PhD in Population Health Sciences

Prepare for a high-impact career tackling public health problems from air pollution to obesity to global health equity to the social determinants of health

The PhD in population health sciences is a multidisciplinary research degree that will prepare you for a career focused on challenges and solutions that affect the lives of millions around the globe. Collaborating with colleagues from diverse personal and professional backgrounds and conducting field and/or laboratory research projects of your own design, you will gain the deep expertise and powerful analytical and quantitative tools needed to tackle a wide range of complex, large-scale public health problems.

Focusing on one of five complementary fields of study at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and drawing on courses, resources, and faculty from the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, you will become well-versed in a wide variety of disciplines while gaining specialized knowledge in your chosen area of study.


As a population health sciences graduate, you will be prepared for a career in research, academics, or practice, tackling complex diseases and health problems that affect entire populations. Those interested in pursuing research may go on to work at a government agency or international organization, or in the private sector at a consulting, biotech, or pharmaceutical firm. Others may choose to pursue practice or on-the-ground interventions. Those interested in academics may become a faculty member in a college, university, medical school, research institute, or school of public health.


The PhD in population health sciences is a four-year program based at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the world-renowned Longwood Medical Area of Boston, Massachusetts. The degree will prepare you to apply diverse approaches to solving difficult public health research issues in your choice of one of five primary fields of study:

  • Environmental health
  • Nutrition
  • Epidemiology
  • Social and behavioral sciences
  • Global health and population

In your first semester, you and your faculty adviser will design a degree plan to guide you through the program’s interdisciplinary requirements and core courses, as well as those in your chosen field of study. After successfully completing the preliminary qualifying examination, usually at the end of your second year, you will finalize your general research topics and identify a dissertation adviser who will mentor you through the dissertation process and help you nominate a dissertation advisory committee.

All population health sciences students are trained in pedagogy and teaching and are required to work as a teaching fellow and/or research assistant to ensure they gain meaningful teaching and research experience before graduation. Students also attend a special weekly evening seminar that features prominent lecturers, grant-writing modules, feedback dinners, and training opportunities.


All students, including international students, who maintain satisfactory progress (B+ or above) receive a multiyear funding package, which includes tuition, fees, and a competitive stipend.


Anyone with a distinguished undergraduate record and a demonstrated enthusiasm for the rigorous pursuit of scientific public health knowledge is encouraged to apply. Although a previous graduate degree is not required, applicants should have successfully completed coursework in introductory statistics or quantitative methods. Preference will be given to applicants who have either some relevant work experience or graduate-level work in their desired primary field of study.


Like all PhD (doctor of philosophy) programs at the School, the PhD in population health sciences is offered under the aegis of the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (Harvard Griffin GSAS). Applications are processed through the Harvard Griffin GSAS online application system located at


As a PhD in population health sciences candidate, you will be part of a diverse and accomplished group of students with a broad range of research and other interests. The opportunity to learn from each other and to share ideas both inside and outside the classroom will be one of the most rewarding and productive parts of the program for any successful candidate. The program in population health sciences provides these opportunities by sponsoring an informal curriculum of seminars, a dedicated student gathering and study area, and events that will enhance your knowledge, foster interaction with your peers, and encourage you to cooperatively evaluate scientific literature, while providing a supportive, collaborative community within which to pursue your degree.

As members of both the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Harvard Kenneth C. Griffin Graduate School of Arts and Sciences communities, students have access to the Cambridge and Longwood Medical Area campuses. Students also qualify for affordable transportation options, access to numerous lectures and academic seminars, and a wealth of services to support their academic and personal needs on both sides of the Charles River.


Population Health Sciences
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health