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Public Policy Studies

Requirements for the Major

The Public Policy Studies major requires students to take courses in government, ethics, and social science. In addition, students develop analytical skills through course work in research methodology, statistics, and economics. Each student also chooses a policy track, an area of public policy they want to explore in depth.

Program of Concentration in Public Policy Studies

The interdisciplinary major requires 39 credit hours of course work divided into two parts: 24 credit hours of required core courses and 12 credit hours of elective courses focusing on one substantive policy area. A student contemplating a major in public policy studies must either have AP credit in or take the following prerequisites: PSCI 1100, 1101, 1102, or 1150; ECON 1010 and 1020. Individual courses included in the program may specify additional prerequisites. If one of the required courses is not offered, students may substitute with the permission of their major adviser.

I. Core Courses (24 credit hours)

  1. General (3 credit hours): HOD 2700, Public Policy; PSCI 2256, Politics of Public Policy; or PSCI 2255, Introduction to Public Policy.
  2. Research Methods (3 credit hours): HOD 2500, Systematic Inquiry; PSCI 2270, Conducting Political Research; or SOC 3002, Introduction to Social Research.
  3. Statistics (3 credit hours): ECON 1500, Economic Statistics; ECON 1510, Intensive Economic Statistics; SOC 2100, Statistics for Social Scientists; or both MATH 2820, Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics, and Math 2820L, Statistics Laboratory; or PSY-PC 2110, Introduction to Statistical Analysis.
  4. Ethics (3 credit hours): PSCI 3253, Ethics and Public Policy; or PSCI 2208, Law, Politics and Justice.
  5. Public Finance (3 credit hours): HODE 3225, Introduction to the Public Finance of Education; or ECON 3200, Public Finance (prerequisite ECON 3010).
  6. Government (3 credit hours): any upper-level Political Science course.
  7. Economics (3 credit hours): any upper-level Economics (ECON) course except 3200.
  8. Society and Culture (3 credit hours): any upper-level Sociology (SOC) course, excluding 3002 and 3003; or any Anthropology (ANTH) course above 2602, excluding language classes.   Certain humanities courses may also be counted with the permission of the major adviser. 

II. Policy Track (12 credit hours)

The track is intended to allow students to go more deeply into one area of public policy (for example: health policy, STEM policy, education policy, criminal justice policy). Each student is free to choose and design his or her own track with the advice and approval of the program director. Students should begin to consider what their track will be early in the major and should take courses that will fulfill the track as they come up in Vanderbilt's offerings. These classes should generally be upper-level and should represent at least two disciplines.  Classes taken in other Vanderbilt schools or transferred in from study abroad programs or other U.S. universities may count towards the track, as may independent studies.

Track classes are approved by the director in advising sessions or by email. If a track is approved during an advising session the student must still request the track class approval by email and keep a record of the director's emailed approval. Ideally a student would have completed all of his or her track classes before enrolling in the capstone course, though this is not always possible. Once all the track classes are completed the name of the track and list of classes is sent to the registrar so that the student can be cleared for graduation.

III. Capstone Seminar (3 credit hours)

PPS 4960, Senior Seminar on Research in Public Policy, is required of all Public Policy majors and is taken during their last year.

Total: 39 credit hours

If you are considering declaring a PPS major please email the director ( to schedule an appointment to talk and have your major form signed.