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Courses and Curriculum

Courses and Curriculum

Curriculum structure and plans

To fulfill the requirements for this degree program, you must complete nine course units (c.u.)*. Students can finish the coursework in one full-time academic year, using the summer to complete the capstone research project.

During your studies, you take a common core of three behavioral methods courses and then elect a concentration in an area such as social science, public health, neuroscience, education, or social and public policy. Our courses are taught by leading researchers and experts in neuroeconomics, cognitive science, government and much more.

Our interdisciplinary curriculum allows students to take five elective classes from:

  • The School of Arts & Sciences
  • The School of Social Policy & Practice
  • The Wharton School
  • Penn Law
  • Penn Graduate School of Education
  • Annenberg School for Communication
  • Penn School of Nursing
  • The Perelman School of Medicine

You will learn to model how individuals and groups make decisions, the behavioral and neural foundations of decision-making, and have the opportunity to design lab and field experiments to test your hypotheses. You will be taught to create and analyze computational models of social emergence, and use network analysis to understand how behavior can spread or dissolve. Students interested in real-world applications will work with a group of faculty who do applied research in fields like social and public policy, education, law, business and medicine.

Required courses

  • All students are expected to take three core courses, five elective courses and one dedicated capstone research project to earn the nine c.u. required for the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences.
  • Core classes:
    • BDS 510 Behavioral Economics & The Psychology of Decision Making
    • BDS 520 Public Policy & Applications
    • BDS 530 Social Norms & Informal Institutions
  • Electives and concentrations

    The goal of the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences is to equip students with practical tools for applications and a focused academic portfolio. Once the core courses are completed, you can select five courses from disciplines and schools across the University in relation to their chosen area of interest. An advisor from the program works with you one-on-one to craft a successful curriculum.

    Elective concentrations include:

    • Public health
    • Psychology/Neuroscience
    • Education policy
    • Social and public policy
    • Economics/Neuroeconomics
    • Sociology/Networks
    • Computational systems
  • Prerequisites

    The program has two prerequisite courses: (1) introductory statistics and (2) microeconomics/game theory or judgment and decision. For students who lack sufficient background in one or all areas, the prerequisite courses are offered through the College of Liberal and Professional Studies during the summer prior to the start of the program in the fall term.

  • Capstone Experience

    The final capstone research project for the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences is an independent study experience. Throughout the process, you connect with faculty members in your area of concentration to determine appropriate final projects or ways to participate in applying research, such as completing an internship or conducting fieldwork.

    The capstone schedule allows for incremental deadlines and feedback from professors. The requirement for the capstone is a final project that contributes to your future career path. The paper is expected to:

    • Present a position that is unique, original and directly applies to your experience
    • Use primary sources or apply to a primary organization/agency
    • Conform to the style and format of excellent academic writing
    • Analyze empirical research data that is collected by you or that has already been collected
    • Allow you to demonstrate the competencies gained in the master’s program

*Academic credit is defined by the University of Pennsylvania as a course unit (c.u.). A course unit (c.u.) is a general measure of academic work over a period of time, typically a term (semester or summer). A c.u. (or a fraction of a c.u.) represents different types of academic work across different types of academic programs and is the basic unit of progress toward a degree. One c.u. is usually converted to a four-semester-hour course.

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Penn MBDS

311 Cohen Hall
249 S. 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

TEL: (215) 898-3023
FAX: (215) 573-2231
penn-mbds@sas.upenn.edu