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.

Undergraduate Students in the Luskin School of Public Affairs must complete the following degree requirements for graduation. For detailed information about the Luskin School of Public Affairs Undergraduate Program degree requirements visit the UCLA General Catalog.

  • University Requirements
    • Entry-Level Writing / ESL
    • American History & Institutions
  • School Requirements
    • Writing I, Writing II, Quantitative Reasoning, Foreign Language, Diversity, General Education (GE) requirements
    • Unit requirements (i.e. 60 upper division units, 180 minimum overall units, and 216 maximum units)
    • Scholarship (i.e. GPA) requirement
    • Academic (senior/major) residence requirement
  • Department Requirements
    • Major preparation and upper division requirements
    • Major Scholarship (i.e. GPA) requirement

Students pursuing the B.A. in Public Affairs must complete the following major requirements:

  • Eight lower division courses (38 units in total) that establish a critical social science and methodological foundation while fulfilling some General Education requirements.
  • Ten upper division courses (42 units in total) 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. The ten upper division courses include the three-quarter experiential learning capstone in the senior year that culminates in a capstone project.

For an outline of the Luskin School of Public Affairs undergraduate degree requirements and Public Affairs major requirements, click on the links below:

For detailed information about the Public Affairs major requirements, click on the menus below.

Required: 8 courses/38 units
The Public Affairs pre-major coursework consists of the following 8 lower division required courses totaling 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.

Visit the Enrollment Procedures webpage for a list of the current academic year course offerings!

Required: 10 courses/42 units (including the Capstone courses)
The Public Affairs major upper division coursework consists of the following 10 required courses totaling 42 units.

Visit the Enrollment Procedures webpage for a list of the current academic year course offerings!

Theory Courses (2 of the following 6 options are required; 8 units)

  • PA M109. Introduction to Cities and Planning (4 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 Enrollment Procedures page for the most up to date listing.

Capstone Requirement (3 courses required; 12 units)

  • PA 187A. Experiential Learning Capstone (4 units)
  • PA 187B. Experiential Learning Capstone (4 units)
  • PA 187C. Experiential Learning Capstone (4 units)

Click here to learn more about the Experiential Learning Requirement

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.

To help you plan your courses and ensure you complete all degree requirements by your intended degree candidacy term, you can access and download sample 2, 3, and 4-year degree plans linked below.

Once admitted to UCLA, we encourage you to schedule regular appointments with a Luskin undergraduate academic counselor to discuss your progress and outline a strategic degree plan that accounts for your degree requirements as well as your career and graduate/professional school plans. To schedule an appointment with a Luskin undergraduate academic counselor, submit your appointment request via MyUCLA Message Center.

The following policies apply to the Public Affairs Major:

  • The Luskin School of Public Affairs requires the same University, Writing, Quantitative Reasoning, Diversity, and General Education Requirements as the College of Letters & Science.
  • All courses for the Public Affairs pre-major and major must be taken for a letter grade.
  • All upper division courses for the major must be from the Public Affairs (PUB AFF) subject area. Students can petition to use courses outside of the Public Affairs subject area 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 Luskin Undergraduate Program Office to discuss the petition process.

Additional Information

Students who are pursing the Public Affairs major have the option to pursue a double major and/or minor, provided they meet the eligibility criteria for the respective major or minor. Students who are interested in pursuing a double major and/or minor must work closely with a Luskin academic counselor to ensure they can complete all degree requirements within their time-to-degree and at a manageable pace and course load. Students are not granted additional time to complete a double major and/or minor.

To help you plan your courses and ensure you complete all degree requirements by your intended degree candidacy term, you can access and download a sample 2, 3, and 4-year program plans. To view sample program plans for other majors, visit the “Tassels to the Left: Degree Paths” website.

Students who are pursing the Public Affairs major have the option to study abroad. Because Luskin has limitations on when students can study abroad, it’s important that students speak with a Luskin undergraduate academic counselor early in their UCLA career to discuss their study abroad interests and incorporate it into their program plan.

To learn more about study abroad opportunities, visit the UCLA International Education Office.

The B.A. in Public Affairs is designed to prepare students to be competitive to apply to any of the professional schools (business, law, public policy, social welfare, urban planning, education, public health) and to master’s and doctoral programs in the social sciences and education. Our Luskin Undergraduate Academic Counselors can recommend courses, research opportunities, and experiential learning placements tailored to your graduate school aspirations.

The B.A. in Public Affairs provides a strong foundation in multidisciplinary social science theories and methods. The B.A. also helps students develop strong analytical, communications, and data analysis skills. In addition, it gives students the opportunity to apply this knowledge in a professional environment to help organizations address social problems and improve the quality of people’s lives. Taken together, the coursework and experiential learning component of the Public Affairs B.A. prepare graduates for entry-level employment in the public, nonprofit, or private sectors. The major also prepares students for graduate study in a wide range of fields including the social sciences, law, public policy, social welfare, urban planning, and education. Career paths for students with a Public Affairs B.A. include law, politics, research and data analysis, business and management, communications, teaching, public health, and academia, among others.

Students pursuing the Public Affairs major must work closely with a Luskin undergraduate academic counselor to ensure they are completing all degree requirements, including major requirements, within their time-to-degree and unit maximum. Speak with a Luskin Academic Counselor through Message Center.

Luskin Academic Counseling for Students Admitted to UCLA as Freshmen

Undergraduate students who were admitted to UCLA as freshmen and who are pursuing the Public Affairs pre-major work with both College of Letters & Science and Luskin undergraduate academic counselors.

While a student is coded as a Public Affairs pre-major, the College of Letters & Science serves as the primary counseling unit and the Luskin Undergraduate Program Office serves as their departmental counselors. College counseling is comprised of four counseling units: Academic Advancement Program, Athletics, Honors, and College Academic Counseling. For more information about College advising click here.

Once a student is admitted to the Luskin School of Public Affairs and Public Affairs major, the Luskin Undergraduate Student Services Office serves both as their primary counseling unit and their departmental counselors.

Due to the structure of Athletics and College Honors, some students will continue to work with College counselors. Public Affairs majors who are also student athletes will continue to work with Athletics College Counselors to ensure they are meeting NCAA requirements, but Athletics will not monitor their degree progress, process petitions, or assist with enrollment. Similarly, Public Affairs majors who are completing the College Honors Program will continue to work with Honors Counselors to monitor their progress through the Honors Program curriculum, but College Honors will not monitor their degree progress, process petitions, or assist with enrollment.

Luskin Academic Counseling for Transfer Students

The Luskin Undergraduate Undergraduate Program Office serves as both as the primary counseling unit and departmental counselors for undergraduate students who are admitted to UCLA as transfer students.

Due to the structure of Athletics and College Honors, some transfer students will also work with College counselors. Public Affairs majors who are also student athletes will continue to work with Athletics College Counselors to ensure they are meeting NCAA requirements, but Athletics will not monitor their degree progress, process petitions, or assist with enrollment. Similarly, Public Affairs majors who are completing the College Honors Program will continue to work with Honors Counselors to monitor their progress through the Honors Program curriculum, but College Honors will not monitor their degree progress, process petitions, or assist with enrollment.