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To succeed in the world of public policy, students need a solid underpinning of analytical and professional skills. Duke ensures our students are well prepared with the following core curriculum:

Microeconomic Analysis

(2 semesters) The economics sequence deals with individual and policy choices in a world of scarcity. The first semester of the sequence introduces topics such as household consumption and production, the economics of information, risk and uncertainty, markets and market structure, behavioral economics, game theory, externalities and other types of market failure, and welfare economics. The second semester extends the analysis of market failure and introduces the economics of the public sector, regulation, non-market decision making, quantitative methods and microeconomic theory for analysis of economic policy, including cases and examples of cost-benefit analysis, public sector pricing, public utility regulation, pollution regulation and product safety regulation.

Political Analysis OR Globalization and Governance

The political analysis course explores the role of legislatures, interest groups, chief executives, and the bureaucracy in defining alternatives and in shaping policy from agenda formulation through policy implementation.

The globalization and governance course focuses on the blurring of lines between the “international” and the “domestic,” and the increasing interconnectedness of nation-states and their peoples across a range of economic, political, security, societal and cultural issues. The course seeks to help students develop an analytic framework and historical context for understanding globalization and governance; understand core concepts, major political institutions, and political dynamics; and delve into some of the major policy debates.

Data Analysis, Statistics and Evaluation

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    Citizen Experience Lab

    Some MPP students choose to join the CX Lab, which aims to improve how citizens experience organizations in Durham. Using human-centered design, student teams work with local organizations to design improved experience. The 14-week consulting project includes customer and employee interviews. Students uncover bright spots and pain points of the customer journey. Students then work with the customers and employees to ideate, prototype and test different solutions that will improve the customer experience.


    Read more about the CX Lab >>

(2 semesters) The two-course sequence is intended to make students critical consumers and effective producers of statistical evidence presented in support of policy arguments. The first course devotes significant time to fundamental building blocks of statistics, including basic probability, inference, and hypothesis testing, which, in turn, support the study of multiple regression. Students learn to manipulate large databases, conduct sensitivity analysis, and present results. The second course presents experimental and nonexperimental methods for evaluating the effect of public programs, including topics in experimental design, regression analysis, and simulation.

Ethical Analysis

The course examines the historical and philosophical roots of normative concepts in politics, liberty, justice, and the public interest, their relationships to one another and to the American political tradition, and their implications for domestic and international problems.

Policy Analysis

(2 semesters) The two-course sequence emphasizes identifying pragmatic solutions to contemporary policy problems in a variety of settings and case studies. Teamwork, writing, professional development, and presentation skills are emphasized.

Management and Leadership

(2 semesters) To satisfy this requirement, students may enroll in public policy management courses such as Public Management, Principles of Leadership, Public Budgeting, Foundations Strategy & Impact, or Negotiations. Management and leadership courses offered outside of the Sanford School at the Fuqua School of Business, Duke Law School, or UNC–Chapel Hill also may be accepted.

See our curriculum requirements by semester.

Internship Leads to Data Analyst Position

Cellie Horstman with map behind herAn estimated 40 million Americans have trouble affording an adequate diet. Federal nutrition programs and charitable meals make up the first line of defense, but solving this challenge requires communities to go beyond food to disrupt the root causes of economic distress. While getting her Master of Public Policy degree, Celli Horstman MPP’19 contributed to a new tool that will help policymakers and others combat the issue. Celli interned at the Urban Institute and helped build a food insecurity data dashboard. Her internship work collecting data sources led her to her current position as data analyst at one of the largest independent social research organizations in the United States, NORC at the University of Chicago.