May 18, 2024  
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog 
    
2023-2024 Graduate Catalog

Public Health Sciences Major, PhD


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The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree with a major in Public Health Sciences prepares students to think critically as scientists and to develop and communicate public health strategies to address the public health challenges of the nation. At the completion of the PhD program students will be able to:

  • Apply research methods to address health issues
  • Explore, critique, and apply evidence-based information from multiple sources to public health issues
  • Propose theory-based strategies to promote inclusion and equity within public health programs, policies, or systems
  • Communicate evidence-based public health information in diverse formats

Campus Code


Knoxville Campus

Admissions Standards/Procedures


The PhD in Public Health Sciences is designed for students who have already earned the MPH degree from an institution accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Applicants without the MPH may be admitted to the PhD program; however, these students may need to complete additional coursework requirements in consultation with a faculty advisor and the Director of the PhD program to ensure a firm foundation in the MPH competency domains.

Review of applications will begin September 1 and continue until March 1 of each year. Limited financial support is available for highly competitive, full-time students. Applications must be completed by December 20 if the applicant is interested in competing for all available financial support, including that from the Graduate School.

  • Admission Requirements  
    • Meet requirements for admission to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Graduate School.
    • GPA of at least 3.20 (on a 4.00 scale) on Master’s level coursework, shown in official transcripts.
    • For international students, a satisfactory score on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), as defined by the Graduate School.
    • Three letters of reference completed within the past 12 months by faculty members, academic advisors, or employers or professional colleagues. At least two letters must be from persons able to assess academic capacity.
    • A personal statement to demonstrate the evolution of your interest in public health and how the PhD program will prepare you to work in the field of public health.
    • Identification of a preferred mentor and a description of how that faculty member’s research and practice will help them achieve their career goals.
    • A sole-authored writing sample that has not been peer-reviewed that demonstrates skill in professional, research, or academic writing.
    • A current curriculum vitae.
    • Ability to clearly articulate a defined career pathway, which incorporates research experience and skills, upon interview.
  • Admission Preferences
    • MPH degree from a CEPH accredited school or program of Public Health.
    • Public health or relevant work experience at local, state or federal level.
    • Applicants without the MPH degree may be admitted to the PhD program. For example, exceptional applicants who meet one of the following requirements may also be considered for admission:
      • Applicants with a master’s degree or an advanced professional degree in a field related to public health from an officially recognized domestic or international institution; the aforementioned graduate degree must be conferred prior to enrollment to PhD; or
      • Applicants without a graduate degree must have at least two years of full-time work experience in public health or a related field.

Academic Standards


  • Academic probation will result if the overall GPA falls below 3.25 or if the GPA for the 600-level PUBH prefix courses falls below 3.25.
  • Students on academic probation who have a semester GPA below 3.25 are subject to dismissal.

Credit Hours Required


72 graduate credit hours

Required Courses


Non-Course Requirements


  • Graduate School Non-Course Requirements
    • Completed comprehensive exam
    • Admission to candidacy
    • Fulfill residence
    • Completed defense of dissertation
  • Departmental Non-Course Requirements
    • Students without an MPH degree from a CEPH accredited school or program of Public Health are required to pass the MPH foundation comprehensive exam within one semester of completing all required MPH foundations courses.
    • Students are required to pass a PhD qualifying exam within one semester of completing all required PhD core courses.

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