Master of Public Health Program

Assistant Dean for Professional Education
Roberta Gianfortoni

Program Overview

The MPH is a two-semester, 45-credit program that may be pursued on a full- or part-time basis. It is organized around a core curriculum and seven career-oriented fields of study: clinical effectiveness, global health, health and social behavior, health management,  health policy, occupational and environmental health, and quantitative methods. Each field of study offers electives that allow students to explore in depth areas relevant to their personal career goals. Moreover, the concentrations enable students in the interdisciplinary MPH program to establish a link with one or more of the school’s academic departments. There is a summer-only degree completion option within the clinical effectiveness and quantitative methods fields of study.

Coming from around the globe, MPH students bring a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences to the program. The majority of these students are health professionals, with a minimum of three or more years of work experience, who are preparing for advancement in their organizations or for transition into new fields.

Prerequisites for Entrance

Applicants ordinarily hold a doctoral degree or non-U.S. equivalent in medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine, law, or other fields related to public health – for example, biology or other natural, behavioral, or social sciences. Individuals with a master’s degree in nursing, social work, business administration, or
a field closely related to public health and who have at least three years of health-related work experience also may be considered for admission to the program. Preference is given to applicants with clearly identified career goals relevant to the program and strong academic backgrounds.

Dual Degrees

Students currently enrolled in U.S.-based MD, DO, DMD, or DDS programs (and students at Harvard Law School) who have a career interest in public health and/or preventive medicine are eligible to apply for admission to the MPH program. Medical and dental students undertake the MPH program while on leave of absence between the third and fourth years of medical or dental school. They receive the MPH degree upon successful completion of both programs and conferral of the doctoral degree. The MPH program serves as a required academic year for residency training in general preventive medicine, aerospace medicine, or occupational and environmental medicine.

Students accepted to Harvard Law School may simultaneously pursue an MPH under Harvard’s JD/MPH joint degree program. Prospective students should apply to the joint degree program either concurrently with their application to or during their first semester at Harvard Law School. HSPH coursework begins in the summer following the first year of law school and continues over the next two years.

Program Requirements

MPH students are required to complete a minimum of 45 credits and fulfill core requirements in the fundamental public health disciplines and a course on the ethical basis of the practice of public health. All students must select a field of study in which they complete both recommended and required courses. Additionally, all students must complete an MPH practicum as part of a culminating experience, in accordance with the guidelines of the various fields of study. Students are encouraged to consult with faculty advisers to choose elective courses best suited to their needs. Requirements and field of study guidelines are available from the Office of Education.

Degree Completion Options

MPH candidates may complete the degree requirements on a full- or part-time basis, and they may change from one status to the other. Full-time students typically complete the program in two consecutive semesters (September through May). Part-time students fulfill the requirements for the degree in two or three years. Students may elect to begin their coursework in July by enrolling in the Summer Session for Public Health Studies. Those interested in this option should contact the Office of Education for guidance.

A summer-only MPH program is available for students in two fields of study: clinical effectiveness and quantitative methods. The program can be completed by taking courses in three consecutive enrollments in the Summer Session for Public Health Studies. Students in this program also may take courses during the HSPH WinterSession. Students wishing to apply for the summer-only MPH in clinical effectiveness or quantitative methods must observe the same admissions deadlines as all MPH degree applicants.

Concentration Descriptions

Clinical effectiveness   Concerned with identifying the most appropriate, ethical, and cost-effective means of providing health care through prevention, early detection, and treatment, this field of study is designed to provide the analytic and quantitative training necessary to evaluate clinical practices. Major areas of professional interest include clinical epidemiology and biostatistics, cost-effectiveness analysis, medical decision analysis, health services research, quality improvement in health care, and measurement of health-related quality of life. This field of study is limited to clinicians enrolled initially in the Summer Program in Clinical Effectiveness.

Along with the broad perspective on general aspects of public health that the program offers, this training provides a basis for identifying the health policy implications and public health benefits of clinical investigations. This field of study prepares physicians for clinical research responsibilities and for leadership roles in evaluating and improving all aspects of health care delivery. Most graduates hold positions in academic medicine.

Global health    This field of study explores the emerging professional and academic domain of global health, emphasizing the development of analytical and methodological skills to effectively engage and critically evaluate key challenges, policies, and processes as they affect the health of populations in a global context across national and sector boundaries. Students are exposed to a range of disciplines, methods, and approaches as they are relevant for addressing the multisectoral nature of public health challenges, including demography and epidemiology, the organization of health systems, the ethical basis of resource allocation, political economy, health economics and financing, health and human rights, and humanitarian studies. The field of study involves opportunities to build skills in areas of strategic planning, professional networking, crisis management, and development of policy initiatives in the context of both national health systems and broader international frameworks and institutions.

The program is intended to prepare health professionals with prior international health experience for leadership roles in global health at national and international levels and to effectively translate scientific knowledge into policies that affect public health. Graduates work in national ministries of health, intergovernmental organizations, donor aid agencies, NGOs, research and academic institutions, and the private sector.

Health and social behavior    This field of study is devoted to the promotion of health and the prevention of disease, especially in more vulnerable populations. Coursework emphasizes strategies for needs assessment and establishment of health objectives, data collection and analysis, leadership skills, consultation, communication, advocacy, and policy formation in the public sector. Beyond the MPH core requirements, students are encouraged to develop expertise in a focus area geared to their professional interests. These areas include identifying and understanding the origins of health disparities, community assessment, and interventions for health promotion and disease prevention. Guidance is provided to develop a more in-depth understanding of specific health problems and vulnerable groups.

This field of study prepares students to work in diverse spheres, including federal, state, and local government; advocacy groups; voluntary health organizations; and community-based primary care settings in the United States and other countries. Posts filled by graduates include state health director; medical director of programs for child, adolescent, and women’s health; health policy analyst; and health educator. Other graduates have gone on to academic positions.

Health management and health policy    In these fields of study, students train for either a management or a policy focus. In addition to fulfilling the MPH core requirements, students select from clusters of courses to gain depth in their chosen focal area. Students who choose the management focus select from courses providing practical management skills, such as accounting, finance, operations, marketing, information systems, quality improvement, management of people, and strategy determination. Students who opt for the policy focus select from courses in health economics, political science, and applied policy in areas such as payment systems, insurance, mental health and and substance abuse, community health, and health promotion and disease prevention.

These fields of study prepares students for positions in health care organizations that provide direct care (such as hospitals, group practices, and home health agencies), those that pay for and/or organize health care (such as governments, health insurers, and health maintenance organizations), and those that supply direct-care providers (such as pharmaceutical companies and biotechnology firms). Program graduates have filled many roles – from consultants and staff analysts to middle-management and executive positions.

Occupational and environmental health    This field of study focuses on workplace and environmental hazards, the physiological and biomechanical aspects of work, the risks posed by the interaction of genetic and environmental factors, and a practical approach to solving health problems in various work and community settings. This field of study features three areas of interest: occupational/environmental medicine, occupational health, and environmental health.

The program is designed for physicians and other professionals who intend to practice occupational/environmental medicine or to hold responsible positions in occupational and/or environmental policy and management. The occupational/environmental medicine area fulfills the coursework requirements of the two-year Occupational and Environmental Medicine Residency. This area also is intended for other physicians who wish to satisfy the didactic requirements of the American Board of Preventive Medicine for certification in occupational and environmental medicine.

Quantitative methods    This field of study, sponsored jointly by the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, provides students with the necessary quantitative and analytic skills to approach and solve problems in public health and clinical research and practice, while providing a strong general foundation in public health. The field of study emphasizes study design, data analysis, and the application of quantitative methods within the context of epidemiology, biostatistics, decision sciences, demography, and program evaluation. The competency-based curriculum is designed to provide health professionals with the analytical and statistical knowledge and skills required for successful public health practice and research. It is appropriate for both midcareer health professionals and those in the early stages of their careers. The program prepares graduates to take on leadership roles in clinical and population-based health research in government, health care institutions, and private industry. In addition, it provides an excellent foundation for those interested in pursuing academic careers in the health sciences.

Related Offerings

Contact information
Roberta Gianfortoni, assistant dean for professional education
Office of Education
677 Huntington Avenue
Boston, MA 02115
Phone: 617-432-0090
Fax: 617-432-3365

For Reference
Schoolwide degree requirements

Detailed application requirements