Carnegie Mellon University

Course Requirements

The course requirements for a PhD are designed to provide students with a common core of knowledge and techniques useful in policy problems, as well as to give each student a mastery of a body of knowledge in the disciplines relevant to his or her individual area of research. The curriculum requires core courses, quantitative methods courses, one microeconomics course, technical elective courses, social science elective courses, and a teaching practicum. The following chart outlines the courses. Students in our other degree programs may have somewhat different requirements.

An overall 3.0 grade-point average is expected throughout the course of your studies.  No more than two courses with a grade of C can be used towards meeting course requirements.  

19-701  Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis  12 units
19-702 Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis   12 units

Applied Data Analysis

Modern Regression

6 units or 9 units
19-705  Workshop in Applied Policy Analysis 
(Prep for Part B Qualifier)
6 units (optional)
19-752/753 EPP Teaching Practicum       12 units

Courses on probability and statistics, optimization, machine learning, game theory, and other quantitative methods.  It is strongly recommended that at least 6 units should be oriented to probability and statistics. 

18 units


90-908 Applied Microeconomics. (This is the recommended course.) Students with no previous courses in economics may request to take 19-681 Managerial and Engineering Economics to fulfill their graduate microeconomics requirement. Students wishing to take 90-908 after they have taken 19681 may do so as a Type B elective course.  12 units
xx-xxx Technical Courses in areas of focus 36 units



24 units of courses in social science and social analysis in area of focus, with at least 6 of the units in the area of political science, regulation or law.

24 units

Overall, students are expected to take at least 132 units beyond the BS degree to fulfill the requirements for a PhD in Engineering and Public Policy:

  • A minimum of 42 units in core courses (includes teaching practicum)
  • A minimum of 18 units of quantitative methods courses
  • A minimum of 12 units of microeconomics
  • A minimum of 36 units in technical elective courses
  • A minimum of 24 units in social science elective courses (includes 6 units in the area of political science, regulation or law)

In order to develop the skills needed to complete their PhD, students typically take more than the minimum numbers of courses required.

Candidates for the MS degree must complete a minimum of 102 units:

  • A minimum of 42 units in core courses (includes Teaching Practicum)
  • A minimum of 12 units of quantitative methods courses
  • A minimum of 12 units of microeconomics
  • A minimum of 12 units in technical elective courses
  • A minimum of 12 units in social science elective courses
  • A minimum of 12 units in independent research 

In addition, the student must pass the Qualifying Exams, at least at the MS level and have their completed MS paper approved by their advisor or the Department Head. They must also fulfill the general requirements of the College of Engineering (COE) as noted on the COE graduate policies website ( 

Course Requirements

The principal component of the EPP core curriculum is a sequence of courses on perspectives and tools for policy analysis and data analysis: 19-701, 19-702, and 19-703.  Our core courses have been arranged to allow completion of the core sequence by the time students take their qualifying exams in the beginning of their fourth semester.

“Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Applied Policy Analysis” (19-701) is a lecture and discussion course that reviews and critically examines a set of problems, assumptions, and analytical techniques that are common to research and policy analysis in technology and public policyThe objective is to look critically at the strengths, limitations, and underlying assumptions of key policy research and analysis tools and problem framing, and to sensitize students to some of the critical issues of professional responsibility, ethics, and values that are associated with policy analysis and research.   

“Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis” (19-702) is a course that provides a broad introduction to analytical and computational methods commonly used to address technical policy issues.  Particular emphasis is placed on methods for decision analysis and simulation.  

An additional, optional course offered in the policy sequence is “Workshop in Applied Policy Analysis” (19-705). This course is designed to provide experience in setting up, analyzing, and writing about policy problems of the type that are used in the Part B qualifying exam (described below).  Over the course of the semester, the class works through six or seven policy case problems.  Much of the work is done in small groups.  The principal focus is on integrating the qualitative and quantitative aspects of the problems and on identifying and practicing general problem solving strategies. 

Students are also required to take 18 units of quantitative methods courses. It is strongly recommended that at least 6 units be oriented to probability and statistics. 12-704 Probability and Estimation Methods for Engineering Systems is also recommended, especially for students without prior coursework in probability. However, students may also take courses in statistics, optimization, machine learning, econometrics, game theory, or other quantitative methods.

Students are also required to take a course in microeconomics. 90-908 “PhD Microeconomics” is recommended for students with previous economics coursework. Students with little to no economics coursework may take 19-681 “Managerial and Engineering Economics.”        

The remaining course work required is determined by the student and a faculty advisor. The determination is made based on the student's background and preparation, the requirement for a firm grounding in the tools and techniques of policy analysis, and looking at the student’s research area. 

While specific courses are listed, alternative CMU courses or graduate level coursework taken prior to entering the EPP PhD program may be acceptable substitutes. Generally, students will NOT be permitted to substitute prior coursework for the core courses unless they have taken required core courses at CMU prior to entering the EPP PhD program. Prior graduate-level coursework taken at CMU or elsewhere and receiving a grade of B or better may be used to waive non-core course requirements with approval of the student’s advisor and the associate department head. In such cases the unit requirements do not need to be met from replacement coursework. A maximum of 48 units taken outside of CMU may be used to waive course requirements. 

Technical Elective Requirements

Technical courses are in areas such as engineering, science, applied mathematics, and statistics. Students should confer with their advisors to choose technical electives. There are two motivations for this requirement. First, before one can extend the perspectives and tools of engineering, one must develop a firm notion of what these perspectives and tools are. Second, the technical dimensions of the policy problems that are addressed by students pursuing graduate studies in EPP cannot be treated as a “black box,” where there is no appreciation of how the system works.   EPP graduate students must develop the skills to deal with the technical aspects of these problems. It is intended that students develop a level of mastery in their technical area of focus similar to that obtained in a traditional program of graduate study in that area.

Social Science Elective Requirements

Social science courses are non-technical in nature. Several courses in quantitative research methods in the social sciences are available. Courses in political science and social processes are also encouraged, and it is intended that students will develop a healthy sense of cultural relativism, a notion of the way in which values and social organizations shape our thinking, and an understanding of the way in which these factors have changed and can change with time. Such notions are difficult to characterize in quantitative terms, but are fundamental to a proper understanding of many of the problems that EPP graduate students address.  

At least 6 social science elective units must be in political science, regulation, or law.