Practicum Overview

The practicum is a planned, supervised, and evaluated field-based experience (a minimum of 160-hour work) under the guidance of a site supervisor and a faculty adviser within a public health organization. The practicum provides students an opportunity to apply the disciplinary knowledge, methods, and values they learned in the MPH classroom to a professional, public or private public health environment such as nonprofit organizations, hospitals, local or state health departments, or for-profit firms. 

Students are encouraged to select an assessment, policy development or assurance project (10 essential public health services). Appropriate projects aim to affect the outer rings of the social ecological model. ​Direct patient care or data collection/cleaning for research projects are not allowed. See examples of past practicum projects, or search past practicum projects in the Practicum Dropbox.

Prospective practicum sites should contact SPH Manager of Experiential Learning to start the conversation about specific practicum opportunities, unless otherwise oriented to the practicum requirements by one of the MPH Program Directors or Practicum Faculty Leads.

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 if you have questions about them.

Practicum vs. Other Non-Classroom-based Experiences: 

  • 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.
  • The practicum should not replace paid UW employee work if the site is based in a university, including work typically performed by Graduate Staff Assistant, Graduate Research Assistant, or Graduate Teaching Assistant.

Practicum vs. Capstone vs. Thesis

  Practicum
(Applied Practice Experience)
Capstone
(Integrated Learning Experience)
Thesis
(Integrated Learning Experience)
Definition A planned, mentored, and evaluated field-based experience under the direction of and evaluated by a practicum site supervisor and an SPH faculty adviser. A culminating Integrated Learning Experience under the direction of and evaluated by an SPH faculty adviser or committee. A culminating Integrated Learning Experience under the direction of and evaluated by an SPH faculty committee.
Purpose Goal is to apply graduate-level public health skills in a professional public health environment such as NGOs, hospitals, local or state health departments, or for-profit firms. Goal is to synthesize skills and competencies gained through the MPH program by completing a substantial product with a significant analytic component that addresses a specific problem, issue or concern in your field of study. Goal is to synthesize skills and competencies gained through the MPH program by completing a substantial written product that involves independent research for the purposes of contributing to generalizable knowledge.
Minimum number of credits(or hours) 4-6 credits; minimum 160 hours
1 credit = 40 hours
Varies by department
- HSERV and COPHP: >9 credits
- Nutrition and OMPH: 4 credits (course-based)
>9 credits
Outputs Two (minimum) products produced for the practicum organization, aka “site products” A high-quality product that demonstrates a synthesis of MPH skills A high-quality written report that demonstrates a synthesis of MPH skills
Competencies Attainment of at least five MPH foundational competencies through work with practicum sit Attainment of at least one MPH foundational competency and one departmental/ concentration competency Attainment of at least one MPH foundational competency and one departmental/ concentration competency
Evaluation A practicum faculty adviser evaluates the student’s practicum based on the quality of site products and UWSPH assignments, including a mid-point review and concluding evaluation The student’s capstone faculty adviser or committee evaluates the quality of the product The student’s thesis committee evaluates the quality of the written product
Timing Typically occurs at the mid-point of the MPH program. Student must be matriculated to the MPH program and have completed at least one quarter of MPH coursework to begin Typically occurs in the second half (e.g., year 2) of the program. Typically occurs in the second half (e.g., year 2) of the program.