UW–Madison’s undergraduate certificate in public policy complements existing majors across campus and extends the La Follette School of Public Affairs' 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.

How to Get in

To declare the certificate in public policy through the La Follette School of Public Affairs, students must:

  • Hold UW-Madison sophomore standing or above, and be in good academic standing, according to the rules of your school or college
  • Have taken, are enrolled, or are registered for at least one class that meets certificate requirements

​Each year, the La Follette School invites students to declare the certificate in public policy. To declare the certificate:


Introductory Course: 1 course required3
Contemporary Public Policy Issues
Analytical Tools for Policy Design, Implementation, and Evaluation: 1 course required3
Evidence-Based Policy Making
Analytic Tools for Public Policy
Policy Specialization: 1 course from any of these areas3
Social Policy, Inequality Poverty
Inequality, Race and Public Policy
Globalization, Poverty and Development
American Indian Communities: Sovereignty, Struggles, and Successes
Economics of Poverty and Inequality
Urban and Regional Economics
Behavioral Economics
Disability and the Criminal Justice System
Introduction to Public Policy
Psychology, Law, and Social Policy
Introduction to Social Policy
Poverty and Social Welfare
Public Management
Public Leadership
Strategic Public Management
Administrative Law
Financial Markets, Institutions and Economic Activity
Information Ethics and Policy
Contemporary Issues in Business, Government and NGOs
State Government and Public Policy
Health Policy
Policy, Privacy, and Personal Identity in the Postgenomics Era
Global Health: Economics, Natural Systems, and Policy
Health Systems, Policy, Economics, and Research
The Economics of Health Care
International Migration, Health, and Human Rights
Insuring Life's Risks: Health, Aging, and Policy
Public Health in Rural & Urban Communities
Environmental Policy
U.S. Environmental Politics and Public Policy
Climate Change Economics and Policy
Energy, Resources and Economics
Natural Resource Economics
Food Production Systems and Sustainability
Energy Technologies and Sustainability
Environmental Sustainability Engineering
Environmental Studies: Social Science Perspectives
Rhetoric, Science, and Public Engagement
People, Land and Food: Comparative Study of Agriculture Systems
Green Urbanism
Climate Change Governance
Preserving Nature
US Environmental Policy and Regulation
Government and Natural Resources
Natural Resources Policy
Green - Sustainable Development
Education Policy
Introduction to Education Policy
Race, Ethnicity, and Inequality in American Education
Wealth, Poverty and Inequality: Transnational Perspectives on Policy and Practice in Education
Climate Change, Sustainability, and Education
Urban School Policy
Introduction to Debates in Higher Education Policy
School and Society
Law and Public Education
Gender and Education
Education Policy and Practice
Family Policy
Family Economics and Public Policy
Consumer Policy Analysis
A Family Perspective in Policymaking
International Policy
The Private and Public Sectors in Policymaking
Human Trafficking: Global and Local Perspectives
The Human Rights of Children and Youth: Global and Local Perspectives
The International Agricultural Economy
The Financial System
Economic Problems of Developing Areas
Issues in International Macroeconomics
Multinational Business Finance
Politics of Gender and Women's Rights in the Middle East
American Foreign Relations, 1901 to the Present
Contemporary Issues in Business, Government and NGOs
International Business
Chinese Politics
The European Union: Politics and Political Economy
Theories of International Security
American Foreign Policy
Fieldwork and Internship: 1 course required3
Administrative Internship
Legislative Internship
Wisconsin in Washington Internship Course
Total Credits12

Residence & Quality of Work

  • At least 6 credits must be completed in residence
  • Minimum 2.000 GPA on all certificate courses

Courses taken Pass/Fail do not meet certificate requirements or calculate in the GPA.

 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.

Learning Outcomes

  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.

Advising and Careers

The La Follette School of Public Affairs welcomes you to reach out to our student services team. Here are some quick steps toward getting what you need. Before getting in touch, be sure to visit our undergraduate certificate in public policy webpage as many questions you may have may be answered there. It is updated regularly and just may hold the answers you seek!

  • If you’re interested in learning more about the certificate or would like guidance as a current certificate student, contact Kelly Otto at klotto@wisc.edu.
  • If you're unable to get in touch with Kelly, contact Mary Michaud at mdmichaud@wisc.edu.
  • If you’re already a certificate student, you can connect with Marie Koko, our Career Services Coordinator, about careers and internships. Send her an email at marie.koko@wisc.edu.
  • If you have a technical question about your DARS report, enrollment, or other things administrative, connect with David Wright-Racette at  wrightracette@lafollette.wisc.edu.
  • If you’re interested in learning more about La Follette’s graduate programs in public and international affairs, contact Mo O’Connor, our graduate advisor, at mcoconnor@lafollette.wisc.edu.
  • If you’re an alumnus, parent, or student who is curious about how to get involved or contribute to the mission of the La Follette School, please contact Associate Director Steve Kulig at skulig@lafollette.wisc.edu.

Staff Contact Information

Kelly Otto, Academic Advisor, La Follette School of Public Affairs
2414 Sterling Hall

Mary Davis Michaud, Faculty Associate, La Follette School of Public Affairs
2408 Sterling Hall

Marie Koko, Senior Career Services Coordinator, La Follette School of Public Affairs
2406 Sterling Hall

Mo O’Connor, Graduate Program Manager, La Follette School of Public Affairs
107 Observatory Hill Office Building

Steve Kulig, Associate Director, La Follette School of Public Affairs
103 Observatory Hill Office Building

Skills and Careers

Given the increasing complexity in every realm of public policy, students in the undergraduate certificate in public policy 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.

L&S Career Resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.



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.