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Public Health Graduate Curriculum

Doctoral study in Public Health is focused on acquiring the conceptual and methodological skills necessary to operate as an independent researcher. In the UC Merced Ph.D. program in Public Health, this is accomplished through coursework and research, under a mentorship model in which students work closely with a supervising Faculty Advisor who has primary responsibility for overseeing that student’s training. At the same time, students may broaden their research training through involvement in research programs conducted by other faculty. Students take coursework in the five core areas of public health (environmental health, social and behavioral health, health services research, epidemiology, and statistics) and select electives from within public health and across other disciplines represented on campus, including psychology, biology, and sociology. Most students’ coursework is completed in the first three years of the program.

A sample course of study is:

Fall Semester

Spring Semester

First Year

PH 201: Foundations of Public Health

PH 211: Statistics 1

PH 203: Research methods in Public Health

PH 204: Environmental Health

PH 202: Epidemiology

Elective Course

PH 208: Professional Seminar

PH 208: Professional Seminar

Second Year - Elective Courses

PH 207: Health Behavior Theory

PH 205: Health Services Research and Policy

PH 211: Statistics 2

PH 222 Program Design & Evaluation

PH 221: Social Epidemiology & Health Disparities

PH 233: Prevention of Chronic and Infectious Diseases

PH 208: Professional Seminar

PH 206: Health Communication


Students will be actively engaged in research from the start of their graduate training through the end of their doctoral work. This research emphasizes close work with a faculty mentor, with increasing independence over the years of training. The major milestones students achieve through their course of study include:




Second Year Research Thesis

Research skills in Public Health are best acquired through classroom instruction and participation in research. The Second-Year Research Paper – optional for incoming students with a master’s degree and required for all other students – consists of an original, empirical research paper and is closely overseen by the student’s faculty advisor.

During the third year of study

Qualifying exam

The Qualifying Exam in Public Health consists of proposing, completing, and orally defending a substantial research paper.

End of third year of study

Dissertation proposal

The Dissertation Proposal reviews the relevant literature and defines the area of inquiry of the proposed Dissertation, provides a clear statement of actionable research aims, questions, and/or hypotheses that will be addressed in the Dissertation, and outlines the methodological and analytic approach that will enable the proposed research to address these aims, questions, and/or hypotheses.

During fourth year of study


The Doctoral Dissertation is the culmination of the Ph.D., in which the Doctoral Candidate demonstrates the capability to conduct research independently that makes an original contribution to knowledge of a quality that can be published in a reputable scientific journal.

Fourth or fifth year of study


Updated 2022