Skip to content

2023-2024 MPH Handbook

Penn State’s Public Health Program aims to advance theory and practice that prepare future public health leaders, improve population health, and reduce health disparities – across Pennsylvania’s communities, the nation, and the world – through excellence in education, research, and service.

Students in earlier years of the MPH program should consult their handbook from matriculation or contact the program office for details.

This handbook provides a comprehensive look at the MPH Program and related requirements. For additional criteria specific to the MPH-IUG Program , please refer to the MPH-IUG Supplement.

Jump to topic


General Information

Contacts Expand answer

PHS Contacts for Students

College Contacts for Students

Academic Accommodations Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine is committed to diversity and inclusion and, out of that commitment, supports the success of students with disabilities in all aspects of the University’s educational programs.

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University’s educational programs. If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in this course, contact Disability Services, the College of Medicine Disability Services Coordinator, at or at extension 283693. For further information visit the website for the Office for Disability Services.

In order to receive consideration for course accommodations, you must contact the College of Medicine Disability Services Coordinator (DSC) and provide documentation (see the documentation guidelines). If the documentation supports the need for academic accommodation, the College DSC will provide a letter identifying appropriate accommodation. The DSC coordinator will work directly with you and with your instructors to arrange to provide this accommodation for you.

If you have a disability-related need for reasonable academic accommodation in any course, please contact the College of Medicine’s disability services coordinator through the Office for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at or (717) 531-0003, extension 283693.

The disability services coordinator will share with you the documentation guidelines to be considered for academic accommodation. If the documentation you provide supports the need for accommodation in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA), the disability services coordinator will provide you a letter identifying appropriate accommodation(s), and work directly with you and your instructors to implement approved accommodations in the classroom, laboratory, clinical, and/or examination settings.

Learn more about student disability services.

Academic Integrity Expand answer

“Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, the University’s Code of Conduct states that all students should act with personal integrity, respect other students’ dignity, rights and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts.

Academic integrity includes a commitment by all members of the University community not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others.”

From Penn State’s University Faculty Senate Policy 49-20

Examples of Academic Dishonesty

  • Plagiarism
  • Cheating on a test
  • Buying/selling a paper
  • Having someone take a test for you
  • Taking a test for someone else
  • Unauthorized possession of a test
  • Submitting work previously used without permission
  • Unauthorized collaboration
  • Fabrication of citations

Academic integrity is taken very seriously in Penn State public health programs. All instances of academic dishonesty in the program will be reported through the official Penn State process. This process and the potential consequences of academic dishonesty are briefly outlined here. Please see the Penn State Graduate School Policies page for more detailed information, or access the Penn State Academic Integrity Training Module.

When Academic Dishonesty is Suspected

  • The faculty member informs the student of the allegation and provides the student an opportunity to respond.
  • When evidence suggests that an academic misconduct has occurred, the faculty member will enter a charge and academic sanction on an Academic Integrity (AI) form.
  • The student will have the choice to accept or contest the charge. If the student fails to sign the AI form by a specified deadline, the charge and sanction will go into effect.
  • In some cases, if the academic violation is considered extreme, the faculty member may also opt to pursue a disciplinary action in conjunction with both the AI Committee and Office of Student Conduct (OSC).
  • In situations where the allegation is referred to the OSC, the academic sanctions will be carried out by OSC in consultation with the campus or college Academic Integrity Committee.
  • Once a student has been informed that academic dishonesty is suspected, the student may not drop the course during the adjudication process. A student who has received an academic sanction as a result of a violation of academic integrity may not drop or withdraw from the course at any time. Any such drop action of the course will be reversed.

Consequences for Violations of Academic Integrity

Academic dishonesty cases which result in academic sanctions only will not be reported out to others with the exception of when a subsequent academic dishonesty violation occurs. When an academic dishonesty case results in disciplinary action assigned by the OSC Designee, the charge and sanction become part of the student’s record which will be reported out following the guidelines outlined in our records policy.

Academic Sanctions

  • Redo Assignment
  • Warning
  • Reduced Grade for Assignment
  • “0” for Assignment
  • Reduced Grade for Course
  • Failing Grade for Course
  • Dismissal from Academic Program

Disciplinary Sanctions

  • “XF” – A notation that is placed on a student’s transcript for a period of time, or until specified conditions have been met. At that time, the “X” will be removed and the “F” will remain on the transcript. The notation is reserved for the most serious breaches of academic integrity which may include repeat misconduct.
  • Educational Programs
  • Disciplinary Warning
  • Disciplinary Probation
  • Disciplinary Probation with Transcript Notation
  • Disciplinary Suspension
Adding/Dropping Courses Expand answer

Adding a Course

Students may add a course during the regular add period without having to pay a fee. The add period for full-semester courses ends at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time on the seventh day of the fall/spring semester and is a calculated proportional length for all other courses. Students can add a course after the regular add period. There will be a fee for each transaction.

See complete policies and procedures.

Dropping a Course

Students may drop a course during the regular drop period (up until the late drop period begins) without having to pay a drop fee. However, there may still be a reduction in the tuition refund. The length of the drop period is six calendar days during fall/spring for full-semester courses, and is a calculated proportional length for all other courses.

Students can drop a course after the regular drop period and before the late drop deadline with certain restrictions and requirements. There will be a fee for each transaction, and courses will be recorded on the student record.

There are financial implications to consider when dropping courses. Tuition penalties may apply and financial aid may be impacted. Students who receive financial aid are strongly encouraged to consult with the Office of Student Aid.

If a student drops a course during the first week of class in the fall or spring semesters, there will be a full tuition refund. After the first week of the semester, the tuition refund decreases by 25 percent each week. After the fifth week of the semester, a student dropping a class will get no tuition refund for a dropped class. This is especially important for students who are on financial aid and who are responsible for paying that money back. This policy is the same for full semester summer courses, but for 6-week summer courses students must drop the course within two days to receive the full tuition refund.

See complete policies and procedures.

See information on tuition penalties.

See information on financial aid adjustments.

Campus Safety and Security Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine takes safety and security seriously. Campus Security can be reached 24 hours a day by phone by dialing 717-531-8711 (ext. 8711 if using on-campus phone) for non-emergent issues. For emergencies on campus, call 717-531-8888 (ext. 8888 on on-campus phones).

Learn more about safety and security, including how to access the annual report titled “Policies, Safety & U”.

Cognitive Skills Program Expand answer

The Cognitive Skills Program (CSP) provides comprehensive cognitive skills development and learning support to medical, graduate, and physician assistant students on the Hershey campus of Penn State College of Medicine.

The CSP offers workshops, interactive learning sessions, and individual support for exploring content, processes and thinking skills to maximize student success. The CSP serves all students in the College of Medicine by providing programs to help promote effective and efficient lifelong learning.

In addition, remediation services are provided for students who are struggling academically.

Learn more about the Cognitive Skills Program.

Crisis Services Expand answer

Students experiencing an acute crisis should go or be taken to the Emergency Department and/or call 911.

Penn State College of Medicine offers professional counseling services to all graduate students at this campus. These services include counseling for personal and academic difficulties. There is NO COST to students who use these services and all records are confidential. The records are NOT part of a student’s academic record. They are treated as health records and are therefore protected under federal law from being disclosed without a student’s permission.

To learn more about scheduling appointments, fees and other information, visit the link below.

Learn more about student mental health and counseling services.

Getting Involved in Campus Life Expand answer

Public Health Association for Service and Education (PHASE)

PHASE is the Penn State Public Health Program’s student-led public health service organization. PHASE offers student excellent leadership opportunities. The mission of PHASE is to increase public health literacy through education, advocacy, PHASE-sponsored events, and community outreach within the Penn State College of Medicine and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center as well as the greater Central Pennsylvania community. Additionally, PHASE provides members with the opportunity to engage with and give back to community members, as well as to develop professional skills and experience.

PHASE is a formally recognized student organization at Penn State and a voting member of the Student Assembly at Penn State College of Medicine. While the organization is student-led, full membership in PHASE is open to all faculty, staff and degree-seeking students at Penn State College of Medicine. Non-degree students also may participate in PHASE as non-voting, ad-hoc members.

Learn more about PHASE

Penn State College of Medicine Graduate Student Association (GSA)

The GSA is a group of students made up of elected and appointed students who help run student life at Penn State College of Medicine. The GSA helps to facilitate communication between the student body and program administration, as well as coordinate events such as the annual Research Forum to provide educational opportunities for all members of the Penn State College of Medicine community. Members of the GSA also try to help new students adjust to graduate school life through social and academic services. The GSA executive and committee chairs are available to help you with any questions you may have. The GSA can assist you with most services available at Penn State. They can help you navigate campus and various offices around campus, or help find other student or local organizations.

Learn more about GSA

Penn State Graduate and Professional Association (GPSA)

The GPSA stands as the oldest continuously existing student governing organization at Penn State. The primary goals of the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA) are to represent and support the interests of the University’s current and future graduate and professional student community.

For ways to get involved in GPSA, please contact email

Learn more about GPSA

Grade Mediation Expand answer

The basis for grades, as stated in Senate Policy 47-20, is “…the instructor’s judgment of the student’s scholastic achievement…” Occasionally, a disagreement arises in the assignment of a grade. A student who wishes to question or challenge the grade assigned in a course must first discuss grading practices and assignments with the instructor. It is expected that the student and instructor will try to eliminate any misunderstandings and will attempt to work out any disagreements over grades.

On the rare occasion that a student and instructor fail to resolve the grade dispute through informal means, the student may request that the head of the academic program offering the course act as a mediator. If this mediation does not resolve the dispute, the student who is a graduate student may request further mediation from the associate dean for graduate studies.

Learn more about Grade Mediation

Graduate Student Oath Expand answer

Each year since 2009, Penn State College of Medicine has welcomed its incoming graduate students with the Graduate Student Oath Ceremony.

Learn more about the Graduate Student Oath

Penn State Policy on Discrimination and Sexual Misconduct Expand answer

Penn State is committed to fostering an environment free from discrimination, including sexual or gender-based harassment or misconduct. It is the policy of the University to maintain an academic and work environment free of discrimination, including harassment. Penn State prohibits discrimination and harassment against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identify or veteran status.

The Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response ensures compliance with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the sex or gender of employees and students. Behaviors including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as well as retaliation for reporting any of these acts violate Title IX and are not tolerated.

Learn more about Title IX, including how to report

Learn more about bias-related incidents

PHS contacts

The Public Health Sciences contacts for discrimination and sexual misconduct are Jessica Yingst ( and Michelle Laclair (

Religious Diversity Expand answer

Penn State College of Medicine is committed to religious diversity and an inclusive educational and work environment. The Office of Graduate Education, graduate program directors and course directors have made a concerted effort to avoid significant religious celebrations when constructing the academic calendar and when planning academic deadlines.

In instances where unintended overlap is identified by the student, we will work to provide flexible scheduling and/or alternative assignments. When possible, we will honor requests for time away from class and other academic activities pursuant to University’s religious accommodation policy. Students should notify and discuss accommodations with the appropriate faculty member.

See policies on religious observances

Scholarship and Research Integrity Expand answer

Scholarship and Research Integrity (SARI) is a mandatory research ethics training program that all Penn State University graduate students must complete prior to graduation.

Learn more about SARI Requirements here.

After completing the required CITI online training, PHS students are required to email a copy of your certificate of completion to Shannon Tuininga at

Penn State MPH students are required to complete the Protection of Human Research Subjects — Biomedical Course. MPH students will automatically fulfill the five hours of discussion-based Responsible Conduct of Research ethics education through the successful completion of a required core MPH course, PHS 809: Principles of Public Health.

Student Ombudspersons Expand answer

The College of Medicine has an ombudsperson for medical and graduate students. The role of an ombudsperson is to enhance communication and clarify possible misunderstandings in situations which involve potential disputes, to advise as to appropriate courses of action, and to help settle matters before they become hardened into serious disputes.

Learn more about ombudspersons.

Title IX Expand answer

The Office of Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response ensures compliance with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination based on the sex or gender of employees and students. Behaviors including sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking, as well as retaliation for reporting any of these acts violate Title IX and are not tolerated.

Learn more about Title IX, including how to report

Public Health Sciences Information

Feedback and Reporting Expand answer

The MPH program greatly values the opinions of our students. We strongly encourage students to provide feedback on any issues, concerns, or helpful program components that they encounter during their time in the MPH program.

The sooner you let us know of a concern, the sooner we can address it. For this reason, students are encouraged to report any issues as soon as they arise. These issues can be reported in person to any member of our faculty or staff. Students can also report incidents online. Two online reporting systems exist for this purpose. They are described in more detail below.

To Leave Feedback about Public Health Sciences (PHS)

If you are a Public Health Sciences student, please share your thoughts with us relating to the program’s curriculum, resources, advising, teaching and facilities.

To provide feedback on the DrPH or MPH program, use this online form.

To Report Mistreatment Within the College of Medicine

Mistreatment, as defined in the Penn State College of Medicine Student Handbook, arises when behavior shows disrespect for the dignity of others and unreasonably interferes with the learning process. This could include behaviors performed by faculty, nurses, residents/interns, other institution employees, staff or other students.

Your well-being is important to us. If you are a student, who wants to report mistreatment within the College of Medicine, please file a report through the Office for Respect in Student Learning. Their reporting process is entirely independent of the Department of Public Health Sciences (PHS), though PHS will be informed of any reports related to our programs.

To report mistreatment, use this online form.

Public Health Program Mission Statement Expand answer

Mission Statement

Faculty in the Penn State Public Health Program will seek to positively influence and inspire lifelong learning in their students and themselves by serving as practitioners, educators and role models. Faculty and students will continually develop relationships with community organizations, regionally and globally, to foster engagement and practice-based educational and research opportunities. Our Public Health Program will continually strive to recruit and support a diverse student body while promoting diverse learning opportunities.

Vision Statement

Penn State’s Public Health Program aims to advance theory and practice that prepare future public health leaders, improve population health, and reduce health disparities – across Pennsylvania’s communities, the nation, and the world – through excellence in education, research and service.

Statement of Values

The Penn State Public Health Program will instill in its students several values.

Students completing degree programs should embody the following:


  • Competent leaders with skills in evidence-based public health practice and research
  • Mediators of diverse partnerships, who communicate across a range of sectors and settings, synthesize findings, and generate practice-based evidence


  • Builders of evidence designed to improve health of communities and populations
  • Translators of evidence into reducing health disparities


  • Valuable partners in public health promotion with non-profit, governmental and/or commercial stakeholders
  • Team members in multi-disciplinary teams

Social Responsibility

  • Promoters of respect, fairness and equity
  • Thoughtful practitioners with an understanding of the social, economic and environmental complexity of disease etiology and prevention


  • Examples of effective leadership using evidence-based practice
  • Promoters of ethical public health practice within the discipline and related disciplines

Health and Wellness

  • Effective translators of scientific evidence to policy and law
  • Practitioners in prevention and intervention programs that improve the public’s health


  • Facilitators of diversity across the educational, research and service environments
  • Builders of a culturally sensitive and competent workforce
Public Health Student Group (PHASE) Expand answer

PHASE (Public Health Association for Service and Excellence) is the Penn State MPH program’s student-led public health service organization.

Learn more about PHASE here.

Student Study Area in ASB Expand answer

The Department of Public Health Sciences provides two student areas for our public health students within the department’s office suite. The spaces are located in Suite 2300, on the second floor of the Academic Support Building.

One space (to the left when entering suite 2300) contains several computers, a white board, and collaboration space for students. We strongly encourage you to take advantage of this space if you need somewhere to study, or just relax before an evening class. The student area is also located next to a small kitchenette where you can heat up your meals, if needed.

While we expect everyone in this student area to be respectful and considerate of others, this student area is not a silent study space. We set up this space as a shared space to foster collaboration and provide you all with an area to congregate. There will be times when students are working silently in the space, but there will also be times when students are collaborating on group projects or just chatting before class.

If you would like a guaranteed quiet study space, the other student space (to the right when entering suite 2300) is a good location. In addition, the library is a quiet space for studying.

MPH Program Information

Academic Performance Policy - Penn State MPH Program Expand answer

Penn State Graduate School Policy

“A minimum grade-point average of 3.00 for work done at the University is required for graduation and to maintain good academic standing.” (Graduate Bulletin)

Procedures for Termination of the Degree Program of a Graduate Student for Unsatisfactory Scholarship

“When a program head, program committee, or, in the case of a doctoral student, the doctoral committee determines that the program of a graduate student must be terminated for unsatisfactory scholarship, the student must be given advance notice, in writing, which in general terms shall advise the student of the reasons for the termination. Examples of unsatisfactory scholarship may include, but are not limited to, failure to exhibit and promote the highest ethical, moral, and professional standards; inadequate grade-point average; failure to obtain satisfactory grades in required courses for the program; failure to make satisfactory progress in research or other activities related to the culminating experience; or failing the candidacy, comprehensive, or final oral examination for doctoral students. Upon receipt of this notice, the student has the opportunity to seek a review of the decision. If the student desires such a review, the student must, within ten days of receipt of the notice, submit a written appeal to the program head.” (See the full policy.)

Penn State MPH Program Policy

Students in the Penn State MPH program are expected to maintain satisfactory scholarship. In addition to the Graduate School Policy on satisfactory scholarship, students admitted to the Penn State MPH program must follow the guidelines below:

  • Successfully complete all courses (required and elective) with a grade of C or higher
  • Required core and concentration courses in the MPH program may only be repeated one time.
  • A student who fails to obtain a C or higher in a required core or concentration course after two attempts will be dismissed from the MPH program.
  • A student who fails to obtain a C or higher on their first attempt in two different required core or concentration courses will be dismissed from the MPH program.
  • A student who falls below a cumulative GPA of 3.0 will have one semester to increase their GPA to at least a 3.0 and resume good academic standing.
  • A student who has a cumulative GPA below 3.0 for more than one semester will be dismissed from the MPH program.
  • A student who falls below a GPA of 3.0 in their final semester will be unable to graduate and will have one semester to increase their GPA to above a 3.0.
  • A student who falls below a cumulative GPA of 2.0 will be dismissed from the MPH program.

Additional Information

Students are encouraged to contact their administrative adviser if they believe their GPA may fall below a 3.0, or if their GPA has fallen below a 3.0.

There are many services available to help students maintain their academic performance, including the Cognitive Skills Program (described elsewhere in this handbook). Your administrative adviser will also be able to connect you to additional resources that may help you to improve your academic performance.

Students with special circumstances should inform their administrative adviser. Special circumstances will be considered by the administrative adviser and MPH Program Director on a case-by-case basis.

Academic Requirements - Overview Expand answer

The Penn State MPH is a 42-credit degree program that prepares students for exciting careers in public health promotion and disease prevention, health administration and policy, and public health research. All students must complete the Core Courses listed below. In addition to the Core Courses, students select one of four concentrations in which to specialize:

  • Community and Behavioral Health
  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Health Systems Organization and Policy
  • Global Health (World Campus program only)

Core Courses (24 credits)

  • PHS 504: Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies (3 credits)
  • PHS 520: Principles of Biostatistics (3 credits)
  • PHS 539: Qualitative Health Research Methods (3 credits)
  • PHS 550: Principles of Epidemiology (3 credits)
  • PHS 571: Health Services Organization and Delivery (3 credits)
  • PHS 809: Principles of Public Health (3 credits)
  • PHS 894: Capstone Experience (during final semester only; 3 credits)
  • PHS 895A or C: Master of Public Health Internship (3 credits)

Community and Behavioral Health Concentration (18 credits)

  • PHS 505: Public Health Program Planning and Evaluation (3 credits)
  • PHS 506: Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies II (3 credits)
  • PHS 807: Public Health Education Methods (3 credits)
  • Electives (9 credits)

Epidemiology and Biostatistics Concentration (18 credits)

  • PHS 521: Applied Biostatistics (3 credits)
  • PHS 522: Multivariate Biostatistics (3 credits)
  • PHS 551: Advanced Epidemiological Methods (3 credits)
  • PHS 580: Clinical Trials Design and Analysis (3 credits)
  • PHS 801: Data Management (1 credit)
  • Electives (5 credits)

Health Systems Organization and Policy Concentration (18 credits)

  • PHS 535: Quality of Care Measurement (3 credits)
  • PHS 537: Health Policy and Law (3 credits)
  • PHS 540: Decision Analysis (3 credits)
  • PHS 570: Health Economics and Economic Policy (3 credits)
  • Electives (6 credits)

Global Health (18 credits)

  • PHS 803: Principles of Global Health (3 credits)
  • Six credits from any of the following:
    • PHS 557: Global Impact of Infectious Diseases (3 credits) (World Campus course)
    • PHS 804: Integrating Systems Thinking in Global Health (3 credits) (World Campus course)
    • PHS 890: Global Health Exchange Program (3 credits)
  • Electives (9 credits)
Advising Expand answer

Penn State Master of Public Health (MPH) students have an administrative adviser.

Administrative Adviser

Prior to the first semester, all students are assigned an administrative adviser. Administrative advisers are Penn State MPH program faculty in the Department of Public Health Sciences who help students navigate and problem solve around administrative issues that they may encounter as graduate students. Students are strongly encouraged to contact their administrative advisers if they have any questions or concerns about the Penn State MPH program or other graduate student-related issues.

Capstone Expand answer

All Penn State MPH students are required to complete a culminating experience. The culminating experience is completed through PHS 894: Capstone Experience, a 3 credit course that is taken during a student’s final semester in the program.

In the semester preceding the Capstone semester, students are required to attend Capstone Preparation meetings with the course directors that cover information on the Capstone project such as expectations and requirements. These meetings are mandatory and must be completed prior to a student registering for the course. Additionally, students must receive approval from the course directors on their project before they will be allowed to register for the course.

In this experience, the students work with the course director to select a topic and type of project that reflects their individual interests and fits into the program’s core and concentration-specific competencies. In addition, if a student has a competency deficiency when entering the course, then the deficient competencies must be included as part of the project. The topic and project may or may not be related to the students’ practicum placement. The topic must be public health-related.

The final project is submitted in two forms – as a scholarly paper and as an oral presentation. The scholarly paper must demonstrate the students’ knowledge and skill associated with both the program’s core and concentration-specific competencies. Students also present their capstone project as an oral presentation at the end of the semester.

Below are titles of some previous capstone projects.

  • Funding for Immunization Programs in Pestel, Haiti to Improve Childrens’ Health
  • IMPACT: IMproving Physical Activity and Cardiovascular HealTh Among African American Women
  • A Guide to Planning, Implementing and Evaluating School-Based Mini-Grant Programs
  • The School Health Index Guide for School Health Teams: Creating Change with the Data
  • Community Outreach: Improving Congestive Heart Failure Outcome Using In Home Visitation
  • The HPV Mandate: Public Health Policy to Assess the Knowledge and Intention of Adolescent Girls
  • Autism and Vaccines: Are Siblings Affected?
  • Raw Milk: Consumer Demographic Characteristics and Beliefs
  • Measuring Effectiveness of Disseminating Hospital Quality Information: A Content Analysis
  • Factors Associated with the Prevalence of Anal Human Papillomavirus Infection in HIV-infected Rural Women
  • Screening for Influenza in Swine: A Pilot Study to Reduce Zoonotic Exposures in Children
  • Descriptive Study of Shigella Outbreaks in Pennsylvania from 2004-2013
  • Why are there Increasing Trends in Cesarean Delivery Rates?
  • Interventions to Prevent Lyme Disease
Competencies Expand answer

The Penn State MPH Program is competency-based. Competencies are the abilities that students should have gained through successful completion of the program. Two types of competencies are built through the program:

  1. Core Competencies: The abilities that all MPH students should build through the degree program. See all Core Competencies here.
  2. Concentration Competencies: The abilities that students in a specific concentration should build. See all Concentration Competencies here.

Core competencies are primarily gained in the core curriculum. Concentration competencies are primarily gained in the concentration-specific courses. To clearly communicate expectations to students, each MPH course syllabus will present the competency or competencies that will be gained through the course, along with the assignment(s) that will be used to assess the student’s proficiency in the given competency or competencies.

Concentration-Specific Instruction: Requirements and Electives Expand answer

In addition to core instruction, students select a track in which to specialize. Tracks are:

  • Community & Behavioral Health
  • Epidemiology & Biostatistics
  • Health Systems Organization & Policy
  • Global Health (World Campus only)

Tracks are outlined below, including the number of required and elective credits. Students are expected to formally declare a track after completing nine credits of core coursework.

Community and Behavioral Health Concentration

Builds skills necessary to effectively plan, implement, and evaluate public health interventions (9 required credits; 9 elective credits)

Required Courses

PHS 505: Public Health Program Planning and Evaluation (3 credits): Introduces methods of public health program planning and evaluation, including public health problem identification, target audience selection, needs assessment planning, and evaluation design.

PHS 506: Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies II (3 credits): Provides advanced instruction on the planning, design, and implementation of behavior change interventions.

PHS 807: Public Health Education Methods (3 credits): Provides the knowledge and skills associated with the methods used to deliver successful public health programs.

Epidemiology and Biostatistics Concentration

Builds analytical and statistical skills necessary to conduct epidemiological studies and test hypotheses regarding the association or causality of risk factors and health outcomes in populations (13 required credits; 5 elective credits)

Required Courses

PHS 521: Applied Biostatistics (3 credits): Provides advanced instruction in biostatistical methods, including analysis of variance and regression techniques.

PHS 522: Multivariate Biostatistics (3 credits): Provides statistical tools for designing and analyzing studies that involve multivariate response.

PHS 551: Advanced Epidemiological Methods (3 credits): Provides in-depth discussion on the applications of advanced methods related to the design, execution, data analysis, and reporting of epidemiological studies.

PHS 580: Clinical Trials Design and Analysis (3 credits): Provides advanced instruction in the design and conduct of clinical trials, including estimation of sample size requirements, analytic methods, ethical considerations, and reporting.

PHS 801: Data Management (1 credit): Provides instruction on the development and implementation of plans for managing, collecting, and processing public health data to ensure data quality.

Health Systems Organization and Policy Concentration

Builds skills related to the analysis and implementation of healthcare delivery models and systems, health economics, and applied public health policy (12 required credits; 6 elective credits)

Required Courses

PHS 535: Quality of Care Measurement (3 credits): Provides advanced instruction in concepts, methods, and measurement issues involved with assessing and improving the quality of health care.

PHS 537: Health Policy and Law (3 credits): Reviews processes related to health policy formulation, implementation, and advocacy.

PHS 540: Decision Analysis (3 credits): Provides an introduction to the methods and applications of decision analysis in clinical decision making.

PHS 570: Health Economics and Economic Evaluation (3 credits): Provides advanced instruction in applied economic evaluation, with emphasis on micro-economic theory, cost-effectiveness, and economic modeling.

Global Health Concentration

Build skills necessary to identify, interpret and understand global health concepts, as well as apply these skills on both the international and local stage (9 required credits; 9 elective credits)

Required Courses

PHS 803: Principles of Global Health (3 credits): This course provides an overview of the major issues and initiatives in contemporary global health.

PHS 557: Global Impact of Infectious Diseases (3 credits): This course will cover common infectious diseases of global importance, global disparities of these diseases, and the impact these diseases have on the affected community.

PHS 804: Integrating Systems Thinking in Global Health (3 credits): In this course, learners will engage in case studies of global health programs and initiatives.

Core Curriculum (24 credits) Expand answer

Required Core Courses

PHS 504: Behavioral Health Intervention Strategies (3 credits): Introduces behavior change theory and design of behavior change interventions and strategies to improve health outcomes.

PHS 520: Principles of Biostatistics (3 credits): Introduces the application of techniques and interpretation of results that are commonly used to plan, analyze, and report public health research.

PHS 539: Qualitative Health Research Methods (3 credits): Provides instruction on how to collect public health data through qualitative research techniques.

PHS 550: Principles of Epidemiology (3 credits): Introduces the features of study design that are commonly used in epidemiologic research.

PHS 571: Health Services Organization and Delivery (3 credits): Introduces the organization and utilization of health services and health policy and politics in the United States.

PHS 809: Principles of Public Health (3 credits): Introduces key topics in public health, including but not limited to core public health areas and functions of public health, public health theories and models, determinants of health, and public health ethics.

PHS 895A or 895C: Master of Public Health Internship (3 credits): Provides students with hands-on, real-world experience in the practice of public health.

PHS 894: Capstone Experience (3 credits): This course serves as a culminating experience for students in the Master of Public Health degree program.

World Campus courses are intended only for World Campus students.

Declaring a Concentration Expand answer

After completing at least nine (9) credits of core coursework, or one full-time semester, all students must declare a concentration in which to specialize:

  • Community & Behavioral Health
  • Epidemiology & Biostatistics
  • Health Systems Organization & Policy

Students in the Global Health concentration must identify this concentration in the application and remain in this concentration as a World Campus student. World Campus students will not be allowed to change to a residential concentration (any of the other three concentrations).

Residential students are asked to identify a preferred concentration in the application for admission. Residential students’ declared concentration may be different than the preferred concentration. As stated above, World Campus students cannot change tracks.

Inclement Weather Expand answer

The Hershey campus never really closes due to inclement weather. We offer 24-7-365 health care so there is no closure due to anything. So whether you hear that Penn State Harrisburg is closed or delayed, or you hear every other evening activity is cancelled in the area, you will never hear that Penn State Hershey is closed.

If inclement weather is predicted for the time when classes are scheduled to begin or commuters are starting on their way, the individual course instructor will contact students in their class, by Canvas email, to let them know how to proceed. The class could convert to a live Zoom session, or be cancelled with a makeup class later in the semester, or you might be given an online assignment via Canvas.

If you don’t hear anything from your instructor, it is your decision on whether or not you are comfortable commuting to campus. If you do not make it to class, it is important for you to contact your professor as soon as possible to let him or her know why you were not in attendance.

Ultimately, it is up to each instructor to determine how he or she will handle these types of absences, but we believe they will be reasonable and understanding.

Practicum - Applied Practice Experience Expand answer

Practicum – Applied Practice Experience

The Penn State MPH program requires that all students complete three credits of applied practice experience (APE) (PHS 895A – Master of Public Health Internship or PHS 895C – Master of Public Health International Internship) prior to graduation. The goals are to:

  • Build and strengthen students’ public health practice skills
  • Increase students’ comprehension of and analytical skills relevant to the field of public health
  • Provide students with the opportunity to contribute to the field of public health in a substantive way
  • Build students’ professionalism

The APE provides students with a unique opportunity to gain professional experience and apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to real-world public health settings and real-time public health issues. The APE is critical to students’ academic and professional development and their ability to become competent in the practice of public health.

Students complete their APE at various sites (e.g., public health agencies, organizations, institutions) and work on substantive projects that (1) contribute to their growth as future public health professionals and (2) help advance the mission of the sites at which they are placed. A student completes a minimum of 135 hours over a semester at the APE site, and receives academic credit. The APE site may choose to offer a stipend. The possibility of monetary compensation is to be negotiated directly between the student and APE site. The Penn State MPH program is not involved in these negotiations.

At each site, students report to a Preceptor. The Preceptor supervises the student’s experience, monitors student progress and performance, and serves as the student’s primary site contact. APE sites, Preceptors, and students are supported by the Penn State MPH course director, who oversees the requirements and serves as the APE sites, Preceptors, and students’ primary contact at the MPH program.

The organizations that participate in this program have the opportunity to observe and evaluate potential recruits, to expand particular programs and services, to provide better or additional services to their clientele, or to complete special projects or educational programs. They also provide input to the Penn State MPH program on issues from curriculum relevancy to professional needs and concerns.

Note: Students are required to complete 20 hours of practice-based activities prior to enrollment in this course. Practice-based activities can include: community-based volunteer opportunities; PSU COM career development, mental health and diversity and inclusion training events; PHASE events, or other activities as approved by the Public Health Program. If 20 hours are not completed prior to PHS 895 or if the online portfolio is incomplete, the student will be removed from the class roster.

MPH Competencies

The APE provides a unique opportunity to build and strengthen public health competencies by placing students in real-world public health settings to address real-time public health issues. Students will choose experiences that directly link to Penn State MPH program competencies and their selected concentration. Through the APE, Penn State MPH students will seek to build on MPH public health competencies.

Previous Practicum Placements

APE Contact Information

Domestic APE: Carol LaRegina, MS,

International APE: Kristin Sznajder, PhD,; Julie Lentes, MPA,

Pre-Approved Electives Expand answer

Students may fulfill their elective requirements by selecting from the following list of pre-approved courses. Students also may take courses that are not pre-approved with permission from the MPH program administration. To be approved by the MPH program, an elective must meet at least one MPH program competency.

If you want to take an elective course that is not on this list, please contact your administrative adviser.

See full list of pre-approved electives here.

Not all courses will be offered every semester.

Course schedules and availability are subject to change. Please visit the Graduate Student section of LionPATH to see what courses are currently being offered at each campus.

For courses offered via Penn State World Campus, please visit the sponsoring program’s course page at To register for World Campus courses, students must call the contact number listed for the course. For some courses, students must also get permission from the department offering the course and/or the course director.

If you are having difficulty registering for an elective course, please contact your administrative advisor.

Timeline of Activities Expand answer

First Semester

  • CITI Training
  • Child Abuse Prevention Training
  • Join PHASE
  • Meet with administrative adviser to discuss program plan

After Completing Nine Credits

  • Formally declare MPH concentration
  • Pre-practicum advisement

After Completing 12-18 Credits

  • Conduct and complete practicum experience

Final Semester

  • Declare intent to graduate
  • Conduct and complete capstone project
  • Complete student satisfaction survey
  • Complete alumni contact information form
Student Travel Awards Expand answer

Students’ attendance at regional or national conferences is valued and encouraged as part of the educational experience at the Penn State College of Medicine. To support these activities, the Department of Public Health Sciences will consider providing supplemental support for registration and travel costs through the Student Travel Award program, if funds are available.

There are two deadlines to submit Student Travel Award applications in each academic year: Jan. 15 and July 15. Students will need to plan in advance to meet Travel Award submission deadlines as seen below. Many conferences have abstracts due six to eight months in advance of the actual conference dates; students will need to account for this in their planning.

  • For conferences/travel in March-August: Deadline to apply is previous Jan. 15
  • For conferences/travel in September-February: Deadline to apply is previous July 15


  • Students can only apply for a maximum $500 per academic year if they are presenting a poster or making a presentation at the event. Preference will be given to these students.
  • Students not presenting a poster or making a presentation will be limited to a maximum of $300 in support.
  • Students must submit a one-page Student Conference Summary to their administrative and academic advisors one week after the event reflecting what was learned at the event, presentation/poster experiences and other pertinent information about networking opportunities, etc.
  • The awarding of travel funds are not guaranteed and are dependent on departmental budgetary constraints.

To be considered for the travel award, students must complete the Graduate Student Conference Travel Award Application and submit it by one of the two dates listed above. The application includes:

  • Description of conference/event and anticipated type of presentation ( i.e., oral, poster);
  • An itemized listing of anticipated expenses including lodging, meals, registration, transportation, miscellaneous (specify);
  • A letter of support/approval from the student’s academic/administrative advisor/mentor;
  • A 250-word essay describing (1) the primary reason for attending the event, (2) personal and/or professional benefits to be gained from developing better skills and knowledge of public health issues, and (3) a description of skills, experiences, characteristics and personal qualities that make them a strong candidate for representing Penn State at the event; and
  • A list of all other scholarships the student has applied for, making sure to include whether or not these have been rejected, funded or application is pending review (for examples, see the College of Medicine’s travel awards list). Students must have approached their respective mentors about financial support prior to submitting an application.
Campus Map Expand answer

Find your way using the interactive campus map.