MPH Program: Frequently Asked Questions

See below for Frequently Asked Questions on Admissions, Academics, Practicum, and Student Life.

Admissions FAQ

Can I begin the MPH program directly after completing my undergraduate degree?

Students without post-baccalaureate experience are not yet eligible for the MPH program. We encourage graduating college seniors to apply to the MPH-65 program only after gaining practical experience in a field related to public health: at minimum, two years of post-baccalaureate experience is required prior to matriculation. The work experience should be meaningful and demonstrate interest in public health or a health-related field. Some students engage in work at NGOs and non-profits, while others pursue work in research and clinical settings.

This critical work experience allows applicants to better understand and articulate their career goals and interests, and moreover, it ensures that every student in the MPH cohort brings a unique, informed, practical perspective to their studies and practicum in public health.

If I am eligible for the MPH-45 program, in which situations should I apply for the MPH-65 program instead?

In most cases, those who meet the requirements for the MPH-45 program should apply to those fields of study, however under exceptional circumstances, the longer degree program may be more appropriate, and can be discussed with the MPH Program Office/Office of Educational Programs or Admissions Office. Such cases include experienced professionals who are pursuing a career switch, and students who need to maintain full-time student status for the duration of a fellowship that lasts two calendar years. Applying to the MPH-65 program if you are eligible for the MPH-45 program does not increase your possibility for admission.

Is it possible to change a field of study after matriculation?

We encourage students to closely examine the curriculum for each field of study before applying. That said, once classes begin there is a limited window, approximately one week, during which students can petition to change their field of study. This must take place during the first week of class, otherwise, it would likely be difficult to make the appropriate adjustments to your course schedule. Please note, field of study changes are not guaranteed.

Which GRE section is the most important for MPH applicants?

Due to COVID-related accessibility issues, the MPH program will not be considering GRE/MCAT/GMAT/LSAT/DAT scores during this year’s admissions cycle (this year only).  We recommend highlighting quantitative abilities in other parts of the application. We do, however, still require submission of either the TOEFL or IELTS, if applicable.

Standardized tests are not the only tool we use to evaluate applications, as we take a holistic view of applicants. However, because courses in the MPH program require a significant quantitative workload, the quantitative section of the GRE is especially important. Many of the successful applicants have quantitative GRE scores above the 55th percentile.

Do you accept GRE scores, grades, etc. after the application deadline?

Applications cannot be reviewed until they are complete. Applications with missing transcripts, standardized test scores, recommendations, etc. are incomplete, and put applicants at a distinct disadvantage, therefore we recommend submitting all materials before the deadline.

If I submit my application in mid-November, when should I expect to hear back?

Applicants who apply by the December 1st deadline or earlier will hear back regarding their admissions decision between late February and early March.

What types of financial aid are available to MPH applicants?

Applicants are encouraged to review frequently asked questions about MPH scholarship support.

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Academics FAQ

How many MPH students are concurrently enrolled in other academic programs?

The Harvard Chan School has a number of dual/joint degree programs, including the Joint JD/MPH degree program with Harvard Law School and the Joint MUP (Master in Urban Planning)/MPH degree program with the Harvard Graduate School of Design, as well as MD/DO/MPH and DMD/DDS/MPH Combined Degree Programs. Specific restrictions apply to each of these competitive programs, and admission is limited. If you are interested in exploring a dual/joint degree, please carefully review the program description to be sure you qualify, and contact the admissions office if you have any questions.

Do MPH students take courses at any other Harvard schools?

Students may enroll in courses offered by one of the other Harvard faculties, MIT, or the Tufts Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy or Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. Obtaining credit for cross-registered courses is permissible only for graduate-level courses appropriate to the student’s degree program at the Harvard Chan School.

Does Harvard offer any MPH degree programs online?

Our MPH in Epidemiology combines the best of online, in-person, and in-the-field learning. This rigorous part-time, two-year degree program provides the advanced research and epidemiological skills that students need to pursue senior positions in academia, hospitals, public health agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

Can credits from the Public Health Leadership Lab (PHL) count toward an MPH degree?

Admitted students are welcome to participate in the Public Health Leadership programming, which incorporates workshops and credit-bearing core courses in leadership into all degree programs at the Harvard Chan School.

Can credits from the Program in Clinical Effectiveness (PCE) count toward an MPH degree?

Students who have completed the Program in Clinical Effectiveness may apply to the MPH program and apply those 15 credits toward MPH degree requirements. Most students in the Clinical Effectiveness (CLE) field of study choose to study part-time while working, or come during summers only, which is a possibility only for MPH-45 CLE students.

Can I transfer credits from another institution?

No. The Harvard Chan School does not accept credits from other academic institutions. However, students who have completed relevant coursework at a peer institution may request a waiver for certain program requirements.

Can I take courses at the Harvard Chan School without enrolling in a degree program?

Harvard faculty and staff, employees of Harvard-affiliated hospitals, Harvard Chan alumni and certain other Boston-area public health professionals may enroll in a maximum of 10 credits per semester as non-degree affiliates of the school.

Individuals who do not fall into one of the categories listed above may apply for special student status. Applicants for special student status are subject to the same admission and registration requirements, deadlines, and procedures as applicants for degree candidacy. With faculty approval, admitted students can count up to 20 credits toward the MPH degree.

Visit the Registrar’s Office for more information on registering as a non-degree student.

Are Winter Session courses available for MPH students?

Students are not required to take courses during Winter Session. Policy: In general, full-time MPH students are expected to participate in activities that will enhance their academic experience. Because the nature of these experiences is broad, the following are some of the activities that would be appropriate:

  • Courses on campus: These may be for-credit or non-credit courses at the Harvard Chan School or at other Harvard Graduate Schools or MIT
  • Independent study course (for-credit)
  • Harvard Chan international or domestic field trip course (for-credit)
  • Practicum-related activities (option only available for MPH-45 students)
  • Non-credit independent research/international field study/domestic field study (Note: Human Subjects Committee approval may be needed; verify with advisor)
  • Site visits relevant to career opportunities
  • Volunteer work

Enrollment for these courses takes place in late fall.

Can MPH students enroll in language instruction courses offered at other Harvard schools?

While students are welcome to cross-register for courses that further their language skills, these courses cannot count toward degree requirements for the MPH degree, and must be taken in addition to degree coursework.

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Practicum FAQ

When do students begin preparing for and choosing their practicum projects?

The sooner students start preparing for their practicum, the better. MPH-45 students typically seek their practica between September and early October, and finalize their plans by early November. Any research, networking, planning, etc. that they can do prior to arrival will alleviate some of the search process. The Office of Career and Professional Development also recruits practicum postings, and typically posts more than 100 opportunities on CareerConnect by early September.

Where do students complete their practicum, and what are some examples of past topics?

While most practice sites are in the greater Boston area, many students do their field practice outside of Boston. You can check out Prior Practice Sites and Projects to explore the variety of our students’ practice sites and projects, organized by field of study. For students who do their practicum away from Boston during the academic year, they typically do some preparation work during November and December, travel to the host organization during the January term, and then finalize their deliverables by March after they return.

Is there funding for the practicum experience?

Most practicum projects are not funded, although there is a variety in arrangements for compensation when that is available from the host organization. A practicum-related travel subsidy will be available for projects that take place outside of Boston next year, but those funds will be limited, so it is important to consider the practical and financial implications of a practicum site.

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Student Life FAQ

What are housing options for MPH students?

There are several housing options available to Harvard Chan students through the University. Shattuck International House, a graduate student apartment building managed by the School of Public Health, is located about a 10 minute walk from campus. Harvard University Housing offers a portfolio of over 3,000 apartments available to Harvard graduate students and affiliates in both Boston and Cambridge. Vanderbilt Hall, located at Harvard Medical School, gives priority for housing to HMS students but often will accommodate a number of SPH students on a space available basis. In addition, the Off-Campus Search Guide is helpful for the many students who choose to rent in the private housing market. For more detailed resources and support, please see Housing Options for Harvard Chan Students.

What athletics facilities or gyms are available to Harvard Chan students?

The facilities at Vanderbilt Hall are free to students with a Harvard ID; these include a basketball court, squash courts, spinning, yoga, and strength training equipment. The Office for Student Affairs has information on other facilities including Blodgett Pool and the Murr Center in Allston, as well as the Malkin Athletic Center and Hemenway in Cambridge, which are available to students and their families for a small annual fee.

What fellowships are available to students at the Harvard Chan School and other Harvard-affiliated institutions?

In addition to the many opportunities listed on the Harvard Chan School website, students are encouraged to seek out scholarships, fellowships, and other funding opportunities in the public and private sector. Our students regularly compete for two such fellowships, the Zuckerman Fellows Program and the Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Minority Health Policy.

What employment opportunities are available for MPH students?

The Office for Career Advancement and the Office of Financial Aid (OFA) are go-to resources for students at the Harvard Chan School, and the following resources are available to all Harvard students: Harvard International Office (for international students) and the Student Employment OfficeIn addition, please note that funding decisions for the majority of research, training, and teaching assistant positions are made by the Academic Departments and Programs in coordination with OFA.

Who comprises the Harvard Chan MPH student body?

Visit MPH Class Demographics for the latest details on our diverse, international learning community.

Where do MPH students work after leaving Harvard Chan School?

Each year, the Office for Alumni Affairs and Career Advancement surveys our most recent graduates to learn about their post-graduation plans. Details on where our recent graduates work, employment sectors, and specific employers are all available in the Graduate Employment Outcomes survey.

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