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First-Year Practicum

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The Practicum at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health is a practical experience required of all first-year MPH students. The requirement states that...

All graduate professional public health degree students must develop skills in basic public health concepts and demonstrate the application of these concepts through a practice experience that is relevant to students’ areas of specialization.

The practicum constitutes a supervised, hands-on 120 hour public health experience within public health practice settings enabling students to apply public health concepts and methods to real world public health problems. The practical experience should give students further grounding in the MPH Core Competencies from the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health.


The practicum objectives seek to prepare students to:

  • Integrate theory and research with practice;
  • Apply public health concepts and methods to solve real world problems;
  • Acquire public health practice experience;
  • Enhance knowledge and practice skills;
  • Gain new knowledge and skills working to solve public health problems;
  • Gain new skills in working as a member of multidisciplinary teams; and
  • Widen the scope of professional activities, relationships, and networks.


The 120-hour experience is required of all full-time students. Practicum hours must be completed between January 1, 2017 and September 15, 2017. You may choose to do your practicum part-time during the winter or spring academic quarter, negotiating the duration and hours per week with your site. You may also complete your practicum during the summer, taking advantage of summer opportunities both in Philadelphia and elsewhere. You must demonstrate completion of your practicum before you can register for second year fall courses.


All practica must be approved by the Director of Student Placement, Caroline Voyles, regardless of the avenue in which they are found, including those resulting from a connection with a Dornsife faculty member. Please note that approval must be received ​prior to the start of any student work.​ Please treat the site search like a job hunt – keep your communications professional, respond promptly to emails, and be clear with potential preceptors about your availability.

Unsure of what to do for practicum? Find an existing position in Symplicity

The Office of Public Health Practice maintains Symplicity, an online system where all current project descriptions submitted by community preceptors are posted. The list of projects will change as sites continue to submit projects and opportunities are taken by students. All first-Year students will be registered to the system by November 15.

If any challenges arise with the database, contact Caroline Voyles, Director of Student Placement.

Once registered, students should:

  • Log in as a student user, complete their profile and upload a resume.
  • Search available positions and apply to positions of interest via Symplicity or as described in “How to Apply” sections.
  • Along with the preceptor, develop and submit a signed Learning Agreement to the Director of Student Placement and to the student's academic advisor for approval.
  • Receive feedback and make any necessary changes before beginning work.

Go to the Symplicity database

Have a project idea? Create your own position.

Students are not limited to projects on Symplicity. Students that are interested in pursuing an opportunity not listed on the database should:

  • Connect with a preceptor at an organization of interest.  If unsure of individuals/organizations to contact, Caroline Voyles, Director of Student Placement can help locate potential preceptors.
  • Submit preceptor's contact information to Caroline so that she can orient and certify the preceptor and site. Please allow 2-4 weeks for this process.
  • Develop a Learning Agreement after agreement is reached with the preceptor on the scope of the practicum.
  • Submit a signed Learning Agreement to the Director of Student Placement and to the student's academic advisor for approval.
  • Receive feedback and make necessary changes before beginning work.


Practicum Plan

All students will be asked to meet with their faculty advisor about their practicum plans and return the Practicum Plan by February 15. This is only a plan, not a commitment. If your plans change, please email the Director of Student Placement and your advisor.

Learning Agreement

The Learning Agreement is a 1-3 page document written by the student and signed by the student and site preceptor describing the practicum site, the timeframe for completion, learning objectives, and which MPH Core Competencies you hope to achieve during your practicum. The Learning Agreement must include a detailed timeline indicating when the various tasks of the student's practicum will be attained. The Learning Agreement is due as soon as possible after finding a site and confirms the student's placement. Learning Agreements are due before the start of any work or by May 15, whichever is sooner.

Time Tracking

All students must keep track of their hours worked as part of their practicum. Hours will be verified by the preceptor.

Final Paper and Evaluation

In addition to any deliverables or products the site required by the practicum site, students must complete a self-assessment of the core competencies achieved during the practical experience.


While the practical experience itself is not graded, successful completion will be verified by your site and an evaluation will be completed by your site preceptor which will become a part of your academic file.


Practicum projects are expected to avoid Institutional Review Board (IRB) requirements. Some projects may have received IRB approval prior to the student joining his/her site, and the student can be added to the IRB paperwork. Non-clinical site activities (meetings, site visits etc.) are encouraged, as are internal quality improvement initiatives and evaluations. Students should not have access to patient identifiers or protected health information without IRB approval.


Any international student with an F1 visa completing a practicum project off-site (not on Drexel property), whether the project is paid or unpaid, must obtain Curricular Practical Training (CPT) approval through Drexel's Office of International Students and Scholars Services (ISSS). CPT applies only to experiences like the practicum which are required of an academic program. You will need to submitthe CPT form below and a copy of your signed Learning Agreement prior to your starting work on your practicum, and resubmit the forms for any quarter that you are doing practicum (i.e. if you start your practicum in the winter and continue in the spring, you'll have to resubmit in the spring quarter). The letter can be signed by either your academic advisor or the Director of Student Placement.

Both of the CPT forms and your final practicum learning agreement should be submitted to the ISSS office (Creese 210) at least three business days before you start work at your practicum site.