Public Policy Major

School of Public Policy
1100 Thurgood Marshall Hall
Phone: 301-405-6330

Program Director: Jennifer Littlefield, Ph.D.

With no shortage of complex challenges, the world needs leaders who are able to understand and communicate the issues, who can design and implement bold solutions and who can ethically and compassionately lead the movements and organizations that create real change. As a PolicyTerp, students will:

  • Learn how to analyze the issues to create and critically evaluate responses that promote better outcomes for communities. 
  • Cross disciplinary boundaries to better understand the complexities of the challenges the world faces and immerse yourself in multiple perspectives.
  • Develop decision-making and leadership skills to translate theory and analysis into on-the-ground action.

The interdisciplinary Public Policy major focuses on using analytical decision-making to study an array of subjects ranging from the processes of making, implementing and evaluating government policies to the ethical evaluation of contemporary social problems, both domestic and international. The major has two distinctive components:

  1. core foundational skills critical for the understanding and analysis of problems and proposed solutions; and
  2. the application of these skills and competencies to address challenges in the real world by engaging with the policy process at local, state and national levels through real-time projects. 

The major in Public Policy at the University of Maryland equips students with competence in leadership and analytical skills, supported by theory and data, to prepare them for careers in public service, policymaking, and the public, private, and nonprofit sectors.

Courses offered by this department may be found under the following acronym: PLCY.

Program Learning Outcomes

Students completing a Public Policy major will:

  1. Understand public policy problems, concepts, processes, institutions and actors through a multidisciplinary lens, with perspectives from the local to the global.
  2. Analyze public issues from a range of ideological, demographic, and socioeconomic perspectives, including those that are underrepresented in the public policy process.
  3. Apply quantitative and qualitative tools to real-world policy issues.
  4. Communicate complex ideas and findings in written and oral forms.
  5. Demonstrate teamwork, ethical decision-making, management and leadership skills. \

C- or better is required in all major courses and the cumulative average of these courses must be a 2.0.   

Course Title Credits
Benchmark Requirement One 1
PLCY100Foundations of Public Policy3
HIST201Interpreting American History: From 1865 to the Present3
Benchmark Requirement Two 2
PLCY101Great Thinkers on Public Policy3
STAT100Elementary Statistics and Probability3
(STAT100 equivalent accepted)
Required Major Courses
ECON200Principles of Microeconomics3
PLCY201Public Leaders and Active Citizens3
PLCY203Liberty and Justice for All: Ethics and Moral Issues in Public Policy3
PLCY300Governance: Collective Action in the Public Interest3
PLCY302Examining Pluralism in Public Policy (UP Pending)3
PLCY303Public Economics Raising and Spending the People's Money3
PLCY304Evaluating Evidence: Finding Truth in Numbers4
PLCY306Public Policy Analysis in Action 33
PLCY309Internship in Political Institutions: State and Local3-6
PLCY400Senior Capstone 43
PLCY401Contemporary Issues in Public Policy 43
Introduction to Public Policy Focus or General Policy elective3
Students may choose an area of focus or choose general policy related electives
Focus/PLCY Elective Course 23
Focus/PLCY Elective Course 33
Focus/PLCY Elective Course 43
Total Credits58-61

Must be completed by the end of two semesters into the major


Must be completed by the end of four semesters into the major


Taken after 60 credits


Taken after 90 credits

Click here for roadmaps for graduation plans in the School of Public Policy.

Additional information on developing a graduation plan can be found on the following pages: