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The Office of Public Health Practice & Training

Frequently Asked Questions for Students

Where is the Practicum Learning Plan?

The Practicum Learning Plan is located in the Forms and Documents page under "Submit Practicum Opportunity for Approval".

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 here.


How can a student find a practicum?

Practicum opportunities and courses will be posted on the School’s practicum website here. Students can also identify their own practicum experience through their own connections, networks, prior work experience, etc. For more information about how to identify a customized practicum with an outside preceptor, see here.

Can a student develop their own (customized) practicum?

Yes. As long as a student completes the Practicum Learning Plan and it receives approval. For more information about how to develop a customized practicum, see here.

In what instance can a Hopkins faculty member serve as a preceptor?

If the faculty member is collaborating with an organization or agency engaged in public health work and the project is determined to meet the required criteria. Examples of organizations or agencies include a state health department or a data coordinating center for a clinical trial or cohort study.  

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

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. A literature review or data analysis project alone will not meet the practicum requirement. The student must obtain input from the partnering organization and/or from the stakeholders (e.g., population impacted by project, other professionals/researchers completing similar work). There must be a clear link to how the practicum project makes an impact on the targeted population.

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.


How many special studies credits should I register for my practicum?

As a general rule, you will register for 1 credit per term for every 4 hours per week of practicum work. For example, if your practicum project takes about 8 hours per week for one term, then you will register for 2 credits for that term. Another way to think about this is to register for one special study credit for each 32 hours of total practicum work.

Can I register for practicum credits after the add/drop period?


Do I register for credits over winter break if I complete my practicum over winter break?

No. You should register for the practicum credits either the term before (2nd) or the term after (3rd) the winter break.

Can a project I worked on before starting the MPH program count towards the practicum requirements?

No, work you completed before starting the MPH program cannot count towards the practicum requirement.  However, future work on the project can count towards the MPH practicum if you:

  • Engage in work on the project during the MPH year
  • Identify a preceptor
  • Collaborate with the preceptor to complete the Practicum Learning Plan to outline a project
  • Ensure that the project meets the practicum requirements
  • Get approval from the MPH practicum team


How long does it take for a practicum proposal to be approved?

It may take up to two weeks for a practicum proposal to be reviewed.  Generally, practicum proposals will be reviewed sooner, but depending on volume and time of year, it may take longer.  Note that if there are any questions about the proposal (e.g. preceptor did not submit CV, questions about potential IRB issues, activities are not clear, etc.), it may delay the approval.

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.

What should I share with my preceptor?

You should first share the MPH Practicum Information Sheet (2-pager) to give your preceptor a short background about the MPH Practicum. If your preceptor would like more detailed information, please share the MPH Practicum Information for Preceptors. Before you start the practicum, you may also want to share the Tips for a Successful Practicum Experience.