Student FAQs

Where do I find a field placement opportunity?

Students are responsible for finding their own practicum placements.

  • Practice Open House takes place in the Fall is a great way to network with organizations and alumni to find a practice opportunity. A Winter open house is also in planning stages for students seeking a summer practicum.
  • Organizations currently looking for a student are listed on CareerConnect. In the right-hand sidebar under Practice/Field Immersion, select “Search for Practicum Projects.”
  • Practice course instructors, faculty advisers, fellow students, and the Office of Education’s  Practice Staff may also be a source for opportunities.
  • Refer to listings of previous practice placements for ideas and consider reaching out to those organizations directly if they have not already posted an opportunity on CareerConnect.
  • In preparation for seeking an opportunity consider the following: inventory your related skills and experiences, identify the skills you would like to develop, and update your resume.

When should I begin preparation for the Practicum?

As soon as possible! In general, allow yourself three to six months’ lead time. Consider whether you will use the Practicum to focus on learning new skills, delving deeper into a specific content area, or working in a specific type of organization or location. The practicum and all its requirements must be fulfilled before graduation. Since each program has different practice guidelines, check the handbook for your program and work with your practice instructor.

Once I find a Practicum opportunity, how do I obtain approval?

To ensure your practice experience meets the requirements of your degree program, you should be sure to obtain approval from your practice instructor BEFORE accepting or committing to an organization. You will need to complete a Learning Agreement, which includes the scope and logistical arrangements. Learning Agreements are typically approved through CareerConnect by your Preceptor as well as your practice course instructor.

What is the time commitment for a Practicum?

MPH-45 and MPH-65 students must commit at least 120 and 200 hours to their Practicum, respectively. Arrangements with the host organization can vary. When planning your course schedule, make sure that you have sufficient blocks of time to spend on-site at your host organization. MPH-45 students should consider using the January term for more time with your host organization.

Can I get paid by the host organization for my Practicum?

Yes, if the host organization has funds to pay you, this is permitted. Host organizations are not required to provide payment to students for the Practicum requirement. Examples of compensation arrangements can be found here.

I am eligible for the Federal Work Study Program. Can a host organization pay me as part of this program? If I am interested in an international or non-U.S. based organization, can I utilize my FWS award there?

If a U.S.-based off-campus host organization is eligible and has funds to pay you, your Practicum work can be used as part of FWSP. The Harvard Student Employment Office provides comprehensive resources for both students and employers here. The Harvard Chan School Office of Financial Aid also provides information on FWSP to students both to students who have already received an FWSP award as well as those who are interested. Students are responsible for arranging FWSP with their employer directly.

International or non-U.S.-based organizations are not eligible for FWS funding.

View examples of payment scenarios that can be shared with a potential host organization.

Can I do my Practicum at the school with a faculty member?

You must identify a Practicum that will take place outside of the school in order to give you experience working in an organization addressing public health, as well as an opportunity to learn from practitioners and build your professional network. If a faculty member is leading a project that is community-based or led by another organization, for example, that may be acceptable pending approval of your course instructor. Many students do research projects with school faculty as a different type of learning opportunity, or an independent study; however, school-based research projects are not considered Practicum placements.

Can a Winter Trip course during January term be used for my Practicum?

Your instructor must approve all Practicum proposals; please see their individual course policy regarding Practicum-related travel. GHP 547 is the only January-term Harvard Chan course currently allowable by the Office of Education for Practicum, with the approval of your practice course instructor. A student who travels with GHP 547 for their Practicum may not receive credit for the course, as this is double dipping. This course holds required meetings during the Fall and Spring 1. If you plan to apply for GHP 547, please meet with your practice course instructor well in advance of relevant deadlines.

No other Winter Trip courses are allowable for Practicum.

Can I do a Practicum at my workplace?

Practicum projects completed at a student’s place of employment must be outside of their normal scope of work and must be approved by the practice course instructor. While it is possible to complete a Practicum at your place of employment, Harvard Chan encourages students to find their placements elsewhere as the Practicum is designed to be a substantive professional development experience.

I am an international student. Can I conduct my practicum off-campus?

If you are an international student and you will complete your practicum in the United States, you must obtain work authorization from the Harvard International Office before beginning your practicum. Please note that the Harvard International Office recommends appropriate work authorization regardless of whether or not you will be paid by the host organization. Please submit the following information to Elizabeth Capuano:

  • F-1 student with a practicum at a Harvard-affiliated hospital: Provide a scan of your Learning Agreement to Elizabeth via e-mail.  She will then provide you with a letter authorizing you to work at the Harvard affiliated hospital.
  • F-1 student with an off-campus practicum: Complete the following Curricular Practical Training request form and scan it to Elizabeth with the required supporting documentation.
  • J-1 student with a practicum at any location: Review the HIO information about Academic Training and follow the steps under “How to Apply.”

If you have any questions, please contact Elizabeth or make plans to visit her during her HSPH office hours.

I am a part-time student. When will I do the practicum?

Practicum arrangements for part-time students are handled on a case-by-case basis, in consultation with the field of study practice faculty. Students should arrange to do their practicum after they have completed sufficient coursework, and to coincide with the timing of their practicum class. Please set up a time to meet with your practice course faculty and keep the MPH practice office informed of your plans.

Can I do more than one practicum?

Students may only do one practicum for their practice course, with one Learning Agreement in CareerConnect. Some students choose to pursue additional projects via an Independent Study for course credit, or as an extracurricular experience. International students who are interested in additional field-based projects beyond their practicum should consult first with the Harvard International Office regarding required documentation or restrictions.

Do I need to get IRB approval from the Human Subjects Committee?

Every student needs to be aware of human subjects requirements. General guidelines are listed on the Practicum Guidelines page, AND students should discuss the human subjects requirements with their practice instructors. If you have questions or concerns about human subjects research, please contact Julie Kaberry at the Office of Human Research Administration.

Please visit the Office of Human Research Administration website for information on whether Student Researchers can act as PIs on the various types of Harvard Chan School protocols.

Can I only use tools that are in the public domain for my practicum?

We recommend that you use tools (i.e. for data analysis, etc.) that are in the public domain. If you are interested in using proprietary instruments, be sure that you have the required license or written permission, and plan accordingly.

Can I do my Practicum outside of the Boston area, in another part of the U.S. or in another country?

Yes, with the approval of your practice course instructor. If you are traveling internationally, you must register with Harvard Travel Assist and submit a signed travel waiver to the Office of Education.

Is funding assistance available to support Practicum-related travel?

Funding may be available depending on the project or course. Limited funding may be available for the 2019-2020 academic year. Details are available here.

Where can I get help finding my Practicum?

Please talk with your practice course instructor, or contact the Office of Education Practice Staff.

What should I do if my Practicum does not go according to plan or if I am worried that I cannot complete the project?

Sometimes the best Practicum project plans are disrupted by the real world! In fact, you will find that this is often the case, because you will be relying on other people or systems to help you accomplish your work goals, unlike traditional academic coursework. Minor disruptions are normal and as long as you and your Preceptor can figure out how to meet your deliverables, that is fine. It is an important part of the experience to increase your comfort level with unanticipated changes and still meet your goals.

If your scope of work changes  it is critical that you talk with your practice instructor as soon as possible and update your Learning Agreement, if needed. The most important thing is to make sure that you, your Preceptor, your practice instructor, and the Practice Staff are working as a team to support you in meeting the Practicum requirement. You should talk with whomever you are most comfortable to ask for support. Early communication is always best, so do not hesitate to talk with your instructor or Practice Staff.

If you are not able to complete your Practicum due to health reasons, or some other personal difficulty, you must get in touch with your practice course instructor right away, and also contact the Office of Student Affairs. As a degree requirement, the Practicum cannot be waived.  We will work with you to develop a plan to complete it, which may include an extension beyond your anticipated graduation date. In this case, you would be awarded your degree at the next available time for conferring degrees (May, November, or March). If you were planning to graduate in May, but will not be able to do so, you may participate in all Commencement activities in May, but you will not be able to “walk”. As students often plan to have family or close friends join them for Commencement, it is important to plan accordingly or adjust plans as needed.

What should I do if I cannot go to my Practicum site as scheduled for some reason (e.g. medical, family emergency)?

You must let your Preceptor know that you are not able to come to the office as soon as you are able. You should do this by email or by phone, whichever they prefer. We strongly encourage you to use the Preceptor-Student Startup Discussion Guide at the beginning of your Practicum to cover this type of question. Your health and safety come first, and your Preceptor will be understanding of a sickness or family emergency that prevents you from meeting your work commitment.

If you anticipate being absent or late more than once, please let your Preceptor know and make alternate arrangements as needed for meeting your deliverables.

In certain cases (i.e. a serious medical situation), a student may need to substantially revise their Practicum plan with the help of the practice instructor and the Practice Staff. It is very important that the student talk with school staff as soon as possible so that we can assist with a new arrangement.

Can I work with another student on my Practicum project?

Yes, you can work in a team of up to three students, including students from other Fields of Study, with the approval of your practice instructor. Make sure that your potential Preceptor is able to supervise a team, and that you feel you will have adequate opportunity to develop a professional relationship with the Preceptor. You will need to develop your own Learning Agreement, which outlines your scope of work and deliverables; there may be some sections of the Learning Agreement with shared language, as appropriate. Working in teams is excellent preparation for your career and along with the benefits, it will come with its own challenges as you navigate team dynamics.

Can I waive the Practicum requirement if I have many years of work experience already?

No, the Practicum is required for all MPH students. Mid-career students are encouraged to discuss learning goals with their practice instructor or field practice staff to develop a plan that will contribute substantially to their professional development and result in a valuable experience. In addition, we encourage you to discuss specific ways that your Preceptor can help you with specific goals.

What should I do when my Practicum is completed?

Each department and practice course has its own requirements for completion of the practice experience. Please check with your practice course instructor(s) and course syllabus for details. In general, a paper about the work as well as a classroom presentation or poster session will be needed to obtain a grade for the practice course.

You must also complete a web-based evaluation of your practicum experience with your host organization that will be sent in April (MPH-45) or September (MPH-65), at the end of your practicum. This is separate from your practice course evaluation. Your Preceptor will also complete an evaluation which will contribute toward your final grade. We encourage students and preceptors to discuss student performance and use the opportunity for mentoring and professional growth.