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The MPH Field Experience

The field experience is required for all students in the MPH program. This requirement provides students with practical experience to apply skills and knowledge learned from the classroom in a public health setting. Students participate in a population-focused field experience following the completion of the majority of their coursework.

MPH students are required to register for a total of 6 credits and complete a minimum of 400 hours of field work through PHS 788: Public Health Field Experience. The field experience can be completed on a full-time basis during the course of a semester or summer session or on a part-time basis over several semesters using variable credits.

Field Experience Planning

Planning for the field experience begins approximately six months before the projected start date, usually sometime during the first semester in the program. Field placements are highly individualized for each student, which is what makes this MPH program unique. Finding a field placement site is highly dependent upon the initiative you take to plan a quality experience. Before beginning, please read the Field Experience Checklist and contact the Community Engagement Coordinator Debbie Siegenthaler for assistance in planning the field experience.

Field Experience Planning Tools

  1. Field Experience Placement Opportunities
    The MPH Program’s Field Experience Placement Opportunities list provides information about many potential field placement sites, the type of work that the student will complete at the site, location of the site, contact information for the preceptor, and the name of the student or students who have completed their field experiences at this site.
  2. Field and Capstone Project Handbook
    The Handbook is distributed to all students at the MPH Orientation Day, and is reviewed at the start of the Field Experience Seminar. This tool contains answers to logistical and technical questions related to the field experience and the capstone project.
  3. PHS 787: Field Experience Seminar
    This is an online one-credit, required eight week course, developed to assist the students in preparing for the field experience. The seminar provides students with useful skills needed to complete a field experience and/or to work in a public health or community setting. Students enrolling in 787 must have a specific topic, project and/or site in mind for the field experience.
  4. Faculty, Students, MPH Program Staff
    Students often get ideas about possible field experiences and projects through lectures and guests in their courses, seminars, and ongoing and special events in the School of Medicine and Public Health and throughout campus. The first semester in the program is an opportune time to learn about different public health issues, ongoing projects and research.
  5. MPH Program Faculty
    MPH Program Faculty are also available to assist students in the development of field experiences and capstone projects. Visit the Program Faculty page for a list of public health program faculty and their interests.

The Community Engagement Coordinator assists students in the development and implementation of the field experience and keeps in close contact with the student and preceptor to monitor progress during the experience. For more information contact the Community Engagement Coordinator:

Debra Siegenthaler RN, MS
Community Engagement Coordinator
Department of Population Health Sciences
UW School of Medicine and Public Health
734 Warf Office Building
610 Walnut St
Madison, WI 53726


Students must be in good academic standing (GPA of 3.0 or above) and have completed seven of the eight core courses prior to registering for the field experience.

The following is the list of required core courses:

  • BMI 511: Introduction to Biostatistical Methods for Public Health
  • POP HLTH 780: Public Health Principles and Practice
  • POP HLTH 787: MPH Field Work Seminar
  • POP HLTH 795-001: Principles of Population Health Science (1 credit)
  • POP HLTH 797: Introduction to Epidemiology
  • POP HLTH 785: Health Systems, Management, and Policy
  • POP HLTH 786: Social and Behavioral Sciences for Public Health
  • POP HLTH 789: Principles of Environmental Health for Public Health Practice

MD-MPH dual degree students are exempt from this requirement, as these students must complete the MPH portion of their dual degree in an accelerated fashion and frequently must complete fieldwork prior to completing the core courses. Whenever possible, these students should complete as many of the core courses as possible prior to beginning the field experience.

Other exceptions to this policy must be approved on a case by case basis by the MPH Faculty Director.

Field Learning Agreement

The Field Learning Agreement is a mutually developed by the student and the field work preceptor with input from the Capstone Committee Chair. The FLA is approved by the Community Engagement Coordinator. The agreement identifies the specific assignments the student will have at the placement and any tangible products that will be developed. You will not be able to register for the Fieldwork until the FLA is completed and submitted to the Community Engagement Coordinator.


Preceptors oversee the student’s field experience work on-site and serve as a member of the student’s capstone committee. The Preceptor is an employee of the agency/organization the student is working with. Preceptors provide guidance and feedback regarding the student’s performance during their field experience.

At the end of the field experience the Preceptor will complete an evaluation form of the student’s performance. Preceptors are selected by the students (with advice from the Community Engagement Coordinator and capstone committee) and approved by the MPH Curriculum Committee.

PHS 788 Course Requirements

The field experience consists of multiple components, including a grade by the preceptor for the student’s work at the site, completion of 10 self-reflections and a final summary report when the field experience has ended.

Student grades for the field experience are based on the following criteria:

  • Preceptor’s Evaluation of the Student Experience = 50%
  • Self-Reflections = 25%
  • Summary report = 25%

Students are graded on the standard A – F university grading scale.

Required Field Work Documents:
Student Field Work Time Log: All MPH Students are required to submit documentation that they have met their 400 hour time requirement for the field experience in their time log. The time log must be signed by the MPH student and the preceptor before it is submitted to the Community Engagement Coordinator at the end of each semester that the student is enrolled in PHS 788: MPH Field Experience.

Summary Report: All MPH Students must complete a Summary Report at the end of the 400 hour field placement. The summary report is a three-part written paper, 6-8 pages in length, in which the student reports whether he/she has met his/her learning objectives, describes the community engagement component of the field experience, and documents competency mastery. Students who complete their field experience over more than one semester/session, only need to complete this report once. This is included in the students Field Experience grade.

Student Evaluation: All MPH Students must complete a Student Evaluation at the end of the 400 hour field placement. The Student Evaluation provides the student with the opportunity to evaluate the field work preceptor and placement site. This information is used to improve student experiences. Students who complete their field experience over more than one semester/session, only need to complete this evaluation once (at the end of the 400 hours). Completion of this is included in the students Field Experience grade.

Global Health

Many MPH students are excited to address global public health issues during their educational pursuits in the MPH program. There are several opportunities to study global public health in the MPH Program and there are two travel options for MPH students. The options include:

Faculty-led Global Health Field Courses

MPH students may elect to do a faculty-led group field experience through the Global Health Institute (administered by the UW Office of International Academic Programs (IAP). Field experiences usually take place in a country outside the US. Students may also work with international agencies, such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, or non-governmental organizations.

For faculty-led group experiences students are required to take pre-requisite campus-based courses and apply to participate in the field course through the UW Office of International Academic Programs (IAP). Upon satisfactory completion of the field course, students will receive credit for PHS 645: Global Health Field Study.

Global Health MPH Field Experience

Each year the MPH Program provides an opportunity for up to six experiences for our incoming students. These experiences may serve as the MPH program field experience. These opportunities are provided to MPH students based on demonstration of past global health experience, knowledge and skills. The students are selected for this track through a comprehensive application process that begins shortly after the cohort is admitted to the Program. The deadline is June 1st. Applications are reviewed and students who have been accepted to complete the Global MPH Field Experience are notified by July 1st. Following acceptance the student will work with the Community Engagement Coordinator to plan the specific experience and additional didactic course work that will support the experience. The field experience will take place during the summer between the first and second year of the MPH program. View the Global Health Field Experience Checklist here.

Tuition/IAP Fee for Global Health MPH Field Experience

Students who complete the Global Health MPH Field experience do not pay tuition, but rather pay a study abroad fee. The study abroad fee covers an administrative fee to the UW Office of International Academic Programs (IAP) office, CISI (travel insurance), and a site fee for the placement site. The fee is approximately $1,500 per student.

Students with assistantships (TA/PA/RA positions), who are typically eligible for tuition remission, must still pay the study abroad fee. The tuition remission that comes with assistantships DOES NOT apply to the study abroad fees. In addition, the study abroad fee is only equivalent to the tuition for the field work. Students who take additional credits during the same summer session will be billed per the tuition fees.