Undergraduate Major in Public Policy

Whether it is climate change, inequality, urban congestion, privacy, affordable healthcare, terrorism or nonproliferation, the public challenges we face are more complicated than ever before, and addressing them effectively requires several sophisticated tools.

One of the fastest growing Programs at NYU, the Major in Public Policy—offered jointly with the Department of History in the NYU College of Arts and Science—is designed to provide you with in-depth knowledge, analytical skills, familiarity with historical context and a deep understanding of how governments, markets and the non-profit sector work. The Program’s goal is to prepare you to participate in the creation, implementation, and evaluation of policies that address the most significant domestic and global issues of today.

Following graduation, Public Policy majors have obtained a wide range of jobs in the non-profit, private, and public sectors. And some Public Policy majors have chosen to attend graduate programs in public administration, international affairs, public health, urban planning, or law.

Major Declaration Form

To declare the major, please complete the major declaration form. For general advising questions, please email Adrienne Smith, Assistant Director of Advising and Student Services.

Program Highlights

The Public Policy major offers a diverse and rigorous curriculum designed to give you the tools and expertise you need to translate your passion into action. You’ll learn from top faculty from multiple disciplines, such as economics, political science, law, and statistics. Public Policy majors learn to:

  • Think analytically and critically;

  • Understand policy contexts and processes;

  • Conduct and use research;

  • Apply statistical, economic, and other quantitative and qualitative tools of analysis;

  • Develop written, verbal, and interpersonal communication skills; and

  • Understand their civic responsibilities and make ethical judgments.


The Public Policy major requires ten courses and one prerequisite course. This includes four core courses (covering quantitative analysis, economics, politics, and ethics and justice), five electives (two from the History department), and a senior seminar requirement. The required courses, coupled with additional electives, are designed to provide you with a foundational set of public policy skills and tools.


Before declaring, students must complete one prerequisite that provide the strong analytic framework necessary to begin studies in the major:

ECON‐UA 2, Introduction to Microeconomics [Advanced standing credit (AP, IB, etc.) in microeconomics is accepted.]

Students are recommended to complete the prerequisite in their first year. If you have not completed the prerequisite and have not started the core by the end of your second year, you should request an advising appointment before registration begins by emailing wagner.undergraduate@nyu.edu.

Core Courses

UPADM‐GP 101, The Politics of Public Policy
UPADM‐GP 140, The Economics of Public Policy
UPADM‐GP 111, Quantitative Analysis for Public Policy [This course satisfies the College Core Curriculum Quantitative Reasoning requirement for public policy majors only.]

Ethics and Justice course (choose one):

ECON-UA 207, Ethics and Economics (Economics)
ENVST-UA 400, Ethics and the Environment (Environmental Studies)
ENVST-UA 480, Environmental Justice and Inequality (Environmental Studies)
PHIL-UA 3, Ethics and Society (Philosophy)
PHIL-UA 6, Global Ethics (Philosophy)
PHIL-UA 8, Philosophical Approaches to Race and Racism (Philosophy)
PHIL-UA 40, Ethics (Philosophy)
PHIL-UA 45, Political Philosophy (Philosophy)
PHIL-UA 50, Medical Ethics (Philosophy)
POL-UA 130, Ethics, Politics, and Public Policy (Politics)

NOTE: Liberal Studies students can count GWM-UF 201 Global Works and Society: Modernity towards the Ethics and Justice requirement.

Students are expected to begin working on the core in their second year and to finish by the end of their third year.


Public Policy majors select five elective courses to deepen their understanding of, and expertise in, key policy areas. The electives must be distributed in the following categories:

  • Two history electives - political or social history courses from the NYU Department of History that give students context to understand current social challenges.
  • One policy analysis elective - a course in which the student is assessed on their ability to analyze and compare policy approaches to current social challenges.
  • Two general policy electives - courses that give students context or skills to understand current social challenges. General policy electives can include any approved history and policy analysis course as well.  

View a list of pre-approved courses in the fields of Economics, Health, Law, Environment, and others.

Senior Seminar

The Senior Seminar (PUBPL-UA 800) serves as a capstone experience for the Public Policy major. Over the course of one semester, you will apply the analytical methods and substantive knowledge of the policy process you have gained to critical and relevant policy issues.

Students must complete UPADM-GP 101, 111, and 140 to be eligible to enroll in PUBPL-UA 800.

NOTE: Honors Senior Seminar (PUBPL-UA 801) requires an additional course. Students who wish to pursue Honors must take PUBPL-UA 800 and apply to the honors program in the fall of their final year.

Approved Study Abroad Courses


For more information about the curriculum, please see our Advising and Policies page. 


Sewin Chan

Sewin Chan

Associate Professor of Public Policy

All students are also welcome to meet with the faculty director to discuss choosing the major or to seek advisement about specific course selection, especially regarding the electives.