Watson Institute at Brown University
Public Policy


What can you do with a concentration in Public Policy?

"Public policy" is a broad theme, and our graduates pursue many paths. Some may choose to work immediately after earning their bachelor’s degree from Brown, while many others will choose to seek an advanced degree in law school, a master of public policy (MPP), or master of public affairs (MPA). Here are examples of companies and organizations where recent policy concentrators have been employed after earning their degrees:

  • Alston & Bird LLP
  • Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Office of Enforcement
  • Harvard Humanitarian Initiative
  • Massachusetts House of Representatives
  • Mobilize America
  • National Governors Association
  • National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
  • New York City Department of Education
  • New York University
  • Stanford University Center for Education Policy Analysis
  • State of Rhode Island
  • University of California at Berkeley - International Human Rights Law Clinic
  • University of California at San Francisco Stroke Center
  • USAID Southern Africa Mission
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
  • U.S. Department of Justice
  • U.S. Department of Labor
  • U.S. Department of State

What is the difference between Public Policy and other concentrations such as International Relations or Political Science?

Where Political Science might focus on theoretical concepts, Public Policy relies on real-world application and evaluation. International Relations focuses on language study, while Public Policy requires quantitative study. Public Policy can also be tailored to your specific interests very easily due to its elective system.

Are there any concentration courses that have to be taken at a particular time?

  • Introduction to Public Policy (PLCY 0100) should be taken as early as possible, preferably by the end of the sophomore year since it serves as a prerequisite for all of the other core courses. PLCY 0100 is appropriate for a first or second semester level student.
  • Statistics for Public Policy (PLCY 1300; (or POLS 1600 or EDUC 1110 or ECON 1620 / 1630 or SOC 1110) should be taken in the sophomore or junior year. Statistics must be completed before taking PLCY 1200.
  • Economics (PLCY 1600 (or ECON 1110 / 1130 or EDUC 1130) should be taken in the sophomore or junior year. In some cases, students take this course in the fall of their senior year, but it is not recommended to wait that long. Economics must be completed before taking PLCY 1200.
  • Policy Analysis and Program Evaluation (PLCY 1200) should be taken after the other requirements have been fulfilled OR in the junior spring if a student wishes to pursue a thesis during their senior year.

I am a first-year. What should I take now if I want to be a Public Policy concentrator?

Any of the required core courses, particularly Introduction to Public Policy (PLCY 0100). You are also welcome to take electives that could count for public policy. If you will be taking ECON 1110 to fulfill the economics requirement, keep in mind that you may need to fulfill prerequisites to be able to take the course.

I am a first-year or undeclared sophomore. Who do I go to with questions about the concentration?

You can schedule a meeting with Melissa Nicholaus (melissa_nicholaus@brown.edu) or you can contact the DUG leaders for more information.

I want to double concentrate in Public Policy and another concentration. Can I double count courses?

Students typically count two courses in both concentrations. You may use three courses in special circumstances. Common double concentrations include Economics/Public Policy and Ethnic Studies/Public Policy.

How do I start planning for my thesis?

Start talking to your academic advisor. Plan to take PLCY 1200 before the end of your junior year, and keep in mind that it is only offered in the spring. You will need to take a two-semester Public Policy colloquium course in your senior year.

Am I eligible for honors if I do not write a thesis?


If I am not writing a thesis, how can I fulfill the capstone requirement?

Students can fulfill the capstone requirement through an independent study, an internship, a research assistantship, or a designated senior seminar. See the Capstone page for more details. All capstones now require a substantial piece of written work.

How do I get involved in research or obtain an internship?

For research, talk to your academic advisor and begin asking faculty who do work you’re interested in. Summer research assistants may be eligible for an Undergraduate Teaching and Research Award to fund their living expenses. For internships, keep an eye on the Public Policy newsletter for opportunities and visit the CareerLab for assistance in your search. The Policy program has a few undergraduate awards to fund unpaid internships.

I have taken a course not currently listed as an elective, but I think that it fits well within Public Policy. Can it count?

New courses are added to Brown all the time, and we are open to having students suggest new electives. Please email the Academic Department Manager (Melissa Nicholaus, melissa_nicholaus@brown.edu) with a copy of the syllabus. The course will be reviewed and you will be notified if it is appropriate for concentration credit. Please note that electives must be numbered over the 1000 level in whatever department they are listed.

How do I know which classes count as Policy electives?

See the “Courses” tab on the website. Any course listed under “Policy Designated Electives” or “Other Electives” can be counted for your concentration. What is the difference between Policy Designated Electives and Other Electives? To fulfill your elective requirement, you must take at least two policy designated electives out of your five total electives required. The other three courses can be satisfied with any electives listed under Other Electives.

Can I take Public Policy concentration courses S/NC?

Students are discouraged, although not prevented, from taking courses in their concentration for S/NC. Graduate schools do not look with favor on S/NC grades in your primary field of study; that includes core courses, methods, and electives. If you do well, be sure to obtain a Course Performance Report from the instructor.

Who signs study abroad forms?

The Director of Undergraduate Studies (Anthony Levitas, anthony_levitas@brown.edu) signs study abroad forms.

Can I count classes taken abroad toward the concentration?

Courses taken abroad that are pertinent to the concentration may be counted with approval. Students generally bring back ~2 courses per semester abroad for the concentration.

I am a transfer student. How many credits from another university can I apply toward Public Policy?

The university determines the number of transfer credits accepted when you are admitted as a transfer student. The Public Policy program decides how to apply your transfer credits toward the concentration. You must send a syllabus of each course you would like to use to fill your requirements to the Director of Undergraduate Studies. Note: We cannot apply credit taken at another institution until it appears on your Brown transcript.

If I complete two or more concentrations in my 4 years at Brown will I be awarded multiple degrees and receive multiple diplomas?

No. You will be awarded one degree, and receive one diploma noting your baccalaureate degree. Students who complete more than one concentration (“double concentrators”) will see all completed concentrations listed on their official Brown transcript.

How can I be certain that I've completed the Public Policy concentration requirements for graduation?

All students are required to revise (update) their Public Policy program of study through ASK and meet with the Academic Program Manager (Melissa Nicholaus, melissa_nicholaus@brown.edu) or Director of Undergraduate studies (Tony Levitas, Anthony_Levitas@brown.edu) in the fall semester of senior year (or seventh semester). If you do not revise your program, we cannot approve your graduation, and the Registrar cannot issue you a diploma.