University of Washington School of Public Health

Experiential Learning

MPH Practicum Guidelines


The UW School of Public Health requires that every MPH student complete 3 credits of practicum as a mandatory requirement for receiving the MPH degree. The primary purpose of the practicum is to allow the MPH student to demonstrate acquisition of and effective use of the knowledge, skills, and values they have acquired in their MPH course work through the completion of a credit-bearing, supervised practice experience in public health or population health. The goal is for students to gain practical experience to address an existing public health organization's needs through use of disciplinary methods while communicating in field-appropriate language and to field-specific audiences, navigating real world work-flow scenarios, developing teamwork skills, developing greater awareness of organizational dynamics, and receiving feedback as a professional in the field of public health. The practicum requires the student to engage in mutually meaningful activities in partnership with a public health organization to "demonstrate competency attainment through applied practice experiences" (per the Council on Education for Public Health).

  • The practicum has its focus on population-level health concerns and is thereby different than clinical work.
  • The practicum is different from research in that the objective is application of the student's effort towards addressing a public health program or programs delivered by an organization rather than the creation of generalized scientific knowledge or analytic results. Community or stakeholder engagement is an important component of the experience.
  • The practicum is distinct from a thesis project. If a thesis question arises out of a practicum, such a thesis project is potentially allowable, however the practicum is not to be designed to provide background for a thesis.


Sites in which the student may complete a practicum can be governmental, non-governmental, non-profit, industrial or for-profit. Practicum organizations may include appropriate university-affiliated practice-based settings; however, university-affiliated sites must be primarily focused on improving the health of the population through policy and/or programming and include community engagement with partners external to the university (e.g., University health promotion or wellness centers). It is expected that students will have direct interaction with the greater community, colleagues across disciplines, or relevant stakeholders throughout the duration of their project.

  1. The site must:
    1. be engaged in one or more activities related to public health, and provide planning, policy development or services relevant to public/population health,
    2. provide adequate resources and supervision to the student,
    3. provide the student with regular contact with public/population health practitioners and/or target populations,
    4. have a current educational affiliation agreement with the SPH, and
    5. understand that students are there for education purposes and that their work may not replace paid employee efforts.
  2. The Site Supervisor at the organization must:
    1. hold a position in a public or population health organization,
    2. be engaged in applied public or population health work,
    3. have expertise in the practicum project area,
    4. be willing to develop a plan, supervise and evaluate the student in the practice setting during the project duration and at the end of the practicum, and
    5. not also be the UW SPH faculty advisor or be directly supervised by the UW faculty advisor.


Prior to beginning a practicum each student must:

  1. be compliant with the Health Sciences Immunization Program,
  2. complete UW Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) training, Blood Borne Pathogen (BBP) training, and complete a Washington State Background check, and
  3. complete one quarter of MPH coursework.

  • Students are required to complete the following before receiving credit for their MPH practicum: prerequisite form, learning contract, mid-point review, final evaluation, written assignment, and final checklist.
  • A UW SPH practicum faculty advisor must approve project descriptions (via the learning contract) before a student can begin a practicum placement.
  • For a practicum project to meet criteria, students will be required to effectively demonstrate, through evidence, attainment of five (5) or more competencies across at least two (2) distinct CEPH competency categories (see MPH Practicum Competencies). A learning objective must be developed for each selected competency and included in the learning contract.


    COMPETENCY: Select communication strategies for different audiences.
    LEARNING OBJECTIVE: At the end of the practicum experience, the student will learn to select communication strategies for different audiences by:

    (1) preparing presentations for a range of audiences including stakeholders, community members, and staff at the organization.
    (2) preparing a scholarly article on behalf of the organization that will be submitted for publication.
    (3) completing a literature review related to culturally-relevant communication strategies to aid the organization's mission to better connect with impacted populations within the community.

  • Practicum activities must be completed at an approved site and require an approved site supervisor.
  • The student is required to complete a final product that is of value to the site.
  • While the practicum-related work can be a part of a larger organizational initiative, the student should have responsibility for production of their final product.
  • Students can be paid by a site to perform their practicum, but it is not required.
  • C/NC credit will be awarded when all final products and necessary paperwork have been received.
  • If a student transfers from one SPH MPH program to another while in the process of completing a practicum, the director (or other designated person) of the receiving MPH program must assess the student's practicum to ensure that it meets the new program's criteria. If it does not, the student may need to modify the experience or complete a different practicum that is appropriate to the receiving program's criteria.
  • The SPH does not grant waivers for credits required to complete the practicum.
  • Students must be covered by UW liability insurance to complete work at a practicum site. Students are covered:
    • during all quarters of enrollment
    • between or immediately preceding or following a quarter of formal enrollment
    In cases where there is a quarter lapse of enrollment, the work should be finished before the beginning of the next quarter. If the work extends into the next quarter, the student would need to enroll to maintain coverage. For example, if a student does not enroll for Summer quarter, they must be enrolled the previous Spring quarter and following Fall quarter to maintain coverage. In short, students cannot have a non-enrolled status for two consecutive quarters or more while they are completing a practicum. Students who do not follow these guidelines will not be able to count their practicum hours during periods in which they are not covered by UW liability insurance.
  • Practicum project hours completed by a student prior to the finalization of a learning contract will not be counted towards the degree requirement. Credit for retroactive projects will not be accepted.


While there is flexibility in the planning of the practicum, students are expected to meet the various deadlines outlined in their learning contract. If the details of the project change, a modified learning contract should be implemented. If a student consistently fails to meet the deadlines of their practicum, the student will be asked to meet with their faculty adviser to develop a plan for completing the required credits either through their original project or a new one. Students will not receive practicum credits or graduate until the work is complete.