Frequently Asked Questions

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What Makes a Strong Applicant to the MS-CAPP Degree?
Do I Need a Computer Science Background?
How Can I Strengthen My Application?
How Does the MS-CAPP Curriculum Differ from the MPP?
What Electives Can I Take?
Where is the MS-CAPP Degree Housed on Campus?
What Are the Most Common Jobs Taken After Graduation?
What Types of Organizations Are Interested in MS-CAPP Graduates?
Does this Degree Count for the STEM OPT Extension?
Are There Any Course Waivers Available?
What Support Services Are Available for this Program?
Can I Get Relevant Work Experience While Studying?
How Can I Learn More About the Degree?
How Can I Apply to the MS-CAPP Program?
What Are the Deadlines for Applying?
What Are the Submission Codes for the GRE/TOEFL/GMAT?
 

What Makes a Strong Applicant to the MS-CAPP Degree?
Drive, passion, and intellectual curiosity define the best MS-CAPP candidates. You want to make the world better with data, technology, and whatever else is required to get it done. This is the case whether you are building on your politics, policy, or economics background, or looking to transition from a computer science or statistics role in industry into public policy. Show us that you have excelled in whatever you have done in the past, and we’ll be excited to have you join us.

Sometimes, this will be reflected in a strong undergraduate academic history and work (or volunteer) experience in policy, governance, or mission-driven organizations. Other times you’ll need to connect the dots for us – use the motivation statement to tell us a story about why you’re invested in public service. Further, demonstration of your quantitative prowess, either through success in prior math courses or strong quantitative GRE/GMAT scores, is a factor.

Do I Need a Computer Science Background?
No – although many students come in with some background in economics, statistics, or computer science, no such degree is required. The explicit goal of this degree is to build a pipeline of technical talent into public realm; therefore we do not expect you to have these skills upon applying to or entering the degree.

How Can I Strengthen My Application?
If you are unsure about the quality of your application and want to strengthen it, consider taking (and excelling in) a mathematics or computer science course, especially in linear algebra or programming in Python. Additional work or volunteer experience in public policy, governance, and in mission-driven organizations will also strengthen your application. You might also consider getting involved (however you can – coding is not always required) in a project in your local data or tech community, like through Code For America or DataKind.

How Does the MS-CAPP Curriculum Differ from the MPP?
CAPP students still take most of the core of the Masters of Public Policy (MPP), although they do not take a second Analytical Politics course. Instead, they are required to take Program Evaluation. Further, CAPP students are required to take a five-part series in computer programming, mathematics for data analysis, databases and machine learning. This five-course series is built into the first year of the MS-CAPP degree, enabling students to take advanced electives in computer science, statistics, and econometrics in the second year. You can see more information of the curriculum page of this website.

What Electives Can I Take?
One of the great strengths of the MS-CAPP degree is the wide range of electives available to students. By your second year, you will have taken a rigorous and thorough core of econometrics, statistics, and computer science, which enables you to take advanced courses in all of these fields. In addition to CAPP-specific electives like Civic Technology or Data Visualization for Policy Analysis, all of the graduate courses at Harris Public Policy, as well as many in the Computer Science department are available.

Additionally, many CAPP students take courses in the Toyota Technology Institute at Chicago, the Booth School of Business, as well as the Department of Economics, the Department of Statistics, the Division of Social Sciences, The Law School, and the School of Social Service Administration. Some specific electives include:

  • Data Visualization for Policy Analysis
  • Advanced Machine Learning
  • Natural Language Processing
  • Spatial Data Science
  • Algorithms
  • iOS Development
  • Large Scale Data Methods
  • Policy Lab
  • Health Economics
  • Energy Policy & Human Behavior
  • Economics of Education Policy
  • Cost Benefit Analysis
  • Fiscal Issues in Latin America
  • African Development

Where is the MS-CAPP Degree Housed on Campus?
The MS-CAPP degree is a joint program and thus has a home base in both the Department of Computer Science and the Harris School of Public Policy.

The Department of Computer Science resides in the newly renovated John Crerar Library, the campus hub for computation and data science. Harris Public Policy is housed in the Keller Center, which is LEED-NC Platinum and Living Building Challenge™ Petal certified for Materials, Beauty, and Equity, making it one of the most sustainable buildings in higher education and the city of Chicago.

What Are the Most Common Jobs Taken After Graduation?
Common jobs chosen by MS-CAPP graduates include roles as data scientists, policy researchers, and application developers. Other alumni have gone on to become data visualization specialists, data team leaders, and technical project managers. In the longer term, we expect that MS-CAPP graduates will become Chief Data Scientists, Chief Data Officers, Chief Technology Officers, and Chief Information Officers of prominent public institutions.

What Types of Organizations Are Interested in MS-CAPP Graduates?
There are many different types of organizations that are actively looking for (and currently struggling to find) highly technical talent with interest and exposure to public policy. Some examples include:
•   Public Policy Research Organizations - This group includes think tanks like the Urban Institute and Pew Research Center as well as policy research firms like Mathematica Policy Research, the American Institutes for Research, and the RAND Corporation
•   City and State Analytics Teams Many cities are building their analytics capacity. CAPP students and graduates have interned and gone on to work on data teams in New York City, Minneapolis, Boston, Los Angeles, and the state of Massachusetts.
•   Civic Data Science Companies This category includes Civis Analytics, BlueLabs, Elder Research, and Clarity Campaign Labs.
•   Federal Government  Agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau, Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics, as well as data teams within cabinet agencies, like the Commerce Data Service and FEMA’s Enterprise Analytics Division, might fall into this category. The federal government is also forming new technology organizations, like 18F and the US Digital Service.
•   Government Consultancies – Booz Allen Hamilton, Deloitte, Accenture all have large analytics teams.
•   International Non-Governmental Organizations – the World Bank, the United Nations Global Pulse, and Oxfam International are turning more and more towards data and technology to aid in international development and conflict resolution.

Does this Degree Count for the STEM OPT Extension?
Yes – the MS-CAPP degree is a STEM-certified program, which means international students qualify for the STEM OPT Extension.

Are There Any Course Waivers Available?
Yes – you can read detailed information on the course waivers page. Some students in the MS-CAPP degree have a background in one of its three foundational pillars (economics, statistics, or computer science). In order to offer more flexibility in coursework and allow students to challenge themselves, certain course waivers are available. 

What Support Services Are Available for this Program?
All of the support services of Harris Public Policy and the Department of Computer Science are available to MS-CAPP students. In Harris, this includes Academic and Student Affairs (ASA), the Career Development Office (CDO), and Alumni Relations. General university services, like UChicagoGRAD, also support MS-CAPP students.

Can I Get Relevant Work Experience While Studying?
Most students augment their coursework with a part-time internship or research assistantship while at the University of Chicago.

University of Chicago-affiliated organizations include:
•   Harris’s Policy Centers
•   UChicago Urban Labs
•   Mansueto Institute for Urban Innovation
•   National Opinion Research Council (NORC)
•   The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflict
•   The Center for Spatial Data Science
•   Argonne National Laboratory
•   The Knowledge Lab
•   Energy Policy Institute at Chicago
•   The Center for Health and the Social Sciences
•   Chapin Hall
•   The Center for Effective Government
•   Harris Cyber Policy Initiative
•   Behavioral Insights and Parenting (BIP) Lab

How Can I Learn More About the Degree?
To learn more, you should watch the MS-CAPP Informational Webinar, follow the official MS-CAPP Twitter account, and visit campus or meet the Admissions team in your city. You may also reach out to our team.

How Can I Apply to the MS-CAPP Program?
You can apply through the Harris website and learn more about the process on the requirements and deadlines page, as well as the Admissions Frequently Asked Questions page.

What Are the Deadlines for Applying?
The deadlines for applying to the MS-CAPP degree are the same as for all Harris master's degrees. You can see those deadlines on Harris’s application requirements and deadlines page.

What Are the Submission Codes for the GRE/TOEFL/GMAT?
The MS-CAPP degree uses Harris's codes for test score submission. For the GRE and TOEFL, this is 1849. For the GMAT, this is H9X-9Z-17.