Courses and Curriculum

Photo of MBDS students walking on campus

To fulfill the requirements for this degree program, you must complete nine course units (c.u.)* of on-campus study: Five core courses and four elective courses.

The standard time to complete this degree is one academic year: two semesters, fall and spring. Students completing their degree in two or three semesters must take capstone courses in their first fall and spring semesters. Students completing their studies in four semesters should complete four non-capstone core courses in the first two semesters, and reserve their final two semesters for electives and capstone courses.

Course Title
5010 Behavioral Science: Theory and Application of Experimental Methods
Applied unit

Students must take at least one of the following three course options:

  1. 5020 Norms and Nudges
  2. 5250 Organizational Behavior
  3. 5030 Behavioral Interventions for Policy and Organizations
5210 Judgments & Decisions
Quantitative unit Based on an evaluation prior to the start of the program, you will be assigned to ONE of the following two courses:
  1. 5220 Statistical Reasoning for Behavioral Science (intermediate)
  2. 5160 Data Science & Quantitative Modeling (advanced)
5997 and 5998 Part I - Capstone: Consulting with Behavioral Science
Part II - Capstone: Design Challenge

The goal of the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences is to equip students with practical tools for applications and a focused academic portfolio.

Students are encouraged to tailor their elective courses to fit their professional interests and objectives. MBDS students must take four elective courses to complete the program. These electives should be chosen to enhance the skills and expertise for academic and professional goals. Two electives must be from the MBDS curriculum, while the remaining two electives may be taken from disciplines and schools across the University on related topics.

MBDS electives include:

  • BDS 5110: Negotiation Behavior
  • BDS 5310: Behavioral Science in Action: Past, Present & Future
  • BDS 5360: Behavioral Change for Social Impact: A Human-Centered Approach
  • BDS 5400: Explanation and Non-Experimental Methods in Behavioral Science
  • BDS 5410: AI and Human Behavior
  • BDS 5550: Groups and Networks
  • Students may choose to take a second course from the quantitative unit as an elective after the core course requirement is met.
  • Independent Research Studies and Special Topic Seminars: Students may pursue an Independent Research Study (IRS) and take Special Topic Seminars (STS) during their program. These options provide great opportunities for students to strengthen their research skills and get academic mentorship.

Electives may be taken from the following Penn schools:

Please note: Successful registration for courses from other disciplines and schools depends on the availability of the course and the approval of its instructor. For details about courses, please visit the Penn Course Catalog.

Course Number Course Title
5060 Applied Statistics for Behavioral & Decision Sciences
5090 Applied Game Theory

Across private and public sectors, it is increasingly recognized how insights from behavioral science help in solving a variety of problems, optimizing processes, and achieving efficient outcomes. But how is this change taking place? How are businesses using behavioral insights to have a positive impact, and what type of professional from the field are they looking for?

The new Capstone course consists of two semesters where students are invited to engage in a dialogue with industry to understand the landscape of the field of behavioral science, and use the tools learned in MBDS courses to tackle specific industry problems.

Fall semester: In the first semester (fall), the Capstone will focus on Consulting with Behavioral Science, as students engage in conversation with industry leaders that will provide them with first-hand knowledge of a) how behavioral science is applied in organizations across several domains, b) why behavioral science insights and tools are becoming increasingly relevant in organizational settings, and c) what MBDS graduates can expect when they finally get to the job market. Students will use these conversations to identify, develop, and focus on their professional goals, helping them to refine their academic plans to support these goals.

Spring semester: In the spring, students embark on a Design Challenge, where, in teams, they will have a chance to use instructional and strategic input from these conversations to shape their work. Check out past Design Challenge clients by visiting the Design Challenge page.

Course schedule

We often add new courses and revise course content to adapt to the dynamic behavioral science field. As such, the courses listed below are subject to change.

*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.

Program resources

Explore the range of academic, research, and professional resources available.

Meet the faculty

Learn from the University's most celebrated scholars and the industry's leading minds.

Exclusive projects & engagement

Exclusive projects & engagement

Gain hands-on experience and expand your network by working on real industry challenges.