Undergraduate certificate in health policy

The undergraduate certificate in health policy prepares students to understand and shape health policy in Wisconsin and in the U.S.


The certificate in health policy is an interdisciplinary program, welcoming majors across UW-Madison. Coursework includes an introduction to health policy, analytic skills for health policy, a specialization course from a variety of options across campus, and applied fieldwork experience.

To get to the root causes of complicated health policy issues, you’ll learn to use methods from economics, sociology, and political science. With help from partners in many fields, including psychology, urban planning, and medicine, you and interdisciplinary classmates will search for better policies and interventions that can serve the public good.

Learn about our program, our faculty, and how to apply.

Program details

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Required courses

Official program details can be found in the Guide. Required courses can be taken in any order, but we recommend taking Public Affairs 201 first.

How to apply

The online application portal will be open during two periods each year, November 1 – 30 and May 1 – 31. A link to the application form will appear on this page during those periods.

To apply for the undergraduate certificate in health policy, you must:

  • Have at least sophomore standing 
  • Be in good academic standing with your school or college
  • Have taken, be enrolled in, or have registered for at least one class that meets certificate requirements
  • Complete a short online declaration form

Internship details

Internship details

Students identify and secure internships working with a health policy-related organization or a project relevant to health policy. To maximize learning, we recommended taking at least one of the required courses before completing the internship.

For current certificate in health policy students, Marie Koko, career services coordinator at La Follette, (marie.koko@wisc.edu) can offer insights on how to find an internship. Admitted students can also consult curated internship listings Marie shares each week.

If you are a student in the College of Letters and Science and have not yet been accepted into the certificate in health policy, SuccessWorks is a valuable resource to help you find an internship. Inter-LS 210 and Inter-LS 215 are sophomore career courses that provide you with the skills to find an internship. Inter-LS 210 is offered for 1 credit, while Inter-LS 215 is offered for 3 credits and also satisfies your Comm B requirement. Neither course, however, satisfies any requirements for the certificate in health policy.

Substituting internships

If you wish to substitute an internship course, students should complete the Petition for Special Consideration form, and include a course syllabus and a brief summary of your internship responsibilities.

Skills and careers

Career support is an important part of the La Follette School experience.

Learn more about the skills and careers (pdf) you’ll gain through a certificate in health policy.

In your fieldwork or internship experience for the certificate, you’ll apply your skills in a real-world setting, guided by experienced faculty. You’ll be prepared to bring your new skills, and a deeper understanding of health policy, to work in government, nonprofit, legal, and private sector jobs.

Find out more about careers and skills on our Career Development page.

Accelerated program

The La Follette School of Public Affairs provides selected UW-Madison undergraduates an opportunity to jumpstart the Master of Public Affairs or Master of International Public Affairs program.  Application for admission to the accelerated program for MPA or MIPA must be made directly to the La Follette School after five semesters of undergraduate study. Students who plan to complete their undergraduate degree in 3 years are not eligible for the accelerated program. 

Learn more about the accelerated program

Overview video

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Video transcript

Hi there, I’m Mary Michaud. I teach health policy at the La Follette School of Public Affairs. I also advise students in the certificate in health policy, and I’d love to share with you the requirements for the certificate in health policy along with what you might do with the certificate.

So with all the other requirements you have to complete, why might you want to study health policy at this point?

One, you and your patients will navigate a very complex system, and having a good understanding beyond the basics of sort of what you learn on the job will come in really handy. Specifically, understanding the economic context of healthcare will take you far.

You’ll also learn to evaluate evidence that we use to support choosing among policy options. So, the set of approaches can be useful at multiple levels: at the clinic or organizational level, as an advocate for change at the state level, or even locally in someone’s community.

So there are four three-credit courses required to complete the certificate. The first: Public Affairs 201. That’s a course that I teach in the spring. It’s also offered in the fall by Christine Durrance, who’s a health economist. This offers a broad foundational understanding of health policy in the United States. You’ll learn about access, including the types of private and public insurance coverage, why people are uninsured, and why they’re underinsured. You’ll also learn about the ways payment incentives influence medical care decisions. You’ll learn about reforms intended to improve access. We cover a piece about improving access to pharmaceuticals, for example. What are the reforms that are taking place to limit price inflation on pharmaceuticals that make them inaccessible to so many people? We’ll also take some time to understand how the U.S. healthcare system and policy really differ quite a lot from other countries.

In Public Affairs 281, you’ll build an understanding of how to evaluate distinct types of evidence used in health policy. What’s the difference between causation and association? What types of study designs offer us sound evidence to make decisions in policy.

Then you get to choose among a long list of specialization courses, and those you can see in the guide. I’ll talk about one in particular next. I’ll also take some time in a few minutes to talk about the applied experience requirement.

So, the most common questions we get are about the requirement for an applied experience. Let me walk you through some of the options we have for completing this applied experience. The first is to find an internship that is health policy related. We provide a curated list of internships that students apply for, interview for, and sometimes are selected for, often, and sometimes not. But then, and once they find an internship, they enroll in Public Affairs 327. This can happen any term–fall, spring, summer–and the course that goes along with it is held remotely and asynchronously. So all online you keep up with discussions during the week. It’s not a heavy load in terms of a three-credit course. We understand that people are working, and we find that our students really get a lot out of these internships in terms of practical experience and exposure to policy. If you have questions about that internship, our Career Services Director Marie Koko, K-O-K-O, is available to talk to anybody about that.

The second possibility is spending a semester or a summer in Washington, D.C. through the Wisconsin in Washington program. It comes with an internship built in, so if somebody does enroll in that program, it automatically fulfills our applied experience requirement for the health policy certificate. The next possibility is Legal Studies 473, The Health Effects of Unmet Social Needs. Sorry, it’s a little blocked by the camera. Also known as the Community Resource Navigator Program, students work with patients in the community to help them connect to resources they may need to stay healthy. And then the final option reserved for seniors who have packed schedules is Public Affairs 274. I also teach that; it’s a workshop in health policy, and it’s client based. I’m teaching that now with a group of 24 seniors.

So, if you’re interested in declaring the certificate in health policy, you should have Sophomore standing in terms of credits. You should register for, or have already taken, or currently be in one of the required courses. And you’ll be able to submit an application for the certificate between May 1st and the 31st. Or, if you want to wait until after August 31st, you can simply declare through a form at the La Follette School website, and we’ll admit people on a rolling basis.

If you need any more information, I encourage you to consult the Guide and look at the information for the certificate in health policy. Here’s my e-mail address, and then if you go to the lafollette.wisc.edu website, you should be able to navigate toward our undergraduate programs. We also have a 12-credit option for a certificate in public policy.

Thanks so much.

Faculty

Our multidisciplinary faculty are nationally recognized experts in public policy analysis, public management and administration, and specialized policy fields.

Associate Professor Yang Wang delivers a lecture in front of a chalkboard

Skills and careers

Learn more about the skills you'll gain, and explore potential career options relevant to public policy.

People talking at career fair

Undergraduate news

Contact

You can make an appointment with our advisors over email or Starfish. If you are not enrolled in the health policy certificate yet, please contact Kelly Otto or Mary Davis Michaud. Contact Marie Koko for help finding a job or internship.

Kelly Otto

Credentials: Undergraduate Academic Advisor

Email: klotto@wisc.edu

Schedule an appointment on Starfish

Mary Davis Michaud

Credentials: Undergraduate Program Coordinator

Email: mdmichaud@wisc.edu

Schedule an appointment on Starfish

Marie Koko

Credentials: Director of Career and Employer Services

Email: marie.koko@wisc.edu