Frequently Asked Questions

(For FAQ’s specific to the JD/MPH joint degree program,click on the “JD/MPH Joint Degree Program” link.)

Q: How many students go through the Law and Public Health(LPH) program each year?

A: The cohort size is typically 12-15 students.  About half of these are JD/MPH joint degree students, whose programs last two and a half years.  Among the regular LPH students, there are typically 2-3 part-time students who take 2-3 years to complete the program and 5-7 full-time students who finish in one academic year.

Q: What do your students go on to do after they graduate?

A: LPH students have diverse interests within the general domain of law and public health, and go on to do a variety of different things.  A large proportion are interested in public sector jobs in health law and policy–for example, working as legal counsel to a federal, state, or local health agency or as legislative staff on Capitol Hill or a state legislature or governor’s office.  Many others enter or return to private health law practice, in a law firm setting or as general counsel at an institution such as a hospital, health insurance company, or pharmaceutical company.  Some seek jobs in international health or development organizations or fellowships that take them overseas to do legal research or advocacy work.  Some are interested in research and teaching careers and go on to doctoral programs,academic fellowships, or directly into the academic job market.  Finally, some work as counsel or advocacy staff at not-for-profit organizations in the U.S. whose missions relate to improving health.

Q: Can I apply during my third year of law school?

A: Yes.  Other things being equal, preference is given in admissions to applicants with substantial legal professional experience.  However, new law graduates are also considered. Having health-related work and extracurricular experience during or before law school and an outstanding academic record significantly enhance the probability of admission for these applicants.

Q: Will it be feasible to continue to work at my law job, or at another job, while I attend HSPH?

A: If you plan to matriculate as a part-time student, yes.  Full-time students find it quite difficult to juggle the demands of paid employment and coursework.  The one-year MPH program is an intense experience and we recommend that you devote your full energy to it in order to maximize your success in your coursework and the extracurricular experiences you are able to have while at Harvard.

Q: Is the LPH program open to lawyers who received their legal training outside the U.S.?

A: Yes.  Most of our applicants and students come from American law schools, but in recent years, the LPH program has also admitted lawyers from Canada, Greece, Taiwan, and other countries.  Because the program curriculum centers on public health, rather than offering advanced training in health law per se, students can be successful without extensive knowledge of American law.  An LSAT or GRE test score is required for all applicants, regardless of whether they were required by the schools the applicant previously attended.  The only exceptions made to this requirement are in extreme cases in which political restrictions or instability over an extended period of time prevent a foreign applicant from traveling to a site at which the tests are offered.

Q: Which is better to submit, a GRE score or an LSAT score?

A: If you have both, send both.  If you have an LSAT score, a GRE score is not required.  However, the admissions committee does find a GRE score to be particularly helpful in evaluating your readiness for graduate studies, particularly because it has a quantitative analysis component.  Thus, we encourage submission of GRE scores.

Q: I’m interested in law, medicine, and bioethics.  Is this a good program for me?

A: A public health degree is not a “law and medicine” or “bioethics” degree.  In the MPH program, about half your course credits will be devoted to building competency in the core areas of public health, which are epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health services administration, social and behavioral sciences, and public health ethics. Students in the LPH program typically devote their elective credits to advanced study in the area of policy, health care management, global health and human rights, or pharmaceutical and health technology development.  Although several courses in ethics are offered, they are not bioethics, or clinical ethics, courses, which focus on dilemmas in clinical medicine.  Rather, the courses equip students to solve ethical problems in public health practice (i.e., at the group or population level). Be sure you have a solid understanding of what the field of public health is and what the MPH curriculum involves before you decide to apply to the program.