Public Health, PhD

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health prepares graduates to think critically as public health scientists, develop subject matter expertise and analytical skills to become successful independent researchers, and respond to the most pressing public health challenges facing Virginia, the nation, and the world. 

The program provides doctoral students with a substantive public health knowledge base accompanied by advanced training in research methods and data analysis. Students develop competencies related to synthesizing the scientific literature on the social and behavioral determinants that influence public health and associated health disparities. Students receive individualized research and professional mentoring necessary to ensure their success as public health scholars. The program also requires all students to complete a teaching practicum, which includes an opportunity to independently teach a variety of public health courses to prepare them for successful careers in academia.

Learn about the PhD in Public Health curriculum.

Graduates are prepared to work as researchers, prevention scientists, epidemiologists, and evaluation specialists in a variety of employment sectors including, colleges and universities, local, state, and federal official health agencies, non-government health organizations, health care systems, and private entities such as contract research organizations, consultant management firms, and industry-based associations.

The PhD in Public Health offers two concentrations:

Students pursing the concentration in Epidemiology examine the distribution and determinants of health-related conditions in populations to ameliorate disease, disability, and other health problems. Students in this concentration develop the substantive knowledge and methodologic tools needed for designing and analyzing etiologic or interventional research focusing on health issues (e.g., diabetes, endometriosis, infectious disease) or exposures (e.g., air pollution, environmental chemicals, infectious agents) for targeted populations.

Social and Behavioral Sciences:
The Social and Behavioral Science concentration prepares students to analyze the social and behavioral determinants of population health and well-being. Using social/behavioral theoretical frameworks, students learn how to design and evaluate multi-level public health interventions aimed at preventing disease, promoting health and well-being, and eliminating health disparities. 


The PhD in Public Health degree program responds to the most important public health problems and concerns facing Virginia, the Nation, and the public health field by preparing graduates with exceptional research, analytical, collaborative, and communication skills. These skills are essential to generate the scientific evidence needed to inform public health policies and programs that will protect and improve the health and well-being of individuals, families, and communities across the State, Nation, and internationally. Students pursuing this program respond to: 1) the need for public health systems to address the social determinants of health and of health inequities; 2) the emergence of Public Health 3.0 to create lasting improvements for the health of all populations.

The PhD in Public Health is designed to prepare epidemiologists, prevention scientists, health researchers, public health analysts, monitoring and evaluation specialists, survey methodologists, and behavioral scientists. Our program prepares graduates for academic, research, and teaching careers in colleges and universities across the fields of public health including epidemiology and health promotion and education.