About the Public Policy Program

Public policy in a democratic society articulates the guiding principles and objectives of a particular polity and addresses a range of issues or areas of concern affecting the lives of people at local, regional, state, and national levels of government.

Santa Monica College's Public Policy Institute provides non-partisan community programs exploring key economic, social, and political issues and a rigorous academic program in the state of California's only Associate in Arts Degree and Certificate of Achievement in Public Policy. The Public Policy Institute was founded in 2010 with now-Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl at the helm, as the result of the vision of SMC Trustee Dr. Nancy Greenstein. The Institute is co-directed by SMC political science professor Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, who founded the academic program, and Shari Davis, a community education activist who has a Master in Public Policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School.

The Institute offers free, informative discussions on the policy issues that affect our daily lives. Public Policy programs at SMC equip graduates with the skills and resources necessary for successful participation in civic life, including critical evaluation and analysis of policy options, policy development, and effective implementation strategies, and the opportunity to work directly with governmental and non-governmental leaders in their organizations and agencies.

Degrees and Certificates

Associate of Arts Degree Icon Associate in Arts More information on the Associate in Arts Degree

Get a foundation in general education, then gain the skills needed to excel in your desired field.

Completion of an Associate degree usually will not satisfy transfer major requirements. Meet with a counselor to develop an academic program best suited for you.

Estimated Timeline:
2+ years, 60 units

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Certificate of Achievement Icon Certificate of Achievement More information on the Certificate of Achievement

Gain the skills needed to excel in your desired field without completing general education requirements.

Estimated Timeline:
1+ years, 24+ units

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Associate of Arts Degree - Public PolicyAssociate in Arts Degree Icon

19 units + General Education Requirements

This program consists of an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary course of study that presents an overview of the development and implementation of important public policies affecting the lives of local, regional, and state residents. This program is designed to equip students with the skills and tools to successfully engage in civic debate and to critically evaluate and analyze the development and implementation of substantive public policies while providing an opportunity to work with governmental and non-governmental organizations and agencies in a direct way.

PDF FileView Requirements Associate of Arts Degree in Public Policy

Certificate of Achievement - Public PolicyCertificate of Achievement Icon

19 units

This certifies students can present an overview of the development and implementation of important public policies affecting the lives of local, regional, and state residents. This program is designed to equip students with the skills and tools to successfully engage in civic debate and to critically evaluate and analyze the development and implementation of substantive public policies while providing an opportunity to work with governmental and non-governmental organizations and agencies in a direct way.

PDF FileView Requirements Certificate of Achievement in Public Policy

Program Level Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will​:​

  1. Exhibit, through their behavior and course work, strong academic behaviors, including regular attendance, timeliness, participation in class activities, and adherence to the College Honor Code, as well as a heightened sense of personal efficacy and civic responsibility, evidenced by their regular attendance, participation in class activities, and their awareness of their rights and duties as citizens of their community, their country, and the wider world.

  2. Demonstrate through oral and/or written work knowledge of basic public policy concepts including policy choices and agenda setting, the structure, and evaluation of policy making, cost-benefit analysis, and ethical analysis.

  3. Demonstrate proficiency in the research, analytical, and communication skills necessary to present, orally and/or in writing, compelling and original arguments that critically evaluate how policy is developed and the effectiveness of select contemporary policies.

  4. Demonstrate a level of engagement in the subject matter that enables and motivates the integration of acquired knowledge and skills beyond the classroom.​

Other Resources

Special Departmental Programs

Other Program

  • Transfer Preparation

Related Program

Potential Career Options

Click on any job title to learn more.

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Job Title Typical Education Median Wage
Legislators -- $61,344
Statisticians Master's or Professional degree $79,062
Climate Change Analysts Master's or Professional Degree $82,039
Environmental Economist Doctoral degree $134,160
Survey Researchers Master's or Professional Degree $65,969
Political Scientists Doctoral degree $86,962
Social Science Research Assistants Bachelor's Degree $54,469
Political Science Teachers, Postsecondary Doctoral Degree $82,451