PhD in Public Health Sciences Curriculum

The curriculum at the Brown School emphasizes substantive, theoretical and methodological preparation and requires 74 units of credit, 21 of which can be transferred from your MPH or other master’s program. (Graduates of allied fields will have their transcripts evaluated on an individual basis for transfer credits.)

The remaining 53 units of coursework are typically spread over four semesters, or two academic years, leaving approximately two years for work related to your dissertation. See the student handbook for more information.

The first year of study includes basic principles in research, statistics and measurement, as well as theoretical coursework and content fortifying your public health knowledge base.

The second year offers a more individualized program of study. A curriculum plan is developed by each student and advisor(s), focusing on an area of specialization. Advanced courses in research methodology, as well as research and teaching practica help build expertise as a public health scholar. Professional competence is assessed through a qualifying examination and successful completion of a research dissertation that follows either a traditional or a three-paper thesis model. In addition, the curriculum includes opportunities to get training in a variety of professional and research skills (e.g., data management, analytic software, grant writing and research ethics).

Graduation Requirements

  • Previously obtained master’s degree
  • 74 credit hours (can include 21 master’s-level credits from relevant degree)
  • Two years of full-time doctoral coursework
  • Three teaching practica for course credit
  • Three research practica for course credit
  • Completion of an area of specialization statement and qualifying exam
  • Dissertation and oral defense

Timeline of Milestones

Students typically complete a PhD in Public Health Sciences within 5 years. Below you will find key programmatic milestones across years.

Years 1 & 2
  • Core Seminars (9 credits)
  • Statistics (6 credits)
  • Data Analysis (9 credits)
  • Social/Health Science (9 credits)
  • Research Methods (6 credits)
  • Professional Development Seminar (2 units)
  • Research Practica (3 credits)
  • Teaching Practica (3 credits)
Years 3 & 4
  • Completing any unfinished coursework
  • Area Statement & Qualifying Exam
  • Mentored Research and Teaching Experiences
Years 4+
  • Dissertation Proposal
  • Dissertation Defense
  • Mentored Research and Teaching Experiences

Please refer to the PhD Student Handbook for more general information, and remember to check out our FAQs to find out about the application process, student resources, and more!

Degree requirements: 72 credits (21 credits from relevant master’s degree can be applied)

The following is a list of either required or elective eligible classes. Actual class offerings will vary from year-to-year, and students should consult with their advisor and/or the Program Director.

Public health doctoral seminars (9 credits)

  • Introduction to advanced research (3 credits)
  • Conceptual foundations of social science research (3 credits)
  • Theoretical orientations in public health sciences (3 credits)

Core data analysis sequence (6 credits)

  • Applied Linear Regression Analysis (3 credits)
  • Generalized Linear Models (3 credits)

Elective data analysis courses (choose three; 9 credits)

  • Structural equation modeling (3 credits)
  • Network analysis (3 credits)
  • Applied Deep Learning Using Health Data (3 credits)
  • Multilevel and longitudinal modeling (3 credits)
  • Qualitative research methods (3 credits)
  • Propensity score analysis (3 credits)
  • Survival analysis (3 credits)
  • Foundations of Data Management (3 credits)
  • Categorical analysis (3 credits)
  • Mixed-methods in the social sciences

Research methods in public health science (choose two; 6 credits)

  • Social policy research and analysis (3 credits)
  • Issues and directions in intervention research (3 credits)
  • Geographic information systems (3 credits)
  • Health economics (3 credits)
  • Quantitative Methods for Health Policy(3 credits)
  • Community Based System Dynamics (3 credits)
  • System dynamics (3 credits)
  • Introduction to Agent-based modeling (3 credits)
  • Experimental and observational research designs (3 credits)
  • Economic analysis/Cost-effectiveness analysis (3 credits)

Skill-building workshops for public health scholarship (choose three; 3 credits; credits only count if they do not duplicate material covered in other 3-credits classes, e.g., S55-5966 would not count if S55-5082 already taken)

  • SAS (1 credit)
  • STATA (1 credit)
  • R (1 credit)
  • Data management (1 credit)
  • GIS and spatial mapping (1 credit)
  • Manuscript development (1 credit)
  • Qualitative data analysis (1 credit)
  • Conducting systematic reviews (1 credit)
  • Computer applications for data analysis (1 credit)
  • Grantwriting: Government grants (1 credit)
  • Other skill-building workshops as offered

Substantive and/or theoretical electives (9 credits) • Choose from approved courses. Note that students are encouraged to take substantive courses from outside their home department.

  • Translating Epidemiology into Policy (3 credits)
  • Public Health Seminar I (1 credit)
  • Public Health Seminar II (1 credit)

Area statement individualized course of study (3 credits) #

  • Area specialization study (3 units)#

Research practica (3 credits)

  • Research practicum 1 (1 credit)
  • Research practicum 2 (1 credit)
  • Research practicum 3 (1 credit)

Teaching practica (3 credits)

  • Teaching practicum 1 (1 credit)
  • Teaching practicum 2 (1 credit)
  • Teaching practicum 3 (1 credit)

Professional development (0 credits) #

  • Professional development seminar 1 (0 credits)
  • Professional development seminar 2 (0 credits)


  • # Program requirement, not a course