Frequently Asked Questions

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What Makes a Strong Applicant to the MS-CAPP Degree?
Do I Need a Computer Science Background?
How Can I Strengthen My Application?
How Does the MS-CAPP Curriculum Differ from the MPP?
What Electives Can I Take?
Where is the MS-CAPP Degree Housed on Campus?
What Are the Most Common Jobs Taken After Graduation?
What Types of Organizations Are Interested in MS-CAPP Graduates?
Does this Degree Count for the STEM OPT Extension?
Are There Any Course Waivers Available?
What Support Services Are Available for this Program?
Can I Get Relevant Work Experience While Studying?
How Can I Learn More About the Degree?
How Can I Apply to the MS-CAPP Program?
What Are the Deadlines for Applying?
What Are the Submission Codes for the GRE/TOEFL/GMAT?
 

What Makes a Strong Applicant to the MS-CAPP Degree?
Drive, passion, and intellectual curiosity define the best MS-CAPP 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 personal statement to tell us a story about why you’re invested in public service. Further, demonstration of your quantitative prowess, either through success in prior math courses or strong quantitative GRE/GMAT scores, 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 background is required. The explicit goal of this degree is to build a pipeline of technical talent into 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 MS-CAPP Curriculum Differ from the MPP?
CAPP students still take most of the core of the Masters of Public Policy (MPP), although they do not take a second Analytical Politics course or Decisions and Organizations. 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 MS-CAPP degree, enabling students to take advanced electives in computer science, statistics, and econometrics in the second year (more information on electives below). You can see more information of the curriculum page of this website.

What Electives Can I Take?
One of the great strengths of the MS-CAPP degree is the wide range of electives available to MS-CAPP students. By your second year, you will have taken a rigorous and thorough core of econometrics, statistics, and computer science, that enable you to take advanced courses in all of these fields. In addition to MS-CAPP specific electives (like Data Visualization for Policy Analysis and Advanced Big Data Methods), all of the graduate courses at Harris Public Policy, as well as many in the Computer Science department are available. Further, many CAPP students take courses in the Toyota Technology Institute at Chicago, the Booth School of Business, as well as the Department of Economics, the Department of Statistics, the Division of Social Sciences, and UChicago Law. Some specific electives include:

  • Data Visualization for Policy Analysis
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Spatial Data Science
  • Algorithms
  • Backends for Mobile Development
  • Big Data Policy Research Methods
  • Applied Data & Policy Lab
  • Health Economics
  • Energy Policy & Human Behavior
  • Economics of Education Policy
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Fiscal Issues in Latin America
  • African Development

 

Where is the MS-CAPP Degree Housed on Campus?
The MS-CAPP degree is a joint program and thus has a home base in both the Department of Computer Science and Harris. On the Harris side, new CAPP enrollees starting in the 2018-2019 school year will spend the majority of the program housed in the brand new Keller Center. This future home of Harris Public Policy, slated for completion in December 2018, will achieve the Platinum LEED Certification - the highest level of the energy efficiency standard. The Department of Computer Science is also moving into a new home in Crerar Library in Summer 2018.

What Are the Most Common Jobs Taken After Graduation?
The most common jobs chosen by MS-CAPP graduates have been as data scientists, policy researchers, and application developers. Other alumni have gone on to become data visualization specialists, data team leaders, and technical project managers. In the longer term, we expect that MS-CAPP graduates will become Chief Data Scientists, Chief Data Officers, Chief Technologists, and Chief Information Officers of prominent public institutions.

What Types of Organizations Are Interested in MS-CAPP 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. Here are some examples:
•   Public Policy Research Organizations - This group includes think tanks like the Urban Institute and Pew Research Center as well as policy research firms like Mathematica Policy Research, the American Institutes for Research, and the RAND Corporation
•   City and State Analytics Teams – Many cities are building their analytics capacity. Graduates from CAPP’s first two cohorts have gone on to work in New York City, Minneapolis, and the State of Massachusetts.
•   Civic Data Science Companies – This category includes Civis Analytics, BlueLabs, Elder Research, and Bayes Impact.
•   Federal Government - MS-CAPP graduates will be very appealing to all of the federal statistical agencies, (e.g. the Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Center for National Health Statistics, and many others), data teams within cabinet agencies (like the Commerce Data Service and FEMA’s Enterprise Analytics Division) as well as the new civic technology organizations, like 18F and the US Digital Service.
•   Government Consultancies - Booz-Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, Accenture all have large analytics teams, to name a few.
•   International Non-Governmental Organizations – the World Bank, the United Nation’s Global Pulse, and Oxfam International are turning more and more towards data and technology to aid in international development and conflict resolution.

Does this Degree Count for the STEM OPT Extension?
Yes! The MS-CAPP degree is a STEM-certified program, which means international students qualify for the STEM OPT Extension, allowing you to remain working the United States for up to three years after graduating.

Are There Any Course Waivers Available?
Many, though not all, students entering the MS-CAPP degree have some 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. 
Students who earned an economics degree in their undergraduate education may wave out of Microeconomics II, allowing them to take a Harris elective in the spring quarter. Students with a strong statistical background, including a mathematical statistics course, may waive out of Mathematical Statistics I, and instead take an extra Harris elective. For students that don’t qualify for these waivers, but are worried the course material may not be challenging, please note that there are three tiers of difficulty for both the statistics and microeconomics courses - the lowest at an introductory level and the highest at a PhD level.
Finally, students with a background in computer science may take a placement exam, potentially allowing them to waive Computer Science with Applications I and Computer Science with Applications II. Follow the links for more information about the Computer Science Placement Exams and Placement Exam Study Materials. In rare cases, other waivers may be approved on an individual basis.

What Support Services Are Available for this Program?
All of the support services of the Harris Public Policy and the Department of Computer Science are available to MS-CAPP students. In Harris, this includes Academic and Student Affairs (ASA), the Career Development Office (CDO), and Alumni Relations. The Department of Computer Science’s IT Tech Staff are frequently valuable to CAPP students as well. General university services, like UChicago Grad, also support the MS-CAPP students.

Can I Get Relevant Work Experience While Studying?
Most students will augment their coursework with a part-time internship or research assistantship while at the University of Chicago. There are many excellent options for gaining valuable work experience while here, including Rayid Ghani’s Center for Data Science and Public Policy, which applies innovative uses of machine learning to problems in governance. Further, UChicago Urban Labs is composed five different research organizations, pushing the boundaries of policy research in cities. From the well-established National Opinion Research Council (NORC) to the brand new Pearson Institute, there are opportunities for every policy interest. 

Other related organizations at the University of Chicago include:
•   A list of all the Harris’s Policy Centers;
•   The Center for Spatial Data Science;
•   Argonne National Laboratory;
•   The Knowledge Lab;
•   Energy Policy Institute at Chicago;
•   Chapin Hall;

Note we encourage students, especially those without a background in computer science, not to work in their first quarter so they can accustom themselves to the workload.

How Can I Learn More About the Degree?
To learn more, you should watch the MS-CAPP Informational Webinar, reach out with your questions to our Program Director at alexcengler@uchicago.edu, follow the official MS-CAPP twitter account, and consider visiting campus to sit in on a class and meet current students. 

How Can I Apply to the MS-CAPP Program?
You can apply through the Harris Policy website and learn more about process on Harris’s applications and deadlines page as well as the Admissions Frequently-Asked-Questions page.

What Are the Deadlines for Applying?
The deadlines for applying to the MS-CAPP degree are the same as for all degrees in Harris Policy. You can see those deadlines on Harris’s applications and deadlines page.

What Are the Submission Codes for the GRE/TOEFL/GMAT?
The MS-CAPP degree uses the Harris School's codes for test score submission. For the GRE and TOEFL, this is 1849. For the GMAT, this is H9X-9Z-17.