MS-CAPP Curriculum Overview

All MS-CAPP students complete a common set of courses in computer science and policy analysis - see the overview below. Courses marked with an [H] are taught by the Harris School of Public Policy while courses marked with a [CS] are taught by the Computer Science department.

  Fall Winter Spring
Year 1 Computer Science with Applications 1 [CS] Computer Science with Applications 2 [CS] Program Evaluation [H] *
Statistics I [H]
    Option 1
    Option 2
Statistics II [H]
    Option 1
    Option 2
Databases for Public Policy [CS]
Microeconomics I [H]
    Option 1
    Option 2
Mathematics for Computer Science and Data Analysis [CS]
   Option 1
   Option 2
Machine Learning for Public Policy [CS]
Summer Internship    
Year 2 Analytical Politics [H] Microeconomics II [H] Elective
Elective Elective Elective
Elective Elective Elective

* Program Evaluation is offered every quarter; we encourage students to take it in the Spring quarter of their first year, but it may instead be taken in any quarter of the second year.

In the first year, students complete core sets of classes in computer science, statistics, and economics. Further, students study the mathematical fundamentals necessary for more advanced coursework and then engage with critical technical skills in their databases and machine learning courses. 

In the second year, students can deepen their understanding in econometrics, data science, applications development, and policy research. Students have the flexibility to take a wide range electives from Harris Public Policy and the Department of Computer Science, as well as other schools at the university (at least one elective in Harris and one elective in computer science is required). This often includes the Toyota Technology Institute at Chicago, the Booth School of Business, the Department of Economics, the Department of Statistics, the Division of Social Sciences, the Law School, and the School of Social Service Administration.

For further insight into the wide variety of interests students pursue in their second year, a comprehensive list of elective courses that CAPP students have taken in past academic years can be found here. Please note this is not an exhaustive list of courses that are offered (courses change from year to year), and is not an endorsement of these courses.

Students also have the opportunity to engage in policy labs, further developing their skills by helping partner organizations with real world problems. 

Waiver and Placement Exam Information

Waivers are available for a range of the core coursework, including Computer Science with Applications I and II, Mathematics for Computer Science & Data Analysis, Statistics I, Microeconomics II, and Analytical Politics. You can read about all of the waivers in detail on this page.

CAPP Lunch Lecture Series

In addition to the coursework, CAPP students attend a weekly lecture series on recent research and innovation in data-driven public policy and civic technology. Students and faculty interact with both academic and non-academic experts, learn of current challenges, and establish professional networks with potential future employers. Previous speakers have included:

  • Amy Tong, Director and Chief Information Officer of the State of California
  • Tim Persons, U.S. Government Accountability Office's Chief Scientist and Managing Director of the Science, Technology Assessment, and Analytics team
  • Paul Decker, CEO of Mathematica Policy Research
  • Natalie Evans Harris, Senior Policy Advisor, White House OSTP
  • Ron Jarmin, Acting Director of the US Census Bureau
  • Shelley Grach, Director of Civic Engagement at Microsoft Chicago
  • Tom Schenk, Chief Data Officer for the City of Chicago
  • Jascha Franklin-Hodge; Chief Information Officer for the City of Boston
  • Charlie Catlett, Director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data
  • Hollie Russon-Gilman, Fellow, Political Reform Program, New America
  • University of Chicago faculty, such as Nick Feamster, Marshini Chetty, Austin Wright, Jens Ludwig, David Meltzer, and Dean Katherine Baicker

Summer Internship

Students gain further exposure to real policy issues by engaging in a summer internship related to their area of interest.  Past internships have included roles in government and in organizations that have strong relationships with government agencies, in not-for-profit organizations, and more. This experience provides hands-on learning and assists students in determining their second-year specialization.

Read more about a few students' internship experiences:

Research Opportunities on Campus

Many MS-CAPP students also engage in research while taking courses. A wide range of associated research centers have ongoing work that is highly pertinent to the MS-CAPP curriculum.