Frequently Asked Questions
Applying to the Program
|Dual Degree Program
Tuition & Financial Support
Special (Non-Matriculated) Students
How long is the MPH Program?
The MPH Program requires 45 credits. Full-time students may be able to complete the program in as few as four consecutive semesters (Fall1, Spring1, Summer, Fall2), although many students choose to complete their requirements in two traditional academic years (Fall1, Spring1, (possible Summer courses) Fall2, Spring2).
Do you accept part-time students?
The PhD Program accepts only full-time students. The MPH program accepts part-time students; however, due to the variety of times that MPH program courses are offered (during the daytime as well as in the evening), some part-time students experience difficulty flexing their schedules to attend some classes, particularly if they work full-time. In addition, all students are required to complete a 180-hour internship, and this requirement can present a challenge to students who work full-time. Applicants who plan to be part-time students should carefully consider class schedules and related program requirements and their work schedule. Those with flexible work schedules have been most successful in attending MPH courses that are offered at varying times across a week. The majority of MPH students are enrolled full-time, and most work, but typically in part-time positions.
Is the program accredited?
VCU's MPH Program has been fully accredited since 1996 by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), which accredits schools of public health and graduate public health programs outside schools of public health (http://www.ceph.org). The most recent accreditation was awarded in July 2014 for seven years. The PhD in Epidemiology Program is accredited through the overall University accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Do you have an open house/information session?
At least one open house event is usually held in the fall for the MPH and Epidemiology PhD programs. Prospective students may arrange one on one visits by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
How Do I apply to the VCU MPH or PhD in Epidemiology program?
Applications are in two stages: a primary application through SOPHAS (sophas.org) and a secondary, supplemental application to VCU Graduate Admissions (the secondary application requires a $65 fee to VCU). Both applications must be received for an applicant to be considered by the Admissions Committee. Once an applicant submits the SOPHAS application, VCU will send instructions on how to complete the secondary supplemental application.
What sort of academic background do I need to apply to the MPH Program?
Students must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited, four-year institution. Recommended is undergraduate study that includes courses in the biological science and statistics/biostatistics. While these are not absolutely required, applicants who have taken such courses and performed well in them (i.e., grade of B or higher) will likely be more competitive than applicants who lack this background. One or more courses in research methods or epidemiology is also beneficial, as is experience with applications used for data analysis such as SPSS, SAS, STATA, etc.
Do I need work experience?
We prefer that MPH Program applicants have a minimum of one calendar year of work or applied experience after earning the undergraduate degree. It is ideal, but not required, for this experience to be related to health in general and public health specifically. Volunteer work relevant to the health field such as for mission trips, AmeriCorps, summers abroad doing community service, or in a local organization may be included as experience.
What are the requirements for admission to the MPH Program?
All applicants must provide the following:
- Current scores from the Graduate Record Examination [GRE]. GRE scores are current within five years of the test date. Particularly competitive applicants have scores at the 75th percentile or higher (157-158 verbal, 159 quantitative, 4.5 analytical writing), but the admissions committee will review each application as a whole, taking all elements into consideration.
- Students who have been accepted to medical school at VCU may submit MCAT scores. For these applicants, the minimum overall score is 24. Note: The successful completion of Steps I, II, & III, of U.S.M.L.E. may be substituted for GRE test scores. Applicants holding a Doctor of Medicine or similar first professional degree from an accredited US institution may submit a written request for a waiver of GRE scores to the Admissions Committee.
- Official transcripts of all prior undergraduate/graduate work. Applicants must have attained a minimum GPA of 3.0 in undergraduate study to be considered.
- A statement of purpose for application to the program. The applicant should address the elements found in the guidelines for the statement of purpose.
- A current curriculum vitae or resume
- Three current letters of recommendation, preferably from academic references
- International applicants whose native language is not English must also provide:
- Scores from a Test of English as a Foreign Language [TOEFL] or an [IELTS]: International English Language Testing System; and
- Official transcripts with equivalency assessment completed by a credential evaluation service such as organization such as World Education Services, or WES
- More details on requirements for international applicants are available at:
How long will it take to get an admissions decision?
Our admissions committee begins meeting in February, and decisions are sent out on a rolling basis beginning in March. No decision can be made until a complete application is received.
What are your acceptance levels?
There is only one level of acceptance, which is full acceptance. Full acceptance is unconditional acceptance and is the highest level of acceptance granted by the University.
Should I submit my application before I have all my supporting documentation, such as letters of reference and GRE scores?
Yes, you may submit your application without materials such as GRE scores or transcripts, but follow the instructions in SOPHAS. Submitting the application “on-line” starts the admissions process, but you should be sure to follow up as soon as possible with the rest of the application materials, since the process cannot be finalized and your application cannot be fully reviewed until we receive your application fees and all required, supporting documents.
Where do I send my supporting documents?
All supporting documents are submitted through SOPHAS, according to directions provided at SOPHAS.org.
Is there a deadline for admitted students to inform the program of their decision to enroll?
For the MPH Program: Yes—Admitted students must inform the program of their intent to matriculate by April 15th and provide a $200 deposit which will go toward their tuition in the fall semester. Students who do not reply by that date will forfeit their place in the program.
For the PhD in Epidemiology Program: Students should respond with a decision by the deadline indicated in their offer of admission letter, usually 30 days from receipt of the formal offer of admission.
Do you admit students in the spring?
Due to the sequencing of courses in our graduate curricula, we admit students only in the fall.
Should reference letters for admission to the MPH program be academic or professional?
To be effective, the letters must show that the referee can explain why your background prepares you for a career in public health and that you will be able to perform well under the rigors of graduate study. Therefore, letters of reference from current or past professors are the best choice. For the PhD program, all references should be academic references. For the MPH program, at least one letter, and preferably two should be from an academic reference . If you have asked for a reference from someone you have worked with in a job, a letter from a supervisor is more appropriate than a letter from a colleague. In addition, a letter from a health professional would be more appropriate than a letter from a business professional. However, if you do not have professional references from the general health field, a reference from a past supervisor that addresses your performance on the job and can assess qualities like responsibility, level of maturity, and other elements that will lend to success in graduate school, is entirely appropriate.
Do your graduate programs have a minimum GRE score requirement?
Both the Epidemiology PhD program and the MPH program prefer scores at the 75th percentile or higher (157-158 verbal, 159 quantitative, 4.5 analytical writing). The admissions committee will review each application as a whole, taking all elements into consideration, but applicants with scores at or above the 75th percentile will be more competitive.
What’s the average GRE for the MPH students you admit ?
The mean GRE scores of students offered admission to the MPH Program in recent years under the revised GRE scoring system were approximately 160 verbal, 153 quantitative, and 4.5 analytical writing.
Can other tests replace the GREs?
GREs are the preferred test of aptitude and are required for almost all applicants. There are a few exceptions:
- Applicants who have also been accepted into VCU’s School of Medicine may provide MCAT scores. The test scores must be current; that is, results must not have expired (typically, the test will have been taken within the past 5 years).
- Applicants who have passed Steps, 1, 2, AND 3 of the USMLE may be waived from submitting GRE scores. If you have passed only steps 1 & 2, you do not qualify for a waiver and must submit GRE scores.
- Applicants who are enrolled in VCU's PharmD program may provide PCAT scores.
I already have an MD (or PhD). Do I have to take GREs to apply to the MPH Program?
If you have a terminal or first professional US degree (such as a Ph.D. or MD), you may submit a written request for the GRE requirement to be waived. Waiver is not automatic. Requests are submitted to the Admissions Committee with the application. Please note that this waiver does not apply to students with degrees earned outside of the United States.
I took the GREs 10 years ago. Do I have to retake them to apply?
Yes, GRE test scores are only accepted within 5 years of the test date.
What is the VCU code for the GRE scores?
Submit GRE scores through SOPHAS using the VCU SOPHAS GRE code: 7543.
When may I apply to the program?
We strongly encourage applications submission by March 15th. Applications must be complete (contain all required elements) to be considered for admission.
What is the deadline for international applications?
What is the deadline for US applications?
Will my application be reviewed if I miss the deadlines?
Applicants who submit their materials after the deadline greatly reduce their chances for review for the ensuing fall semester. The best advice is to have all materials submitted on or before the published deadline. Screening of applicants begins in December; review of applications begins in early February, and first offers of admission are sent in mid-March. If vacancies remain after these applications are reviewed, then complete applications received after the March deadline may be considered.
Do you have a waiting list?
During the review process, some applicants may be assigned to a “wait list” according to merit and the competitiveness of the applicant pool. If students who are offered admission into the program decline the invitation, then wait-listed students may be notified as these vacancies occur. Notification of wait-listed students will occur in the latter portion of April into early May.
If I miss the application deadline or can't get all the required application elements in by the deadline, what happens?
Incomplete applications will not be considered and will receive a status of "rejected." SOPHAS offers applicants the option to conintue an incomplete application to the next academic year.
Can I transfer courses that I took at another school?
The VCU Graduate School policy for transfer credit is available at: http://bulletin.vcu.edu/graduate/study/general-academic-regulations-graduate-students/transfer-credit/ Note that courses not previously applied toward another degree may be accepted for transfer credit consideration. The transfer course(s) must be of graduate level, relevant to the field of public health, and be approved by the graduate program. Students who have been accepted into the program and who wish to transfer in courses must send a written request to the Director of Educational Programs. The request must include an official copy of a transcript and a copy of the syllabus for each course being submitted for transfer consideration.
Can I transfer in courses that I took at VCU ?
Yes, VCU coursework completed prior to matriculation may be considered for transfer. The curriculum of each graduate program has a specific sequence and students should not take numerous courses prior to matriculation as courses taken out of sequence may negatively impact their progression of learning once in the program. Courses taken in other disciplines at VCU may be considered for transfer, as well. All courses considered for transfer credit may not have been part of the requirements for a previously awarded degree. All transfer course(s) must be of graduate level, relevant to the field of public health, and must be approved by the graduate program.
May I receive credit toward MPH Program requirements for any of the other education I have?
If you have a terminal degree (MD, Ph.D.) from an accredited U.S. institution or are a practicing physician in the US, you can submit a written request for a waiver of up to 9 credits. Students with a foreign medical degree (e.g., M.B.B.S.) may request the 9-credit waiver if they have passed steps 1, 2, and 3 (all components) of the U.S.M.L.E. The waiver is not automatic; you must submit a written request to the Director of Educational Programs to review.
Do you offer on-line courses?
Currently our offering of on-line courses is very limited. No student could expect to complete the degree requirements on line. Classroom attendance is necessary for almost all courses.
I want to apply to a dual degree program. Where do I apply to first?
For the MSW/MPH program, apply to both programs at the same time. Note that MSW/MPH students do not enter the MPH curriculum fully until the second year of study. Therefore, it is possible for applicants to apply to both programs simultaneously or apply to the MHP Program during the first semester of the MSW Program.
For the MD/MPH and PharmD/MPH programs, students should already be enrolled in either medical or pharmacy school. For these programs, students do not enter the MPH curriculum until after their third year of clinical study. Students therefore wait to apply to the MPH program until their third year in medical or second year in pharmacy school. Administrators in each school will notify students of dual degree program options and when they should apply to these programs.
How does the MD/MPH dual degree program application process work?
Students enrolled in VCU's MD program apply during the M3 year. After 3 years of medical school, the student transitions to the MPH Program for one year and returns to medical school in the fifth year. Students are awarded both degrees after successfully completing the fifth year.
What are the tuition rates?
Tuition and fees depend on individual needs for housing, meals, etc. Please go to the VCU Enrollment Services web site for more information: http://www.enrollment.vcu.edu/accounting/
Do you provide any funding for graduate student tuition or expenses?
The PhD Program fuly funds students (tuition, fees, and stipends) contingent on satisfactory academic progress. The MPH Program rarely has funding to provide for students. If it is available, it is usually limited and highly competitive. The MPH Program will help students find part-time assistantships by connecting students seeking such positions to potential employers at VCU and professional public health organizations in the area. The majority of full-time MPH students work part-time, primarily in positions they have found through the MPH Program.
What type of a thesis will I need to prepare for the MPH Program?
The MPH Program is a professional degree program, so students do not complete a thesis, but a final project that is an integrated learning experience known as the MPH Capstone Project. Students are required to synthesize the literature, apply theory, evaluate data, and integrate knowledge gained and principles in situations that approximate some aspect of professional practice. With this mentored experience, students are able to both broaden their skills and hone their proficiency in a specific area of public health. The major product of this culminating experience is expected to vary depending on the educational goals of the student, but could include one of the following:
- Manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
- Comprehensive disease-related report
- Policy analysis report
- Needs assessment for a specific population
- Development, implementation, and analysis of target population surveys
- Program evaluation
- Organization, development, and assessment of content of public health training or informational conferences
Where do VCU MPH alumni work?
VCU MPH program graduates are highly successful in finding work or further education. More than 90% of MPH graduates in the last 5 years either were employed within 6 months of graduation or pursuing further study. More than half of our students find positions in a university or government setting. Usually around one-fifth pursue further education. The remainder find jobs in non-profit organizations, health systems, or private companies. Job placements include:
- State or local health department offices (e.g. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Indiana) in positions such as district epidemiologist, HIV specialist, or program analyst.
- University or healthcare systems, as members of research teams, including Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia
- Non-profit organizations—ranging from national organizations such as the American Heart Association to local ones such as the Virginia Healthcare Foundation
- Other governmental organizations such as the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority
- Private companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton, The EI Group, or the Lewin group
- Fellowships with the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Some alumni pursue doctoral degrees in epidemiology, psychology, nursing, and more, while others pursue clinical study in medicine, nursing, therapy, or social work.
What kind of internships are required?
All students in the MPH Program must complete an applied experience known as the Public Health Internship (PHI), which is a 3-credit-hour experience in a professional public health setting. Students work a minimum of 180 contact hours in a setting such as a local or state health department office, a non-profit organization such as the American Cancer Society, March of Dimes, or an appropriate private enterprise. Through the internship, students gain valuable practical experience in the professional public health work environment.
Are the internships paid?
Since the purpose of the PHI is to expose students to everyday experience in a professional setting, pay is neither required nor expected. However, some internship sites are willing to pay student interns.
I’m a new student. When can I register for classes?
The Division of Epidemiology posts an orientation web page in late spring that provides information to get students started on registration and preparation for the fall semester. If you are unsure of which courses you should take, it is acceptable to wait to register until you have attended the Program’s Orientation session, which is scheduled in August, before classes begin. Our graduate programs typically give registration priority to our students, so seats are almost always available for incoming students.
Requesting Registration in Courses
How do I take courses as a non-degree-seeking student?
To take a course in a graduate public health program, you must apply to VCU to become a non-degree-seeking student. Prospective students may find instructions for becoming a non-degree-seeking student at: www.ssc.vcu.edu/nondegree