Public Policy Major, B.A.

Department of Public Policy

Visit Program Website

114 Abernethy Hall, CB# 3435

(919) 962-1600

Daniel Gitterman, Chair

Jessica Lama, Student Services Officer

Doug Mackay, Director of Undergraduate Studies

The core curriculum in public policy includes courses on policy innovation and analysis, politics of public policy, applied philosophy, applied economics, research design, and statistics. Our experiential education (EE) courses develop students’ teamwork, leadership, and communication skills as they produce actionable, client-centered research. UNC Public Policy offers multiple courses on both global and domestic policy issues including courses on education, immigration, the environment, health and human rights, and history and public policy.

The mission of UNC Public Policy is to empower students with the knowledge, skills, and experience to improve the lives of others.


Students think and learn across academic disciplines with a diverse faculty with degrees in business, economics, history, law, philosophy, political science, public policy, sociology, and sociomedical sciences.


Students gain an ability to think critically and independently; to write, reason, and communicate clearly; and to develop research methods and quantitative analysis skills.


Students apply knowledge and skills in real world environments beyond the classroom. Students in UNC Public Policy's clinic, internship, and capstone courses address contemporary policy challenges by providing innovative analysis to clients in the nonprofit and public sector. 

Department Programs



Graduate Programs

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the public policy program, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of economic, normative, and political perspectives for defining the public interest and evaluating policy choices
  • Demonstrate written, oral, and analytical skills in evaluating public policy alternatives
  • Demonstrate knowledge of a particular policy subfield and apply it in an experience in policy analysis in that field
  • Demonstrate skills in developing approaches to solving current public policy problems as a result of participation in experiential education opportunities
  • Work effectively in teams


In addition to the program requirements, students must

  • earn a minimum final cumulative GPA of 2.000
  • complete a minimum of 45 academic credit hours earned from UNC–Chapel Hill courses
  • take at least half of their major core requirements (courses and credit hours) at UNC–Chapel Hill
  • earn a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.000 in the major core requirements. Some programs may require higher standards for major or specific courses.

For more information, please consult the degree requirements section of the catalog.

First-year and sophomore students considering a major in public policy are encouraged to complete PLCY 101 or PLCY 110.

Core Requirements
PLCY 210Policy Innovation and Analysis H3
PLCY 220The Politics of Public Policy H3
PLCY 340Justice in Public Policy H3
PLCY 310Microeconomic Foundations of Public Policy (formerly PLCY 410)3
or ECON 310 Microeconomics: Theory and Applications
or ECON 410 Intermediate Microeconomics
PLCY 460Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy 2,3, H4
PLCY 581Research Design for Public Policy 2, H3
PLCY 698Senior Capstone in Public Policy 23-4
or PLCY 692H Honors in Public Policy
At least six credit hours of approved public policy electives. 16
Additional Requirements
ECON 101Introduction to Economics 2, H4
Policy Field (optional), see list below
Total Hours32-33

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Policy Field (Optional)

Students who complete three approved electives (nine credit hours) in a specific policy field may elect to graduate with a concentration. Six of these credit hours must be for field courses at the 300 level or above. PLCY 393 and PLCY 394 may not count toward the field concentration. For students completing an honors thesis, PLCY 691H can count toward the policy field concentration. Policy field concentrations include education and labor markets; environment and human welfare; innovation and entrepreneurship/science and technology policy; social policy and inequality; health policy; bioethics and human rights; international development policy; global conflict and cooperation.

Additionally, students may select courses across subfields and design their own field. For information about declaring a policy field concentration see the department's Web site. The specific policy field is not listed on students’ diplomas or transcripts. UNC–Chapel Hill public policy majors are encouraged to list their policy field on their résumés.

Program Restrictions

A maximum of one three-credit independent study course (PLCY 395PLCY 396PLCY 496PLCY 596, or PLCY 696) may be counted as an elective for the policy major. For credit toward the major, an independent study proposal form must be completed by the student, approved by the independent study instructor, submitted to the student services officer, and approved by the director of undergraduate studies before the independent study begins. A maximum of one three-credit transfer or study abroad course or two Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs courses (PLCY 352HPLCY 353H) may be counted as electives toward the public policy major. 

Public Policy Elective Course List

Public Policy Elective Course List

The following courses satisfy the electives requirement and optional policy field concentration. Please note that some of these courses may have enrollment restrictions, including being restricted to students enrolled in certain majors or minors.  Please check for enrollment restrictions before trying to enroll:

Any PLCY course at the 100 level or above, except PLCY 130, PLCY 291, PLCY 293, PLCY 393, or PLCY 394
AAAD 30721st-Century Scramble for Africa3
AAAD/POLI 333Race and Public Policy in the United States3
AAAD 488Human Rights and Democracy in African Diaspora Communities3
AAAD 485Transnational Black Feminist Thought and Practice3
AMST 390Seminar in American Studies3
AMST 486Shalom Y'all: The Jewish Experience in the American South3
ANTH 312From the Equator to the Poles: Case Studies in Global Environmental Change3
ANTH 318Human Growth and Development3
ANTH 319Global Health3
ANTH 350Anthropology of the State, Civil Society, and Politics3
ANTH 355Life, Society and Work in the Globalized City3
ANTH 360Latin American Economy and Society3
ANTH 377European Societies3
ANTH 380Anthropological Perspectives on Cultural Diversity3
ANTH 422Anthropology and Human Rights3
ANTH 429Culture and Power in Southeast Asia3
ANTH 439Political Ecology3
ANTH 441The Anthropology of Gender, Health, and Illness3
ANTH 460Historical Ecology3
ANTH 470Medicine and Anthropology3
ANTH 502Globalization and Transnationalism3
ANTH 537Gender and Performance: Constituting Identity3
ANTH 585Anthropology of Science3
BUSI 404Business Ethics1.5
BUSI 405Leading and Managing: An Introduction to Organizational Behavior3
BUSI 500Entrepreneurship and Business Planning H3
BUSI 503Family Business I: Introduction to Family Enterprise1.5
BUSI 504Launching the Venture1.5
BUSI 506Entrepreneurial Strategy: How to Think Like a Venture Capitalist3
BUSI 512Family Business II: Governance and Ownership1.5
BUSI 610Global Environment of Business3
BUSI 611International Development3
COMM 312Persuasion3
COMM 325Introduction to Organizational Communication H3
COMM 372The Rhetoric of Social Movements3
COMM 375Environmental Advocacy3
COMM 376The Rhetoric of War and Peace3
COMM 470Political Communication and the Public Sphere3
COMM 521Communication and Social Memory3
COMM 524Gender, Communication, and Culture3
COMM 525Organizational Communication3
COMM 571Rhetorical Theory and Practice3
COMM 572Public Policy Argument H3
COMM 574War and Culture3
COMM 575Presidential Rhetoric3
COMM 576Making and Manipulating "Race" in the United States3
COMM 624Hate Speech3
COMM 625Communication and Nonprofits in the Global Context3
COMM 652Media and Difference3
ECON 320Macroeconomics: Theory and Policy3
ECON 325Entrepreneurship: Principles, Concepts, Frameworks, and Fluency H3
ECON 345Public Policy Toward Business3
ECON 363International Economics from the Participant's Perspective3
ECON 380The Economics of Labor Relations3
ECON 423Financial Markets and Economic Fluctuations H3
ECON 430Economic Development of the United States3
ECON 440Analysis of Public Finance3
ECON 445Industrial Organization3
ECON 450Health Economics: Problems and Policy3
ECON 454Economics of Population3
ECON 455Environmental Economic Theory3
ECON 460International Economics3
ECON 465Economic Development3
ECON 480Labor Economics3
ECON 511Advanced Game Theory in Economics H3
ECON 586Economics of the Family3
EDUC 401Childhood Development: Prenatal Birth to Age 123
EDUC 441Education in American Society3
EDUC 506Politics, Policymaking, and America's Schools3
EDUC 521Schools, Cultures, and Communities I: Youth3
EDUC 533Social Justice in Education3
EDUC 535Teachers and Schools3
ENGL 164Introduction to Latina/o Studies H3
ENGL 279Migration and Globalization3
ENEC 463Business and the Environment H3
ENEC 307Energy and Material Flows in the Environment and Society3
ENEC 308Environmental History3
ENEC 309Environmental Values and Valuation3
ENEC 330Principles of Sustainability3
ENEC 350Environmental Law and Policy3
ENEC 351Coastal Law and Policy3
ENEC 352Marine Fisheries Ecology3
ENEC 370Agriculture and the Environment H3
ENEC 462Ecosystem Management3
ENEC 474Sustainable Coastal Management3
ENEC 586Water Quality Policies and Planning3
ENEC 685Environmental and Resource Economics3
ENEC 698Capstone: Analysis and Solution of Environmental Problems3
ENEC/ENVR 470Environmental Risk Assessment3
ENEC/ENVR 585American Environmental Policy3
ENEC/ENVR/PLAN/PLCY 686Policy Instruments for Environmental Management3
ENEC/PHIL 368Living Things, Wilderness, and Ecosystems: An Introduction to Environmental Ethics3
ENVR 600Environmental Health3
GEOG 281Ethnographies of Globalization: From 'Culture' to Decolonization3
GEOG 370Introduction to Geographic Information3
GEOG 391Quantitative Methods in Geography3
GEOG 414Climate Change3
GEOG 416Applied Climatology: The Impacts of Climate and Weather on Environmental and Social Systems3
GEOG 423Social Geography3
GEOG 428Global Cities: Space, Power, and Identity in the Built Environment3
GEOG 430Global Migrations, Local Impacts: Urbanization and Migration in the United States3
GEOG 435Global Environmental Justice3
GEOG 446Geography of Health Care Delivery3
GEOG 447Gender, Space, and Place in the Middle East3
GEOG 448Transnational Geographies of Muslim Societies3
GEOG/ENEC 451Population, Development, and the Environment3
GEOG 457Rural Latin America: Agriculture, Environment, and Natural Resources3
GEOG 458Urban Latin America: Politics, Economy, and Society3
GEOG 460Geographies of Economic Change3
GEOG 470Political Ecology: Geographical Perspectives3
GEOG 480Liberation Geographies: The Place, Politics, and Practice of Resistance3
GEOG 491Introduction to GIS3
GEOG 541GIS in Public Health3
GEOG 542Neighborhoods and Health3
GLBL 382Latin American Migrant Perspectives: Ethnography and Action3
GLBL 390Current Topics in Global Studies3
GLBL 560Human Rights, Ethics, and Global Issues3
HIST 238The American Revolution, 1763-18153
HIST 365The Worker and American Life3
HIST 385African American Women's History3
HIST 510Human Rights in the Modern World H3
HIST 566The History of Sexuality in America3
HIST 568Women in the South3
HIST 577United States Foreign Relations in the 20th Century3
HIST 584The Promise of Urbanization: American Cities in the 19th and 20th Centuries3
HIST 589Race, Racism, and America: (United States) Law in Historical Perspective3
HPM 310Introduction to Law and Ethics in Health Management3
HPM 330Introduction to Health Organization Leadership, Management, and Behavior3
HPM 340Foundations of Health Care Financial Management3
HPM 350Introduction to Health Services Systems3
HPM 351Politics, Public Health, and Health Policy3
HPM 352Introduction to Health Services Systems II3
HPM 435Marketing for Not-for-Profit Organizations3
INLS 382Information Systems Analysis and Design3
INLS 515Consumer Health Information3
MASC 310Our Changing Planet: Science, Social Impacts, Solutions3
MASC 314Earth Systems in a Changing World3
MEJO 340Introduction to Media Law: Journalism Focus3
MEJO 441Diversity and Communication3
MEJO 442Gender, Class, Race, and Mass Media3
MEJO 443Latino Media Studies3
MEJO 445Media Effects on Audiences3
MEJO 446Global Communication and Comparative Journalism3
MEJO 458Southern Politics: Critical Thinking and Writing3
MEJO 541Economics Reporting3
MEJO 560Environmental and Science Journalism H3
MEJO 652Digital Media Economics and Behavior H3
MNGT 345Public Policy Toward Business3
MNGT 365The Worker and American Life3
MNGT 380The Economics of Labor Relations3
MNGT 410Formal Organizations and Bureaucracy3
MNGT 412Social Stratification3
MNGT 415Economy and Society3
MNGT 427The Labor Force3
PHIL 364Ethics and Economics3
PHIL 370Authority, Freedom, and Rights: Advanced Political Philosophy3
PHIL 384Gateway to Philosophy, Politics, and Economics3
PHIL 473American Political Philosophy3
PHIL 480Philosophy of Law3
PHIL 698Philosophy, Politics, and Economics: Capstone Course3
PLAN 330Principles of Sustainability3
PLAN 574Political Economy of Poverty and Inequality3
PLAN 585American Environmental Policy3
PLAN 636Urban Transportation Planning3
PLAN 637Public Transportation3
PLAN 641Watershed Planning3
PLAN 651Urban Form and the Design of Cities3
PLAN 685Water and Sanitation Planning and Policy in Less Developed Countries3
POLI 400Executive Politics3
POLI 401Political Economy I: The Domestic System3
POLI 406State Governments: Laboratories of Democracy3
POLI 410The Constitution of the United States3
POLI 411Civil Liberties under the Constitution H3
POLI 412United States National Elections H3
POLI 416Constitutional Policies and the Judicial Process3
POLI 418Mass Media and American Politics3
POLI 419HRace and Politics in the Contemporary United States3
POLI 420Legislative Politics H3
POLI 431African Politics and Societies3
POLI 433Politics of the European Union H3
POLI 434Politics of Mexico3
POLI 438Democracy and International Institutions in an Undivided Europe3
POLI 442International Political Economy3
POLI 443American Foreign Policy: Formulation and Conduct3
POLI 444Terrorism and International Peace3
POLI 457International Conflict Processes3
POLI 470Social and Political Philosophy H3
POLI 472Problems of Modern Democratic Theory H3
PSYC 465Poverty and Development3
PSYC 467The Development of Black Children3
PSYC 469Evolution and Development of Biobehavioral Systems3
PSYC 471The Study of Adolescent Issues and Development3
PSYC 500Developmental Psychopathology3
PSYC 502Psychology of Adulthood and Aging3
PSYC 504Health Psychology3
PSYC 512Popularity, Friendship, and Peer Relations3
PSYC 514Mania and Depression3
PSYC 530Design and Interpretation of Psychological Research3
PSYC 531Tests and Measurement3
PSYC 532Quantitative Psychology H3
PSYC 561Social Cognition H3
PSYC 565Stereotyping, Prejudice, and Discrimination3
PSYC 601Psychology and Law3
PUBH 510Interdisciplinary Perspectives in Global Health3
PWAD 250Introduction to Peace and Security Studies3
PWAD 368War and American Society to 19033
PWAD 416Constitutional Policies and the Judicial Process3
PWAD 443American Foreign Policy: Formulation and Conduct3
PWAD 444Terrorism and International Peace3
PWAD 453Political Geography3
PWAD 460International Economics3
PWAD 469Conflict and Intervention in the Former Yugoslavia H3
PWAD 574War and Culture3
PWAD 575Presidential Rhetoric3
PWAD 577United States Foreign Relations in the 20th Century3
RELI 423Ethnicity, Race, and Religion in America3
RELI 443Evangelicalism in Contemporary America H3
STOR 305Introduction to Decision Analytics3
STOR 358Sample Survey Methodology4
STOR 415Introduction to Optimization3
STOR 455Methods of Data Analysis3
SOCI 410Formal Organizations and Bureaucracy3
SOCI 412Social Stratification3
SOCI 415Economy and Society3
SOCI 418Contemporary Chinese Society3
SOCI 420Political Sociology3
SOCI 422Sociology of Mental Health and Illness3
SOCI 423Sociology of Education, Experiential Education3
SOCI 424Law and Society3
SOCI 425Family and Society, Junior/Senior Section3
SOCI 426Sociology of Education3
SOCI 427The Labor Force3
SOCI 431Aging3
SOCI 444Race, Class, and Gender3
SOCI 468United States Poverty and Public Policy3
SOCI 469Health and Society3
SPHG 350HIntroduction to Public Health3
WGST 368Women of Color in Contemporary United States Social Movements3
WGST 388The International Politics of Sexual and Reproductive Health3
WGST 410Comparative Queer Politics3
WGST 610Feminism, Sexuality, and Human Rights3
WGST 662Gender Issues in Planning and Development3

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Sample Plan of Study

Sample plans can be used as a guide to identify the courses required to complete the major and other requirements needed for degree completion within the expected eight semesters. The actual degree plan may differ depending on the course of study selected (second major, minor, etc.). Students should meet with their academic advisor to create a degree plan that is specific and unique to their interests. The sample plans represented in this catalog are intended for first-year students entering UNC–Chapel Hill in the fall term. Some courses may not be offered every term.

Plan of Study Grid
First YearHours
ECON 101 Introduction to Economics H 4
PLCY 101
Making Public Policy (Optional, elective credit) H
or Global Policy Issues
Hours 7
Sophomore Year
PLCY 210 Policy Innovation and Analysis H 3
PLCY 220 The Politics of Public Policy H 3
PLCY 340 Justice in Public Policy H 3
STOR 155 Introduction to Data Models and Inference (Strongly recommended) 3
Hours 12
Junior Year
PLCY 460 Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy 2, H 4
PLCY 581 Research Design for Public Policy (PLCY 460 is a co- or prerequisite) H 3
PLCY 310
Microeconomic Foundations of Public Policy
or Microeconomics: Theory and Applications
or Intermediate Microeconomics
Hours 10
Senior Year
PLCY 698 Senior Capstone in Public Policy 1 4
Elective credit at 300 level or above 3
Hours 7
Total Hours 36

Honors version available. An honors course fulfills the same requirements as the nonhonors version of that course. Enrollment and GPA restrictions may apply.

Special Opportunities in Public Policy

Undergraduate Research

Most courses in public policy include a research component. The Office for Undergraduate Research maintains a database of courses that qualify as research intensive, research exposure, and research methods courses. Earning a grade of C or better in any of these courses partially fulfills the requirements for the Carolina Research Scholar designation. In addition, the department offers opportunities for students to work directly with a faculty member on a research project through independent study. The honors thesis process enables students to undertake a major independent policy research project. The Duncan MacRae Jr. Public Policy Fund provides grants on a competitive basis to public policy majors engaged in mentored research with a public policy faculty member, in policy-relevant independent research, and in honors thesis research in public policy. 

Experiential Education

UNC Public Policy's experiential education programs offer students structured, active-learning opportunities that invite them to integrate and apply their academic knowledge and skills in a real-world policy environment. Opportunities include internships, the Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs in Washington D.C. (PLCY 352H and PLCY 353H), the public policy clinic (PLCY 393), the intersector (PLCY 394), and the public policy capstone course (PLCY 698). PLCY 130, PLCY 293, PLCY 393PLCY 691H, PLCY 692H, and PLCY 698 are all approved as experiential education courses.

For more information, see the department's website.

Capstone Course

The capstone course (PLCY 698) is the culminating experience of the public policy undergraduate major and is required for all seniors except those who complete an honors thesis. Students should register for the course in the fall or spring of their senior year. The course provides a bridge between policy analysis as it is studied in an academic setting and policy analysis as it is practiced in the workplace. Students work in small teams to produce actionable, client-centered, public policy analysis for a government agency or nonprofit organization.

Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs in Washington, D.C.

The Honors Seminar on Public Policy and Global Affairs offers Carolina undergraduates a unique learning, living, and internship opportunity in our nation’s capital. The seminar offers students first-hand engagement with the actors and organizations that influence domestic and global affairs in Washington, D.C. It aims to expose students to a range of public policies that influence U.S. economic prosperity, national security, and its role in the broader global community. Internship placements provide opportunities for students to apply academic learning, to derive new insights and questions for seminar discussion, and to work directly with substantive policy experts.

Internships and Public Service

Students may receive academic credit for an approved internship if it provides an academically relevant experience in policy analysis or research. Students who wish to complete an internship with an external organization can do so through PLCY 293 (available to public policy majors and minors). PLCY 293 is a Pass/Fail course. The Duncan MacRae Jr. Public Policy Internship Grant aims to support internship opportunities for public policy majors and to defer some of the costs associated with engaging in unpaid summer internships. The Hodding Carter III Public Service Fellowship supports opportunities for UNC–Chapel Hill public policy majors to engage in public service opportunities in our communities, the American south, the nation, and around the globe. The Thomas W. Ross North Carolina Leaders Fellows Program supports public policy undergraduates pursuing public service opportunities in the State of North Carolina during the summer. The Richard (“Pete”) Andrews Fellowship in Environmental Policy supports a student interested in working on environmental policy during the summer or a policy research-related project during the academic year.

Undergraduate Funding and Awards

Each year UNC Public Policy holds a graduation ceremony to honor students’ achievements. The Kathy Taft Education Policy Award recognizes a rising senior majoring in public policy with an interest in and dedication to education policy. The Michael A. Stegman Award for Policy Research and Advocacy is awarded to a graduating public policy major who has demonstrated an ability to use policy research and analysis to advocate for social change and a commitment to play a future role in policy research and advocacy.

Honors in Public Policy

Public policy majors who have at least a 3.3 overall grade point and a 3.5 in the core public policy courses are eligible to apply to the department’s honors program in the spring of their junior year. The honors thesis offers an opportunity for motivated students to move beyond traditional coursework and apply critical thinking skills to an academic public policy thesis. This program is organized as an original, independent research project under the direction of a faculty advisor. Students considering writing an honors thesis must complete PLCY 581 before enrolling in PLCY 691H.

Completion of an honors thesis provides a total of six credit hours toward the major, including three credits toward a policy field concentration. Students who complete an honors thesis and maintain all other eligibility criteria may be recommended by their thesis advisor and the Undergraduate Affairs Committee for graduation with honors or highest honors in public policy. The department's website provides more information.

Public Policy Majors Union

The Public Policy Majors’ Union (PPMU) was founded in 1988 in an effort to help govern the department’s curriculum. The PPMU has since expanded its role to include representation of policy majors within the University community and sponsorship of policy-related events. Membership is open to all public policy majors.