The Master of Public Health Program provides a generalist certificate in the core public health content areas. The certificate courses are drawn from the core MPH curriculum. Enrollment in the certificate program in public health studies is open to graduate or professional students at Penn.  


Any matriculated graduate or professional student at Penn who is in good academic standing (3.3 minimum GPA) is welcome to apply. Permission of your department is required. It is strongly recommended that applicants have prior coursework in biologic sciences and/or chemistry and have demonstrated proficiency in math. Certificate students must obtain a B- or better in all coursework to fulfill the requirements for the certificate.


Certificate students are required to take a total of 5 PUBH prefix courses.

Required courses:

  • PUBH 500 Introduction to Public Health. (Fall) This course will provide a foundational overview of the field of public health and grounding in the public health paradigm. Content will include the history of public health, an introduction to the basic public health sciences (behavioral and social sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, policy and management), prevention of chronic and infectious diseases and injuries, future directions for public health, international health, ethics, context analysis (specifically concepts of urban health and health disparities), health promotion and disease prevention.

  • PUBH 502 Introduction to Principles and Methods of Epidemiology. (Spring) This course provides an introduction to epidemiological methods and an overview of the role of epidemiology in disease etiology and in the planning, delivery and evaluation of health services. The population-based approach to collection and analysis of health data will be emphasized throughout the course. Through textbook reading, class discussion and review of the recent literature, students will become acquainted with the basic designs of epidemiological studies in theory and in practice. Students will develop the basic skills necessary to use epidemiological knowledge and methods as the basis for scientific public health practice.

Students must pick an additional 2 courses from the following core classes:

  • PUBH 501 Introduction to Biostatistics. (Fall) This course is a series of lectures and laboratory sessions designed to provide a working knowledge of the fundamental concepts of biostatistics. Topics covered include probability, estimation, confidence intervals, hypothesis testing including nonparametric techniques, correlation, regression, analysis of variance, and analysis of covariance. Emphasis in both lectures and labs is placed on understanding the proper application and underlying assumptions of the methods presented. Laboratory sessions focus on the use of statistical software as well as provide time for review of course material.

  • PUBH 503 Environmental & Occupational Health. (Fall) This course will provide a broad introduction to the scientific basis of occupational and environmental health. Content will address issues in the ambient, occupational and global environments as well as the tools, concepts and methods used in environmental health.

  • PUBH 504 Behavioral & Social Sciences in Public Health. (Fall) This introductory course is intended to provide students with a solid foundation in behavioral and social science theory, research, and interventions as they pertain to public health. Content will provide exposure to a broad range of theories, including the theoretical foundations of social science applications for help-seeking, gender, race, ethnicity and social class. These theories will be discussed using examples of their applications to numerous public health problems including HIV/AIDS, violence, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and diabetes.

  • PUBH 505 Public Health Administration and Policy (Fall). This course will introduce students to basic frameworks from the fields of public policy and public administration. Students will acquire knowledge of the many interactive factors that shape health policies in the USA, and a comprehension of the major theories and modern dilemmas of health administration. Students will gain a critical understanding of the structural and cultural dynamics that make up the national public health and health care “systems”; core aspects of health economics; and the roles of politics, community participation and worldviews that shape these systems. Throughout the course the interface of health policy and administration with other domains in the political economy of the US will be described and analyzed. The goal of the course is to provide students with a fundamental grasp of public health policy and administrative issues, in order to apply this knowledge fruitfully in their diverse career paths, and, where applicable, to provide background for relating material in specialized policy courses to public health issues.

  • PUBH 507 Public Health Ethics, Policy, and Law. (Fall). What is best - or, at least, seems best -- for the public's health is not always consistent with society's view of what is legal, ethical, or good policy. This course introduces key concepts of legal, ethical, and policy analysis and attempts to demonstrate with current examples how these forces empower, guide, and constrain public health decision-making and actions. The course will combine lecture, Socratic dialogue, and group discussion in an informal setting. The course will feature guest lectures by several distinguished experts from Penn and from other universities.

For the remaining course, certificate students may choose:

  • One additional course listed above, or
  • An approved PUBH 599 Independent Study with an MPH faculty mentor, or
  • Any other PUBH prefix course (core or elective) worth 1.0 cu.

Acceptance into the public health certificate program does not guarantee admission to the Master of Public Health program. If accepted into the MPH program a total of 4 courses completed in the certificate program may be applied toward the MPH degree.

Certificate students are billed according to the tuition rate for MPH courses.
Click here for tuition information.

Certificate Program Application Form