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FAQ

Find the answers to most commonly asked questions about CAPP here.

What makes a strong applicant to the MSCAPP degree?

Drive, passion, and intellectual curiosity define the best MSCAPP candidates. You want to make the world better with data, technology, and whatever else is required to get it done. This is the case whether you are building on your politics, policy, or economics background, or looking to transition from a computer science or statistics role in industry into public policy. Show us that you have excelled in whatever you have done in the past, and we’ll be excited to have you join us.

Sometimes, this will be reflected in a strong undergraduate academic history and work (or volunteer) experience in policy, governance, or mission-driven organizations. Other times you’ll need to connect the dots for us – use the motivation statement to tell us a story about why you’re invested in public service. Further, demonstration of your quantitative prowess is a factor.

Do I need a computer science background?

No – although many students come in with some background in economics, statistics, or computer science, no such degree is required. The explicit goal of this degree is to build a pipeline of technical talent into the public realm; therefore, we do not expect you to have these skills upon applying to or entering the degree.

How can I strengthen my application?

If you are unsure about the quality of your application and want to strengthen it, consider taking (and excelling in) a mathematics or computer science course, especially in linear algebra or programming in Python. Additional work or volunteer experience in public policy, governance, and in mission-driven organizations will also strengthen your application. You might also consider getting involved (however you can – coding is not always required) in a project in your local data or tech community, like through Code For America or DataKind.

How does the MSCAPP curriculum differ from the MPP?

CAPP students take most of the core classes from the Master of Public Policy (MPP), although they do not take a second Analytical Politics course. Instead, they are required to take Program Evaluation. Further, CAPP students are required to take a five-part series in computer programming, mathematics for data analysis, databases and machine learning. This five-course series is built into the first year of the CAPP degree, enabling students to take advanced electives in computer science, statistics, and econometrics in the second year. You can see more information on our curriculum page.

What electives can I take?

One of the great strengths of the MSCAPP degree is the wide range of electives available to students. By your second year, you will have taken a rigorous and thorough core of econometrics, statistics, and computer science, which enables you to take advanced courses in all of these fields. In addition to CAPP-specific electives like Data Visualization for Policy Analysis, Advanced Machine Learning for Public Policy, and the Civic Data and Technology Clinic; all of the graduate courses at Harris Public Policy, as well as many in the Masters Program in Computer Science and the Computer Science department, are available.

Additionally, many CAPP students take courses in the Booth School of Business; the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice; the Department of Economics; the Department of Statistics; the Division of Social Sciences; the Law School; and the Toyota Technological Institute at Chicago. Some specific electives include:

  • Data Visualization for Policy Analysis
  • Advanced Machine Learning for Public Policy
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Spatial Data Science
  • Algorithms
  • Mobile Software Development
  • Computer Vision
  • Large Scale Data Methods
  • Policy Labs
  • Technology for Public Policy: Building Connected, Engaged, and Empowered Communities
  • Addressing Technology’s Wake: Emerging Risks and the Public Policy Imperative
  • Democracy Hacked: Cyber Threats to Modern Governments in the Digital Age
  • Attaining Equity in K-12 Education: Theory and Practice
  • Management Matters: Leadership, Strategy, and Getting Things Done
  • Health Economics
  • Macroeconomic Policymaking
  • Energy Policy and Human Behavior
  • Behavioral Science and Public Policy
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Environmental Science and Policy
  • Survey Questionnaire Design
  • Fiscal Issues in Latin America
  • Writing for Public Policy

A comprehensive list of elective courses that CAPP students have taken in past academic years can be found here: Historical CAPP Student Elective Choices 2020.pdf

Where is the MSCAPP degree housed on campus?

The MSCAPP degree is a joint program and thus has a home base in both the Department of Computer Science and the Harris School of Public Policy.

The Department of Computer Science resides in the newly renovated John Crerar Library, the campus hub for computation and data science. Harris Public Policy is housed in the Keller Center, which is LEED-NC Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ Petal certified for Materials, Beauty, and Equity, making it one of the most sustainable buildings in higher education and the city of Chicago.

What are the most common jobs taken by MSCAPP graduates?

Common jobs chosen by MSCAPP graduates include roles as data scientists, policy researchers, and data engineers. Other alumni have gone on to become data visualization specialists, data team leaders, and technical project managers. In the longer term, we expect that MSCAPP graduates will become Chief Data Scientists, Chief Data Officers, Chief Technology Officers, and Chief Information Officers of prominent public institutions.

What types of organizations are interested in MSCAPP graduates?

There are many different types of organizations that are actively looking for (and currently struggling to find) highly technical talent with interest and exposure to public policy. Some examples include:

Does this degree count for the STEM OPT extension?

Yes – the MSCAPP degree is a STEM-certified program, which means international students qualify for the STEM OPT Extension.

Can I enroll part-time in the MSCAPP program?

Due to the sequential nature of the CAPP core curriculum, students must enroll in the program full time.

Are there any course waivers available?

Yes – you can read detailed information on the course waivers page. Some students in the MSCAPP degree have a background in one of its three foundational pillars (economics, statistics, or computer science). In order to offer more flexibility in coursework and allow students to challenge themselves, certain course waivers are available. 

What support services are available for students in this program?

All of the support services of Harris Public Policy and the Department of Computer Science are available to MSCAPP students. In Harris, this includes Academic and Student Affairs (ASA), the Career Development Office (CDO), and Alumni Relations. General university services, like UChicagoGRAD, also support MSCAPP students.

All MSCAPP students work closely with an academic adviser throughout the program. As part of the Harris Academic and Student Affairs team, the MSCAPP Program Director and Assistant Program Director both serve as academic advisers for CAPP students. They can help students select courses that are a fit for their academic and professional goals; identify resources for support; make connections within the CAPP and university networks; find internships, part-time work, and career opportunities after graduation; and more. 

How can I learn more about the degree?

To learn more:

You may also reach out to our team.

How can I apply to the MSCAPP program?

You can apply through the Harris website and learn more about the process on the requirements and deadlines page, as well as the Admissions Frequently Asked Questions page.

For questions about application requirements, deadlines, and the process in general, you may reach out to the Harris Admissions team at harrisadmissions@uchicago.edu

What are the deadlines for applying?

The deadlines for applying to the MSCAPP degree are the same as for all Harris master’s degrees. You can see those deadlines on Harris’s application requirements and deadlines page.

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