USC Price, Viterbi launch innovative master’s degree in public policy data science

September 18, 2018

Price master’s degree in public policy data science

By Matthew Kredell

In an increasingly data-driven world, knowing how to process and analyze data is one of the most marketable skills in many fields. In policymaking, data and data science are revolutionizing how citizens, organizations and nations make critical decisions.

The USC Price School of Public Policy and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering are meeting the needs of a rapidly changing society with the collaborative creation of the Master of Science in Public Policy Data Science. This new degree combines elements of Price’s Master of Public Policy and Viterbi’s Master of Science in Applied Data Science to produce leaders who operate at the nexus of policy and information.

USC Price Professor Richard Green (Photo by Tom Queally)

“The Master of Science in Public Policy Data Science degree will not only show students how to draw inferences from data but provide them the ability to write code to do data science,” said Professor Richard Green, chair of the Department of Policy Analysis and Real Estate at USC Price. “People with that skill are going to become increasingly valuable.”

The program builds unique, in-demand proficiencies and the necessary expertise for utilizing big data and analytics to:

  • increase transparency and accountability;
  • improve the efficiency and quality of services;
  • enhance security and address matters of defense and intelligence;
  • oversee emergency management;
  • influence policy and the policymaking process broadly.

The program offers paths for students with and without prior training in computer science.

“What we offer is the combination of a top-ranked public policy school and a top-ranked engineering school,” Green said. “For people who are reasonably computer literate and who know about policy, the ability to learn data science can take their careers to a new level. For people competent in data science, it’s a chance to learn how to apply it to make a difference in the world through public policy.”

Cutting-edge curriculum, hands-on capstone experience

USC is among the first universities nationwide to offer this innovative graduate degree.

One aspect that distinguishes the USC program is that it will culminate in a capstone course — a hallmark of the Master of Public Policy program, in which students will have the opportunity to work with a real-world client on a big-data project for local governance, security, and smart cities/sustainable transportation.

Equipped with knowledge on how to mine and interpret data, as well as a comprehensive understanding of the legislative process, graduates will be well positioned to serve in key roles within government agencies, consulting firms that contract with the government, large corporations and nongovernmental organizations.

“Everywhere in the federal government, there is going to be a demand for people with public policy degrees who understand how to use data,” said Green, who also directs the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate. “Graduates from our program will be especially well regarded in the hiring process.”

Data science is also an area in which many Price faculty have been exploring. Green noted that, during his appointment in the Obama Administration as senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, one major component of his job was to present then-HUD Secretary Julian Castro with his inferences from big data in order to make the best policy decisions.

The program starts in the fall 2019. Applications for the inaugural class are currently being taken. More information on requirements and the application process is available online.

“Our goal for the Master of Science in Public Policy Data Science is that our graduates go on to work in the highest levels of government, giving advice to the most senior policy makers about making good, evidence-based policy,” Green said.

Related faculty

  • Richard K. Green

    Director and Chair of the USC Lusk Center for Real Estate
    Chair, Department of Policy Analysis and Real Estate