Master's-to-Doctoral Program (MSPH-PhD)

Health Behavior

Students are trained to pursue careers as public health researchers in health behavior. Training focuses initially on acquiring core competencies in public health and health behavior, resulting in the MSPH degree. Students then complete all the requirements for the PhD in Health Behavior.

General Information

Minimum Credit Hours


Expected Duration

6 yrs

Learning Environment


Dual Degree Options Available


Application Cycle

Fall See application details page for more info.

Application Deadline 1

December 1, 2021 See application details page for more info.

Application Deadline 2

December 14, 2021 Deadlines vary - see "Application Details" for more information

Applicant Information

Who Should Apply

Persons planning a career as public health researchers in the discipline of health behavior.

Enrolled Student Demographics

  • Total Enrollment 1620
  • Female 72%, Male 28%
  • Underrepresented Minority Students 16.3%
  • International 11%

Program Costs & Funding

Admissions Information

Prior Degree Required

Bachelor's degree

Required Prerequisites


Standardized Test(s) Accepted

TOEFL/IELTS (for int'l students only) Standardized test scores are one of many factors we consider in making admissions decisions.

Standardized Test Scores

PhD: On average, incoming students had 84th percentile verbal and 70th percentile quantitative. Standardized test scores are one of many factors we consider in making admissions decisions. If you have concerns about your scores, please talk with us.


Unofficial transcripts from all post-secondary education and graduate education (including community colleges, summer sessions and extension programs) are required to be uploaded in the application.

Letters of Recommendation Required

3 (academic and/or professional)

Faculty-Student Match Required

Match with interest area(s) of one or more department faculty required; faculty sponsor not required.

Interviews Required

Not required

Work Experience Required

None required None required, but preference is given to applicants with research experience in public health/health behavior.

Visit Opportunities

Learn about opportunities to come to UNC Gillings to meet faculty, staff, and current students. If you are unable to come to campus – don’t worry – our representatives attend a variety of recruitment events around the United States as well as host virtual fairs and webinars.

During the Program

Required Courses

For a detailed description of all the requirements for this degree program please click here for the Student Handbook.

Comprehensive Exam Type(s)

Comprehensive written master's exam to be completed in August before year 2 of program; written and oral Doctoral exam to be completed the summer after 6th semester in program

Capstone, Thesis or Dissertation

Master's thesis alternative (publishable manuscript); Dissertation

Practicum, Internships & Fieldwork

MSPH-to-PhD students complete a 200-hour research practicum (HBEH 744 Research Practicum I) after their first year in the program and a 400-hour primary and 200-hour secondary doctoral practicum (

  • HBEH 842 Primary Practicum for Doctoral Students
  • HBEH 843 Secondary Practicum for Doctoral Students

Global Options Available

The UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health strives to integrate global content and approaches across the School’s courses, programs and degrees. We believe that every student should emerge from our School with an understanding of global health issues. Some courses are focused largely on global issues, others are designed so that global and local issues are intertwined and some still are evolving. Learn more about these options.

Many enrolled students will have the opportunity to pursue our graduate global health certificate, while others may choose global health courses, internships or independent study with global focus.

After the Program

Employment Opportunities

Professor in colleges and universities; senior research scientist at research houses

Example Job Responsibilities

Lead behavioral and social science research efforts focused on public health problems, such as obesity reduction and prevention, injury prevention, women's health, health disparities.

  1. Complete online SOPHAS application
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    • Application Deadline: December 1, 2021
    • Fee: 135.00+
    • Step Link


      See program details in GPS for requirements such as prequisites, prior degree, work experience, any test score waivers, as well as a tuition estimate and program overview.

      • Application to UNC is a two-step process. Please apply separately to (1) SOPHAS and (2) UNC-Chapel Hill (via the Graduate School application). See SOPHAS website for complete checklist of SOPHAS steps as not all are listed here.
        Once your application is submitted, it will be verified by SOPHAS. You will receive an email from UNC soon thereafter prompting you to complete the Graduate School application. Components of the SOPHAS application will be exported to the Graduate School application system, but you will still be asked to answer residency and honor code questions, and upload an unofficial copy of your transcript(s). UNC will have access to your SOPHAS application at the time you submit. However your application will not be reviewed until you've completed both SOPHAS and Graduate School applications.
      • For dual degrees, select all component programs that require SOPHAS.
    2. Applicants will need to enter all coursework information into SOPHAS and submit an official transcript to SOPHAS.

      • If you are admitted and choose to enroll at UNC Gillings, you will be asked for an official transcript showing degree awarded. International applicants need to have a WES-evaluated transcript for upload via SOPHAS, but a WES-evaluated transcript is not an acceptable substitute for an official transcript according to UNC.
    3. Upload your personal statement.

      • Statement of Purpose: Applicants should respond to the following questions without exceeding 1500 words:
        • Explain how your academic and personal background contribute to your understanding of the science of health behavior to promote public health.
        • Describe your research experience in health behavior or other fields related to public health. Indicate your role in conducting research and any research products such as papers and conference presentations. Describe any other experience in public health, health behavioral science or related fields you believe is relevant.
        • Tell us about research interests you would like to pursue during your doctoral studies. Also, indicate faculty members you would be interested in working with and why. Our faculty's research interests are summarized here:

        • Outline your long-term career goals and how receiving training in our doctoral program could advance them.
    4. Enter names of recommenders. SOPHAS will then send them an email with instructions for submitting a letter on your behalf.

        • 3 (academic and/or professional)
    5. Report test scores to SOPHAS.

      GRE scores are neither required nor typically recommended for applicants to the Master's-to-Doctoral Program program.

      International applicants must submit official TOEFL or IELTS standardized test scores. GRE code 0311 routes to both SOPHAS and UNC. You will need to make two requests for TOEFL/IELTS scores to be sent to SOPHAS and UNC. Code 5688 routes to SOPHAS only, and code 5816 routes to UNC.. TOEFL/IELTS scores must be no more than two years old.

    6. Mail official transcripts (from each institution you have attended) directly to SOPHAS. Do not mail these to UNC. If admitted, you will be asked by UNC for an official transcript.

    7. Check SOPHAS portal to track progress.

      Applicants should check the SOPHAS portal to ensure that all required documents have been received by SOPHAS.

    8. Do NOT apply to UNC Gillings via the Graduate School application until you've received an email with instructions.

    9. Note: Time-to-decision varies from program to program at UNC Gillings. UNC will not render a decision unless you have completed both a SOPHAS and a UNC Gillings Graduate School application.

  2. Complete online application
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    • Application Deadline: December 14, 2020
    • Fee: 95.00
    • Step Link

    (The Graduate School Application is a common application system for UNC-Chapel Hill programs.)


      See program details in GPS for requirements such as prequisites, prior degree, work experience, any test score waivers, as well as a tuition estimate and program overview.

      • All UNC Gillings applications for graduate-level programs fall under the purview of the UNC Graduate School. Accordingly, you will apply to UNC Gillings via the Graduate School Application, and UNC Gillings programs will make admissions recommendations to the UNC Graduate School for final approval.
        Once a recommendation is finalized, you will receive notice via email from the UNC Graduate School. Throughout the process, most of your questions can be answered by your program contact.
      • NOTE: To be considered for UNC Graduate School scholarships, apply before priority deadline.

    2. Once your SOPHAS application has been received by UNC, you will receive an email with instructions for completing the Graduate School application.

      Although the Graduate School application will import some information from SOPHAS, you will be asked to answer residency and honor code questions, upload a copy of your transcript(s) and pay the application fee. Please only enter required information, and do not change the program/degree information. We estimate that this application should take you less than 30 minutes to complete.

    3. Faculty interest(s)/mentor(s)

      • Indicate up to three faculty members with whom you would like to work.
    4. Applicant information,  including North Carolina residency information.

    5. Area(s) of interest

      • Select MSPH-to-PhD as your area of interest from the dropdown.
    6. Educational history

      • Please upload a copy of your most recent transcript(s), including your current term grades, if applicable. (If grades are not yet available, send them to the UNC Gillings program contact as soon as they become available.) Be sure the transcript reflects the name of the institution and any degrees you received.
    7. Community standards

      You will be asked about honor code, crime, academic sanction, military discharge, etc.

    8. Because you already applied via SOPHAS, you do NOT need to enter recommender information, upload a resume or add a personal statement.

  3. FYI: costs and funding (separate from the admissions process)
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    1. Check out our Costs and Funding page.

    2. Note priority deadline to be eligible for UNC Graduate School scholarships and fellowships. Departments will decide which applicants to nominate. No additional application required.

    3. Apply for FEDERAL financial aid by March 1 (please verify this date via FAFSA) via FAFSA. If you've been admitted and completed the FAFSA form by their deadline, the UNC Office of Scholarships and Student Aid will create a financial aid package for you.

    4. Department funding

      • Our department contacts incoming students regarding funding opportunities.
      • We consider all applicants for funding.
  4. FYI: application review process
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    1. SPH application review:

      • Department recommendation will be sent to the Graduate School for final approval.
        UNC Gillings will not render a decision unless you have completed BOTH the SOPHAS and UNC Graduate School applications.
    2. UNC Graduate School application review and final decision:

      • The UNC Graduate School reviews all admissions recommendations made by programs. Once final decisions have been made, the Graduate School will send you an email instructing login to the Graduate School application portal to see the decision letter.
    3. NOTE: Financial aid is separate from the admissions process. For more information, please refer to our School's Costs and Funding page and/or UNC-Chapel Hill's Office of Scholarships and Student Aid (OSSA) website.

The Gillings Program Search is a tool for exploring academic programs at the School. It is a prospectus for the current year to be used in consultation with an academic adviser and does not constitute the complete degree or program requirements for graduation or program completion.

Health Behavior
Credit Hours: