Carnegie Mellon University

Course Requirements

The coursework and teaching practicum 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 outlines the courses, each are described in detail further on.

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 (2.0) can be used towards meeting course requirements. Courses receiving pass/fail grades cannot be counted towards degree requirements, with the exception of 19-705.

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.

- 19-701 Intro to the Theory and Practice of Policy Analysis 12 units

- 19-702 Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis 12 units

- 19-703 Applied Data Analysis or 36-607 Modern Regression 6 units or 9 units

- 19-705 Workshop in Applied Policy Analysis (Prep for Part B Qualifier) 6 units (optional)

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. Recommended courses include:

- Probability and statistics: 12-704, 19-704, 90-905, 36-749

- Machine learning: 05-834 - Optimization: 19-785, 36-725, 21-690, 45-751

Courses on microeconomics and application of economic analysis in markets. Recommended courses include:

- 19-706 Microeconomic Analysis 6 units

- 90-908 PhD Microeconomics 12 units

Students completing 19-706 are required to complete an additional 6 units of economics coursework. 19-706 is appropriate for students seeking an applied treatment of graduate level microeconomics and is tailored to the analyses that EPP PhD students use in their research. 90-908 is calculus-based and provides a theoretical treatment of microeconomics. Students with a weak calculus background and no previous courses in economics may request to first take 19-681 Managerial & Engineering Economics, but are encouraged to take 19-706 or 90-908 after as a social science elective.

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 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.

EPP PhD students will be required to serve as a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Project Manager (PM) for an approved EPP course one or two times in order to fulfill the teaching practicum requirement. Students are expected to complete the teaching practicum requirement by the end of their 6th semester. Ideally, students would serve once as a PM for a project course taught in the department and serve as a “traditional” TA for a course taught in the department. However, teaching practicum assignments will depend on several factors: demand, student program progress, career interests, and advisor input.

Teaching practicum requirements for students pursuing a joint degree with another department where they also have to serve as TAs will be negotiated between departments on a case-by-case basis but may only be required to serve once as either a TA or PM. Students receiving department funding may be required to serve as TA or PM more than twice as a condition of this funding.

Students will be expected to attend a TA/PM training session taught by the associate department head for undergraduate affairs to help prepare them for their upcoming assignment. Students should also consider using the resources available from the Eberly Center for Teaching Excellence (and attending the graduate student instructor seminars provided by the Eberly Center.

Project Management Assignment

Students will have the opportunity to serve as a PM for EPP project and other relevant project courses offered in the department (like the Quantitative Entrepreneurship course). The PM requirement allows students to develop research and project management skills, team coordination skills, and personnel management. The PM experience involves considerable interaction with both students and outside experts who serve as consultants and reviewers for the project.

Teaching Assistant Assignment

Students will also serve as a TA in an assigned undergraduate or graduate EPP course. Teaching assistantships afford graduate students the opportunity to learn about the art of teaching and develop skills that can support their professional careers. For example, teaching may offer an opportunity to gain deeper knowledge about a subject. Teaching can also improve communication skills, help graduate students learn how to lead group discussions, and learn how to evaluate the work of others. Students serving as TAs are not merely graders. TAs in EPP should be responsible for assisting the course instructor in preparing content prior to the start of the semester, administering the course website, handling course IT needs, preparing and grading homework and test questions, attending and perhaps giving lectures, meeting weekly with the course instructor to plan recitation sessions, conducting recitation sessions, assisting in assigning grades, and being available outside of class to assist students and answer questions.


Students in the PhD program can elect to receive an EPP MS degree along the path to PhD. They will need to complete the MS requirements as outlined in the EPP graduate student handbook and submit a curriculum progress sheet to the graduate program administrator. Students who entered the EPP program before 2019, have the option of following the old MS rules if they desire. Students should inform the graduate program administrator if they wish to follow the old rules.