Dec 07, 2023  
USC Catalogue 2023-2024 
USC Catalogue 2023-2024

Public Policy Data Science (MS)

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Big data is revolutionizing the way many agencies operate, particularly with respect  to governance transparency and accountability, law enforcement, transportation and housing policy. Big data is changing strategies for crime-fighting, defense, national intelligence, social programs and finance and operations of agencies. The Master of Science in Public Policy Data Science is a multi-disciplinary program offered jointly between the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy and the Data Science Program in the department of Computer Science at the Viterbi School of Engineering, and will provide a curriculum that will make degree recipients appealing to the employers of the 21st century.

Statistics Prerequisite

All entering students must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution and are required to demonstrate proficiency in foundational statistical methods. The statistics prerequisite can be satisfied in one of two ways:

Statistics or Econometrics Course Taken Prior to Enrollment in the MS PPDS

Completion of a college-level statistics or econometrics course with a grade of “B” or better within three years of matriculation. At a minimum, prior course work must have included essential topics in descriptive and inferential statistics such as measures of central tendency and dispersion, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing. If relevant statistical course work was completed more than three years prior, a waiver may be granted based on the level of statistical training completed and the degree to which currency with this material was maintained through subsequent professional use.

PPD 504 Essential Statistics for Public Management  

If a student has not completed a college-level statistics course with a grade of “B” or better within three years of matriculation, they will need to complete a summer course prior to starting the MS PPDS program. USC offers PPD 504 Essential Statistics for Public Management  each summer; a grade of “C” or better in PPD 504  is sufficient to satisfy the statistics prerequisite. Students may instead choose to satisfy the requirement by completing a qualifying statistics course at another institution prior to enrolling at USC. If the course is completed outside of USC, it must be taken for a grade and the student must earn a grade of “B” or better.  Regardless of which course is used to meet the prerequisite requirement, the units associated with the course will not be used toward the 36 required degree units.

Pre-semester MS PPDS Labs

The Professional Fundamentals Lab provides an introduction to the program, acclimates students to skills that will be further developed in their first-semester courses, and help to create a genuine camaraderie within the first-year student cohort. Entering MS PPDS students are required to participate in the Professional Fundamentals Lab. The lab takes place the week prior to the start of the fall semester. The Professional Fundamentals Lab will lead directly into PPD 554 Foundations of Policy Analysis . Entering MS PPDS students are also required to participate in the Statistics/STATA Lab in January. The Statistics/STATA Lab meets the week prior to the start of the spring semester.  The Statistics/STATA Lab will provide initial exposure to the statistical software that will be utilized extensively in PPD 558 Multivariate Statistical Analysis .


Students with a computer science background will have the option of replacing DSCI 510 , DSCI 549 , and DSCI 550  with DSCI 551 , DSCI 552 , and DSCI 553 .

Additional Information

Students will take one additional elective course from either the Public Policy or Data Science elective options. In total, students will take 12 units of electives, with at least 4 units in Public Policy and at least 4 units in Data Science.

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