Public Affairs Major Curriculum

The B.A. in Public Affairs offers an in-depth and engaged educational experience with a clear public service ethos. Drawing from UCLA Luskin’s expansive resources in Public Policy, Social Welfare, and Urban Planning, the major combines critical thinking, social science methodology, and experiential learning, connecting the dots between theory and action.

The UCLA Luskin Public Affairs B.A. requires:

  • Eight Lower Division courses that establish a critical social science and methodological foundation while fulfilling some General Education requirements.
  • Seven Upper Division courses which provide more sophisticated theoretical and substantive grounding, including skills in qualitative and quantitative research methods. Upper Division electives reflect a range of substantive topics in public affairs.
  • A three-quarter experiential learning internship in the senior year that culminates in a capstone project.

Required: 8 courses/38 units

  • PA 10. Social Problems and Social Change (5 units): Social scientific approaches to study of social problems and their solutions.
  • PA 20. Power, Politics, and Policy Change in US (5 units):Historical and contemporary forms of the key institutions of politics and policy in the United States.
  • PA 30. Comparative Analysis of Wealth, Policy, and Power (5 units): How countries organize their economies and governments and how this affects their approaches to social problems.
  • PA 40. Microeconomics for Public Affairs (5 units):Principles of microeconomic analysis, including comparative advantage, supply and demand, market failure, and public economics.
  • PA 50. Foundations and Debates in Public Thought (5 units): Concepts in social and political theory that animate debates about public policy, collective welfare, and political change.
  • PA 60. Using Data to Learn about Society (5 units):  An Introduction to Empirical Research and Statistics: Research design principles and hands-on data analysis to understand social problems.
  • PA 70. Information, Evidence, and Persuasion (4 units): The public life of facts used by different players in their efforts to inform, persuade, and indoctrinate.
  • PA 80. How Environments Shape Human Development (4 units): Exploring how diverse cultural, socioeconomic, and historical contexts interact with biology to affect people during development.

See the current academic year course offerings on our Student Resources page!

Required: 10 courses/42 units (including the Capstone courses)

See the current academic year course offerings on our Student Resources page!

Theory Courses (2 of the following 5 options are required; 8 units)

  • PA 110. The Urban Revolution: Space and Society in a Global Context (4 units): Theoretical frameworks used by urban studies and planning to study cities and urban transformations.
  • PA 111. Microeconomics: Addressing Market Failures and Inequality (4 units): Examination of behavior and outcomes in market and strategic settings, as well as policy responses to market failure due to imperfect information, collective action problems, and externalities.
  • PA 112. Social Movements (4 units): Exploration of how social movements emerge, diffuse, and contribute to political, social, and cultural change in U.S. and elsewhere.
  • PA 113. Policy Analysis: Approaches to Addressing Social Problems (4 units): An introduction to the policy analysis and development process.
  • PA 114. People, Organizations, and Systems (4 units): The social ecology of collaborative relationships among individuals, groups, organizations, and communities.

Methods Courses (2 courses required; 10 units)

  •  PA 115. Using Quantitative Methods to Understand Social Problems and their Potential Solutions (5 units): Understanding and applying multivariate regression methods to the analysis of social problems.
  • PA 116. Using Qualitative Methods to Understand Social Problems and their Potential Solutions (5 units): Understanding and applying qualitative methods to the analysis of social problems.
Elective Courses (3 courses required; 12 units)

Current B.A. in Public Affairs electives include:

  • Urban Poverty and Public Policy
  • Intergenerational Communication across Lifespan
  • Biomedical, Social, and Policy Frontiers in Human Aging
  • Diversity in Aging
  • Gun Violence
  • Race, Rights, and Citizenship: Encounters with the Bureaucratic State
  • California Policy Issues
  • International Housing
  • Parking
  • Politics of Water
  • Civil Society, Nonprofit Orgs, Philanthropy Comparative Perspectives
  • Race and Inequality
  • School Safety
  • Politics of US Health Policy
  • US Housing Policy
  • Urban Sustainability

Variable topics courses have included:

  • California Policy Challenges: A Policy Maker’s Perspective
  • Network Science with R
  • Nuclear Weapons

New electives are added every year. Please visit the Student Resources page for the most up to date listing.

Capstone Series (3 courses required; 12 units)

Students participate in a three-quarter experiential learning opportunity. Engaged scholarship experiences can vary widely from internships in community-based organizations, firms, or regional governments to international study or UC in DC (Washington Center) or UC in Sacramento programs. These experiences are accompanied by a seminar that enables students to reflect on and share their engagement experience with classmates, apply what they have learned in their coursework to their community or public engagement, and analyze how the engagement experience conforms with or differs from what they learned in coursework. This experiential-learning opportunity culminates with a capstone project in the spring quarter that integrates students’ field experience with theories and methods learned in their coursework.

Students will take a three-course capstone sequence (4 units per quarter) which includes:

  • PUB AFF 187A
  • PUB AFF 187B
  • PUB AFF 187C

Learn more about the capstone series, opportunities, and requirements on our Experiential Learning page.

Curriculum Checklist –  students may use this to track degree progress

Public Affairs Undergraduate Petition – students who would like to request a substitution, waiver, or exception for the lower division or upper division courses, must complete a Public Affairs Undergraduate petition and return it to the Student Services Office in 3343 Public Affairs, or via MyUCLA Message Center.

Sample Plans of Study – these plans of study are intended to help students establish an academic plan that works for their unique situation. These plans should not be seen as mandated timelines. Students are encouraged to download the excel document, make updates where needed (university & school requirements), and then meet with a Public Affairs advisor for review.

Sample 4-Year Plan of Study 
Sample 3-Year Plan of Study
Sample 2-year Plan of Study for Transfer Students

For Students in the Public Affairs Major:

  • All upper division courses for the major must be from the PUB AFF subject area. Students can petition to use non-PUB AFF courses but petitions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
  • Students may only take one elective course outside of Luskin (course must be approved by petition). Any student who wishes to take more than one elective from outside the Luskin School should meet with the Public Affairs Advising Office to discuss the petition process.

Join Public Affairs

First or second year UCLA Students, in good academic standing, may declare the pre-major by completing the Pre-Major Form and then returning it to the Undergraduate Student Services Office at Luskin in 3343 Public Affairs, or via MyUCLA Message Center. Pre-Majors are given first pass enrollment privileges in the lower division (pre-major requirement) courses.

Students must complete, with a C or better, at least five of the eight required lower division Public Affairs courses (including courses taken winter quarter of year two) in order to be eligible to apply for the major in winter quarter of year two. Completed courses must include PA 40 & PA 60. Students should plan to complete the remaining lower division courses during the spring quarter of the second year or, if that is not possible, during the third year, if admitted to the major.

Students who plan to graduate within 3 years should review the Graduating Early guidelines.

Please visit our Applying to the Major page to learn more about the criteria for admission to the Public Affairs major.  The information on that page is for students who were admitted to UCLA as freshmen. For students who were admitted to UCLA as Junior Transfer students, please see the Information for Transfer Students page.

  • What are my chances of getting in?
    • Our faculty will take a holistic approach to application reviews. They will look at your overall academic record, the extent to which you are well on-track to completing your pre-major course requirements, your performance in Public Affairs courses, and other evidence of a good fit between your interests and the major. If you are concerned about your academic preparation for the major or your grades, please schedule an appointment with one of our advisors.
  • What is the average or minimum GPA?
    • There isn’t an average nor a minimum. The faculty committee will look at all application components, including grades, short answer responses, essay, etc.
  • If I am not admitted this year, can I reapply next year?
    • Occasionally, students who are not admitted in the regular cycle are invited to reapply the following fall so that faculty can review their spring quarter coursework.
  • When will decisions be released?
    • Decisions generally are released by early June. You will be notified if you are admitted to the major prior to Fall enrollment.