Smart cities, personalized services, advanced warning systems—it’s a great time to be helping the human race! Our guide to public policy analytics degrees has the scoop on the intersection of data science and policy, and plenty of tips on industry applications, jobs, conferences, internships, and more. Just want the schools? Skip ahead to our annotated list of the best data-focused public policy programs.
Data Science & Analytics in Public Policy
The Role of Data in Public Policy Goals
Data has always played a critical role in the lives of public policy makers. For years, they’ve been using it to answer the following questions:
- What are the effects (intended or unintended) of our policies on different groups?
- How much will these policies cost?
- Can we predict whether this policy will be feasible? Can we really get it done?
- Will we have buy-in from our stakeholders?
The major change has come in the 3Vs—the volume, variety, and velocity of data. Social media, review sites, search terms, cellphones, the Internet of Things, GIS and drones, CCTV cameras, satellites, traffic sensors—the amount of data now available for policy analysis is frankly staggering. Many analysts are finding themselves overwhelmed by the possibilities.
The Role of the Public Policy Data Scientist
Enter the data scientist. These trained pros know how to use statistics, computer science, quantitative methods, and big data tools to create more effective public policies. They meld machine-generated data (e.g. sensors) with citizen-gathered data to predict events. They mine social media and the Internet for behavior patterns. They create beautiful data visualization programs to demonstrate the effects of decisions to politicians. Their findings have major applications in:
- Infrastructure/Smart Cities (e.g. reducing traffic congestion & vehicle pollution)
- Law Enforcement (e.g. predicting street violence & reducing crime rates)
- Public Health (e.g. quashing epidemics before they spread)
- Government Fraud (e.g. finding tax dodgers)
- Education (e.g. improving high school graduation rates)
- Employment (e.g. increasing workforce quality)
- Housing (e.g. creating permanent housing for the homeless)
Data Trends in Public Policy
You’ll find lots of unusual projects if you’re working on the city & state level (be sure to check out the Best States for Data Innovation: 2017 Data Innovation Report). Because federal government bureaucracy can be a little unwieldy, local governments often have more flexibility to try new things. We’re talking about developments like:
Prioritizing the Internet of Things (IoT): Though security is always a concern, more and more governments are embedding digital into inanimate objects to improve services & safety. For example, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has created Hydromet, a network of 275 connected sensors that monitors stream flow and posts important data (e.g. temperature, rainfall, humidity, etc.) on a public website. These data can be used to send “early warning system” alerts to the cellphones of residents in nearby areas.
Encouraging Public-Private Partnerships: Incubators, transformation teams, and innovation labs are common practice between cities and private partners. For example, under the auspices of Bloomberg Philanthropies, the What Works Cities initiative is helping 100 mid-sized U.S. cities crank up their data capabilities in order to improve services and engage residents. Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and the Sunlight Foundation are part of the effort.
Using Predictive Modeling: Predictive analytics is a critical tool that can stop major urban problems before they begin. For example, University of Chicago data scientists and the city of Cincinnati have created a predictive model called Helping Cities Prevent Blight. It harvests data on home values, fire incidents, crime, taxes, census, and water shutoffs and combines these findings with historical inspection data to predict which properties are most at risk of vacancy or violations. Building inspectors are then sent out on “early intervention” missions to prevent the property from disintegrating.
Hyper-Personalizing Citizen Services: Data science is now being employed to build hyper-personalized services for individual citizens. For example, the NIH’s Precision Medicine Initiative/AllofUs is designed to take into account a person’s genetics, microbiomes, environment, and lifestyle in order to develop better and more targeted treatments for diseases (e.g. a customized plan for diabetes or cancer).
There’s also the Information Network of Arkansas (INA)’s Gov2Go tool, a custom-built digital government assistant that reminds Arkansas citizens of important deadlines (e.g. voter registration, property tax payments, car tag renewals and property assessment, etc.).
Employing Behavioral Science: Governments are increasingly intrigued by what data can tell them about human behavior. With social analytics and opinion mining, data analytics experts are a) trying to understand how citizens feel about policy decisions and b) attempting to predict how they’ll respond to a policy change. For example, the UK Behaviorial Insights Team (UK BIT), otherwise known as the “Nudge Unit,” has been using precepts of behavioral economics theory and psychology to improve services and save money. You can explore many of their ventures on their website.
In Boston, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics has developed a project called Smart Streets. By analyzing traffic patterns, bicyclist behavior, and pedestrian movements, NUM’s data scientists are learning more about how people are moving through the urban landscape. The ultimate goal is safer pathways.
Studying Public Policy Data Analytics
Public Policy Analytics Degrees
There’s no single degree title for public policy analytics. Instead, universities have created “mashup” programs that combine courses from public policy schools and computer science departments. A few things to keep in mind when you’re putting together a shortlist:
- Master of Science (MS) in Public Policy Analytics or Master of Data Science (MDS) in Public Policy programs typically have a strong technical core, with plenty of emphasis on stats, analytics, and quantitative methods. (This is a general rule—there are exceptions.)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Master of Public Policy (MPP) programs will often allow you to customize your curriculum to focus on data analytics electives or concentrations. These programs may not have as many technical courses as MS degrees, so be sure to check the curriculum carefully.
Like MBA degrees, MPA degrees tend to be more focused on administrative issues & decision-making. MPP degrees may have more hands-on courses in analytics and program planning.
Remember, too, that you have the option to pursue a dual degree or a data science degree and customize it to your needs. For example, Stanford’s Master of Science & Engineering (MS&E) allows you to choose tracks in computational social science, decision and risk analysis, energy & environment, or health systems modeling. All of these have direct applications to public policy.
Public Policy Analytics Specialties
But wait, there’s more! Because public policy data science is such a dynamic field, many universities have chosen to create “one of a kind” programs that play up their research strengths. In the list below, you’ll find degrees that focus on:
- Technical Expertise (e.g. Carnegie Mellon University and Georgetown)
- Urban Informatics (e.g. Arizona State University, New York University, and Northeastern)
- Leadership (e.g. Northwestern, Norwich University, and University of Chicago)
- Social Policy & Social Good (e.g. University of New Hampshire, University of Pennysylvania, and University of Texas-Dallas)
- Fiscal Analytics (e.g. University of New Haven)
- International Policy (e.g. Claremont Graduate University)
- Government (e.g. Johns Hopkins University)
What to Look For in Analytics Degree Programs
The perfect degree program is the one that suits your professional goals and your budget. Having said that, there are a few quality markers that can help you separate the wheat from the chaff:
- Public Policy Research Centers: What data science initiatives are faculty working on? Do these initiatives have applications to the real world? Can you see yourself involved in the projects?
- Public/Private Partnerships: Look for schools that have strong ties with the private sector (and all their cool technologies) and ongoing partnerships with governments (local, state, or federal—depending on your interests).
- U.S. News & World Report Rankings: In addition to posting overall rankings on Best Graduate Public Affairs Programs, U.S. News also ranks specialties (e.g. City Management and Urban Policy, Information and Technology Management, etc.).
- Internships & Fellowships: Does the university provide you with job training and opportunities to network with future employers?
Public Policy Analysis vs. Public Policy Analytics
The rapid growth of public policy analytics has led to some confusion with the traditional field of the public policy analysis. It’s important to mention it here, because you’ll find public policy analysis programs that don’t have much to do with data science.
Public Policy Analysis is an umbrella term that covers the analysis of existing policies (both past & present) and the formulation of new policies & proposals. Crunching data is part of this process, but public policy makers may also speak with community leaders, assemble historical overviews, devise case studies, debate economic theory, and conduct other forms of qualitative research.
Public Policy Analytics is a technical field that deals specifically with quantitative research and skills such as statistical/data analysis, survey analysis, assembling & processing big data, model building, predictive analytics, and data visualization.
Public Policy Careers for Data Scientists and Data Analysts
Sample Job Titles
If you’re interested in a position with governments, non-profits, or NGOs, you can start by searching for “data scientist” or “data analyst” postings on job boards. You’ll usually find public policy expertise & experience listed as key skills. Other job titles that will use your newfound technical expertise include:
- Policy Analyst: Create policies & strategies, evaluate the feasibility & effectiveness of programs, predict outcomes, and share info with the public and decision-makers.
- Financial Analyst: Analyze financial data, identify trends, assess risks, develop financial forecasts, and project earnings.
- Urban and Regional Planner/City Planner: Develop short-term and long-term plans for land use, communities, and smart cities.
- Management Consultant/Analyst: Analyze the structure, efficiency, & financial performance of an organization or project in order to suggest improvements.
- Project/Program Manager: Plan goals & objectives, marshal resources & people, execute your plans, and assess the performance of one project or group of interdependent projects (i.e. a program).
- Development Director/Coordinator: Maintain existing revenue streams, identify new sources of income, and launch programs to capitalize on these areas (e.g. grants, gifts, business contributions, capital campaigns, etc.).
- Operations Management & Research: Conduct internal analyses & planning to assist the executive director with day-to-day operations (e.g. budgeting, strategic planning, HR, communications, research, etc.).
- Local, State & Federal Government
- Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
- Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs)
- Management Consulting Firms
- Non-Profit Organizations
- Economic Development Organizations
- Public Finance Institutions
Public Policy Analytics Resources
- Georgia Tech Atlanta Data Science for Social Good (DSSG)
- U of Chicago Data Science for Social Good (DSSG)
- UW eScience Institute Data Science for Social Good (DSSG)
The Top Data Analytics Degrees for Public Policy
Arizona State University
Overseen by the Center for Policy Informatics (CPI), the MPP in Policy Informatics is designed to ground you in public policy analysis & research before exposing you to issues surrounding technology. When you look at CPI’s current and past projects, you’ll find your future professors are interested in everything from biomedical informatics to extreme heat issues, broadband use, and even applications of synthetic empathy.
Overall, the MPP is a 42-credit program: 33 hours of the required core courses from the School of Public Affairs and 9 hours of concentration courses (Introduction to Policy Informatics, e-Public Administration, and Complexity in Public Policy & Management). You’ll also be required to complete a public service project or a client-based capstone in informatics.
If you’re love with urban policy, it’s helpful to know that this MPP emphasizes the needs of cities. In fact, ASU’s Top 5 U.S. News & World Report ranking in City Management & Urban Policy has a lot to do with its Center for Urban Innovation (CUI). CUI works closely with the Alliance for Innovation on transforming local government through research & technology.
Applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university. ASU also wants to see a basic statistics course and an American government-related course (earning a B or higher) on your undergraduate transcript. If you don’t have these requirements, you’ll need to take related classes by the end of your first semester of study. GRE scores are the norm, though waivers are available (e.g. you already hold a master’s).
The graduate certificate boils down the MPP into 4 essential courses—Public Policy Analysis, Introduction to Policy Informatics, e-Public Administration, and Complexity in Public Policy & Management—plus 1 elective (15 credit hours total).
As you might imagine, you’ll be studying areas such as IT applications, management of information systems, data visualization, behavioral economics, etc. You’ll be expected to maintain at least a 3.0 GPA and to have no more than one grade below a B- to complete the certificate program.
Carnegie Mellon University
CMU’s MSPPM-DA is a serious technical degree. If you’re looking for hard-core work in data science, as well as training in public policy leadership and customer relations, this is the program for you.
There are 2 years to this 198 unit degree. In the first year, core coursework emphasizes analytic & quantitative tools and communication and management skills. In the second year, you can choose from all kinds of fascinating electives (e.g. data mining & machine learning, econometrics, smart cities, GIS, public finance—the list goes on!). You’ll also be required to complete a summer internship between the first and second years.
CMU’s Heinz College has an outstanding reputation in the field of data science—we’re talking #1 in Information and Technology Management in Public Affairs Schools. As a MSPPM-DA student, you can work in the iLab, tackling research on digital media, healthcare, and social analytics. You can explore smart nation & smart city issues through the Living Analytics Research Center (LARC) and Metro21. You can even focus on transportation in the Pittsburgh area at Traffic21.
CMU expects to see your undergraduate transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores, résumé, recommendations, and essays. Applicants must have a quantitative background, but CMU does offer a Quantitative Skills Summer Program (QSSP) for students who need to complete college-level courses in advanced algebra, pre-calculus, and statistics.
Claremont Graduate University
Aimed at globetrotting policy analysts (public or private), this unique MSAP is offered by CGU’s Department of International Studies. It’s intended to equip you with the skills needed for high-level political decisions—think big data, data analytics, social analytics, advanced modeling and simulation, etc.
The 1.5 year program consists of 36 units—12 units of core coursework in data analytics and modeling; 8 units of electives (e.g. security, international political economy, foreign policy, computational analytics, and health); and 16 units in advanced research methods. If you wish, you can pursue the MSAP in conjunction with the MS in Information Systems & Technology and “double count” some units from one program to the other.
Once you’re enrolled, you’ll find plenty of research opportunities. The School of Social Science, Policy & Evaluation is affiliated with the TransResearch Consortium, an initiative devoted to helping businesses and government entities negotiate relations between the U.S., China, India, and the EU. And faculty at the school’s centers & institutes are doing something intriguing work in the fields of neuroeconomics, social issues, leadership, and economic policy.
CGU will want to see your undergraduate transcripts, GRE test scores, résumé, letters of recommendation, and a statement of purpose. Submit your application by the priority deadline so you can receive maximum consideration for both admission and fellowships.
Smack dab in the heart of Washington D.C., Georgetown is a good place to be if you fancy the federal government! What’s more, the MDSPP is offered jointly by the McCourt School of Public Policy and the Graduate Analytics program. So you can expect a great deal of work in “civic data science”—i.e. applying advanced technical skills to major public policy challenges.
Over 2 years of full-time study, you’ll complete 39 credits. Most of those credits will be in core courses such as accelerated statistics, microeconomics, policy process, big data, data analytics, data visualization, and data ethics. 6 credits are open for electives. In your first two semesters, you’ll also be expected to attend non-credit “Data Science in Action” seminars.
Love raw data? MCourt School has its very own Massive Data Institute (MDI), one of only 23 Federal Statistical Research Data Centers in the nation. Here faculty conduct research into areas like international migration, personalized medicine, and the environment. MDI has also partnered with the Beeck Center for Social Impact + Innovation on an extensive Data for Social Good effort.
Applicants to the MDSPP program are typically recent college graduates with a solid background in statistics, economics, mathematics, or computer science. You will need to have completed a college-level calculus course with a grade of a B or higher. Georgetown also recommends that you complete an introductory microeconomics course. GRE scores are strongly preferred.
John Hopkins University
This flexible degree is geared toward the working professional. Although the program will provide you with a solid grounding in statistical analysis and the opportunity to specialize in a data science area, you don’t need to have a background in quantitative methods. Good news if you’re in a public policy job and you need to improve your technical expertise!
The 12-course MS is available online or through evening classes, and it can be completed in 2 years. The 5 core courses are devoted to stats, quantitative methods, and big data applications; the electives can include anything from data mining and machine learning to global security and economics. You can also choose to pursue a concentration (4 courses) in statistical analysis, geospatial analysis, political behavior and policy analysis, or public management. A capstone is required.
If you’re working, you’re not going to have as much time to devote to research as a typical graduate student. However, it’s worth noting that JHU has a strong track record in public health—it’s usually in the Top 5 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Health Policy and Management. The Bloomberg School of Public Health plays host to the Johns Hopkins University Public Policy Center and the Institute for Health and Social Policy and a lot of work is being done on developing healthy cities.
You’ll be required to submit your undergraduate transcripts (minimum 3.0 GPA), a statement of purpose, a research-focused writing sample, recommendations, and your résumé. Students with graduate-level coursework from an accredited college or university may be exempt from taking up to 2 courses towards degree completion. As we mentioned, no prior coursework in quantitative methods is necessary.
Like the MS, this 5-course graduate certificate is aimed at the busy professional. It’s available online or through evening classes, and it can be completed in 2-3 terms. You can use it as a stand-alone credential or tack it onto JHU’s MA in Government, MA in Public Management, or MA in Global Security Studies.
You’ll take 2 core courses in quantitative methods, statistical analysis, and public policy, and 3 electives in data focused disciplines (e.g. machine learning & neural networks, data mining & predictive analytics, etc.). JHU recommends that you choose to concentrate on one of the same four specialty areas as the MS (see above).
New York University
Run by NYU’s Center for Urban Science + Progress (CUSP), this technical MS uses New York City as its own living laboratory and classroom. The focus, of course, is urban data science—using informatics to tackle challenges in transit, energy, utilities, public health, and so on. NYU boasts that you’ll receive hands-on experience in real-world environments with industry and agency partners.
Looking for flexibility? The 30-credit degree comes as a 1-year, full-time program or a 2-year, part-time program with evening courses. You’ll have 18 credits of core coursework in data realms (e.g. urban informatics, spatial analytics, applied data science, etc.) and 12 credits of electives. You’ll also be required to complete labs, a City Challenge orientation, and the Urban Science Intensive (USI), a major 2-semester capstone project. And you can participate in the optional Global Data Dive in a smart city around the world.
NYU has a stellar U.S. News & World Report ranking for City Management & Urban Policy (#2 in the country), and CUSP faculty have their research fingers in a number of pies, including social sciences, noise pollution, and urban development. You may also want to take a look at NYU’s Center for Data Science, which is conducting some interesting crossover work (e.g. racial discrimination in NYC’s rental market).
Applicants typically have an undergraduate or master’s degree in science, mathematics, engineering, or the social sciences, and some quantitative and mathematics skills (through school or work experience). However, NYU is open to applicants from any discipline who would like to apply their quantitative skills to urban issues. GRE or GMAT scores are standard, but may be waived in certain circumstances.
This 1-year Advanced Certificate is a condensed version of the MS. It’s a 12-credit, four course program that includes a required course in urban informatics and options for electives or the USI. Like MS students, you’ll also complete the non-credit Urban Computing Skills Lab and City Challenge Week.
This is the kind of qualification intended for folks who have already done graduate work in urban informatics, or those with a bachelor’s degree and work experience who want to learn the capabilities of urban informatics. Students in MS programs at NYU, NYU-Poly, or with one of CUSP’s University Partners can also tack it onto their degree.
Northeastern’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs is one of the few schools to offer a degree devoted to urban informatics & data science (NYU is another). It’s a solid technical degree with a data science core, and students work closely with Boston city representatives on urban projects.
The MSUI is a hybrid degree, which means some classes are on-campus and some are online. It’s available part-time or full-time, and you’ll be expected to complete 32 semester hours (18 months to 2 years). The curriculum includes core courses in data science, methods & urban applications (e.g. GIS), and analysis (e.g. spatial analysis). A capstone or research practicum, and a portfolio of real-world projects are also required.
Northeastern places a heavy emphasis on experiential learning, and you’ll have opportunities to play in The Resilient Cities Lab, the Dukakis Center, and the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI)—an interuniversity research partnership between Northeastern, Harvard University, and the city of Boston. Internships are encouraged.
You should have your transcripts, résumé, recommendation letters, GRE score, and personal statement ready for the application. It’s useful to know that the MSUI is eligible for Northeastern’s PlusOne program, where students can combine a bachelor’s with a master’s in 5 years.
Run by Northwestern’s School of Professional Studies (SPS), the MPPA is deliberately focused on creating public policy leaders in government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector. We’re talking a combo of intermediate analytics work and lots of managerial & administrative training.
It’s a part-time degree that can be finished in 2-3 years. There are 9 core courses in public policy (e.g. finance & budgeting, microeconomics, organization theory etc.) and analysis (e.g. stats, analytics methods, etc.). In the data analytics specialization, you can choose 3 targeted electives (e.g. data visualization), which are all offered online. A capstone or thesis is mandatory.
The SPS was created for working professionals and adult learners, so it’s not a hub of research. However, the capstone will give you the opportunity to apply your data science knowledge to some real-world situations.
Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution or its foreign equivalent. You don’t need to have extensive academic or work experience in public policy, but they’re desirable skills. The GRE is not required, but a strong score will improve your chances of admission.
Norwich’s career-targeted MPA is military-friendly and 100% online. It’s intended for working professionals who aspire to be city managers, policy analysts, CEOs of NGOs (and all the jobs in between).
Coursework for this 36-credit, 6-course program can be completed in 18 months. Thanks to a collaboration with MITRE, the concentration in Public Policy and Analysis is super-targeted. There is only 1 general course in Foundations of Public Administration & Policy and the remaining 5 are devoted to policy analysis & methods (beginner & intermediate).
Norwich has gone out of its way to make the MPA a practical step toward career advancement. There are four start dates per year and a number of hands-on, online labs. In addition, Norwich hosts a week-long residency at the end of the degree so you can network with faculty and fellow students.
Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree from a regionally or nationally accredited U.S. institution (or the equivalent from a foreign institution) and the usual bundle of recommendations, résumé, and a letter of intent. Transfer credits may be accepted for up to 12 credits.
University of Chicago
If you have a public policy background, good quantitative skills, but little to no work in computer science, this MSCAPP will be right up your alley. Taught concurrently by the Harris School of Public Policy and the Department of Computer Science, it’s specifically designed to help graduates to roles such as Chief Information Officer (CIO), Chief Data Officer (CDO), Chief Technical Officer (CTO), or Transparency Officer (TO)
The MSCAPP is an 18-course, 2-year program. In the first year, you’ll tackle core courses in computer science (e.g. machine learning, databases, etc.), stats, and microeconomics. In the second year, you’ll have considerable freedom to choose electives (e.g. political strategy, data science, econometrics, etc.). Plus you’ll be involved in a summer internship, an ongoing workshop series, and a variety of policy labs.
A few important things to know about Harris. It’s often ranked in the Top 10 of Public Policy Analysis and Social Policy programs by U.S. News & World Report. It has its own Center for Data Science and Public Policy, which instigates a ton of fascinating research projects and organizes the Data Science for Social Good (DSSG) fellowship and conference. And it’s working on major initiatives (e.g. Policy Analytics Initiative) with multiple national and international partners.
U of Chicago is looking for applicants with significant undergraduate and professional achievements and strong quantitative skills. However, you’re not expected to have a background in computer science. You’ll also be expected to submit GRE/GMAT scores, transcripts, a résumé, three letters of reference, and two essays.
University of New Hampshire
UNH’s unusual program allows you to combine the best of its MPP and its MS in Analytics into a dual degree. The MPP is run by the Carsey School of Public Policy and the MS is run by the UNH Graduate Program in Analytics & Data Science, so you’ll be taught by faculty from both arenas.
It’s a 2-year, full-time program with a total requirement of 61 credits. You’ll begin by focusing on either the MPP or the MS Analytics, but you’ll be allowed to study courses and earn credits from the other program during each year. The MS, in particular, focuses on real-world tools, methods, applications, and practicums. A colloquium and internship are included and the dual degree ends with a combined 3-credit capstone project.
Altruism is the name of the public policy game at UNH. For example, the Center for Social Innovation and Enterprise (CSIE) is devoted to harnessing the power of business and public policy to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world. Meanwhile, the Center for Impact Finance (CIF) is trying to reverse the trend of widening income inequality. Carsey researchers are also involved in community, environment, and vulnerable family initiatives.
Be sure to apply for the MPP/MS Analytics dual degree. If you want to begin with MPP coursework, you need to apply for the dual degree by the MPP application deadline date (June). If you want to start with the MS Analytics coursework, you need to apply to the dual degree by the MS Analytics application deadline date (February). At least one statistics course for credit is required from the MS. The GRE is required for the MPP.
University of New Haven
One for the numbers lovers among you! In particular, UNH’s concentration will prepare you for positions where you’ll be using analytics to assess the finances of a municipality or governmental unit—particularly at the state or local level.
The 36-credit degree is composed of 8 required core courses in public administration, a 3-credit practicum (if you don’t have relevant work experience), and 3 electives in fiscal analytics, cost benefit analysis, microeconomics, and the like. Classes meet on weeknights to accommodate working professionals; online and weekend options are also available.
The MPA is offered by the Henry C. Lee College of Criminal Justice and Forensic Sciences, which is primarily interested in areas like social & criminal justice, cyber crime, and forensics. So think of this more like a practical degree to advance your career, rather than a research opportunity.
Applicants will need to submit their transcripts from an accredited undergraduate institution, résumé, and two letters of recommendation. Prior work experience is also considered.
University of Pennsylvania
Fascinated by the use of data analytics in social policy analysis, research, and evaluation? Penn’s School of Social Policy & Practice (SP2) has a program for you. The MSSP + data analytics certificate is a judicious blend of the technical and the theoretical, with a solid core of social policy & practice.
The 12-course, 3-semester program begins with courses in policy, analytics, and computer science, before digging deeper into areas such as economics, community mapping, and urban spatial analytics. There is a policy internship in data analytics and a big emphasis on real-world skills (e.g. programming, data visualization, etc.). Fellowships with outside partners (e.g. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia) may also be available.
You can put this knowledge to use at one of SP2’s research centers—social good and philanthropy are watchwords at the school. SP2 also has a number of data-driven special projects where a keen analytics student can contribute. We should mention that Penn is often in the Top 15 of U.S. News & World Report rankings for Social Work.
The admissions criteria for this program are the same as the regular MSSP. Applicants are expected to have a bachelor’s degree and a GPA that reflects strong academic ability and good GRE or GMAT scores. The required application essay should explain your particular interest in data analytics.
University of Texas – Dallas
Lest you be confused by the title, UT’s program is a wide-ranging degree that explores the role of analytics and data in social science. You’ll be learning how to apply your technical skills in fields such as criminology, economics, geospatial information sciences, public policy, and sociology—certainly not just harvesting data from social media.
The 36-credit degree includes 15 credit hours in quantitative methods, research design, and stats and 12 credit hours in hard-core analytical electives. You’ll also complete 9 hours of classes in your preferred discipline (e.g. criminology). This is to prepare you for job titles such as data scientist, research analyst, community intelligence expert, etc.
The program is the brainchild of the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences (EPPS), with its 8 research centers and its interests in areas such as urban policy, geospatial research in global health, and education. During your studies, you’ll have access to EPPS’s labs, as well as computing facilities in the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Department of Geosciences.
There are no specific prerequisites for the MS, although some of the required core courses will require evidence that you’ve completed a college algebra or calculus course. You should also have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a 3.0 GPA, strong GRE scores, and three letters of recommendation.