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Undergraduate Admissions

FAQs — Prospective Undergraduate Public Policy Majors

Q. How do I apply to the Sanford School and major in Public Policy Studies?

A. Students do not need to apply separately to the Sanford School. Any student admitted to Duke may major in public policy through the Trinity College of Arts and Sciences.

Q. Are there any prerequisites for declaring the major?

A. There are no prerequisites in order to declare the Public Policy Studies major. However, there is a flow to the requirements and advance planning helps. Look for details on our Curriculum and Advising pages.

Q. Does Public Policy Studies require a concentration?

A. Students who major in Public Policy may choose to focus their elective in Pathways. These are similar to “concentrations” in other majors. They are not required but provide recognition of deeper knowledge in a specialized area. Students may select from five Pathways in Global Policy, Social Policy, Economic Policy, Health Policy, and Policy Journalism. Within these Pathways, you will find opportunities to narrow your focus even further.

Q. Why doesn’t Public Policy offer a minor?

A. At Duke University, a minor consists of five courses. The public policy major requires five core courses that provide a grounding in critical thinking and in skills that are integral to studying public policy. So, since a minor would be fulfilled by only the core courses – without any electives – the faculty made the decision not to offer a minor.

Q. Can Public Policy Majors study away?

A. Yes! We encourage our students to study away, yet please note some restrictions do apply. No more than two transfer (including study abroad) credits may be counted towards the major requirements. Moreover, students are not permitted to take core courses, the history elective or the 401-699 elective abroad.

Sanford manages these study-away programs: Duke in Glasgow; Duke in DC- Policy, Leadership and Innovation; and Duke, India and Public Policy. These all have Duke course credit and/or internships tied to them. Students may also choose to participate in programs offered through the Global Education Office that suit their interests with courses counting as transfer credit. (Note that PUBPOL 450AS: Glasgow Seminar in Public Policy is classified as a Duke course rather than a transfer credit.)

Q. I hear public policy majors have to have an internship. What kinds of internships meet the requirement, and when should I plan to complete it?

A. Students participate in internships with clear public policy content and relevant activity. The Sanford Career Services Office offers a number of preapproved internships or students may petition for an internship to count. 

Majors typically complete their internship requirement during the summer between their junior and senior year. Students may elect to complete their internship during one or both semester(s) of their senior year through the Local Impact Consulting Internship Program. Internships completed during the academic year should be considered a part-time job with careful consideration of your course load. Whether completed during the summer or during the academic year, completion of the core requirements (PUBPOL 155, 301, 302, 303 and statistics course) must come first. See our Curriculum and Advising pages.

Q. What kinds of jobs do public policy majors go into?

A. The public policy major is part of a liberal arts education. Our graduates pursue diverse careers in the public, nonprofit and private sectors. About   a third attend law school. Students can join the school's LinkedIn group to connect with alumni and learn more about their career paths.

  • Law School
  • Banking/Consulting
  • Public Service
  • Politics, Government Agencies
  • Nonprofits/NGOs
  • Teaching/Education
  • Media/Communications
  • Other Private Sector Companies

Q. Does public policy have student organizations I can get involved in?

A. The Public Policy Studies Majors Union (PPSMU) is the official organization representing undergraduates at the Sanford School. Led by students, the Majors Union engages students in the life of the Sanford School and provides opportunities to learn and network outside the classroom.

Q. What if I have further questions?

A. Please contact the undergraduate program coordinator if you have any other questions or want more information about the major.