phd in public health

Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina

Students who take courses in public health may understand how to use their skills and knowledge of complex issues in various fields. Some of the positions that graduates might find themselves qualified for include epidemiologists, nutritionists, community health workers and forensic pathologists.

PhD in Public Health

Belfast, United KingdomThe Centre for Public Health (CPH) brings together researchers embracing clinical research, epidemiology, and public health issues through a combination of person-centred, informatics, clinical trials, and laboratory-based studies. Multidisciplinary teams work closely together to develop and evaluate screening, diagnostic, preventative and therapeutic interventions that maximize the benefit for patients and populations. Our aim is to recruit, train and inspire some of the very best postgraduate students with a strong commitment to clinical and translational research. 

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Public Health

London, United Kingdom +1 MoreIn the light of the recent health crisis that is likely to change the way public health is implemented, the thesis of this research programme should define public health functions, practices, programmes and measures. Discuss the organisation and infrastructure of a modern and efficient healthcare system within a welfare system, the historical context and future challenges. 

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

USA Online, USAThe Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree program at the Bloomberg School is designed for the student who already has an MPH or equivalent degree and who intends to pursue a leadership position as a public health professional. Through the integration and application of a broad range of knowledge and analytical skills in leadership, policy, program management, and professional communication, coupled with preparation in a specific public health field, graduates of the DrPH program are prepared for either domestic or international careers in public agencies or private sector settings that emphasize improving population health.

PhD in Public Health Sciences with specialization in Epidemiology

Louisville, USAThe Ph.D. in Public Health Sciences in Epidemiology provides advanced training in specialized methods and professional skills in grant and manuscript writing and oral presentation. 

PhD in Addictology

Prague, Czech RepublicThe aim of the study is to achieve (i) transdisciplinary research excellence in identifying individual risk factors for harmful substance use and addictive behaviors, (ii) advanced knowledge and skills on clinical work in the field of addictology, and (iii) theoretical insight into public health issues in addictology. The graduate acquires a deep understanding of the field of addictology and its anchoring in theory, politics and its interventions, in the study of addictive behaviors and its risk factors from a transdisciplinary perspective. The three pillars of the study further provide graduates with expertise in transdisciplinary addictology research applied to clinical evaluation and assessment of the effectiveness of public health policies. 

Doctor of Public Health

Statesboro, USAThe Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.) program at Georgia Southern University will prepare you to be effective public health professional. Whether you’re a full-time student or an employed public health professional, our program will give you the knowledge, skills, and values you’ll need to join the workforce or to upgrade your skills and your career path. 

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


The DrPH programme leads to a doctoral-level qualification and is intended for leaders and future leaders in public health.

The programme aims to equip its graduates with the experience to deal with the particular challenges of understanding and adapting scientific knowledge in order to achieve public health gains, as well as the analytical and practical skills required by managers and leaders in public health. The DrPH therefore has a dual focus on developing both expertise to conduct and evaluate research and skills crucial for leadership roles in public health policy and practice.

Entry criteria for the DrPH are the same as for the PhD except that evidence of relevant experience in areas of public health policy, management and/or leadership is required. The rigour and volume of the work are doctoral level, and are appropriate to the personal development of senior public health professionals. Opportunities for undertaking the DrPH programme are available in all the School’s Faculties.

MD-PhD in the Social Sciences or Humanities: Is it Right for Me?

What are the career paths of MD-PhD program graduates in the social sciences and humanities?

Many graduates of these programs follow career paths that are similar to those of basic science MD-PhD program graduates. These alumni typically spend a large percentage of their time focused on their research, while also spending some time involved in the direct care of patients (or in other clinical responsibilities). An example would be someone who spends most of his/her time engaged in anthropological research, while spending additional time seeing patients, and also teaching. Someone like this typically has a faculty appointment at a University and is a member of the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Medicine. Another example might be someone who is a Professor of Health Care Economics and also Pediatrics. Someone like this would typically focus primarily on research in economics, and would also spend time caring for patients, and teaching.

Who should consider going into an MD-PhD program in the social sciences and humanities?

Students who are interested in the career path described above should consider this type of program. It is meant to prepare individuals to become physician-scholars who will devote a substantial portion of their career to research and academic scholarship.

Could the program be right for me, if I think getting a PhD in social sciences and humanities will make me a better doctor?

If your career goal is to become a physician who spends most of your time caring for patients and teaching in a medical school, then this program is probably not for you. The PhD is an enormous investment of time and work in a specialized area of research, and is designed for individuals who will be the future leaders in those academic fields. Students interested in the social sciences and humanities whose career goals are geared more exclusively toward medicine can consider other opportunities, such as Master’s programs, certificate programs, and shorter research opportunities in relevant areas.

Do I need to have both an MD and a PhD to have a career focused on medically relevant research in the social sciences or humanities, or can I do this type of research with just a PhD?

If your goal is to conduct research on a topic related to medicine, but you are not interested in clinical work, then the PhD alone is probably a better choice for you. There are many examples of successful researchers who do not have an MD, and who are studying important topics relevant to health care, often with a team of experts that includes clinically trained individuals. Medical school is a big investment of time and work, and at least two years of the curriculum involve interacting directly with patients in hospitals and other settings. The MD is an important part of training for those who wish to be both researchers and physicians, but it is not necessarily required for those who want to spend all of their time doing research on medically relevant issues, and who do not feel drawn to patient care.

What is the curriculum structure?

MD-PhD curricula in the social sciences and humanities are similar to those in other disciplines. MD and PhD training are integrated throughout the program. Students typically focus primarily on the MD during the first two years, primarily on the PhD starting in year 3, and then again primarily on the MD during the final two years in the program. While MD-PhDs in the basic biomedical sciences often complete the program in 7 or 8 years, MD-PhDs in the social sciences and humanities sometimes take longer. This is because there is less overlap between the MD curriculum and PhD course work in some of the social sciences/humanities than there is between the MD curriculum and PhD course work in the biomedical sciences.

What characteristics do MD-PhD programs in the social sciences and humanities seek in applicants?

The criteria for applying to MD-PhDs in these fields closely mirror the criteria for applying in the basic biomedical sciences. Programs are looking for applicants with integrity and maturity who show creativity, leadership potential, and aptitude to address significant questions in their chosen field. A strong track record of scholarship relevant to the selected PhD discipline is essential. In addition, candidates should have a strong overall academic record, letters of recommendation from research/scholarly mentors in the selected discipline, experience caring for others, extracurricular and life experiences, and well thought out career goals that are consistent with the goals of the programs.

Do all MD-PhD programs include the option of the PhD in the social sciences and humanities?

No, only a subset of MD-PhD programs have this option.

How can I find out which programs have this option?

The AAMC website has the MD-PhD in Social Sciences or Humanities and Other Non-Traditional Fields of Graduate Study table.

The American Physician Scientists Association website has a section under Career Paths/Training Programs for MD-PhD Programs in the Social Sciences, which may also be helpful in getting started.

The most definitive resources are individual MD-PhD program websites, which will indicate if the program has options in the social sciences and/or humanities, and will provide details about the relevant programs.

How do I apply?

The application process varies considerably from school to school. At some schools, the application process is identical to the MD-PhD application process for the biomedical sciences (typically the AMCAS application and a supplemental institutional application). At other schools a separate PhD application must also be submitted. GREs are sometimes required. Interested applicants should read the guidelines on programs’ websites, and contact the programs directly with any questions.

Do MD-PhD students in the social sciences and humanities receive funding for the program?

Some programs provide fully funded fellowship packages guaranteeing full tuition and a stipend, identical to funding packages for MD-PhD students in the biomedical sciences. Other programs have modified funding packages which do not guarantee full funding throughout the program.

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