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.

Pre Major (Lower Division) Requirements

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!

Major (Upper Division) Requirements

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)

Possible B.A. in Public Affairs electives include:

  • Urban Poverty and Public Policy
  • Non-profits and Philanthropy
  • Science, Technology, and Public Policy
  • Housing Policy
  • Biomedical, Social, and Policy Frontiers in Human Aging
  • Urban Sustainability
  • Crime and Juvenile Justice
  • Education Policy
  • Environmental Challenges
  • International Development
  • Immigration

The major will add additional electives in upcoming years.  

Experiential Learning (Capstone) 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

Curriculum Resources

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 3357 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

Important Policies

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 the Public Affairs Program

Adding the Pre-Major

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 3357 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) to be eligible to apply to the major by the Winter Quarter of their second year. Completed courses must include PA 40 & PA 60. Students who may not be able to complete these requirements in time are encouraged to meet with an advisor in the Undergraduate Student Services Office to discuss options.

Applying to the Major

The following information outlines criteria for admission to the Public Affairs major 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.

Major Admission Qualification for UCLA Students

Students may only apply to the Public Affairs major during winter quarter of their 1st or 2nd year, once they have satisfied the following criteria:

  • Must be in good standing at UCLA at the time of application. This means students cannot be on Probation or Subject to Dismissal status when they apply.
  • Have completed, with a C or better, at least five of the eight required lower division Public Affairs courses (including courses taken winter quarter). Completed courses must include PA 40 & PA 60. The remaining three courses, if not yet taken, must be taken as soon as possible, and during the third year at the latest. All courses for both the pre-major and the major must be taken for a letter grade.
  • Have completed at least 45 units (including AP and transfer units, if needed) by the end of winter quarter of the year they apply.
  • Have not exceeded 135 units of coursework (not including AP or other transfer units, if that brings the total over 135 units), by the end of winter quarter the year they apply.

If students miss the 2nd year application deadline, they may consult with a Public Affairs Advisor to find out if a late application may be possible. Late applications may be considered during Fall of the 3rd year if space permits. Students who are permitted to apply late must still meet the criteria above by the end of fall quarter of the 3rd year. Students are not permitted to apply after Fall quarter of the 3rd year.

Students should have a backup major in mind in the event they are not accepted into the Public Affairs major. Students may schedule an appointment with a Public Affairs advisor, via MyUCLA Message Center, to discuss suitable options.

The Winter 2020 application will open in March. Check back here for a link to the application! Admission is not guaranteed. Applications will be reviewed based on academic performance and additional application materials, including an essay. Completion of course requirements, or high GPA alone, does not guarantee admission to the major.

Questions? Contact the Public Affairs Undergraduate Advising Office via MyUCLA Message Center or at 310-794-4080.

Major Application FAQ

  • What are my chances of getting in?
    • Our faculty will take a holistic approach to application reviews. There is no one thing that will prevent you from being admitted but instead they will look at all your abilities. With that said, this is an academic program so academics will play a key role. If you are concerned about your grades please schedule an appointment with on our 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, grades, short answer responses, essay etc.
  • If I am not admitted this year, can I reapply next year?
    • You may only apply to the Public Affairs major during winter quarter of your 1st or 2nd year. If you are not admitted in your first year, you may reapply during your second year as long as you do not exceed 135 units of coursework by the end of winter quarter the year they apply.
  • When will decisions be released?
    • Decisions will be released by early June, at the latest. You will be notified if you are admitted to the major prior to Fall enrollment.