Undergraduate certificate in public policy

The undergraduate certificate in public policy allows students to apply a policy perspective to their major, building a strong foundation for careers in government, nonprofit organizations, or the private sector.

Courses are interdisciplinary, with students interested in careers related to key domestic and international issues such as health policy, criminal justice, education, energy, environmental studies, finance, transportation, and poverty. Students also learn to be engaged citizens, ready to improve the world around them.

Program details

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Requirements and courses

Students must complete four 3-credit courses, listed below. To earn a certificate, students must also complete all requirements for a bachelor’s degree, requirements of their declared major(s), and graduate from UW–Madison. Learn more about program requirements in the Guide.

We encourage you to explore public policy; any of the above courses will count if you decide to apply to the certificate program later. Other points to consider:

  • Certificate students must enroll in an approved, credit-bearing internship course at the time of their internship for the experience to fulfill the requirement. Courses are listed below.
  • Not all certificate courses are offered every semester. Consult enroll.wisc.edu to see La Follette School courses that will be offered.
  • La Follette currently offers one online course (PA 327) for the internship requirement, but does not offer any other online courses; other departments may offer online courses that meet the specialization course requirement.
  • Courses completed for the certificate in public policy can count toward degree requirements. Please speak with your assigned undergraduate academic advisor/s to learn if they can count toward undergraduate major requirements.
  • We try to minimize course substitutions. If you need to request a substitution, please complete the Petition for Special Consideration form and include a course syllabus.

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 public 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

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

Internship details

Through an internship, you will gain valuable applied experience and make professional connections in the field of public policy. You’ll apply concepts and practice problem-solving skills from coursework, improve your understanding of public policy debates and how to approach questions and research with a public policy lens.

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Finding an internship

Learn tips for finding an internship and enrolling in a 3-credit course.

For current certificate in public policy students, Marie Koko, career services coordinator at La Follette, (marie.koko@wisc.edu) can offer insights on how to find an internship or career in public policy. You can also consult the internship listings Marie shares with certificate students.

If you are a student in the College of Letters and Science and have not yet been accepted into the certificate in public 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 satisfies any requirements for the certificate in public policy.

Substituting internships

We do not encourage substituting internships for those listed in our requirements. In some cases, however, we will consider substitution requests. Please note that unless you have enrolled in a 3-credit course alongside your internship, we cannot count it as fulfilling the requirement.

Criteria we consider: a) Did you enroll in and complete a comparable 3-credit course that is transferrable to UW-Madison? b) Did your internship include tasks and content relevant to building your skills or understanding of public policy? and c) Did you contact us to review your plan before enrolling to check into whether the internship would qualify for a substitution? Keep in mind that retrospective requests–requesting a substitution after completing an internship–are far more difficult for us to approve.

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, clearly addressing the above criteria. If you have questions, please reach out to Marie Koko (marie.koko@wisc.edu).

Internship courses

You are required to enroll in one of the following 3-credit courses at the time you are working in your internship. 

The internship/fieldwork must be taken for a letter grade. It cannot be taken pass/fail.

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


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


You can make an appointment with our advisors over email or Starfish. If you are not enrolled in the public 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