The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Major Requirements

Requirements for the Public Policy Major

Public policy majors must complete a total of 120 credit hours of instruction, including 44 credits for the major, and complete all General Education requirements. 

One 100-level Gateway Course.

This must be completed by the end of the second semester in the major. Options:

Course Title Gen Ed Offered Prereq Credits Substitutions
SPP105 Introduction to Political Economy SB, DU Spring none 4 ECON105
SPP111 Policy in an Age of Precarity SB, DU Spring none 4  
SPP181 Controversies in Public Policy SB, DU Fall none 4 POLISCI181
SPP151 Water, Oil, and Blood: The Middle East in Global Policy SB, DG Spring none 4 MES151
Another SPP 100-level course           


Three 200-level core courses.

It’s recommended that these be completed by the end of the fourth semester in the major. Required:

Course Title Gen Ed Offered Prereq Credits Substitutions
SPP280 Public Policy SB Fall, Spring none 4 POLISCI280
SPP203 Economics for Public Policy SB Spring math* 4 ECON103, RES-ECON102
SPP204 Statistical Models for Public Policy R2 Fall math* 4 STATISTC240, RES-ECON212, PSYCH240, ANTHRO281, PUBHLTH 223, OIM240

*Math: Depending upon your math placement score on the algebra section, math courses may be needed to prepare for SPP203 Economics for Public Policy and SPP204 Statistical Models for Public Policy. Common pathways are below, but additional options can be found in the description of each course in SPIRE:

  • Math placement 0 - 10: Algebra prep course in summer or winter, MATH 101, MATH 102
  • Math placement 11 - 15: MATH 101, MATH 102
  • Math placement 16 - 19: MATH 104 or STATISTICS 111**
  • Math placement 20+: None

**Students planning to take STATISTICS 240 or RES-ECON 212 rather than SPP 204 to fulfill the statistics requirement are encouraged to take MATH 104 as their preparatory class.

Three upper-level requirements.

Students must also complete:
Course Title Gen Ed Offered Prereq Credits Substitutions
SPP301 Junior Writing Seminar: Communicating Public Policy JYW Fall   3 Secondary Public Policy majors may substitute Junior Year Writing from their primary major and take a SPP 300+ elective, instead 
SPP302 SPP Practicum: Contemplating Your Career   Fall   1  
SPP494D Capstone for Public Policy Majors IE Spring SPP203, SPP204, SPP280 4 Honors students may substitute SPP499D


Public policy electives - 20 credits, including 12 credits at 300-level or higher

In addition to the required courses, students will select elective courses that allow them to explore different interests, acquire additional skills and proficiencies, and develop a policy focus.

At least 5 elective courses are required, for a minimum of 20 credits. At least 12 of those credits must be from 300-level or above courses.

Eligible elective courses include all School of Public Policy courses as well as courses taught by SPP faculty in other departments. Students also may choose elective courses from departments across the Five Colleges, with approval. Current electives include the following, but additional options are forthcoming:

Course Title Gen Ed Fall Spring Prerequisite Credits Substitutions
SPP208 Defending Democracy in a Digital World SB Fall   none 4 COMM 208, CICS208
SPP228 Weighing the Evidence: Reasoning Under Uncertainty for Policy and Law R2   Spring High-school-level algebra and completion of the R1 Gen Ed 3 LEGAL228
SPP230 The Politician and the Journalist   Fall Spring none 3 JOURNAL290STA, POLISCI230, JOURNAL230
SPP309 Natural Resource Policy Administration     Spring none 3 NRC309
SPP310 Environmental and Resource Economics       SPP203 or Econ103 or Res-Econ102 4 ECON310
SPP312 Making a Difference: Policies and Strategies for Social Change SB, DU     sophomore, junior, senior 4  
SPP320 Introduction to Public Administration     Spring sophomore, junior, senior 4 POLISCI320
SPP341 Social Welfare     Spring 25 sophomore, junior, senior 4 SOC341
SPP349 Economic Policy Lab     AY25-26 SPP 203, ECON 103, or RES-ECON 102 4 ECON349
SPP364 Gender and Race in U.S. Social Policy   Fall   junior, senior 4 HIST364, POLISCI364
SPP376 Catalyzing Change: Creating & Running a Nonprofit   Fall   sophomore, junior, senior 4  
SPP394LI Leading for Social Impact IE Fall     4  
SPP394PI Politics & Policy in the American Police State IE   Spring SPP280 or POLISCI280 or LEGAL250 AND sophomore, junior, or senior 4 LEGAL394PO
SPP398R Public Policy Research Practicum   Fall Spring Must apply for and earn a research role 1-3  
SPP499C Tackling Today's Big Problems: Policy Methods   Fall   SPP 203, 204, 280, 301 (or equivalents); Honors student 3  
SPP525 Governing the Commons     Spring senior 3  
SPP540 Internet Governance and Information Policy   Fall   senior 3  
SPP585 Introduction to GIS   Fall   senior 3  

Seniors may also request instructor permission to take 600-level graduate courses. (For those in the Commonwealth Honors College, two 600-level graduate classes are likely to be permitted to count toward the honors curriculum. Check with your CHC advisor for details.)

Transfer Students, Study Abroad & Domestic Exchange

Transfer Students

Transfer students may transfer up to five courses (20 credits with a maximum of 12 upper division credits inclusive of study abroad credits) into the Public Policy major if approved by the Undergraduate Program Director.

Study Abroad & Domestic Exchange

Numerous opportunities are available for study at other institutions. Students can take classes at Smith, Amherst, Holyoke, and Hampshire college as part of the five College Consortium. Our domestic Exchange program allows individuals to choose from over 170 institutions in the U.S. and continue UMass degree programs while on another campus. Our study abroad program provides the opportunity to attend a variety of foreign universities. The School of Public Policy is highly supportive of these learning opportunities. Questions about the applicability of exchange credits to the major should be directed to the School of Public Policy Director of Undergraduate Advising. Up to 12 public policy credits may be taken in this manner. 

Learn More

General Questions: Email

Declare the Major or Learn More (current UMass students): Make an appointment via this link. For Advising Care Unit, choose “Explore How to Declare or Change Majors.” Then, select “Explore Public Policy Major” as the Service.

Get Advising (current UMass students): Make an appointment via this link.