Prospective Students

Welcome to the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences!  We invite you to get to know our Department by exploring our website.  In addition, our Curriculum Guide offers a wealth of information about our programs. Should you have additional questions or would like to be put in touch with a current student, please contact Michele Brooks, Academic Coordinator or Elizabeth Solomon, Assistant Director for Academic Affairs and Fellowship Programs.  Below is a list of frequently asked questions we typically receive from prospective students.

How do you evaluate applications?  What do you look for in applicants?

We look at the application holistically.  GRE scores, grades, experience, letters of recommendation and the statement of purpose are all weighed in the review process. We recommend spending time to craft your statement to reflect your interest of study and address the following questions:  Why public health?  Why Harvard?  Why Social and Behavioral Sciences?  How will this degree help you get to where you want to go?

Do I need a masters degree to be admitted into the doctoral program?

Successful candidates to the SD program normally enter with a master’s degree or non-U.S. equivalent.

How many years does it take to finish the doctoral degree?

As a full-time student it generally takes 4 – 5 years.

How many years of job experience do I need?

Doctoral students need 2+ years public health related work experience. Masters students need 1+ years public health-related work experience.

What’s the difference between the SM1 and SM2 degrees?

The SM1 is a one-year research degree designed for established researchers and investigators or practitioners with significant experience in the social or behavioral sciences.  The SM2 is a two-year degree providing a common core with a strong emphasis on health disparities, social determinants of health and behavioral interventions.

How do I apply for financial aid?  How do I qualify?

In order to be considered for all forms of funding, you must fill out the HSPH financial aid application.  If you are a US citizen or permanent resident you should also fill out the FAFSA.   Some forms of financial aid are merit-based and some are need-based.

When do I get an advisor? 

Advisors are assigned prior to the Fall semester, however you are not expected to meet with your advisor until Orientation.

Can I waive out of the basic BIO and EPI requirements?  

In order to waive out of one or both of the school-wide core requirements, you must bring the Waiver of Core Course form from the Registrar’s Office along with a transcript and course description of the previous coursework to the instructor teaching the core course.

Can I take other courses at other Harvard schools?

HSPH students may enroll in courses offered by the cross-registration consortium. This includes Harvard facultiesMassachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

What types of jobs do SM and SD students take upon graduating?

Jobs taken by our alumni are included in the appendices of the Curriculum Guide. Some examples of jobs taken by doctoral students include postdoctoral positions, tenure-track faculty, and management/research positions at government agencies. For masters students, some examples include research analysts at consulting firms, program coordinators at community-based organizations, and project directors at city, state and federal health commissions.  Some have even started their own non-profit organizations.