Master of Public Affairs Curriculum
LBJ School curriculum and academic policies are set by the LBJ School Graduate Studies Committee which consists of all tenured and tenure-track LBJ School faculty members.
MPAff Regular Program
Completion of the MPAff program requires a total of 48 graduate credit hours, divided into three sets of requirements. Most core courses are only offered in fall and spring semesters.
Core Course Requirements - 27 Hours
PA 397- Introduction to Empirical Methods (IEM) - 3 Hours
A foundation course on quantitative analytic perspectives, Introduction to Empirical Methods is the first of a two-course sequence. Multiple sections are offered in the fall semester only. Students are required to complete it in the first fall semester of study. Course coverage includes modeling, optimization, sensitivity analysis, correlation analysis, statistical inference, multivariate estimation, and prediction. The emphasis is on broad exposure of techniques and appreciation of their contributions as well as their limitations in policymaking. Enrollment perequisites: college-level algebra, calculus, and statistics.
PA 393K - Applied Microeconomics for Policy Analysis (AMP) - 3 Hours
A foundation course on microeconomic policy analysis, Applied Microeconomics is the first of a two-course sequence in economic analysis. Completion of the course is required during the first year. It is student discretion to take it in the fall or the spring. Multiple sections are available. The course typically starts in the first half with microeconomic theory with particular emphasis on determining price and output under perfect competition and other forms of market structure; general equilibrium and welfare theory. The second half covers market failures—including public goods, externalities, imperfect market structure, and imperfect information—as well as the logic of cost-benefit analysis to determine the appropriateness of policy intervention to resolve market failures.
PA 391 - Public Financial Management (PFM) - 3 Hours
A foundation course on the financial activities of U.S. governments at all levels, completion of Public Financial Management is required during the first year. It is student discretion to take it in the fall or the spring. Multiple sections are available. All of them include the following topics: the economic, political, and administrative environment of financial management systems; budgeting theory and practice; accounting and internal control; financial reporting; auditing--financial and performance; debt management; capital budgeting; treasury and cash management; and revenue/tax administration.
PA 383C – Policy Development (PD) - 3 Hours
Policy Development is typically taken the first year. It is student discretion to take it in the fall or the spring. Multiple sections are offered every semester. While each section may use its own political context (federal, state, or local) or substantive issues (national security, social policy, and so on) to organize the materials, all sections cover most of the following topics: how individuals and institutions initiate items for the political agenda; how problems are viewed and solutions are legitimated in the political process; how the executive, legislative, and judicial branches interact in the development and implementation of policy. Reading assignments and exercises focus on case studies, memo writing, policy briefing, legislative hearings, rulemaking processes, court decisions, and simulation exercises.
PA 384C – Public Management (PM) - 3 Hours
Public management is typically taken the first year. It is student discretion to take it in the fall or the spring. Multiple sections are offered every semester. While each section uses a different organizational context (federal or local government, public agency or nonprofit organizations) to organize the materials, all sections cover most of the following topics: organization structure; management processes; managing diversity; leadership issues; strategic planning; inter-agency relations; administrative law; performance measurement; and most important of all, ethics of public service. Most instructors use case studies, simulation exercises, class visitors, and practical problem-solving to complement the assigned readings and class discussions.
PA 397C – Advanced Empirical Methods1 (AEM) - 3 Hours
Upon completing the Introduction to Empirical Methods course in the fall semester of their first year, students typically take the second course in the methods sequence in the spring. Multiple sections are offered mostly in the spring semester, with each section focused on the advanced treatment of a topic of analytical method, such as econometrics, management science, economic data analysis, evaluation research, or survey research method. As the second course in the two-course quantitative sequence, this course is intended to provide students with an in-depth understanding and hands-on experience with a specific quantitative method useful in policy analysis. This course may be repeated as electives with different topics.
PA 393L – Advanced Policy Economics1
Upon completing Applied Microeconomics in their first year, students are required to take the second course in the economics sequence in the second year. Multiple sections are offered every semester, with each section focused on a different policy area, such as environmental economics, health economics, urban economics, economics of technology, and so on. Thus students learn very different substantive policy contents depending on the choice of section, but the common theme across all sections is the economic-analytic angle. This course may be repeated as electives with different topics.
Policy Research Project
PA 680PA (fall), PA 680PB (spring) (PRP) - 6 Hours
A unique component of the LBJ School curriculum is the Policy Research Project, a two-semester group-research course on a topic of concern to an external client agency. MPAff students are required to participate in a policy research project during their first year. Eight to ten projects are available each year on a range of topics selected according to client needs, faculty competence, and student interests. Through its emphasis on interdisciplinary research on real-life policy problems, the Policy Research Project enables students to develop and integrate their research ability, quantitative skills, and financial knowledge; appreciate the realities of administrative and legislative processes; experience the impact of political pressures and conflicts, and learn the requirements for effective oral and written communication with policy practitioners. Policy Research Project may be repeated as electives in the second year.
Elective Course Requirements 21 Hours
Elective 1 (Seminar) 3 Hours
Elective 2 (Seminar) 3 Hours
Elective 3 (Seminar) 3 Hours
Elective 4 (Seminar) 3 Hours
Elective 5 (Seminar) 3 Hours
Elective 6 (Seminar or Internship Course) 3 Hours
Elective 7 (Seminar or Professional Report2) 3 Hours
Internship Requirement 0-3 Hours
The quantitative sequence courses (PA 397/IEM and PA 397C/AEM) and the economics sequence courses (PA 393K/AMPA and PA 393L/APE) are sequentially based; students are expected to take the first course in each sequence before taking the second course. There is no inherent sequencing for the other core courses, however. Feel free to take them in any order you want, though you are encouraged to take as many core courses in your first year as possible.
MPAff dual-degree programs
MPAff dual-degree program requirements vary, but most MPAff dual-degree requirements are identical to the list above minus twelve elective credit hours (Electives 2 to 5)
1May be repeated for elective credit, as long as topics are sufficiently different.
2Completion of the Professional Report is mandatory for students completing a specialization or a dual degree.