Curriculum & Requirements

The School’s curriculum has a disciplinary focus, enabling students to analyze a range of complex issues from different academic lenses. Students take a deep dive into quantitative and qualitative methods, unpacking policy problems holistically with clarity of thought.

Core Courses

Six core courses are required for all fields:

  • SPI 501: Politics of Public Policy
  • SPI 502: Psychology for Policy Analysis and Implementation
  • SPI 507b or 507c: Quantitative Analysis
  • SPI 508a: Econometrics: Applied (Session I, Half-term Course) or SPI 508c: Econometrics and Public Policy: Advanced (Full-term)
  • SPI 511b or 511c: Microeconomic Analysis
  • SPI 512b or 512c: Macroeconomic Analysis

For Fields I, II, and III, two gateway courses — one each in political and economic analysis — are required. Below is a list of options.

Field I: International Relations

  • SPI 541: International Politics
  • SPI 542: International Economics or SPI 543: International Trade Policy or
  • SPI 544: International Macroeconomics or SPI 582c: Growth, International Finance, and Crises

Field II: International Development

  • SPI 561: The Comparative Political Economy of Development
  • SPI 562b or 562c: Economic Analysis of Development

Field III: Domestic Policy

  • SPI 521: Domestic Politics
  • SPI 522: Microeconomic Analysis of Domestic Policy or SPI 523: Legal and Regulatory Policy Toward Markets or SPI 525: Public Economics and Public Policy

Field IV: Economics and Public Policy

  • Requires at least five economics courses beyond the core curriculum. 
  • A gateway course in political analysis (SPI 521/541/561) is strongly recommended.

In addition to the six core courses, all students must:

  • Complete a graduate policy workshop in the second year.
  • Complete qualifying examinations (IPE, QE1, QE2; see more information below).
  • Maintain a minimum average of 80 (B-) to continue for the second year and for graduation.
  • Complete an approved summer internship between the first and second years.

Integrated Policy Exercise
In January, first-year MPA students are required to take part in a policy project called the Integrated Policy Exercise (IPE). Students are given briefing materials to review in advance and are then required to submit a comprehensive memo in response to a set of specific policy questions. The IPE is a trial run for the qualifying examination, known as the Qualifying Exam 1 (QE1). It is graded, but only to provide concrete feedback.

Qualifying Exam 1
At the end of the first academic year, MPA students are required to take and pass the QE1, a graded exercise that closely parallels the IPE. The QE1 requires an integrated use of analytical skills acquired during the first year, and it also includes behavioral analysis of the policy issue.

Qualifying Exam 2
Second-year MPA students are required to pass a second qualifying exam, the QE2, in their chosen field of concentration at the end of their second year in the program.