The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health prepares students to think critically as public health scientists, develop subject matter expertise and analytical skills to become successful independent researchers, and respond to the most pressing public health challenges facing Virginia, the nation, and the world. 

The program provides doctoral students with a substantive public health knowledge base accompanied by advanced training in research methods and data analysis. Students develop competencies related to synthesizing the scientific literature on the social and behavioral determinants that influence public health and associated health disparities. Students receive individualized research and professional mentoring necessary to ensure their success as public health scholars. The program also requires all students to complete a teaching practicum, which includes an opportunity to independently teach a variety of public health courses to prepare them for successful careers in academia.

Graduates are prepared to work as researchers, prevention scientists, epidemiologists, and evaluation specialists in a variety of employment sectors including, colleges and universities, local, state, and federal official health agencies, non-government health organizations, health care systems, and private entities such as contract research organizations, consultant management firms, and industry-based associations.

The PhD in Public Health offers two concentrations:


Students pursing the concentration in Epidemiology examine the distribution and determinants of health-related conditions in populations to ameliorate disease, disability, and other health problems. Students in this concentration develop the substantive knowledge and methodologic tools needed for designing and analyzing etiologic research focusing on understanding observed disparities and etiology of heath conditions.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

The Social and Behavioral Science concentration prepares students to analyze the social and behavioral determinants of population health and well-being. Using social/behavioral theoretical frameworks, students learn how to design and evaluate multi-level public health interventions aimed at preventing disease, promoting health and well-being, and eliminating health disparities. 



Students must have an earned baccalaureate and/or graduate degree from an institution of higher education accredited by a Mason-recognized U.S. institutional accrediting agency or international equivalent verified from official transcripts. Expectation of an earned baccalaureate and/or graduate degree from an institution of higher education accredited by a Mason-recognized U.S. institutional accrediting agency or international equivalent, prior to the first day of classes for the term for which the student is applying, will also meet this requirement. Students with a master’s degree will have preference for admission, but exceptional post-baccalaureate candidates will be considered. Applicants must meet the admission standards and application requirements specified in Graduate Admissions and must apply using the online Schools of Public Health Application System (SOPHAS). For application deadlines and detailed application requirements, refer to the College of Public Health admissions website. Students must submit transcripts, resume/CV, and three letters of recommendation. English proficiency demonstrated by a university approved exam or waiver is required for applicants from foreign institutions, as required by the university.


Reduction of Credit

Students who enter with a master’s or other advanced degree may have the credit requirement reduced by up to 30 credits for previous coursework that closely corresponds with doctoral program requirements. The credit reduction must be approved by the Director of Doctoral Studies in consultation with the doctoral advisor. 

Time requirements

Students must complete all requirements for the PhD in Public Health within 9 calendar years from the time of first enrollment as a doctoral student. PhD students are expected to progress steadily toward their degree and to complete all coursework, the qualifying exam and dissertation proposal defense in order to advance to candidacy within no more than 6 years.

Qualifying Exam

The qualifying exam will be written exam offered once per academic year. The exam must be taken at the first opportunity following completion of Public Health core courses (excluding: GCH 830 Research Grant Writing for Public Health, GCH 890 Doctoral Seminar and PH 850 Teaching Practicum in Public and Population Health). Any student failing the qualifying exam will be offered a second opportunity to pass the exam. A second failure will result in dismissal from the program. Students must pass the qualifying exam in order to be eligible to register for GCH 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal and to undertake the Oral Dissertational Proposal Defense.

Dissertation Proposal Defense

The written dissertation proposal and oral defense of proposal will constitute of Dissertation Proposal Defense. The student’s Dissertation Committee will assess the student’s success and preparedness for undertaking dissertation research. The Dissertation Committee may pass the student unconditionally, request additional work before passing the student, or fail the student. A student who fails the oral examination will be given one additional attempt. Students failing the oral dissertation proposal defense twice will be dismissed from the Program. 

Advancement to Candidacy

Students who complete all public health core and concentration core course requirements (excluding GCH 830 Research Grant Writing for Public Health, GCH 890 Doctoral Seminar, PH 850 Teaching Practicum in Public and Population Health, and electives), pass the qualifying examination, and successfully defend their dissertation proposal may advance to candidacy (GCH 998 Doctoral Dissertation Proposal). A student must advance to candidacy before registering for GCH 999 Doctoral Dissertation.   


With the approval of the Director of Doctoral Studies, students may change advisors at any point prior to beginning work on their dissertation proposal. At the time the student begins the dissertation process, the PhD Advisor becomes the Dissertation Mentor, and Chair of the Dissertation Committee. Dissertation Mentors must hold a graduate faculty appointment in the Department of Global and Community Health, or be designated as Public Health program graduate faculty, and have successfully completed their three-year review.

The Director of Doctoral Studies must approve the Dissertation Committee. The committee must have at least three members, each of whom must be a full-time member of the graduate faculty. At least one other member of the Dissertation Committee must be a faculty member in the College of Public Health. The third member of the committee may be from the College of Public Health or another academic unit at George Mason University. Additional members may be added with approval of the Director of Doctoral Studies and may include scholars from outside Mason.

After advancement to candidacy, the PhD Public Health student must complete an approved dissertation. The Dissertation represents a substantial body of scholarship that advances the scientific understanding related to an important public health question or concern. The Dissertation is presented and evaluated in two components: a written document and an oral defense of dissertation. The final evaluation of the Dissertation is made by the Committee after the Dissertation Defense. The Committee may decide to pass the student unconditionally, request additional work, or fail the student.

Banner Code: PH-PHD-PUBH

Degree Requirements

Total credits: 72


The purpose of the PhD in Public Health is to prepare students for research careers in academia, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private-sector entities that support population health. The degree includes two concentrations of specialized study: 

  • Epidemiology
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences


The PhD in Public Health comprises 72 credits. The 24-credit Public Health core provides the foundation for the degree and includes 6 credits of professional development.  Students complete 33 credits of concentration coursework, including 21 credits in concentration core courses and 12 credits of approved restricted elective coursework relating to the student's area of interest. Students must complete 12 credits toward dissertation requirements and complete coursework in faculty preparation.

Public Health Core

Core Courses
GCH 700Social and Ecological Determinants of Health3
GCH 712Introduction to Epidemiology3
GCH 726Advanced Methods in Epidemiology I3
GCH 772Social Epidemiology3
GCH 804Biostatistics for Public Health I3
GCH 805Biostatistics for Public Health II3
Professional Development Courses
GCH 830Research Grant Writing for Public Health3
GCH 890Doctoral Seminar3
Total Credits24

Faculty Preparation 

PH 850Teaching Practicum in Public and Population Health3

Concentration in Epidemiology (EPID)

Concentration Core Courses 1
GCH 727Advanced Methods in Epidemiology II3
GCH 814Biostatistics for Public Health III3
GCH 824Advanced Data Analysis for Epidemiologic Research3
GCH 826Design of Epidemiologic Research3
GCH 880Epidemiologic Research Seminar3
Select two from the following:6
Infectious Disease Epidemiology
Meta-Analysis for Population Health Research
Chronic Disease Epidemiology
Behavioral Epidemiology
Nutritional Epidemiology
Environmental Epidemiology
Advanced Special Topics in Global and Community Health 2
Measurement Theories and Applications in Public Health Research
Psychometric Methods
Structural Equation Modeling and Meta-Analysis
Restricted Electives
Advisor-approved electives12
Total Credits33

Concentration in Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS)

Concentration Core Courses 1
GCH 609Community Assessment and Partnerships3
GCH 610Health Behavior Theory3
GCH 651Behavioral Research Methods3
GCH 730Interventions in Public Health3
GCH 851Advanced Research Designs and Analysis for Social and Behavioral Health Sciences3
Select two of the following:6
Migrant Health
Meta-Analysis for Population Health Research
Measurement Theories and Applications in Public Health Research
Biostatistics for Public Health III
Social Determinants of Health: A Multilevel Evidence-Based Approach
Advanced Methods in Qualitative Research for Health Care
Systematic Reviews of Health Research
Qualitative Research in Nursing and Health Care
Experimental Criminology
Qualitative Methods in Educational Research
Psychometric Methods
Structural Equation Modeling and Meta-Analysis
Qualitative Research Methods
Restricted Electives
Advisor-approved electives12
Total Credits33


GCH 998Doctoral Dissertation Proposal3
GCH 999Doctoral Dissertation9
Total Credits12