Increase equality. Promote equity. Forge policy change.


The Master of Science in Social Policy (MSSP) is a rigorous, eleven-month, ten-course program that prepares professionals with knowledge and skills to use policy to increase equity, promote justice, and forge social change.

In a world experiencing seismic political economic shifts, we are in need of socially-minded and justice-oriented policy professionals able to instill effective, positive change. Policymakers are currently grappling with the dominance of a gaze toward markets for addressing social inequalities and inequities; increasing economic inequality due to the accumulation and movement of global capital; the intensifying rigidity of migration across borders and manufactured fears of those bodies across the border; the continued practices of extraction that is most consequential to natural ecologies, indigenous communities, and the racialized other; growing racial, ethnic, and religious tensions; rapidly shifting social lives due to emergent visual technologies of surveillance; increasing precarity of labor due to automation; and the uncertain shaping of social futures as a result of a global pandemic. Now, more than ever, the world needs critically trained, evidence-informed policy professionals who can address these areas with expertise.

The MSSP program provides students with the interdisciplinary training to produce critically-oriented, evidence-informed policy solutions. The degree offers a combination of theory, policy analysis, and policy research and evaluation methods courses using a variety of analytical methods, as well as the opportunity to gain real-world, practical experience through an internship and via the Data for Equitable Justice Lab. The MSSP program draws on the expertise of world-renowned faculty, including social scientists and policy experts, and emphasizes the value of interdisciplinary perspectives in addressing social problems and finding equitable solutions. The program engages fields such as law, economics, statistics, and communications, among others. Given the increasing need for professionals with intellectually rigorous, ethical approaches to policy, the program combines the policy courses with training in critical theory and philosophy, producing professionals that can think critically and globally.

At the end of the program, students are able to:

  • Understand the world views, assumptions, and philosophies underlying all policy solutions;
  • Understand how decisions about social policy issues are made, shaped, and influenced at local, state, national, and global levels;
  • Critically analyze and grasp concepts like race, gender, sexuality, difference, discourse, hegemony, and human rights;
  • Formulate a social reform agenda that is critical theoretically grounded, evidence-informed, and aims at improving the equity, effectiveness, and efficiency of policy creation and implementation;
  • Generate and consider a wide array of policy options to address social problems;
  • Transform knowledge and skills into action.

Leveraging on this interdisciplinary training, the MSSP program prepares students to do transformative policy work in government, philanthropic foundations, research institutes, nonprofit and non-governmental organizations, and other related settings, including preparing students  toward a PhD. Program alumni have gone on to become leaders in institutions including: the Philadelphia Department of Human Services, BlueLab Analytics, the Urban Institute, Mathematica, the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, Inter-American Development Bank, and Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, to name a few.

The program is designed for:

  • Early and mid-career professionals engaged in policy work in a wide variety of organizational settings;
  • Bachelor’s degree recipients who wish to develop policy skills; and
  • Students pursuing other advanced degrees at Penn who wish to have a graduate degree in social policy. The MSSP may be combined with the following degrees: Master of Social Work (MSW), Master of Public Health (MPH), Master in Public Administration (MPA), Master in Law (ML), and Juris Doctor (JD).


The MSSP program + Data Analytics for Social Policy Certificate (MSSP+DA) is a new 12-course, three-to-four-semester offering. MSSP+DA is a STEM-designated degree.

Despite the unquestionable relevance and powerful utility of the social analysis of digital data, there are currently not enough professionals trained in the substantive knowledge and skills of social policy analysis and data analytics. Data analytics developed as the multidisciplinary convergence of computer science, statistics, and cognitive sciences. Adding the discipline of social policy to this convergence, SP2’s Master of Science in Social Policy program plus the Data Analytics for Social Policy Certificate (MSSP + DA) is the first to train students explicitly in the use of data analytics for social policy analysis, research and evaluation. The MSSP + DA provides cutting edge training for the growing and highly needed professionals of data analytics for social policy.

The MSSP + DA curriculum provides students with core policy courses. The MSSP + DA curriculum also provides students with core training and skills in the conceptual foundations of data analytics, programming of data structures, applications of machine learning and predictive analytics, spatial analytics, and the data processing techniques for web scraping and data visualization for a broader public audience. Students will learn program languages such as SAS, R, Java, Python, GIS, and ArcGIS for the processing, cleaning, and analyzing of digital data for social policy.

Throughout the program, the data analytic material is taught in relationship with the various theories, approaches, and domains of social policy analysis. The MSSP + DA also provides students with competitive and cutting-edge opportunities for policy internships in data analytics, positioning graduates to work in the fast growing and developing world of data analytics for social policy.

The full-time course of study will be completed in three to four semesters, providing an intensive and competitive program and comprehensive skill training in data analytics for social policy. No variation or extension in the MSSP + DA is possible.

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