Practicum Guidelines


The Applied Practice Experience, or Practicum, provides an opportunity for students to integrate and apply knowledge and skills from coursework to the types of settings where they will work as public health professionals. Successful public health practice requires the application of practical knowledge and skills.

Individual experiences may vary but should incorporate public health competencies through participation as a member of a team within a public health setting. Because these are general guidelines, students should consult their advisors or course instructors for further degree program requirements.

Practice Structure

Students will work at a practice site in accordance with individual program requirements. In addition to the practice placement, students should meet on a regular basis with the course instructor and other students.

    • Students are advised to begin searching for a practice placement at least 3 months before the practice is to begin
    • MPH-45 Practicum (minimum 120 hours total, during the academic year): Typically 8-10 hours per week, with more time during January term if possible. The most common window is from November through March.
    • MPH-65 Practicum (minimum 200 hours total, during the summer): Typically minimum 6 weeks full time during the summer. With approval of the practice course instructor, students may also begin their practicum in spring and complete it in summer, depending on nature of project. The practicum may not be completed during spring only, due to coursework obligations.

Objectives of Required Student Practicum

  • Integrating, synthesizing and applying knowledge and skills acquired at the Harvard Chan School to a real world problem or issue
  • Enhancing and developing skills needed to function in a professional public health setting, particularly:
    – Problem solving and analysis
    – Interpersonal skills
    – Oral and written communication
  • Working on a substantive public health problem or issue that is salient to the host organization
  • Engaging in professional self-assessment and critical reflection
Acceptable practice placements should:
  • Require the student to rigorously apply graduate level skills and competencies acquired in his/her degree program
  • Address a practical issue or problem in a “real world” setting
  • Address a problem or issue likely to be encountered in the practice of public health
  • Advance the student’s skills and knowledge
  • Focus on specific projects and deliverables
  • Be manageable in terms of the student’s time, skills, and knowledge
  • Have a preceptor who has the appropriate education and training to oversee the project, is willing to agree to the responsibilities described in the project agreement, and is approved by the instructor
  • Enhance the career potential and professional development of the student

Host Organization Preceptor Responsibilities

  • Work with the student, develop a realistic project scope and work schedule with the student
  • At the beginning of practice placement, orient student to the organization and co-workers
  • Be available on a regular basis to meet with and supervise the student and to provide performance feedback
  • Provide resources needed to complete project (e.g., work space, computer, administrative support, access to data)
  • Provide written feedback for the student and the school by completing an online mid-point and final evaluation form
  • Agree to assist in student’s professional development activities (e.g., introduce students to leaders of the organization, attend meetings during practice placement, conduct informational interviews)

Approval Process For Practice Placements

All practice placements must be approved in writing by the practice course instructor, the preceptor, and the student. Students may need to submit a project proposal as a preliminary step. Practice course instructors within each Field of Study may have slightly different approval processes for student field practice placements.

Read more about Learning Agreements and using CareerConnect to manage your Practicum documentation.

Methods of Evaluation: Required Documentation

All students are required to submit two products which demonstrate a total of five MPH program competencies, 3 foundational competencies and 2 field of study-specific competencies. This is a requirement of all students graduating from nationally accredited schools and programs of public health.

Evaluation of the student’s performance at the field site is determined by the practice course instructor or degree program leaders. Check with your department for details.

Human Subjects Requirements

Any Practicum project involving research on human subjects or analysis of identifiable data from human subjects may require pre-clearance by Harvard Chan School’s Human Subjects Committee (HSC).

Students should consult the HSC’s Guidelines for Class-Based Research and discuss with their advisors whether their project may require clearance.

It is the student’s responsibility to inform the advisor of any planned interaction with human subjects or data from human subjects for research purposes, so that the advisor may evaluate the need for HSC review. Because HSC review may take up to three months, students who plan to work with human subjects or identifiable data must initiate the review process at the earliest possible date.

Regardless of whether the project requires HSC approval, students should bear in mind that all work products they complete for an organization must be submitted to the course instructors or program leaders. In certain cases, it may be appropriate to inform persons from whom information is being gathered that the report will be submitted to faculty members, and to describe your plans for protecting the confidentiality of the person(s) or data that can be ascribed to them, prior to submission. No assurances of confidentiality should be made except by agreement with the Harvard Chan School’s course instructor and program leader.

Practicum Policy Waiver

At the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health we do not anticipate there will be circumstances under which a professional student would be exempt from the Practicum requirement.