UW–Madison’s Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy complements existing majors across campus and extends the La Follette School’s mission to training and mentoring the next generation of leaders in their careers and communities.

The certificate program allows undergraduate students to apply a policy perspective to their major course of study and bolsters their skills for success in the workforce or in their graduate school coursework. Students build a strong foundation for careers in government, nonprofit organizations, or the private sector.

The Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy is ideal for students seeking careers related to key domestic and international issues such as criminal justice, education, energy, environmental studies, finance, transportation, and poverty. It also prepares students to be engaged citizens, ready to use their talents to improve the world around them.

To declare the Undergraduate Certificate in Public Policy, students must:

  • Have sophomore standing
  • Be in good academic standing
  • Have completed or be enrolled in at least one class that meets certificate requirements
  • Certify that they have attended an orientation to the certificate and understand certificate requirements
  • Write a letter of intent explaining how they envision applying public policy to the context of their major program and in their future career
  • Submit their resume

Requirements for the Certificate

Introductory Course: 1 course required3
Contemporary Public Policy Issues
Introduction to Public Policy
Analytical Tools for Policy Design, Implementation, and Evaluation: 1 course required3
Evidence-Based Policy Making
Public Leadership
Analytic Tools for Public Policy
Policy Specialization: 1 courses from any of these areas3
Social Policy, Inequality & Poverty
Inequality, Race and Public Policy
Introduction to Social Policy
Economics of Poverty and Inequality
Psychology, Law, and Social Policy
Poverty and Social Welfare
Health Policy
Health Systems, Policy, Economics, and Research
Public Health in Rural & Urban Communities
Environmental Policy
Climate Change Economics and Policy
US Environmental Policy and Regulation
Government and Natural Resources
Natural Resources Policy
Education Policy
Introduction to Education Policy
Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality in American Education
Education Policy and Practice
Family Policy
A Family Perspective in Policymaking
Family Economics and Public Policy
Consumer Policy Analysis
International Policy
The European Union: Politics and Political Economy
American Foreign Policy
The Financial System
Fieldwork and Internship: 1 course required3
Legislative Internship
Wisconsin in Washington Internship Course
Total Credits12

Residence & quality of work

At least 6 credits must be earned In Residence

A 2.000 GPA is required in all courses counting toward the certificate

 Certificate Completion Requirement

This undergraduate certificate must be completed concurrently with the student’s undergraduate degree. Students cannot delay degree completion to complete the certificate.

  1. Students will demonstrate understanding of major current and past public policy debates, and how to approach questions and research with a public policy lens.
  2. Students will gain knowledge and demonstrate application of methodological tools utilized in the public policy arena (e.g., policy memo writing, policy analysis, experience working with administrative data, program evaluation, cost-benefit analysis, performance management).
  3. Students will demonstrate understanding and application of knowledge regarding the substantive policy area of interest of their choice (e.g., education, health, social, environmental, science).
  4. Students will gain practical professional experience in a public policy work setting.

Mo O’Connor, Senior Student Services Coordinator, La Follette School of Public Affairs

David Wright-Racette, Student Services Associate, La Follette School of Public Affairs

Katie Lorenze, Administrator and Career Services Coordinator, La Follette School of Public Affairs

Steve Kulig, Associate Director, La Follette School of Public Affairs


Given the increasing complexity in every realm of public policy, students in the public policy certificate program gain skills in quantitative analysis, communication, writing, critical thinking, and problem solving that are in demand by more and more employers in almost every sector.

The certificate program focuses on evidence-based practices and provides students with the skills to gather data and information from various sources, analyze and synthesize the findings, and write a clear and concise report to illustrate the main points.

With the focus on evidence-based practices, the public policy certificate program provides research and data analysis skills that are transferrable to nearly any occupation. Students maximize their electives and earn a credential that highlights these highly sought-after skills in the context of real-world practice.

Career development is an integral part of the La Follette School experience, with staff members and alumni eager to support and mentor students with diverse interests. Students benefit from networking opportunities, employer visits, professional development seminars, and other services.


The undergraduate certificate in public policy gives students access to the La Follette School’s award-winning faculty members. These interdisciplinary faculty have expertise in social policy, health policy and management, public management, policy analysis, environmental policy, poverty, and government finance. Most La Follette School faculty members hold partial appointments in other campus departments. Faculty in other departments who offer policy-related classes also teach students in the certificate program.