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The Public Policy undergraduate major develops the skills necessary for understanding the political constraints faced by policy makers, assessing the performance of alternative approaches to policy implementation, evaluating the effectiveness of policies, and appreciating the sharp conflicts in fundamental human values that often animate the policy debate. 

The undergraduate major in Public Policy prepares students to participate effectively in policy and political discussion as citizens and as para-professionals in a variety of fields, to fill entry-level positions in policy research projects and organizations, and to pursue graduate studies in law, management, the health professions, and a variety of academic disciplines, including economics and political science.

Completion of the Public Policy major requires a minimum of 60 units of course work, as described in the Stanford BulletinStudents must complete the Public Policy core, concentration, and senior capstone requirements for a letter grade. Must receive a grade of C- or better for each course.

Preparatory Coursework (24-29 units)

Students must complete 24-29 units of preparatory coursework. At most 10 units of preparatory coursework may be taken as credit/no credit. PLEASE NOTE: Between ECON 50 and ECON 51, no more than 5 units can be taken for credit/no credit. Between ECON 102A and ECON 102B, no more than 5 units can be taken for credit/no credit. PUBLPOL 50 must be taken for a letter grade. 

Prerequisites for ECON 102A is the MATH 20 or equivalent. We recommend that students interested in Public Policy begin taking MATH courses early so they can continue into the preparatory courses in their sophomore and junior years.


  • ECON 1: Principles of Economics
  • ECON 102A:  Introduction to Statistical Methods (Postcalculus) for Social Scientists
  • ECON 102B: Applied Econometrics
  • PUBLPOL 50: Intermediate Microeconomics for Policy
  • One of the following:
Core Courses (18-21 units)

All core courses must be completed for a letter grade. Variable-unit classes should be taken for 5 units when available. A total of 18- 21 units depending on the advanced empirical methods and ethics courses chosen.

  • PUBLPOL 101: Introduction to American Politics and Policy: In Defense of Democracy
  • PUBLPOL 104: Economic Policy Analysis
  • One of the following ethics courses:
    • PUBLPOL 103C: Justice
    • PUBLPOL 182: Ethics, Public Policy, and Technological Change (COMM 180, CS 182, ETHICSOC 182, PHIL 82, POLISCI 182)
    • PUBLPOL 134: Ethics on the Edge: Business, Non-Profit Organizations, Government, and Individuals
      • PUBLPOL 103F: Ethics of Truth in a Post-Truth World (134 and 103F must be taken together to fulfill this requirement)
  • One of the following Writing in the Major (WIM) courses:
  • One of the following advanced empirical methods courses:

*Preferred advanced empirical methods course for Public Policy students

Concentration (15 units)

The 15 units of concentration coursework, completed for a letter grade, must be approved by a faculty adviser. It is required that the concentration approval form is completed by the end of Spring Quarter of the junior year. Any subsequent changes made to a student's concentration must be approved by the student's faculty adviser. Courses taken at Stanford in Washington (SIW) may be used to fulfill concentration requirements with approval from adviser. 

Current concentrations include, but are not limited to:

More information on concentrations

Capstone (3-5 units)

Seniors are required to demonstrate competency in applied policy research via a capstone project. In order to satisfy the capstone requirement, students need to either take practicum or the senior honors seminar. The capstone requirement must be completed for a letter grade.


In the practicum program, small student teams analyze real world policy problems faced by government and nonprofit organizations and produce a report with recommendations for use by the client. The Practicum is offered Autumn, Winter, and Spring Quarters as PUBLPOL 200APUBLPOL 200B, and PUBLPOL 200C, respectively.

More information on the practicum

Senior Honors  Thesis Seminar

Honors students pursue independent research during their senior year and produce a thesis under faculty supervision. A seminar for honors students, PUBLPOL 200H, is offered Autumn Quarter. Students can only take 200H if they are writing an honors thesis. PUBLPOL 200H will also fulfill the WIM requirement for students who write an honors thesis in their senior year. 

More information on honors

How to Declare the Public Policy Major

Students wishing to declare the Public Policy major must complete the following steps:

  1. Fill out a major declaration form
  2. Meet with the student services staff and program director to discuss course scheduling, major requirements and faculty advisors — please email Grete Howland at greteh [at] (greteh[at]stanford[dot]edu) to get started
  3. Declare the Public Policy major in Axess

Double Majors & Secondary Majors

For students considering a double or secondary major in Public Policy, please review the following websites for further information regarding requirements:

Double & Secondary Majors Information