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How to Find an Applied Practical Experience

Master’s in Public Health (MPH) students at the Dornsife School of Public Health participate in various public health practice activities throughout their curriculum, but their formal practice requirement is called the Applied Practical Experience (APE).

The APE is a supervised, hands-on opportunity to practice public health competencies learned in the classroom with a community partner. Your faculty mentor and Dornsife’s Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services will support you through the steps to secure a practicum that fits with your future career goals and your major.

There is no minimum hour requirement for the APE, but most students complete approximately 120 hours during a 10-week term.

Step 1: Establish Timeline and Complete APE Prerequisites

Your APE timeline may be different depending on your plan of study.

For students on a full-time plan of study (18 or 21 months), APE generally occurs in the spring or summer of their first year (sometime between late March and mid-September). For students on an accelerated 12-month plan of study, APE generally occurs in the fall term of their first year.

For students on a part-time plan of study, APE generally occurs in the spring or summer of either their first or second year (sometime between late March and mid-September).

Prerequisites for APE include:

  • Successfully complete MPH core courses, Public Health Foundations and Systems I and II (PBHL 510 & 511)
  • Attend Dornsife’s professional development sessions, which focus career guidance, including how to create a high impact resume, how write a creative cover letter, and how to interview with confidence

Step 2: Find a Relevant APE

There are generally three avenues that MPH students pursue to secure placements:

  • Independent networking with professionals in your field of interest
  • Applying to an opportunity posted by a site preceptor on Symplicity or Handshake job boards
  • Networking with Dornsife faculty, staff, and alumni
    • One easy way to network is by signing up for Dragon Network, Drexel’s professional development community for alumni and students, to connect with a potential preceptor. On the Network page, use the filters to customize your search by region, industry and more. You can also select "Serving as a preceptor for Dornsife School of Public Health students" under "More Filters" to see several alumni who have expressed explicit interest in this opportunity.

All potential opportunities should be discussed with your faculty mentor to ensure that they are appropriate for APE requirements and your specific interests.

All APEs are supervised by a site preceptor who has experience in public health.

Preceptors can be found through different sites, including:

Public Health Organizations: Students can find an internship or project at an existing Dornsife community partner in Philadelphia or another organization that supports their career goals.

Drexel Centers and Programs: Students can find an internship or project at one of Dornsife’s research center or programs or a Drexel center such as the Lindy Center for Civic Engagement or Dornsife Center for Neighborhood Partnerships.

APE Consulting Course: The group format allows collaboration with peers from the online MPH cohort to produce a meaningful project that will be used to support communities.

Student's Workplace: Students who currently work within the public health field may be able to complete their APE at their organization with approval from both their supervisor and faculty mentor.

Global Opportunities: Students can conduct a project through one of Drexel’s global opportunities such as the Dornsife Global Development Scholars program.

A note on compensation: APE students may receive a wage or stipend, however it is not required that preceptors provide compensation. There are some limited funding opportunities through Dornsife for APE students who accept unpaid positions.


Step 3: Meet with Your Faculty Mentor

Students will meet with their faculty mentor during the search for an APE to discuss opportunities and career goals.

Dornisfe’s Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services also supports students in finding practicum placements and works to ensure that the APE experience is as successful as possible for both student and site preceptor.


Step 4: Develop and Submit a Learning Agreement to Faculty Mentor

Once a student has accepted an APE with a site preceptor then the next step is to develop a Learning Agreement.

The Learning Agreement outlines the scope of the APE, including student responsibilities, preceptor responsibilities, and the two expected project deliverables.

Examples of project deliverables vary according to the practicum, but they include project plans, grant proposals, training manuals. lesson plans, surveys, memos, videos, podcasts, multi-media presentations, spreadsheets, websites, posters, photos (with accompanying explanatory text), or other digital artifacts of learning. See the Learning Agreement Template.

A Learning Agreement should be submitted to the Director of Experiential Learning and Career Services prior to beginning the APE.


Step 5: Complete Your APE

Once you begin your practicum your site preceptor will:

  • Orient you to the organization and introduce you to key staff
  • Supervise your work and provide regular feedback
  • Meet regularly to provide guidance and discuss progress
  • Complete a mid-point evaluation
  • Complete a final evaluation

Step 6: Submit APE Deliverables

At the end of the APE experience students will submit their two deliverables to their faculty mentor for assessment to receive academic credit for APE.


If you have more questions regarding applied practical experiences or are interested in learning more about Drexel Dornsife’s Public Health programs, request more information to speak with a member of our team.