Practicum Overview

The primary goal of the practicum is to allow students to apply the disciplinary knowledge, methods, and values they learned in the MPH classroom to a practical, professional, public or private public health environment such as nonprofit organizations, hospitals, local or state health departments, or for-profit firms. Through the practicum, students will engage in mutually meaningful activities with the public health organization, serving as trainees while expanding the capacity of the organization.

Practicum is different from other non-classroom-based experiences. For example:

  • The practicum is distinct from clinical work (i.e., observation and/or treatment of patients) as it addresses health issues from the perspectives of populations and communities, not individuals.
  • The practicum is distinct from lab-based research as it focuses on the application of scientific or technical knowledge in solving current public health problems, not advancing scientific knowledge through publishing peer-reviewed journals—particularly with respect to depth of knowledge and methodologic skills.
  • The practicum is distinct from culminating experiences (e.g., a thesis or capstone) as it places emphasis on working with practitioners in a public health organization while gaining a command of the skills necessary to work effectively in such an organization, not working towards completing a substantial written product that synthesizes and integrates knowledge acquired in coursework and other experiences towards the end of the program.
  • Practicum should not replace paid UW employee work if the Site is university-based, including work typically performed by Graduate Staff Assistant, Graduate Research Assistant, or Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Prospective practicum sites should contact SPH Manager of Experiential Learning to start the conversation about specific practicum opportunities, unless recommended otherwise by one of the MPH Program Directors .

COVID-19: Due to the current Washington State policies requiring individuals to work from home whenever possible and the overwhelming local and state public health human resource allocation that is needed to confront the coronavirus epidemic, the UWSPH has adopted certain policy updates to promote flexible ways of meeting the practicum requirements. Contact the Manager of Experiential Learning or one of the MPH Program Directors if you have questions about them.

Practicum vs. Other Applied Learning Opportunities

  Practicum
(for-credit)
Capstone
(for-credit)
Internship
(not-for-credit)
Definition & Purpose An MPH degree requirement (4-6 practicum credits) that is a planned, mentored, and evaluated field-based experience under the direction of and evaluated by a Practicum Site Supervisor and an SPH Faculty Adviser. 

Goal is to apply graduate-level public health skills gained through MPH coursework in a professional public health practice setting. 

All practicums must meet five of the 22 MPH foundational competencies (see Appendix A) to comply with the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requirements.
An MPH degree requirement (credits and requirements vary by UWSPH department or program) that is the culminating MPH experience under the direction of and evaluated by an SPH Faculty Adviser or committee. 

Goal is to synthesize skills and competencies gained through the MPH program by completing a substantial written product with a significant analytic component.   
Not an MPH degree requirement. The terms “internship” and “practicum” are often used interchangeably in the field. It is acceptable to conduct an internship if it meets all of the UWSPH practicum requirements. 

A not-for-credit internship can be used to clarify the needs and priorities of an organization, and the potential bandwidth of the organization to provide competency-based activities for a student’s practicum.
Outputs & Evaluation Two (minimum) products produced for the practicum site, aka “site products”, that demonstrate attainment of five MPH foundational competencies.

The Practicum Faculty Adviser evaluates the student’s practicum based on the site products, UWSPH assignments, mid-point review, and Site Supervisor concluding evaluation.
A high-quality written product demonstrating the culmination of the student’s MPH study.

The Capstone Faculty Adviser or committee evaluates the student’s capstone project based on quality of the written product in the context of their whole MPH experience.
No specific UWSPH requirements.

A not-for-credit internship is not evaluated by a UWSPH Faculty Adviser or administered by the school.
Timing Typically occurs at mid-point of the MPH program.

The student must be matriculated to the MPH program, have completed at least one quarter of MPH coursework.
Typically occurs at or near the end of the MPH program (e.g., in the final year or quarter). No expectations.