Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is the difference between a practicum and an internship?
The terms are often used interchangeably, but in the context of the MPH program, the practicum is a field-based experience for which students receive course credit. An internship is a more commonly used term that refers to an opportunity to gain experience in a field. If you see an advertisement for an internship, it is possible to pursue that experience as a practicum; it would simply require additional planning to ensure academic requirements are met through the experience.
2. When should I start looking for a practicum?
You should complete your core courses and two of your concentration courses before beginning the practicum. Start your practicum search at least one semester prior to the semester you’d like to begin.
3. I have an internship opportunity available, but I don’t meet the requirements to start the practicum yet – what should I do?
Gaining as much field experience as possible will help you in the long-run. Students can do as many internships as they can reasonably fit into their schedules, but would need to meet the requirements above in order to “count” the internship as a practicum.
4. I have an idea – now what?
The first step is to refine your idea. There are several ways of doing that:
- Complete a gap analysis – does this opportunity afford you skill development that will aid in your job search?
- Discuss your idea with the practicum coordinator and your advisor. They can help to make your idea more specific and suggest possible practicum sites.
- If you have a site in mind, discuss your idea with a staff member of the organization or a prospective preceptor.
- Assess how well your idea gives you the opportunity to use what you have learned in your specialty track or concentration in a real world setting.
Once you have a more specific practicum topic, complete the application.
5. I found a site – now what?
Finding a site is a key step in developing your practicum. Before this can become your formal practicum site, it is important to do the following:
- Discuss this possible site with the practicum coordinator. She will help you determine if the site is appropriate to conduct your practicum.
- Obtain approval from the practicum coordinator. She may already be familiar with the site or the program of interest within that organization.
- Verify with the practicum coordinator that a formal Memorandum of Agreement exist between GSU and the potential site (if not, the coordinator will facilitate that process).
- Complete the application form, including signatures.
- Purchase professional liability insurance through the GSU web store.
6. What is the difference between my practicum and my culminating experience (thesis/capstone)?
The practicum is an opportunity to bring academic theory, specifically what you learned in your concentration, into practice.
- The culminating experience is typically research-oriented, whereas the practicum is mostly hands-on in nature.
- You are eligible for practicum as soon as you complete all the core courses AND at least 2 courses in your specialty track. The culminating experience on the other hand is the last academic requirement of the MPH degree.
- You may work on the culminating experience at the same time that you work on your practicum and you may focus on a common topic or field; but, the two may not be the same thing.
- In some instances, the practicum can help identify interesting research gaps, which could serve as a building block for your culminating experience.
- The practicum and the culminating experience are SEPARATE and DISTINCT academic requirements, for each of which specific academic credits are awarded.
7. Can I do my practicum where I work?
Yes, if you are working in a public health organization, you may pursue a practicum opportunity in the same agency, if your topic is different from the duties in your current job. For example, if you currently work for CDC in the area of adolescent health, potentially acceptable practicum projects might involve parasitic diseases, policy and evaluation, or genomics.
- Any practicum site must be discussed with your advisor and approved by the practicum coordinator.
- Consider that the practicum offers great networking opportunities; students completing the practicum at their place of employment miss out on this aspect.
8. I have extensive experience in public health already; can I waive my practicum?
Yes, waiving the practicum requirement is an option for students with professional public health experience. The practicum credits must be replaced with a pre-approved course. Please review the practicum waiver policy for more information.
9. I want to use a study abroad opportunity, is funding available?
The study abroad office provides scholarship opportunities to graduate students meeting specific criteria. Please visit the Georgia State Study Abroad Office for more information.