College of Public Health

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Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)

(also see the USF Graduate School Catalog at

Note: Dr.P.H. students in the Global Health department are no longer required to do their practice-based field work outside of the United States. (Graduate council approved 10/2014; effective Fall 2014)

The Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.) emphasizes advanced public health education and training designed to prepare individuals for leadership roles in practice-based settings such as health departments, non-profit organizations, health service, international agencies, and community-based organizations. Accordingly, the emphasis of the Dr.P.H. is placed on fostering advanced expertise in developing, implementing, and evaluating evidence-informed public health practice as compared to the Ph.D. whereby the emphasis is on research.

Dr.P.H. training comprises the following curricular domains: Advocacy and Leadership, Communication, Community and Cultural Orientation, Critical Analysis, Management, and Professionalism and Ethics. Subsequently, the Dr.P.H. student is expected to collaborate with senior public health practitioners through a practice-based specialized study. Furthermore, it is required the Dr.P.H. students complete a dissertation that addresses, generates, interprets, and/or evaluates knowledge applicable to public health practice. Additional descriptions of department specific details are available on departmental websites.

The Dr.P.H. will require 90 semester hours beyond the baccalaureate degree. Candidates MUST have an M.P.H., M.S.P.H., or M.H.A. degree prior to admission, therefore the actual additional hours required for the Dr.P.H. beyond the Master’s level will average 60 semester hours, depending upon the program designed by the student and his or her committee. Per University guidelines, all requirements for the doctoral degree must be completed within seven calendar years from the student’s date of admission for doctoral study. Students have four years to complete all required coursework, pass the qualifying examination, and be admitted to doctoral candidacy. Students then have three years from the date of doctoral candidacy to complete degree requirements.


The mission of the Doctor of Public Health is to prepare practitioners for leadership and advocacy in public health practice through a scientific, interdisciplinary approach to understanding and solving public health problems in the public and private sectors, the United States, and worldwide. This mission relates directly to the University of South Florida’s mission which includes creating a community of learners together with significant and sustainable university-community partnerships and collaborations; and designing, strengthening and building sustainable healthy communities and improving quality of life.

Areas of Study

The Dr.P.H. degree has no concentrations, but students may focus on the following areas:

  • Community and Family Health
  • Environmental Health
  • Epidemiology/Biostatistics
  • Global Health
  • Health Policy and Administration

Mode of Delivery

The USF College of Public Health Dr.P.H. degree is offered in a hybrid format allowing the working professional optimal flexibility. Fall and Spring semesters comprise of on-line courses. In the Summer semesters, students come to campus for a one-week summer intensive study.  The combination of program delivery formats allow the working professionals to broaden their grasp of public health management, practice, and research without interrupting their careers.

Degree Details


Download table of competencies and courses

The following lists Dr.P.H. curricular domains and associated competences:

Cluster 1: Advocacy, Leadership, and Community Engagement

Advocacy Domain: The ability to influence decision-making regarding policies and practices that advance public health using scientific knowledge, analysis, communication, and consensus-building.


    1. Present positions on health issues, law, and policy in multiple sectors;
    2. Analyze the impact of legislation, judicial opinions, regulations, and policies on population health; and
    3. Influence health policy and program decision-making based on scientific evidence, stakeholder input, and public opinion data.

Leadership Domain: The ability to create and communicate a shared vision for a positive future; inspire trust and motivate others; and use evidence-based contextually and culturally appropriate strategies to enhance essential public health services


    1. Demonstrate a commitment to public health professional values;
    2. Influence others to achieve high standards of performance and accountability;
    3. Promote effective strategies to address the challenges presented to public health leadership; and
    4. Collaborate with multidisciplinary researchers and practitioners.

Communication Domain: The ability to assess and use communication strategies across diverse audiences to inform and influence individual, organization, community, and policy actions.


    1. Discuss the inter-relationships between health communication and marketing;
    2. Prepare oral and written communications from briefs, position papers, scientific articles, community pieces;
    3. Guide an organization in setting communication goals, objectives, priorities, and strategies; and
    4. Integrate health literacy concepts in all communication and marketing initiatives.

Community/Cultural Orientation Domain: The ability to communicate, interact, engage and work with people across diverse communities and cultures for development of programs, policies, and research.


    1. Develop collaborative partnerships with communities, policy makers, and other relevant groups;
    2. Conduct community-based participatory intervention and research projects;
    3. Engage communities in creating evidence-informed, culturally competent programs; and
    4. Implement culturally and linguistically appropriate programs, services, and research.

Cluster 2: Management and Ethics

Management Domain: The ability to provide fiscally responsible strategic and operational guidance within both public and private health organizations for achieving individual and community health and wellness.


    1. Develop capacity-building strategies at the individual, organizational, and community level;
    2. Apply principles of human resource management;
    3. Organize the work environment with defined lines of responsibility, authority, communication, and governance;
    4. Implement strategic planning processes;
    5. Guide organizational decision-making and planning based on internal and external environmental research; and
    6. Evaluate organizational performance in relation to strategic and defined goals.

Professionalism and Ethics Domain: The ability to identify and analyze an ethical issue; balance the claims of personal liberty with the responsibility to protect and improve the health of the population; and act on the ethical concepts of social justice and human rights in public health research and practice.


    1. Demonstrate cultural sensitivity in ethical discourse and analysis;
    2. Design strategies for resolving ethical concerns in research, law, and regulations; and
    3. Develop tools that protect the privacy of individuals and communities involved in health programs, policies, and research.

Cluster 3: Evidence-Informed Public Health

Critical Analysis Domain: The ability to synthesize and apply evidence-informed research and theory from a broad range of disciplines and health-related data sources to advance programs, policies, and systems promoting population health.


    1. Interpret quantitative and qualitative data following current scientific standards;
    2. Synthesize information and derive pertinent implications from multiple sources for research and practice;
    3. Apply theoretical and evidence-informed perspectives from multiple disciplines in the design and implementation of programs, policies, and systems;
    4. Design needs and resource assessments for communities and populations;
    5. Translate research-informed approaches to public health practice; and
    6. Evaluate the performance and impact of health programs, policies, and systems.
 Application Documentation & Admission Criteria

Required Application Documentation

Applicants to the Dr.P.H. degree are required to complete a SOPHAS application. Required Documentation (all items are required regardless of GPA or GRE scores):

Completed SOPHAS application (requires the following)

  1. Transcripts
  2. GRE taken within five years preceding application or equivalent scores (section 6.2 Admissions Tests Information for more information)
    NOTE: A waiver of the GRE scores may be requested if the following conditions are evidenced by the applicant: a) a terminal degree (e.g., M.D., J.D., etc.); OR, b) an average GPA of 3.5 or higher in the master’s degree.
  3. Minimum of three letters of recommendation
  4. Two personal statements that describe: a) your current public health experience; and, b) why you wish to obtain a Dr.P.H. degree at the University of South Florida.  Carefully review and address the requirements described below regarding the personal statements. NOTE: Both statements should be entered in the "Statement of Purpose and Objectives" section of the SOPHAS application.
    1. Statement of Public Health Experience
      The Dr.P.H. is an advanced degree in public health.  Successful candidates will have the core public health knowledge base, skill set, and expertise in addition to sufficient work experience to demonstrate competency in the five core areas of public health* (e.g., epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and management, environmental health, and social and behavioral science). To that end, two or more years of full-time, paid, public health professional experience that demonstrates progressive responsibility and evidence of leadership potential is required.  Subsequently, the Statement of Public Health Experience is a critical element of your application as it is intended to give you the opportunity to submit a narrative describing:  a) your previous public health education/training; b) your experience in applying that training and the core competencies of public health; and, c) the development of your public health leadership skills. NOTE: The Statement of Public Health Experience should be no more than 750 words.
    2. Statement of Dr.P.H. Purpose and Objectives
      The Statement of Dr.P.H. Purpose and Objectives is a central element to your application. It is an opportunity to explain your public health career objectives and how the pursuit of the Doctorate in Public Health will enable you to meet those objectives.  In your Statement of Dr.P.H. Purpose and Objectives please address the following: a) the needs and/or challenges you perceive as professionally important in the field of public health; b) your future public health career goals and objectives; c) why you are interested in advanced public health training; d) plans you have for how the Dr.P.H. training will help you reach those goals and objectives; e) reasons for  applying to the University of South Florida’s Dr.P.H. program of study; and, f) any personal qualities, characteristics, and skills you believe will enable you to be successful in the field of public health. NOTE: The Statement of Dr.P.H. Purpose and Objectives should be no more than 750 words.
  5. Resume or curriculum vitae
  6. USF Graduate School application fee (applicants will receive a request for the $30 fee once the SOPHAS application enters our USF system).
  7. Applicants whose native language is not English or who have not earned a degree in the United States must also submit TOEFL scores earned within two (2) years of the desired term of entry. A minimum total score of 79 on the internet-based test, 213 on the computer-based test, or 550 on the paper-based test are required. Applications submitted with TOEFL scores that do not meet the minimum requirements will be denied with no exceptions. (section 6.2 Admissions Tests Information for more information)

 *Detailed information on the Public Health Core Competencies can be found at

Degree Admission Criteria

In addition to meeting the University requirements for admissions (see section 4 of the current USF graduate catalog at, applicants to the Dr.P.H. program must meet the following minimum criteria in order to be considered for admission. However, the meeting of these criteria per se, shall not be the only basis for admission.

  1. Minimum Verbal GRE 53rd percentile and minimum Quantitative GRE 39th percentile
    OR, Minimum MCAT scores required is a mean of 8.
    NOTE: A waiver of the GRE scores may be requested if the following conditions are met: a) you have a terminal degree (e.g., M.D., J.D., etc.); OR, b) you have an average GPA of 3.5 or higher in your master’s degree.
  2. Dr.P.H. Applicants seeking consideration to the doctoral program must possess the M.P.H., M.S.P.H., or M.H.A. and a minimum of two years work experience in public health. As a prerequisite to the Dr.P.H. program of study all five public health core courses must be completed prior to admission.

    NOTE: Although infrequent, applicants who have a master’s degree in a field outside of public health (e.g., social work, public administration), may have the M.P.H., M.S.P.H., or M.H.A. degree requirements waived based on exceptional public health training and work experience evidenced by the Statement of Public Health Experience and the Statement of Dr.P.H. Purpose and Objectives. However, if granted by the Dr.P.H. Admissions and Advisory Committee, admission to the Dr.P.H. program will be conditionally granted and contingent upon successful completion of the required core public health courses for the college M.P.H..
  3. Basic computer competency is expected.

Admissions Procedures

All Dr.P.H. applications are reviewed by the College of Public Health Inter-departmental Dr.P.H. Admissions and Advisory Committee. The Dr.P.H. Admissions and Advisory Committee will review the entire application package and consider the overall balance of each applicant’s qualifications and the fit between the applicant’s career goals and the academic program.

 To start the application process, see section 6.1 Application Procedures.

 Doctoral Plan of Study

Note: You may choose a plan of study that corresponds to the academic year of your admission or any year thereafter.  Please see the guidelines below.

Plan of Study by Year:2010/112011/122012/132013/142014/15


 USF Guidelines in Choosing a Plan of Study

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Practice-based field study: All Dr.P.H. students will engage in a practice-based specialized study for a total of 9 credit hours. This provides an opportunity for in-depth study in a particular area of public health. The practice-based study is designed to focus on developing and demonstrating strategic policy-making skills and advanced leadership skills in the identified public health discipline. It will be jointly planned by the student, faculty advisor and Field Placement Coordinator. A qualified community-based professional preceptor will mentor the student in the practice setting.

Qualifying Exam: When all required coursework is satisfactorily completed, the student must pass a written comprehensive qualifying examination covering the subject matter in the major and related fields. Exam questions will be generated by the Dr.P.H. Inter-departmental Admissions and Advisory Committee. The exam will be administered and evaluated by the student’s Dr.P.H. Pre-dissertation Committee. Results of the written exam will be communicated in writing to the student within 15 working days of the examination. If all or part of the exam is failed, the student will have one more opportunity to retake the exam. After successful completion of the qualifying exam and appropriate paperwork is submitted to Graduate School, the student is admitted to candidacy and may register for dissertation hours.

Dissertation: All students must follow the University’s “Guidelines for Dissertations and Theses” found at

Note: In order to be considered for admission to the Dr.P.H. Program in Public Health, applicants must be fully prepared to register as full-time students for at least one full academic year (consecutive Fall and Spring semesters).  All requirements for doctoral degrees must be completed within seven (7) calendar years from the student’s date of admission for doctoral study. Students have four (4) years from the date of admission to complete all required coursework, pass the qualifying examination, and be admitted to doctoral candidacy. Students then have three (3) years from the date of doctoral candidacy to complete degree requirements.

 Advising and Mentorship

Faculty Advisor and Practice-based Mentor

Upon admission the Dr.P.H. program of study, the Dr.P.H. Admissions Committee will appoint a Dr.P.H. Faculty Advisor and Dr.P.H. practice-based mentor to each student. Typically the faculty advisor also serves as the Chair of the dissertation committee. The advisor and the practice-based mentor facilitate the student's doctoral studies by:

  1. Meeting with the student to develop a plan of study for doctoral committee approval by the end of the second semester.
  2. Monitoring and informing the Pre-dissertation committee of the student's progress.
  3. Meeting with the student on a regular basis about academic and research progress and professional and career goals.
  4. Coordinating the development, administration, and grading of the qualifying exam.
  5. Guiding the student in development and implementation of a quality practice-based study experience
 Dissertation Committees

Pre-Dissertation Committee

All Dr.P.H. students are admitted into the College of Public Health Dr.P.H. will be assigned a faculty advisor (see above) and a Dr.P.H. Practice-based Mentor who will work with the student in forming a pre-dissertation committee. The roles of the pre-dissertation committee are as follows:

  1. Meet with the student to discuss plan of study, practice-based specialized study, and academic progress. The program of study should include proposed time schedule to complete each course, and copies shall be given to each committee member and to the Office of Academic and Student Affairs.
  2. Facilitate opportunities for strengthening leadership and management skills, applied research skills and scholarly growth.
  3. Administer and evaluate the qualifying exam.

Dissertation Committee

Successful completion of the preliminary examination advances the doctoral student to a doctoral candidate. At that time, the student will convene a Dr.P.H. Dissertation Committee. The Pre-Dissertation Committee may continue to serve as the Dissertation Committee, although this is not necessary. At this time, the student may desire to change Faculty Advisor and/or committee members. This may occur when practice, professional or research interests are more closely matched with another faculty member, the student and faculty member mutually agree that another person is more appropriate, or a faculty member is leaving the university. This action is to be approved by the department chair, the dean of academic and student affairs, and the Graduate School.

The Dissertation Committee must have a minimum of four members, which includes at least two faculty members from the College of Public Health and a public health professional or practitioner. According to Graduate School guidelines, a faculty member outside of the department is specially appointed to chair the dissertation defense. A minimum of 9 dissertation credits is required.

The roles of the pre-dissertation committee are as follows:

  1. Guide student throughout practice-based dissertation.
  2. Approve written dissertation proposal through a formal oral presentation process.
  3. Provide guidance and support during dissertation.
  4. Evaluate dissertation through dissertation defense process.
  5. Recommend an appropriate chair for the dissertation defense.
 Use of “c” in Degree Acronyms for Degree Candidates

The College of Public Health does not permit students who are pursuing masters or doctoral degrees to use the degree acronym after their names and a small “c” for candidate.  In other words students are not permitted to use M.P.H.c, M.S.P.H.c, M.H.A.c, Ph.D.c, or Dr.P.H.c.  If students, after successfully completing all comprehensive exams (core and concentration) for the master degrees or the qualifying exam for the doctoral degree wish to put after their name the words—master degree candidate or doctoral degree candidate—we allow this..

The use of the degree acronym and small “c” creates confusion for faculty, employers, and other individuals who are reviewing students’ CVs and other materials.  It creates a situation wherein a student appears to have earned a degree when such is not the case.  As a degree-granting College, we do not allow this.

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