Carnegie Mellon University

Program Prerequisites

Student Background

Students in the Ph.D. program in Societal Computing generally enter the program directly after obtaining their undergraduate degrees, but we also admit students from industry, government, and masters programs. Students must have an undergraduate (or masters) degree in an appropriate area, which includes at least the following:
  • computer science,
  • computational social science,
  • information science,
  • behavioral science,
  • mathematics,
  • or a mathematical or computational government or policy program.

Students are expected to have had substantial exposure to computation, mathematics, and science.

Students apply to the program because of their desire to do research at the confluence of computer science and areas such as management, social science, law, or policy. Our students are pioneers who want to go above and beyond specialized degree programs, and have a strong interest in interdisciplinary research incorporating rigorous computational approaches.


Students come from many different backgrounds. Our primary criteria are research potential and demonstrated excellence. We are looking for students who will truly excel in our program and in their careers. We may admit extremely promising students whose preparation falls short in a particular area, with the understanding the student may have to take additional courses to gain competency sufficient to enroll in star courses.

While we realize each student will have more experience in some areas than others, the general criteria we apply when evaluating the portfolio of qualifications in each application are the following:
Evidence of proficiency in computer science, computer engineering, or related fields.

  • Evidence of intellectual ability to succeed in a rigorous, high-quality doctoral program, demonstrated through transcripts, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores.
  • Intense desire to explore the computational problems within a complex real-world system of people, organizations, and policies or to explore complex real-world issues using computational techniques. This should be demonstrated by your statement of purpose and your experience.
  • Undergraduate coursework in a social, organizational, managerial or policy science is also helpful, but not required.
  • Evidence of interest in research. Research experience is a big plus.