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Public Policy Studies

Requirements for the Major

The interdisciplinary major requires 39 hours of course work divided into two parts: 24 hours of required core courses, 12 hours of elective courses focusing on one substantive policy area, and a 3 hour Capstone Seminar taken during the last year. A student contemplating a major in public policy studies must take the following prerequisites: PSCI 100, 101, 102, or 150; ECON 100 and 101. 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.

Core Courses (24 hours)

  1. General (3 hours): HOD 1800, Public Policy; PSCI 255, Introduction to Public Policy. (PSCI 256, The Politics of Public Policy, may also be counted for the general requirement with permission of the director).
  2. Research Methods (3 hours): HOD 1700, Systematic Inquiry; HOD 2800, Policy Analysis Methods; PSCI 270, Conducting Political Research; or SOC 211, Introduction to Social Research.
  3. Statistics (3 hours): ECON 150, Economic Statistics; ECON 155, Intensive Economic Statistics; SOC 127, Statistics for Social Scientists; or both MATH 218, Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics, and Math 218L, Statistics Laboratory; or PSY 2101, Introduction to Statistical Analysis.
  4. Ethics (3 hours): PSCI 208, Law, Politics, and Justice; PSCI 253, Ethics and Public Policy; PHIL 239, Moral Problems*; PHIL 270, Ethics and Medicine*; PHIL 271, Ethics and Business*; or PHIL 272, 272W, Ethics and Law*. (Courses in ethics with an asterisk have the prerequisite of PHIL 105.)
  5. Public Finance (3 hours): HOD 2820, Public Finance; or ECON 254, Public Finance (prerequisite ECON 231).
  6. Government (3 hours): any 200-level Political Science course excluding 253 and 270; or HOD 2810, Politics of Public Policy.
  7. Economics (3 hours): any Economics (ECON) 200-level course except 254.
  8. Society and Culture (3 hours): any Sociology (SOC) course including or above 201, excluding 211 and 212; or any Anthropology (ANTH) course above 203 that is not a language course. Certain humanities courses may also fulfill this requirement with the permission of your advisor.

Policy Tracks (12 hours)

The track is intended to allow students to go more deeply into one area of public policy. Each student is free to choose and design his or her own track with the advice and approval of the program director. Classes should generally be 200-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. The following are examples of how a policy track might be structured.

  • Crime and Justice: ECON 285, Law and Economics; PSY 215, Abnormal Psychology; SOC 231, Criminology; and SOC 232, Delinquency and Juvenile Justice.
  • Labor Market Policy: ECON 212, Labor Economics; PSCI 244, The Legislative Process; SOC 251, Women and Public Policy in America; and SOC 255, Racial and Ethnic Minorities in the United States.
  • Health Policy: ECON 268, Economics of Health; HIST 280, Modern Medicine; PHIL 270, Ethics and Medicine; and SOC 237, Society and Medicine.

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. 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. 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. 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.

Capstone Seminar (3 hours)

PPS 295, Senior Seminar on Research in Public Policy, is required of all Public Policy majors and is taken during their last year.

Total: 39 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.