Computational Social Science

The Computational Social Science (CSS) major educates students to build, compute, and improve theoretically informed models of social processes, bridging domain and technical expertise. This major will prepare students to understand, engage with, and innovatively solve evolving, complex multi-scale challenges such as climate change, transnational political violence, cybersecurity and privacy, social polarization, and inequality. This major will draw on and enhance Pitt’s strength in both social science theory, broadly construed, as well as computing, informatics, and networked systems. Students will gain an understanding of modern computational tools and resources, and social, political, and economic concepts from core social science classes.

Computational Social Science Major Requirements

The major will comprise of the following requirements for a total of 52-53 credits.

Pre-Requisite Mathematics Class

Foundations of Computational Social Science

The foundational courses introduce students to enduring puzzles in social science research, emerging themes of computational social science, and the approaches that social scientists and information & network scientists use to solve problems. This section consists of eight required courses that will provide foundations of subject matter knowledge and the basic computational tools that are relevant to social scientific theories and empirics.

One Introduction to CSS Class

One Introduction to Social Science Class

Choose one class from this list:

Four Classes Introducing Computational Approaches and Basic Tools

Two required courses:

Select two of the following courses:


* Students should have some programming experience (usually acquired in high school) before taking CMPINF 0401 . Any high school course that includes the writing of several Python, C++, or Java programs would be sufficient. It is also possible to take one of CS 0010 , CS 0011 , or CS 0012  as preparation. Preparatory classes of this nature do not count toward the student's major requirements.

One Social Science Research Design Class

One Modeling Social Interactions and Motivations Class

Select one of the following courses.

Ethics and Computational Social Science

This section of the major will expose students to critical debates on the ethics of governance, computing, and technological change. Issues covered will include tradeoffs between privacy/security and censorship/freedom, as well as topics related to surveillance, propaganda, cyber-security, and regulation. The goal is to expose students to both the moral and social consequences of technology at a conceptual level, and the specific technical implementations that cause potential social problems (e.g., packet-sniffing) and could potentially expand the space for solutions (e.g., differential privacy).

Select two courses from the following:

Two Computational Skills Classes

These classes specifically focus on relevant computational skills, including data mining, the web, visualizations, social computing, and advanced security and privacy.

Select two of the following courses to satisfy this subset:

One Integrated Analytics Content Class

The final section in this requirement will marry a deep analytical component, such as predictive analytics, causal inference, game theory, data visualization, and other topics with complicated social problems such as inequality, trade, climate change, political violence, or polarization. The class will focus on integrating computational tools into the measurement of core social science concepts, including democracy, human rights, happiness, and peace. There will be a focus on using text and images as data.

Select one of the following courses:

Application Development Capstone

The major culminates in the production of a research project that uses computational tools to create either a) an online, interactive data visualization, b) a replicable research report that uses unstructured data or c) a module/library. In all cases, the project will engage with or help to resolve an important social problem. This project can be created through independent or directed research, or in one of the classes listed below. All students will present their projects as digital posters to faculty, alumni, and potential employers from around the Pittsburgh area at an end-of-the-year event.

Select one of the following courses:

For full major requirement details, visit the Computational Social Science course catalog.