Undergraduate Major

This page describes the requirements for the HCI major.

The major consists of 12 prerequisite and required courses. Students must take four electives, which they need to submit beforehand for approval by the program director. Elective approval requests need to be submitted through the Easy system. Electives from a restricted list of courses describing applications of HCI will be approved automatically. Students can however request approval to count as elective any HCI-relevant course in any department, even if it is not on the pre-approved list, as long as the course is not a basic course in their primary major. Students can only double count up to two core courses with their primary majors (prerequisite courses do not apply to the double-counting rule).

Graphically, the required curriculum for the HCI undergraduate major is shown in the chart below. The arrows in the chart represent prerequisites. So, for example, the Intro Programming and Statistics requirements are prerequisites for the User-Centered Research and Evaluation course. The major involves courses in human behavior, design, computer science, statistics and a project course.


Cognitive Psychology 85-211 or 85-213


Communication Design Fundamentalse



Interaction Design Fundamentals

36-201b or 36-207 or 36-247 or 36-220 or 36-225 & 226 or 70-207
Introduction to Programminga
51-257 or 15-100 or 15-104 or 15-110 or 15-112 or 15-121 or 15-123
Free Electivesg
18 units
Interaction Design Studiof
51-421 or 51-422
Interaction Design Studio
Restricted Application Electivesg
18 units
User-Centered Research and Evaluation
Interface Programmingc
05-430 or 05-431
  Project Course

You must maintain a 3.0 average in the HCI core courses (non-prerequisite) to graduate with the HCI major. Students admitted to the major in spring 2011 or afterwards must pass core courses in the major with at least a B grade. You can check your progress in the major and request approval for electives using the EASy system. If the information about your progress in EASy is inaccurate, please submit a request through the system.

Special Notes

  • aStarting in the summer of 2010, the HCII began offering an introductory programming course through CMU’s Open Learning Initiative titled “Media Programming.” If CMU’s graded version of the course is taken, it can fulfill the computer science prerequisite for HCI courses. The new course is offered as a convenience for students who have difficult fitting a programming course into their schedule during the academic year; the other programming courses listed (e.g.,15-105, 15-110, 15-121 or 15-123, 51-257) can still be used as your computer science prerequisite. The new course is designed to teach students practical programming skills and to introduce media concepts that will allow students to literally see the impact of their programming efforts. The course is 6 weeks long, and will require approximately 20 hours a week of effort. There will be homework and quizzes due at least once a week. Please contact the HCII undergraduate coordinator (indra [at] cmu.edu) to find out more about this course and to arrange to take the graded version.
  • bSome years, CMU’s online summer statistics course can be used to fulfill the statistics prerequisite. If the course is not being offered for credit, please check with the HCII undergraduate coordinator to see if other arrangements are available for taking this course. Students looking for a summer option have taken and gotten credit for the introductory statistics distance education course offered by the University of Utah.
  • cThe required HCI programming courses 05-430 (Programming Usable Interfaces) and 05-431 (Software Structures for User Interfaces) are only offered in the Fall. When you register for these courses, you must also sign up for a recitation time, which is equivalent to the User Interface Lab. The courses differ on their computer science prerequisites. 05-431 can only be taken by students majoring in computer science or with permission of the instructors. 05-430 require only an introductory course in computer science as a prerequisite, and can be taken either by computer science majors or non-computer science majors.
  • dThe statistics course is required so that majors will be able to understand and conduct empirical research in HCI. Therefore a mathematically-oriented probability course, such as 36-217 (Probability Theory and Random Processes) does not fulfill either requirement. However, the sequence of 36-317 or 36-225 and 36-226 (i.e., a mathematical statistics course followed by a statistical inference course) fulfills the statistics prerequisite requirement. This combination, however, does not fulfill the evaluation requirement.
  • eDesign majors do not need to take Communication Design Fundamentals as a prerequisite, since they learn similar material in other courses for their major. HCI undergraduates taking Communication Design Fundamentals must use the online form that will be emailed to you before fall registration.
  • fHCI double majors are guaranteed a place in 51-422 Basic Interaction offered every spring by the School of Design for HCI double majors. Students intending to take 51-422 must use the online form that will be emailed to you before fall registration. The content of 51-422 is comparable to 51-421 (Fall). It is also the same as 05-650 Basic Interaction Design, which is offered by the HCI Institute in the spring. This spring version of the course (05-650), however, is only offered to Masters of HCI students.
  • gA list of popular electives is available here.


Electives are intended to provide HCI double majors advanced concepts and skills relevant to HCI or breadth of experience not available from their primary major. Given these goals, most electives will be 300-level courses or higher. Courses at the 100-level and 200-level in ones primary major will not count as electives, although the same course taken by a non-major may. For example, a communication design student cannot take 51-247 Color and Communication as an elective, although a computer science major can.

Students can take electives in the HCI Institute or courses relevant to HCI from many other departments on campus. All electives are approved on a case-by-case basis. Undergraduate majors requisition approval of an elective using The HCI Institute’s EASy requirements management system. The director of the undergraduate program will approve the request, ask for more information or reject it. The EASy system then keeps a record of the electives approved for a particular student. A list of popular HCI electives is available here.



The Statistics prerequisite requirement can be satisfied by taking any of the following one or two semester courses, or by receiving credit for courses taken elsewhere (which must be approved by the Undergraduate Advisor prior to signing up for the course). As noted above, the statistics course are required so that majors will be able to understand and conduct empirical research in HCI. Therefore a mathematically-oriented probability course, such as 36-217 (Probability Theory and Random Processes) does not fulfill the requirement.

  • 36-201 Statistical Reasoning and Practice
  • 36-220 Engineering Statistics and Quality Control
  • 36-225 Probability and Statistics
  • 36-226 Probability and Statistics
  • 36-247 Statistics for Lab Sciences


The chart below lists typical schedules for HCI courses. These change, however, and are NOT guaranteed to be correct. Up to date schedules can be obtained online at https://enr-apps.as.cmu.edu/open/SOC/SOCServlet

Course Fall Spring Summer
51-262 CDF TR 6:30-7:50    
85-211 Intro to Cognitive Psychology 1 Section 2 Sections  
36-201 Statistical Reasoning Lec: MW 9:30-10:20
Lab: F (all day)
Same as Fall MWF Mornings
36-202 Intro to Statistical Methods Lec: TH 9:30-10:20
Lab: F (all day)
Same as Fall Same as Fall
15-100 Programming MWF
(sections all day)
(sections all day)
05-410 User-Centered Research and Evaluation MW 1:30-2:50    
05-422 Basic Interaction Design   TR 6:30-7:50  
05-430 Programming Usable Interfaces MW 10:30-11:50    
05-431 Software Structures for User Interfaces MW 10:30-11:50    
User interface Lab 4 Sections    
05-571 Project Course   MW 12:00-1:30  

Applications open March 8, 2016

Apply here starting March 8, 2016

Undergraduate Program Information

Vincent Aleven
Director of the Undergraduate Program
Associate Professor
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Newell Simon Hall 3531 

Indra Danti
Undergraduate Programs Manager
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Newell Simon Hall 3607 

  • hciibachelors [at] cs.cmu.edu