Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health

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Georgia State offers students who seek a career in research or academia the only public doctoral program in metro Atlanta, one of the world’s great global cities and home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Depending on the interest area, graduates of a PhD in Public Health program often teach in universities, lead research laboratories, or direct research projects at the federal, state, or local level.  At Georgia State, PhD candidates find unique opportunities to engage in cutting-edge research on public health issues impacting urban areas, ties to the community that offer real-world experience to complement the required 62 credit hours of coursework, and the flexibility of a part-time option to suit working public health professionals.

The objective of the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in Public Health in the School of Public Health (SPH) is to educate the next generation of public health leaders capable of conducting independent research in academia, governmental public health, health care organizations and the private sector. A graduate of the PhD program in Public Health will contribute new public health knowledge and develop interventions to promote health, reduce health disparities and ameliorate critical health problems at the population, societal and global level.

Prerequisites: Basic Public Health Core: 15 credit hours

Applicants to the Doctor of Philosophy must provide documentation of successful completion of the five core public health competencies on the graduate level. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) designates the following competencies as public health core knowledge areas: Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, Health Services Administration, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Applicants can waive these courses if they enter the PhD program with a MPH or for those who successfully completed a comparable course(s) with a grade of B or better.

 Summary of PhD Degree Requirements: 62 credit hours

The PhD program requires completion of a minimum of 62 credit hours of course work and a declared concentration in a public health core area. Students are also required to complete a dissertation. The candidates must satisfy the course requirements and credit hours in the following areas:

Core Courses, 15 credit hours required:

  • PH 7031: Epidemiologic Methods II (3)
  • PH 8027: Biostatistics II (3)
  • PH 8120: Theory and Practice in Health and Prevention (3)
  • PH 8140: Advanced Research Methods (3)
  • PH 8150: Public Health Ethics (3)

Public Health Concentrations

Research/Applied Practicum & Culminating Experience, 12 credit hours required:

  • PH9960: Doctoral Practicum (3)
  • PH9990: Doctoral Dissertation (9)

Professional Seminars, 5 credit hours required

  • PH8180: Doctoral Professional and Research Seminar I (3)
  • PH8181: Doctoral Professional and Research Seminar II (3)

Doctoral Self-Assessments
Students will complete a self-assessment questionnaire upon entering the program and at the end of their second year to rate their competence in relation to the overarching program objectives.

Annual Review of Doctoral Students
The SPH Graduate Faculty will meet annually to evaluate the progress of doctoral students toward completion of their degrees. Students will be notified in writing about their progress toward degree completion. If progress is unsatisfactory, the student will plan a course of action with their advisor and Graduate Coordinator to improve their progress. If the student demonstrates unsatisfactory progress in the second year, he or she may be withdrawn from the program.

Comprehensive Doctoral Examination
Doctoral students must pass formal, comprehensive written and oral examinations before being admitted to candidacy. The purpose of comprehensive examinations is to ascertain the student’s readiness to conduct the dissertation research.

1. The written comprehensive examination is developed and administered by the student’s Advisory Committee in accordance with the student’s plan of study.

2. After the student passes the written portion of the comprehensive examination, the oral comprehensive examination is given. The oral examination will focus primarily on a discussion of the content of the written comprehensive examination. However, it may include the entire field of study. This examination may also include discussion of the dissertation prospectus.

1. Do you offer financial support?

All admitted, doctoral students who plan to study full-time will be considered for Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) and/or Graduate Teaching Assistantships (GTAs). Assistantships cover the cost of tuition and provide an annual stipend of $22,000 for at least three years.

2. What is a Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA)?

GRAs provide full-time students with an opportunity to work with a faculty member on research projects, gaining valuable experience in their chosen field.

3. What are the requirements to qualify for an assistantship, if selected?

The following criteria must be met and maintained for a student to be a GRA or GTA.

  • Students must have and maintain a 3.2 or higher cumulative grade point average.
  • Students must be enrolled in the minimum hours deemed a full-time load (nine semester hours during the regular academic year and six semester hours in the summer).
  • Concurrent with the assistantship appointment, doctoral students should not be engaged in other significant outside employment. Students in this situation should request approval for hire through the head of the academic unit and director of the doctoral program.

4. What are my chances of receiving an assistantship?

Assistantships are awarded competitively based on the applicant pool and their qualifications. A variety of factors are considered when evaluating an applicant’s qualifications: research or professional experience, academic record, and the correlation between the applicant’s specific experience and the particular assistantship positions that are available. Once selected, students normally retain the award through the duration of their degree, subject to performance. A select number of students will be nominated for University Doctoral Fellowships. Final selection of these appointments will be made by the Office of the Provost and the Office of Research and Economic Development, respectively.

5. What are the requirements to qualify for an assistantship, if selected?

In order to qualify for a GRA, students must be enrolled for a minimum of nine credit hours during the fall or spring semesters or six credit hours during the summer term.

6. Am I eligible for other types of financial aid such as student loans?

To determine eligibility for financial aid, please visit the University’s Financial Aid Office website here.

7. What are the tuition and fees?

Information about current graduate tuition and fees can be found here. Tuition is assessed based on in-state or out-of-state residency and the total number of credit hours registered for in a given semester.

Georgia State Funding Resources


PhD Frequently Asked Questions

1. How do I apply for the PhD in Public Health program?

The PhD application is processed through SOPHAS. Click here for PhD Admission Information.

2. Will you accept applicants in the Spring?

No, applicants will only be admitted in the Fall. The application and credentials deadline is January 15.

3. What are the application requirements?

The following list is a summary of application requirements. All documents should be submitted through SOPHAS.

  •  One copy of an official transcript from all colleges and/or universities attended.
  • Three references from individuals knowledgeable of the applicant’s academic, professional and intellectual abilities. One of the letters must be an academic reference.
  •  A Statement of Interest and Professional Intent.
  •  Official scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Applicants with an earned doctorate (including an M.D. or J.D.) from an accredited institution in the U.S. do not need to take either examination.
  •  Additional requirements for international students are found here.

4. Will you only accept the GRE/GMAT?

SPH only accepts scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT). Scores must not be more than 5 years old. MCAT and LSAT scores will not be accepted as substitutes for the GRE/GMAT. Visit the following sites for more details: GRE Registration: and GMAT Registration:

5. Are GRE/GMAT scores waived?
Applicants with an earned doctorate (including an M.D. or J.D.) from an accredited institution in the U.S. do not need to take either examination.

6. What are the codes for sending my standardized test scores?

Official GRE scores should be sent directly to SOPHAS from the Educational Testing Service (ETS) by using the code 3750. There is not currently a SOPHAS code for the GMAT, so GMAT scores should be sent directly to Georgia State University from ETS using the code 5251. Score reports from third parties will not be accepted.

7. What is the minimum required GRE to enter the PhD program?

Competitive GRE test scores (Quantitative, Verbal, and Analytical Writing) should range in the 60th – 70th percentile for all sections. The School of Public Health does not have a minimum score requirement, but applicants with scores below 300 are unlikely to be admitted.

8. What is the minimum required GPA (undergraduate & graduate) to enter the PhD program?

While no minimum GPAs are required, applicants with a cumulative undergraduate and graduate GPA of 3.2, respectively, are considered more competitive. The Admissions Committee will also take into account the rigor of the academic program and degree.

9. Are there different admissions requirements for citizens of countries other than the U.S.?

For international applicants from countries/education programs in which English is not the official language, scores from the TOEFL or IELTS exam are required. Click here for requirements for international applicants. For information on Georgia State University’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), click here.

10. I am an international student and have a Masters degree from a U.S. school. Do I need to take the TOEFL exam?

The TOEFL is not required of international applicants who have received a degree from an accredited U.S. institution.

11. Can I be admitted to the PhD program without a MPH degree?

Admission preference will be given to students who have already acquired a Masters in Public Health (MPH) or equivalent degree. All other students will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

12. How competitive is the admissions process?

We anticipate the PhD program to be as least as competitive as the MPH program with an acceptance rate of 25% to 30%.

13. Is there an interview process?

Yes. Once a pool of competitive applicants is selected and notified, individual in-person or phone interviews will be scheduled. Final selection decisions will be made subsequent to the completion of all interviews.

14. Who can I contact in the School of Public Health for further information?

Please e-mail your questions to


1. What criteria do you consider in the admission process?

The admissions committee will consider a variety of criteria in the selection of doctoral students including official GRE/GMAT scores, academic performance in previous degree programs, academic and professional background and experiences, recommendation letters, and the applicant’s personal statement. Additionally, competitive applicants will interview with SPH faculty in order to further determine research interests and academic potential.

2. What is the typical background of a successful applicant?

Although the selection of applicants is based on a variety of criteria, a successful PhD applicant will exhibit a solid academic and professional background, with evidence of meaningful experience in the field of public health or a closely related field. This experience should be reflected in a personal statement that demonstrates a significant motivation for conducting and sharing public health research. Additionally, letters of recommendation should provide clear evidence of the applicant’s potential as an independent researcher. Successful applicants will also show above-average performance on the GRE/GMAT.


1. What can I do to prepare for the PhD program?

Although not required, a Masters in Public Health (MPH) or an equivalent degree is highly recommended for students pursuing a PhD in Public Health. Not only does an MPH provide students with a solid foundation of public health competencies, many MPH students are able to gain research experience through research assistantships or other work opportunities. These experiences offer students the opportunity to determine a preferred focus for their PhD studies. For those prospective students without a MPH degree, previous research experience in rigorous academic or professional opportunities in the public health field is highly recommended.

2. Is a PhD program right for me?

A PhD in Public Health prepares students with specific public health research interests for a career in research or academia. Depending on the interest area, graduates of a PhD in Public Health program often teach in universities, lead research laboratories, or direct research projects at the federal, state, or local level. A PhD program requires a substantial time commitment and a significant interest in advancing one’s skills as a researcher in a particular field.

3. Do I need a research background to be successful in the PhD program?

A research background is not required for success in the program, but some experience in research is recommended. Potential applicants without a research background should be able to demonstrate a capacity to perform independent research through evidence of previous academic success, strong recommendation letters, and satisfactory GRE/GMAT scores.

4. What are the areas of study?

At this time, accepted doctoral students will pursue a PhD in Public Health. The specialized coursework will depend on the individual student’s research interests and will be determined by the student, his/her Major Professor, and his/her Doctoral Advisory Committee.

5. How is the program structured?

Visit the main page for the Doctor of Philosophy and click on “Core Curriculum” for more information.

6. Is the program a full-time program?

In order to fulfill the significant commitment required of doctoral students, it is highly recommended that students maintain full-time student status for the duration of the PhD program. Part-time will be considered for admission, especially for those working in a public health setting.

7. Can I study part-time?

At this time, applicants who can commit to full-time study will receive preference in the selection process. However, part-time applicants with especially strong academic or professional backgrounds may be considered.

8. How long does it take to complete the PhD degree program?

The amount of time required to complete the PhD program will largely depend upon the number of courses a student is able to take each semester and the amount of time he/she needs to complete and defend a dissertation. On average, however, a full-time student who enters the program with all the necessary prerequisite courses can complete the required coursework in 2 years and complete and defend a dissertation in an additional 12-18 months. It is reasonable to expect to take 3-5 years to complete the PhD program. The Institute requires that students complete all degree requirements within 9 years of the student’s semester of matriculation.

9. When do I enroll in Dissertation Research?

Prior to enrolling in Dissertation Research, a student must be accepted into candidacy.

The following is a complete list of requirements for admission to candidacy:

  •  All prerequisites set as a condition to admission to the PhD program have been satisfactorily completed.
  • The residence requirement (30 hours of consecutive coursework) has been met.
  •  A GPA of 3.2 (B) has been maintained for all graduate courses taken and for all completed courses in the program of study.
  • The Doctoral Advisory Committee, the Graduate Coordinator, and the Institute have approved the final program of study.
  • Written and oral comprehensive examinations have been passed and reported to the Graduate School.
  • The Doctoral Advisory Committee is confirmed and all members have been notified of their appointment.

10. Do I have to complete a teaching requirement?

Yes. All doctoral students are required to teach at least two courses under the supervision of an IPH faculty member and to participate in regular teaching supervision meetings during the semester(s) of teaching. Students may waive the teaching requirement if they can demonstrate previous experience of college-level teaching in which they were responsible for all aspects of the course, including developing the syllabus, preparing and teaching lectures and other class activities, and grading the students.


1. What are the tuition and fees?

Information about graduate tuition and fees can be found here.

2. Do you offer financial support?

All admitted, doctoral students who plan to study full-time will be considered for Graduate Research Assistantships (GRAs) and/or Teaching Assistantships (TAs). Assistantships cover the cost of tuition and provide a monthly stipend. Students are still responsible for university student fees. The Institute cannot guarantee this funding for all students.

3. Am I eligible for financial aid?

To determine eligibility for financial aid, please visit the University’s Financial Aid Office website at

Library Tour - Meet the SPH librarian, Sharon Leslie, to learn about library resources 1130AM-1230PM TOMORROW via @PHGSU 5 hours ago