Responses to Global Challenges (restricted to Global Fellows students)
Global Action and Problem Solving

Take four courses from the following:

  • PLCY388W Special Topics in Public Policy: Global Action and Problem Solving (required)
  • PLCY388C Cybersecurity Policy
  • PLCY388G Special Topics in Public Policy: Global Perspectives on Leading and Investing in Social Change
  • PLCY388V Special Topics in Public Policy: From Artificial Intelligence to Genetic Engineering - the Policy Implications of Emerging Technologies
  • PLCY401 Contemporary Issues in Public Policy: Politics of Pandemics and Outbreak Response

Note: Other courses may count upon advisor approval

Self-Designed Focus Areas

Work with our advisors to design your own focus areas drawing on courses both within and outside of the School, covering topics as diverse as education policy, criminal justice, health policy, security and terrorism studies, or social policy.

General Policy Electives

Take four general policy elective courses that meeting the following criteria:

  • Any policy elective course (as designated by the PLCY course code)
  • Any of the courses listed under the Focus Areas above
  • Any Federal and Global Semester Fall academic seminar not listed above (as designated by the FGSM course code), including FGSM320 Public Health Policy, and FGSM330 Homeland and National Security Policy (Restricted to Federal Fellows students)
  • Courses outside of the School of Public Policy as approved by your advisor 

The foundation of undergraduate education at the University is its general education program, with all students taking series of courses within specially designed categories. The general education program provides you with fundamental skills, broad knowledge, and approaches to intellectual inquiry that will benefit you regardless of your area of study.

Fundamental Studies

Fundamental Studies courses ensure that you have the basic skills in written and oral communication, in mathematical analysis and in critical thinking that are important to your success across the curriculum and in your career.

Distributive Studies

Distributive Studies courses expose you to a variety of disciplines even as you concentrate in your chosen field. They offer insights into the methods of different disciplines, the kinds of questions disciplines asks, and their standards for judging answers.


I-Series courses speak to important issues that spark the imagination, demand intellect, and inspire innovation. They challenge you to wrestle with big question, and examine the ways that different disciplines address them.


Diversity courses investigate the complexities of human difference and commonality, emphasizing the promises and problems of plural societies and the challenges that must be addressed to achieve just, equitable, and productive societies. 

Learn more about the General Education Program at the University.

Explore all policy courses View plans of study and checklists

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Interested in both a Bachelor's and Master's degree?

Earn your Bachelor's and Master's degree in Public Policy in as few as five years with our dual Bachelor's/Master's program.

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