Degree Programs

Master of Public Health Opportunities for Lawyers

The Harvard School of Public Health offers a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program with a formal concentration in Law and Public Health.  The program is open to those who have already completed the JD degree and wish to obtain training in public health. The MPH is completed in two semesters of full-time study or two to three years of part-time study.

HSPH and Harvard Law School also offer a joint JD/MPH degree program.  This program is appropriate for incoming or first-year Harvard law students who who desire to pursue an integrated curriculum in law and public health as preparation for a career in health law, health policy, or public health practice.  Click on the link at left for more information.

Curriculum

The goal of the LPH curriculum is to give lawyers training in a range of areas within public health. Students devote a significant amount of time to the acquisition of quantitative methodological skills, including biostatistics and epidemiology. Through the core curriculum, they also acquire basic knowledge about major substantive areas within public health, including health services administration and policy, environmental and occupational health, health and social behavior, and ethics. Students are able to choose elective courses from among a wide array of offerings at the School of Public Health, as well as the Law School, the Kennedy School of Government, other Harvard graduate schools, MIT, and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

A common misperception among prospective applicants is that the LPH program provides lawyers with specialized training in health law. Although health law courses are offered at HSPH and students may also take classes at the Law School, the LPH program does not aim to offer the kind of specialized legal training that might be found in graduate study at a law school. Rather, the purpose of the program is to train lawyers in a different field: public health. A typical LPH student chooses one or two electives in health law, but takes three or more courses in quantitative methods such as biostatistics, epidemiology, and decision analysis, as well as a range of policy courses and other courses.

The LPH program is also not a “law and medicine” program.  Lawyers will be trained in public health sciences, which focus on population health rather than the physician-patient relationship; and on a broad array of health interventions aside from clinical therapies.  Ethics, too, is taught from a public health rather than a clinical ethics perspective.

Core requirements

About half of an LPH student’s course credits consist of core requirements. Students must take a full semester course in Biostatistics, as well as a half-semester course in each of the following five areas: Ethics, Epidemiology, Health Services Administration, Health and Social Behavior, and Environmental Health. For most of these core areas, several different courses are offered to satisfy the requirement.

In addition to these courses, all LPH students must take at least one health law course.  In the spring semester, all MPH students complete a field internship called the Practicum.  Click on the link at left for more information about the Practicum.

It is important that applicants understand that much of their time at HSPH will be spent on core courses. LPH concentrators often find the quantitative methods classes challenging and time-consuming. A commitment to acquiring the basic public health skills taught in the core courses is an important quality in a prospective applicant.

For more detailed information about MPH requirements, see the MPH Handbook.

Elective offerings

In addition to the core requirements, LPH students typically take 18 to 20 elective credits (with a typical half-semester course counting for 2.5 credits). Substantial freedom is permitted in the choice of electives.

Zuckerman Fellows Program

Law and Public Health concentrators in the MPH program, including JD/MPH joint degree candidates, are eligible to apply to the Zuckerman Fellows Program. This University-wide program provides one full year of tuition and fees at the School of Public Health, plus a stipend of $30,000. Details and application procedures are described here.