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The Office of Public Health Practice & Training

Frequently Asked Questions for Preceptors

What are the competencies for public health professionals, and where can I find out more information?

The core competencies for public health professionals domains developed by the Public Health Foundation are as follows:  

  • Analytical/Assessment Skills
  • Policy Development/Program Planning Skills
  • Communication Skills
  • Cultural Competency Skills
  • Community Dimensions of Practice Skills
  • Public Health Sciences Skills
  • Financial Planning and Management Skills
  • Leadership and Systems Thinking Skills

The full set of competencies can be accessed at:

What are the preceptor requirements?

A qualified preceptor must be willing to commit time to supervising a student and providing feedback on student’s work. The preceptor should have knowledge of the student project in order to guide the student throughout the process. A preceptor who is not a faculty member of JHSPH must submit a resume or CV to the Office of Public Health Practice and Training at For more information visit the preceptor responsibilities page.

What organizations are qualified to host a student?

Practicum placements can be in a variety of organizations, including local and state public health agencies, community-based organizations, as well as international non-governmental agencies and organizations.

What are the qualifications of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health MPH students?

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) Master of Public Health (MPH) students come with a variety of skills and experiences. A requirement for admission to the MPH program is at least two years of full-time, post-baccalaureate, health-related work experience or a doctoral degree in a field underlying public health.  There is a diversity of professions in the MPH student body – approximately 39 percent of full-time MPH students are physicians, 14 percent are in medical school, and 9 percent are nurses, with the remaining 50 percent from a variety of professions such as policy analysts, pharmacists, engineers, research assistants, lawyers, teachers, peace corps volunteers, case managers, computer system specialists, etc.  Students come into the program highly motivated to protect the public’s health and are required to complete coursework in the five core public health areas (epidemiology, biostatistics, health policy and management, environmental health, and social and behavioral sciences).

Can research or lab activity fulfill a practicum requirement?

Yes. As long as the student is working at an organization or agency engaged in public health work, such as a state health department or a data coordinating center for a clinical trial or cohort study. In research or lab-orientated practicum, the student will need to have some involvement in the interpretation of results and/or the larger public health implications of the work.

Can a practicum be done at a student’s former or current place of employment?

Yes. A practicum can be completed at a current or former place of employment, as long as the practicum is distinct from any on-going work the student is being paid for and is determined to meet the required criteria.

Can the practicum be a paid experience?

Yes, but payment is not required. If there is payment involved, the preceptor and student must negotiate the terms; JHSPH is not involved in arranging any form of payment.

Can the practicum be a service project?

The primary focus needs to fulfill a need that is not solely “direct service.” Students may be involved in “direct service”, but these activities cannot comprise the majority of the practicum experience. Examples of “direct service” include filing, serving food, and data entry. The work should add something to the organization’s knowledge, process, etc. In a service-oriented context, students should have some involvement at the program or policy level (program design, evaluation, etc.).

Does the preceptor-student relationship need to be one-on-one?

In many cases the preceptor-student relationship will be one-on-one. However, the practicum can be teamed-based if the project meets required practicum criteria for each student.

Does the preceptor-student interaction need to be in-person?

While in-person interaction is preferred, it is not always possible. As long as the preceptor is providing directions, feedback, and guidance throughout the practicum experience, preceptor-student interaction can be conducted via technologies such as Skype, email, phone calls, etc.

Are deliverables required for the practicum?

Yes. Students are required to provide final deliverables that are mutually agreed upon by the student and the preceptor in the practicum educational plan. The format and content of the final deliverables need to be in-line with the defined learning objectives and contribute to the student’s career growth and development.

Can a student be the supervisor or principle investigator for their practicum project?


Can the Practicum also fulfill the Capstone Requirement?

A student may build on their practicum experience to complete their capstone as long as the capstone and practicum projects are distinct and both meet the required criteria. Below is an example of a practicum that was extended into a capstone project:

Assessment of Sexual Healthcare in Safety Net Providers Sites

Practicum: The student worked with a state department of health population health improvement office to assist in the development of a more holistic approach to HIV and STIs treatment. The student conducted background research on sexual health standard protocols and best practices from other states, as well as identified stakeholders from around the state.  Additionally, the student created an asset-mapping tool for providers to identify the current screening and treatment procedures for STIs and HIV, including social services offered.

Capstone paper: The student expanded on their practicum work to document the development and evaluation of the asset-mapping tool. The capstone report included a summary of how the assessment tool was developed as well as preliminary results that will inform the development of standard protocols for HIV and STIs treatment.

For more examples of how a practicum and capstone was linked, see HERE.

In the Practicum Opportunity Site, can one person submit multiple projects for my organization?

Yes, one person can submit multiple projects for your organization, but you must identify a unique preceptor for each project.

What is the role of the alternate preceptor?

The role of the alternate preceptor is to be the back-up person for the primary preceptor. The alternate preceptor could be more involved if they like, but it is not required. What is required is to take over for the primary preceptor if the primary preceptor is not available.