Prospective Students

Why Societal Computing?

Societal Computing is the branch of computer science concerned both with designing computational technology to shape tomorrow's digital world and using computational methods to understand the societal challenges a digital world poses. Our program stems from the recognition that there is an intimate and deep relationship between the design, deployment, and configuration of computing technologies on the one hand, and societal dynamics, goals, policies, and outcomes on the other. As more and more of our daily experiences are lived in and through computers and networks, computing technology shapes the landscape in which people socialize, conduct commerce, play, work, and communicate. It also gives rise to new risks, and shapes the tools available to avoid or manage them. The design choices for these digitized environments have profound consequences – they create the behavioral possibilities for acting, knowing, and controlling our social and physical environment. They provide opportunities and de facto policies, regulations, and norms that shape societies. They create data for understanding the digital world, but at a scale and speed not analyzable by today’s methodologies.

The Societal Computing program is Carnegie Mellon University’s response to this challenge. We bring to bear a wide variety of tools and disciplines to discover the scientific principles and laws governing the relationship between the design of computing technology and the nature of digital society. Traditional computer science is fundamental to this enterprise, but the multidimensional nature of the questions we address requires cross-disciplinary solutions. In our research and our educational programs, a common foundation is laid not only in current computer science methodologies but also in ideas drawn from sociology, psychology, economics, public policy, cultural studies, machine learning, sustainability, applied statistics, and ethics. We are shaping an integrated, innovative discipline of Societal Computing that provides the tools, techniques, theories, and research methods to address societal issues and continue to make scientific progress in understanding the deep relationship between computing technologies and the society inhabiting the digital landscape they comprise.

Where do students go when they graduate?


Work in firms with a strong research and development component


Students enter government or military-related fields


All fields are open, from the social sciences to computer science

Applying for Admission

Students apply to the program because of their desire to do research at the confluence of computer science and areas such as management, social science, law, or policy. Our students are pioneers who want to go above and beyond specialized degree programs, and have a strong interest in interdisciplinary research incorporating rigorous computational approaches.

Learn How To Apply



​Students come from many different backgrounds. Our primary criteria are research potential and demonstrated excellence. We are looking for students who will truly excel in our program and in their careers. We may admit extremely promising students whose preparation falls short in a particular area, with the understanding the student may have to take additional courses to gain competency sufficient to enroll in star courses.

See the Program prerequisites

We want innovative leaders

Learn about earning your PhD in Societal Computing at Carnegie Mellon.

  • Student Stories See How Our Students Lead Read More
  • Research Projects See How Our Work Impacts Society Read More