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Webinar Recap: Applying to Public Health Programs

Tuesday | October 11, 2016 | by WES Advisor

Students in a science program

In our recent webinar, “Applying to Public Health Programs,” public health admissions experts gave advice and tips on what students should know when considering a degree in public health in the U.S. If you are interested in studying public health, read on to get the tips for international students. To view the webinar, sign up here to watch the full video.

What is Public Health?

Public health is defined as focusing on “the health of the population as a whole, especially as monitored, regulated, and promoted by the state.” Public health is community-focused, whereas medical doctors typically work one-on-one with patients.

Public health professionals contribute to the field in many ways, from writing public health policy to promoting behavior changes, such as handwashing, eating healthy, and exercising. Public health has made big advancements in the past 100 years and has become a very important field in helping people live longer healthier lives.

Can I Apply if I Have an Undergraduate Degree in Another Field?

Public health is interdisciplinary, so individuals with any undergraduate degree can apply. However, keep in mind that some public health master’s programs may require specific coursework, such as calculus or financial accounting. Also, many doctoral programs require that you have a master’s degree in public health to apply.

So if you didn’t previously study public health, don’t let that stop you from applying. Having an undergraduate degree in public health isn’t a necessity to be a successful public health professional.

How Do I Find the Right Public Health Program for Me?

To find the right program, you must first identify your area of interest within the public health field. Then, consider what other factors are most important to you in getting an education in public health, such as program structure, work experience, and career opportunities. You should also consider costs, location, and the reputation of the school and program when creating your shortlist. Make a list of criteria, so you know what to look for when researching public health programs.

Once you know what you want in a public health program, look at multiple school rankings through sources like US News and College Choice. But remember, rankings are based on different criteria and perceptions, so be sure to take your personal goals into consideration in what you want to get out of a public health program.

What Do I Need to Apply?

Check with the school(s) you are applying to for their application criteria, but generally, you will need to prepare the following items:

  • Credential evaluation
  • Language proficiency tests (TOEFL, IELTS, others)
  • Essays
  • References/letters of recommendation
  • Grades
  • Standardized test scores (MCAT, GRE)

Before you begin the application process, be sure to identify the deadlines for each school you’re applying to. Some programs have earlier cutoff dates than others, so knowing the deadlines is important to effectively prioritize each application.

What is a Practicum?

Practicum is a supervised work experience where students can apply what they learned in the classroom while gaining real-world experience and is a requirement in all public health degree programs. The areas of focus in a practicum may include biostatistics, health policy and management, global health, epidemiology, and more.

When it comes to practicum, students are typically assigned to an advisor within the public health school who can help guide and inform the student of the different opportunities to choose from for a practicum.

What Are the Public Health Opportunities After Graduation?

Public health is a broad field, so graduates have many opportunities available to them. Many public health professionals go on to work for government entities, universities, hospitals and health systems, nonprofits and NGOs, as well as in the private health sector.

It is important to get in touch with any career services your school may offer as well as the alumni network of your school to discover where students have gone after graduation and to see which employers are willing to sponsor visas.


Want to get more details about applying to public health programs? Watch the full on-demand webinar featuring public health admissions experts.

WES Advisor is an initiative of World Education Services, a non-profit organization with over 40 years of experience in international education. We provide tips and advice for international students and skilled immigrants to help them make informed decisions about education, employment, and immigration opportunities in the U.S. and Canada.