Public health policy includes local, state, and federal policies that directly or indirectly impact the level and distribution of health in the population. At the Zilber School, we take a broad inter-sectoral view that includes a “Health in All Policies” approach. This framework recognizes that the level and distribution of health and wellbeing in the population are fundamentally shaped by public policies that create the social and economic conditions that underlie population health and health equity.

What makes our program distinct?

The Public Health Policy & Administration (PHPA) track is nationally distinct in its inter-sectoral, systems-level, and justice focused curriculum. Emphasizing the social, political, and economic determinants of health, students in the PHPA track gain foundational understanding of social and policy theories, and their relevance to public health practice and policymaking in various contexts.

The PHPA track also uniquely trains students in both quantitative, econometric policy analysis and qualitative research methods, with application to real-world public health policy problems.

Related Certificate

The Zilber School of Public Health (SPH) offers a Master of Public Health (MPH), a PhD in Public Health with a Concentration in Community and Behavioral Health Promotion, a PhD in Public Health with a Concentration in Biostatistics, a PhD in Environmental Health Sciences, and a PhD in Epidemiology.

Master of Public Health

The Master of Public Health offered by the Zilber SPH is a professional master's degree program with five distinct tracks of study. The MPH program provides students with a broad understanding of public health practice and allows specialization in Biostatistics, Community and Behavioral Health Promotion, Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, or Public Health Policy and Administration.

Like most MPH programs, the Zilber SPH's program imparts knowledge and skills in each of these core disciplines in public health, helping prepare all students to analyze information and consider solutions to public health problems using a social justice lens at the community, institutional, and societal levels. Courses have been designed to teach program- and track-level competencies as defined by Zilber SPH faculty. Program-level competencies reflect key public health skills including systems thinking, ethics, analytical methods, communications/informatics, diversity/culture, leadership, and professionalism. In addition, students engage in a specific track of study, gaining deeper competency in one of the five areas. Upon graduation students are prepared for positions in a range of population health settings and/or for doctoral-level study.

Admission Requirements 

Application Deadlines

Application deadlines vary by program, please review the application deadline chart for specific programs. Other important dates and deadlines can be found by using the One Stop calendars.


An applicant must meet Graduate School requirements plus as the desired track of study requires: the following program requirements to be considered for admission to the program. These materials will be considered in a holistic admissions process with special attention to ensure a diverse student body.

  1. Three letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic experience and potential for graduate work in public health.
  2. CV or Resume.
  3. Address the following two Short Essay questions, limiting responses to no more than 500 words (approximately 250 words per question):
    • Describe how your professional, volunteer, and educational background has led you to seek a degree in Public Health.
    • How will your desired track of study help you reach your personal and professional goals in Public Health?
  4. International applicants must also meet admission standards set and monitored by UWM's Center for International Education.
  5. MPH applicants must use SOPHAS to apply. When applying applicants must select their track of which they are applying; Biostatistics, Community and Behavioral Health Promotion, Environmental Health Sciences, Epidemiology, or Public Health Policy & Administration.
  6. Tracks may have additional admission requirements, which can be found here.

Credits and Courses

All students enrolled in the MPH program take a common set of core classes designed to give basic skills and knowledge of public health concepts. The core curriculum consists of at least 24-25 credit hours, including at least a four-credit Field Experience and a two-credit capstone seminar. In addition to the common core, students complete the required coursework in one of five specialization tracks: Biostatistics (48 credits), Community and Behavioral Health Promotion (48-49 credits), Environmental Health Sciences (47 credits), Epidemiology (49 credits), or Public Health Policy and Administration (48 credits). Students must maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better in order to progress through the program.

Unless noted, all courses are 3 credits.

MPH Required Common Core Courses (24-25 credits) 

PH 702Introduction to Biostatistics3
PH 703Environmental Health Sciences3
PH 704Principles and Methods of Epidemiology3
PH 705Principles of Public Health Policy and Administration3
PH 706Perspectives on Community & Behavioral Health3
PH 708Health Systems and Population Health3
PH 733Overview of Qualitative Methods for Public Health 11
PH 790Field Experience in Public Health (See following section for details) 23
PH 791Leadership in Public Health1
PH 800Capstone in Public Health (See following section for details) 32

Field Experience

The Field Experience enables students to apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom to public health problems in a community context. Students work with their Faculty Advisor and school staff to identify a placement that matches their public health interests and career goals. Possible placement settings include a local health department, state health department, non-profit agency, hospital system, or research institute. The experience is a mentored placement engaging both a Faculty Advisor and a Site Preceptor. Students complete at least two products as agreed upon with the Site Preceptor.

Students complete three credits (80 contact hours per one credit, 240 hours total) with the organization. The specified competencies, scope of work, and final products for the organization are defined in a learning agreement, which is signed by the student, preceptor, faculty advisor and course instructor. Students must demonstrate attainment of at least five competencies, three of which must be Foundational Competencies (see Field Experience Handbook), and two of which are identified from the track competency sets.

Two Foundational Competencies are required of all students:

  • 16. Apply principles of leadership, governance and management, which include creating a vision, empowering others, fostering collaboration and guiding decision making.
  • 19. Communicate audience-appropriate public health content, both in writing and through oral presentation.

Students choose their third Foundational Competency. 

The fourth credit is designed to give students the opportunity to apply three specific Foundational Competencies related to the Field Experience. The required competencies are:

  • CEPH 16. Apply principles of leadership, governance and management, which include creating a vision, empowering others, fostering collaboration and guiding decision making.
  • CEPH 17. Apply negotiation and mediation skills to address organizational or community challenges.
  • CEPH 21. Perform effectively on interprofessional teams. Students from at least two professions constitute an interprofessional team.

Students fulfill these competencies with readings and through a series of activities including case studies or scenarios/role playing exercises.  Assessments for the leadership, negotiation and interprofessional team competencies will include participation in the sessions and written papers. 

All four credits may be taken in one semester or spread out over two semesters.


The capstone requires students to integrate the knowledge and skills learned in the classroom, Field Experience, and/or lab into some aspect of professional public health practice. Students work with their Faculty Advisor to write a project proposal the semester prior to the capstone reflecting the student's interests and career goals. Students then implement the project during their final semester of the program. The project has both a written paper and oral presentation component, in addition to attending a weekly seminar. The capstone project is an opportunity for students to demonstrate public health competencies.

Public Health Policy and Administration Concentration

Required Courses15
Intro to Regression for Understanding the SDOH (Social Determinants of Health) *
Quantitative Research Methods for PH Policy & Administration
Qualitative Approaches in Public Health Policy and Administration
Public Health Policymaking and Policy Analysis
Public Health Administration
Principles of Public Health Economics
Content Electives3
Choose at least one:
Structures of Inequality and Population Health
Critical Perspectives on Nutritional Epidemiology and the Food System
Violence and Health
Social and Economic Policy as Health Policy
Maternal and Child Health Foundations, Policy and Practice
Racial/Ethnic Health Disparities in the United States
Other classes as approved by advisor
Methods and Practice Electives6
Choose at least two:
Community Health Assessment
Program Planning & Implementation in Public Health
Program Evaluation in Public Health
Survey Research Methods in Public Health
Epidemiology for Equity
Marketing for Nonprofit Organizations
Foundations of Community-Based Organizations
Proposal Writing and Fundraising Skills for Community-Based Organizations
ED POL 711
Nonprofit Advocacy and Public Policy
Budgeting and Finance in the Public Sector
Introduction to Urban Geographic Information Systems for Planning
Total Credits24

Additional Requirements

Faculty Advisor

Each student will be assigned a track-specific Faculty Advisor during Orientation week preceding the first semester. Faculty Advisors assist the student in the development of an individual Plan of Study designed to advance the career goals of the student and be consistent with the track curriculum. The Advisor plays an important role in connecting the Field Experience, Capstone, and career goals for each student.

UWM's Zilber School recognizes the importance of a strong faculty advising program coupled with a sound system for monitoring student progress in all programs. Each semester, students are asked to assess their own progress through a required survey. They also complete a progress form together with their advisor. Feedback to students will be provided by their faculty advisor in December during their advisor-student meeting.

Administrative offices of the Zilber School of Public Health have staff assigned on policies and procedures for admission, academic progression, and graduation. If deemed necessary, any student can petition to the Zilber SPH’s Office of Academic and Student Affairs for a reassignment of Faculty Advisor. Program track faculty will make every effort to accommodate requests to give all students opportunities for success in the program.


Not required. See capstone for similar culminating experience.

Comprehensive Examination

Not required. See capstone for similar culminating experience.

Time Limit

The student must complete all degree requirements within five years of initial enrollment.

Accelerated Program Option

This program is offered as part of an accelerated bachelor's/master's program. For more information, see Accelerated Master's Degrees.