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MPP Curriculum

Core courses in the Masters in Public Policy program cover public policy, policy analysis, quantitative methods, and economic policy. This is a two-year program for students taking 8 or more units per term. The program consists of 60 approved units (not including courses necessary to compensate for deficiencies). The degree culminates with a two-term seminar focused on analytical projects where students will develop, present, and discuss individual research. Students develop a unique concentration of electives related to their interests, and may pursue joint graduate degree programs.

MPP Courses

The MPP offers coursework relevant to problem solving and analysis of public policies. Each student files a formal study plan after completing 12 units of coursework (generally toward the end of Winter quarter in the first year).

The formal program of study includes 60 units; 44 are found in the core and 16 are electives. Core MPP courses must be taken for a letter grade. Full course descriptions can be found in the Cal Poly catalog online and in print. The student has seven years to complete all coursework and requirements for the degree, including the comprehensive examination.

Continuous Enrollment

As of Fall 2009, graduate students must maintain continuous enrollment in the University in three of four academic quarters annually. To maintain enrollment, students must be enrolled as a regular student, enrolled in a special place-holder course (GS 597), or be on planned educational or medical leave.

For more information on the Continuous Enrollment Policy, please visit the Cal Poly Graduate Education website.

Policy Expertise

Throughout the program, students are to develop an area of policy expertise. In order to do so, students are to direct their 16-20 elective units toward a specific area of policy specialization. Students can choose courses from a wide array of disciplines throughout the university to develop a specific area of policy expertise. View policy electives.

MPP Culminating Exam

The culminating experience is a two-day take-home exam, designed to assess the student's ability to integrate knowledge and demonstrate mastery in policy analysis applications. The exam will be administered by faculty associated with the program during fall and spring quarters each year. Download the exam procedures (PDF).

Required Courses

POLS 510 Research Design 4
POLS 515 Public Policy 4
POLS 518 Public Policy Analysis 5
POLS 540 Leadership & Management 4
POLS 550 Regulatory and Economic Policy 4
POLS 560 Quantitative Methods 5
POLS 586 Policy Internship 4-8
POLS 590 Graduate Seminar 8
POLS 595 Directed Supervised Reading for MPP Comprehensive Exam 2
Electives - Click here to see possible elective courses 16-20
Total Units 60

***NOTE: Core courses scheduling may change on faculty availability***


Elective courses to be selected with graduate adviser's approval. At least 8 units must be at the 500 level. With permission of the Director, MPP students may apply up to 4 units of POLS 500 (Independent Study) and up to 4 units of POLS 400 (Independent Study) as elective credits toward their MPP degree.

Curriculum Flowchart

It is highly suggested that the courses be taken in the following order. This order is not mandatory. If the student takes about 8 units per quarter, then their 2 year curriculum should roughly look like this:

Year 1

  • POLS 510-Research Design (4)
  • POLS 515-Public Policy (4)
  • POLS Elective (4)
  • POLS 560-Quantitative Methods (5)
  • POLS 518-Public Policy Analysis (5)
  • POLS 550-Economic and Regulatory Policy (4)


  • POLS 586 - Internship (8)

Year 2

  • Elective (4)
  • POLS 590 - Graduate Seminar (4)
  • POLS 540- Leadership & Management (4)
  • POLS 590 - Graduate Seminar (4)
  • Electives (8)
  • POLS 595 - Comprehensive Examination (2)

TA/GA Program

Cal Poly supports a number of teaching and graduate assistantships funded by student success fees. These positions offer potential teaching and research experiences, working closely with specific faculty members as mentors. For more information on qualifications and application process, please visit the Cal Poly Graduation Education website.

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