MPH Practicum Requirements and Roles

This page contains important information about the requirements and roles involved in the Gillings MPH practicum, which are relevant to students, preceptors and faculty mentors.

Additional information for each group can be found on the Information for Students, Information for Preceptors and Information for Faculty Mentor pages.

Requirements

Gillings MPH Practicum Requirements

Gillings MPH Practicum Requirements

Note: These requirements do not apply to the Nutrition and Dietetics concentration. Nutrition and Dietetics students should refer to their program handbook for information about the Nutrition and Dietetics practicum.

To satisfy degree requirements, a Gillings MPH practicum must:

  • Be an applied public health practice experience that addresses a health issue from a community or population (not individual) perspective.
  • Take place in a professional public health setting such as a health department, nonprofit organization, hospital or for-profit firm. To be appropriate for a practicum, university-affiliated settings must be primarily focused on community engagement, typically with external partners. University health promotion or wellness centers may also be appropriate. Faculty-supervised lab settings are not appropriate for the practicum.
  • Allow for the application of graduate-level public health skills.
  • Yield at least two student-generated, practical, non-academic work products (e.g., project plans, grant proposals, training manuals or lesson plans, surveys, memos, videos, podcasts, presentations, spreadsheets, websites, photos with accompanying explanatory text, or other digital artifacts of learning), produced for the practicum site’s use and benefit, that demonstrate attainment of five CEPH MPH Foundational Competencies.
  • Be mentored by a supervisor (preceptor) with public health expertise and experience to guide the practicum work. (See “Preceptor Requirements” below.)
  • Take place in a location approved for student travel (UNC Travel Policy), and the student must complete UNC Gillings International Pre-Departure Travel Requirements prior to travel if applicable.
  • Comprise a minimum of 200 hours (equivalent to five weeks of full-time work).

The following experiences do not qualify as practica:

  • Prior work, volunteer activities or coursework that begins prior to approval of the learning agreement.
  • Volunteering at an organization where the student is not using their public health skills.
  • Current employment. (If doing a practicum at one’s current place of employment, the practicum work must differ substantially from the student’s current/former role and their preceptor must be someone other than their regular supervisor).
  • Clinical work (i.e., observation and/or treatment of patients). See Public Health vs. Clinical Health Professions: What’s the Difference?
  • Experiences conducted solely under faculty supervision, such as a case study or simulation or preparing a manuscript for publication.
  • Clinical trials research.
  • Teaching assistantships.
  • Mission trips.

Concentration-Specific Requirements

 

Concentration-Specific Requirements

  • Applied Epidemiology: Students must complete EPID 716 prior to beginning their practicum hours.
  • Environmental Health Solutions: Students must work on a project that has environmental health relevance.
  • Health Behavior: Students must complete HBEH 730, HBEH 750, HBEH 752, and HBEH 753 prior to beginning their practicum hours.
  • Health Equity, Social Justice, and Human Rights: None.
  • Health Policy: Students must complete HPM 754 prior to beginning practicum hours.
  • Global Health: None.
  • Leadership in Practice: None.
  • Maternal, Child and Family Health: Students must either work directly with the MCFH population or their work must directly impact the MCFH population. The practicum cannot be strictly clinical in nature (counseling, health care, etc.).
  • Nutrition: Students must take NUTR 705 prior to beginning their practicum hours. The practicum must take place in a public health/community nutrition-based agency or non-governmental organization. Other organizations must be approved by the Nutrition concentration lead.
  • Nutrition and Dietetics: Students must take NUTR 611, 630, 640 and 715/400 prior to beginning their practicum hours. As part of an accredited program by ACEND, Nutrition and Dietetics students must complete a minimum of 400 practicum hours (equivalent to ten weeks of full-time work), that take place within a public health/health department and/or hospital/clinical setting, and be mentored by an on-site registered dietitian/nutritionist.
  • Place-Based Health: None.
  • Population Health for Clinicians: None.
  • Public Health Data Science: Students should work on a project that involves the application of data science skills.

International Student Requirements

International Student Requirements

International students must have Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization to complete a practicum. To ensure timely processing of your CPT paperwork, eligible students should apply for CPT immediately after deciding to accept a practicum offer. To begin the application process, students must schedule a meeting with their academic coordinator. The approval process typically takes about 3 weeks, but can take longer. Please plan accordingly.

Organization Requirements

Organization Requirements

Governmental, non-governmental, nonprofit, industrial, for-profit settings and university-affiliated settings are all appropriate practicum sites. University-affiliated settings must be primarily focused on community engagement, typically with external partners. University health care systems and health promotion or wellness centers may also be appropriate. Faculty-supervised lab settings are not appropriate for the practicum.

Preceptor Requirements

 

Preceptor Requirements

  • Practicum preceptors must have appropriate public health expertise and experience to guide the practicum work. We understand that people come to public health from a range of backgrounds and expect a preceptor to have either:
  • A terminal degree (e.g., PhD or MD) and professional experience in public health;
  • A graduate degree in public health (e.g., MPH) and at least three years of full-time, professional experience in public health;
  • A graduate degree in a field other than public health (e.g., MSW) and at least three years of full-time, professional experience in public health; OR
  • At least five years of full-time, professional public health experience in addition to a bachelor’s degree.

To gain exposure to public health work outside of an academic setting and for accreditation reasons, students are generally discouraged from completing a practicum with a Gillings faculty member. However, a student may complete a practicum under a Gillings faculty member’s supervision if the products arise from the student having significant contact with a practice setting. In such cases, the practicum must have a co-preceptor from the practice setting. An experience conducted solely under faculty supervision, such as a case study or simulation, or preparing a manuscript for publication, does not meet accreditation criteria and will not satisfy Gillings’ practicum requirements.

If there is any uncertainty whether someone is qualified to serve as a preceptor, please contact mphpracticum@unc.edu.

Student-Preceptor Interactions

Student-Preceptor Interactions

In-person interaction is preferred; however, it is not always possible. If the preceptor is providing directions, feedback and guidance throughout the practicum experience, preceptor-student interactions can be conducted remotely.

Roles and Responsibilities

Practicum Student

Practicum Student

The student is expected to take initiative in identifying, arranging and completing a meaningful practicum that meets Gillings MPH practicum requirements. The student:

  • Secures a practicum placement;
  • Adheres to all UNC international travel policies and registration requirements;
  • Develops a practicum learning agreement in collaboration with the preceptor and faculty mentor that is complete and accurate and includes signatures of approval from the student, preceptor and faculty mentor prior to submitting it;
  • Always maintains professionalism during the practicum experience;
  • Acts in accordance with all practicum organization rules, regulations and professional standards, including dress, personal conduct and attendance;
  • Meets regularly with the preceptor to discuss the progress of the practicum and receive support, guidance and feedback;
  • Maintains contact with the practicum team and faculty mentor (as needed) regarding progress on the practicum;
  • Completes and ensures the timely submission of all practicum assignments and products; and
  • Submits an evaluation of the practicum.

Practicum Preceptor

Practicum Preceptor

The preceptor is the student’s main point of contact at the practicum organization. They mentor the practicum student and supervise the practicum work. The preceptor:

  • Establishes, in collaboration with the student and the student’s faculty mentor, an appropriate and feasible scope of work, which gets documented in the student’s learning agreement, that is directly aligned with the practicum organization’s needs and provides a valuable learning experience for the student;
  • Orients the student to the health topic(s), people, policies, procedures and norms related to the practicum work;
  • Meets regularly with the student to provide guidance, support and timely, constructive feedback;
  • Communicates with the student’s practicum manager (and the student’s faculty mentor as needed) to provide feedback on the student’s performance;
  • Models professional, ethical behavior;
  • Completes an evaluation of the student and the practicum experience; and
  • Identifies a suitable replacement if unable to continue in the role of a preceptor.

Preceptors must meet specific preceptor qualifications. See “Preceptor Qualifications” above.

Faculty Mentor

Faculty Mentor

The faculty mentor provides discipline-specific feedback and technical support for the practicum. The faculty mentor:

  • Assists the student in refining goals for the practicum experience;
  • Reviews and provides feedback on the learning agreement to ensure that the proposed scope of work accounts for all steps entailed in producing the products, is feasible for the timeframe and aligns with selected competencies;
  • Provides technical assistance and problem-solving support during the practicum, as needed; and
  • Assesses the student’s practicum products for competency demonstration.

Practicum Team

Practicum Team

The MPH practicum team manages students’ practicum experiences. They:

  • Provide programmatic support for the practicum process;
  • Vet practicum opportunities to ensure they meet Gillings MPH requirements;
  • Grant students permission to begin the practicum;
  • Assist with onboarding requirements;
  • Provide instructions for the practicum at the beginning, middle and end of the experience;
  • Monitor the practicum experience and problem-solve as needed; and
  • Disseminate and collect practicum assignments and evaluations.

See the Gillings MPH Practicum Team page for more information about the team, including contact information.