Professional Degrees & Core Requirements


The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the accrediting agency for the Harvard Chan School establishes core areas required for all students receiving a professional degree in public health at accredited institutions in North America.

Public Health Degrees:

“A professional degree is one that, based on its learning objectives and types of positions its graduates pursue, prepares students with a broad mastery of the subject matter and methods necessary in a field of practice; it typically requires students to develop the capacity to organize, analyze, interpret and communicate knowledge in an applied manner.”

“A research or academic degree program is one that, based on its learning objectives and the paths its graduates follow, prepares students for scholarly careers, particularly in academia and other research settings; it typically prepares students to investigate, acquire, organize, analyze and disseminate new knowledge in a discipline or field of study.”

Core Areas

  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Health Services Administration
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Practice and Culminating Experience
  • Ethics*

* Harvard Chan School core requirements for MPH and SM2/HPM

Professional Degrees at the Harvard Chan School

The current professional degree programs at the School include:

  • Master of Public Health (MPH): 1-Yr  (7 Concentrations)
  • Master of Science in Environmental Health: EER/1-Yr
  • Master of Science in Environmental Health: EER/2-Yr
  • Master of Science in Occupational Health (MOH): 2-Yr
  • Master of Occupational Health: 1-Yr
  • Master of Science in Global Health & Population (SM2/GHP): 2-Yr
  • Master of Science in Health Care Management (MHCM): 1-Yr*
  • Master of Science in Health Policy & Management (SM2/HPM): 2-Yr
  • Master of Science in Social & Behavioral Sciences (SM2/SBS): 2-Yr
  • Master of Science in Social & Behavioral Sciences: 1-Yr Dual – PCN/SIMMONS

*This program is classified as a non-traditional executive program, and while students in this program are required to complete coursework in each of the core areas, their approved core courses are specific to their program and different from those listed.

Courses Fulfilling the Core

Please note: The following courses are identified as fulfilling the core; however, each degree program determines the courses that fulfill the core for their degree. Please consult your department handbook or curriculum guide and advisor.


BIO 200 Principles of Biostatistics   5.0
BIO 201 Introduction to Statistical Methods   5.0
BIO 202 & BIO 203 Principles of Biostatistics I and II   5.0
BIO 206 & (BIO 207 or BIO 208) Introduction to Statistics for Medical Research   5.0


  • Demonstrate the roles biostatistics serves in the discipline of public health.
  • Interpret graphical and descriptive techniques commonly used to summarize public health data.
  • Describe basic concepts of probability, random variation, and commonly used statistical probability distributions.
  • Apply common statistical methods for estimation and inference and use them appropriately according to underlying assumptions and type of study design.
  • Interpret the results of statistical analyses to provide evidence within the context of public health, health care, biomedical, clinical, and population-based studies and research.
  • Develop basic skills for utilizing statistical computing software for performing data analyses.


EPI 500 Fundamentals of Epidemiology   2.5
EPI 201 Introduction to Epidemiology: Methods I   2.5
EPI 208 Introduction to Clinical Epidemiology   5.0


  • Describe the role of epidemiology as a quantitative approach to address problems in clinical medicine and public health.
  • Describe and apply the basic principles and methods of epidemiology including: disease measures, association and causation, bias, confounding and effect modification, and susceptibility.
  • Interpret descriptive epidemiologic results in order to develop hypotheses of possible risk factors of a disease.
  • Develop a foundation for designing valid and efficient epidemiologic studies to address public health problems including: understanding the strengths and limitations of descriptive, observational, and experimental studies.
  • Become a critical reader of epidemiologic literature by analyzing the appropriateness of study design, quality of data, methodological strategies, and interpretation of results.

Environmental Health Sciences

EH 201 Introduction to Environmental Health   2.5
EH 202 Principles of Environmental Health   2.5
EH 232 Introduction to Occupational and Environmental Medicine   2.5
EH 278 Human Health and Global Environmental Change   2.5
ID 215 Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology   2.5


  • Characterize the human health effects, both acute and chronic, of major environmental and occupational hazards such as: air pollution, metals, organic pollutants, microbial contamination of drinking water, and physical hazards.
  • Analyze sources, pathways, and routes of exposure to these environmental and occupational hazards [and safety], and determine the populations with a high risk of exposure.
  • Assess the factors that can modify the overall impact of environmental and occupational hazards on a population (e.g., age, genetic polymorphisms, nutritional, and disease states).
  • Apply risk assessment and risk management concepts to develop effective guidelines and policies to mitigate and manage environmental and occupational hazards and improve health outcomes.

Health Services Administration*

Management Focus

HPM 219 Financial Transactions and Analysis   2.5
HPM 220 Financial Management and Control   2.5

Policy Focus

HPM 206 Economic Analysis   5.0

Specialized Areas

EH 231 Occupational Health Policy and Administration   2.5

Additional Courses

GHP 211 Management Control in Health Organizations   2.5
GHP 230 Introduction to Economics with Applications to Health and Development   2.5
GHP 244 Health Sector Reform: A Worldwide Perspective   2.5
GHP 269 Applied Politics and Economics I   2.5
HPM 209 Economics for Health Policy   2.5
HPM 210 United States Health Policy   2.5
HPM 247 Political Analysis and Strategy for U.S. Health Policy   5.0
HPM 277 Current Issues in Health Policy   2.5
HPM 510 Introduction to Management of Health Care Organizations   2.5
HPM 539 Health Care Organizations and Behavior   2.5

Options for MPH Students in OEH, QM, or CLE Concentrations Only

RDS 280 Decision Analysis for Health and Medical Practices   2.5
RDS 286 Decision Analysis in Clinical Research   2.5

*Students should discuss with their advisors which areas/courses are most appropriate.


The Health Services Administration (HSA) core courses are classified into three groups for purposes of core competencies: health management, health economics, and health policy and politics. Students are required to fulfill the core competencies for one of these groups and in the cross-cutting HSA competencies.

Most students fulfill the HSA core competencies by taking one HSA core course and through their practicum project.

A. Health Management

  • Develop financial literacy.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the human, social, and economic dynamics of organizational behavior.
  • Develop competency in making effective managerial decisions under conditions of uncertainty.

B. Health Economics

  • Articulate the functions of supply and demand.
  • Assess the extent to which real markets diverge from perfect markets.
  • Apply models of rational choice to markets.
  • Assess the effects of financial and payment incentives on the behavior of individuals and organizations.
  • Apply these tools of economic analysis to new policy issues and proposals.

C. Health Policy and Politics

  • Demonstrate capacity to apply a conceptual framework for understanding political and policy processes in health care.
  • Explain how political institutions and processes influence resource allocation in health care.
  • Understand basic organization, financing, and delivery of health services and public health systems.
  • Discuss the policy process for improving the health status of populations.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

SBS 201 Society and Health   2.5

SBS 207 Race, Ethnicity, and Health   2.5
SBS 250 Research on Social and Behavioral Health   2.5
SBS 281 Principles of Social and Behavioral Research   2.5
SBS 503 Exploring Health Behavior: Insights from Behavioral Economics   2.5
SBS 506 Disease Distribution Theory/A   2.5


  • Compare social, developmental, and behavioral theories of health, health behavior, and illness, and analyze their applicability to different types of health problems.
  • Formulate social and behavioral change interventions based on these theories that are appropriate and responsive to the social and cultural context.
  • Develop program and policy implementation skills, including communication, advocacy, and engaging the media.
  • Design and implement program evaluations using qualitative and quantitative methods.
  • Critique the validity of basic behavioral and evaluation research.
  • Identify individual, organizational, and community concerns, assets, resources, and deficits for social and behavioral science interventions.


ID 250 Ethical Basis of the Practice of Public Health   2.5
ID 251 Ethical Basis of the Practice of Public Health   2.5
ID 292 Justice and Resource Allocation   2.5
ID 513 Ethics and Health Disparities   2.5
GHP 293 Individual and Social Responsibility for Health   2.5


  • Develop facility in analyzing the ethical assumptions and components underlying health policy decisions.
  • Develop proficiency in examining critically the basic vocabulary and concepts of the main alternative lines of argument in areas of moral philosophy relevant to public health contexts.
  • Develop and apply philosophical ideas and arguments to practical problems underlying public health problems.
  • Develop competency in criticizing and defending ethical arguments that are applied to public health problems.
  • Develop facility in explaining how students’ arguments and defenses of them are sensitive to changes in evidence, circumstances, or assumptions.