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Courses and Curriculum

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.

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 Public Policy 
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)
5990 Capstone Experience Research Project
(Parts I and II in fall and spring, respectively)

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 5550: Groups and Networks
  • BDS 5850: Consulting in Behavioral Science
  • 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 Science
5090 Applied Game Theory
5000 Introduction to Behavioral and Decision Making (based on availability)

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 Experience 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), students will 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.

Students in the Master of Behavioral and Decision Sciences program are eligible to use electives to complete the Graduate Certificate in Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience (SCAN). The four required courses provide a strong foundation in neuroscience for non-scientists, emphasizing the aspects of neuroscience that are most relevant to understanding human behavior. If you are interested in this certificate, please contact penn-scan@sas.upenn.edu.

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.

Fall 2022

Course Number Course Title
BDS 5010 675 Behavioral Science: Theory and Application of Experimental Methods
BDS 5030 675 Behavioral Public Policy
BDS 5110 675 Negotiation Behavior
BDS 5210 675 Judgments & Decisions
BDS 5220 675 Statistical Reasoning for Behavioral Science
BDS 5250 675 Organizational Behavior
BDS 5990 675 Capstone Experience
BDS 5999 675 Behavioral Science Individual Capstone
BDS 9900 675 Master's Continuation
Note: BDS 5999 Behavioral Science Individual Capstone is only available to students who enrolled in the program before 2022.

Summer 2022

Course Number Course Title
BDS 5030 975 Behavioral Public Policy
BDS 5060 975 Applied Statistics for Behavioral & Decision Sciences
BDS 5090 976 Applied Game Theory
BDS 5850 975 Consulting in Behavioral Science
BDS 5999 975 Behavioral Science Individual Capstone
BDS 8970 900 CPT Practicum: CPT Practicum
Note: BDS 5999 Behavioral Science Individual Capstone is only available to students who enrolled in the program before 2022.

*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

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Exclusive projects & engagement

Exclusive projects & engagement

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