Public health practice is an integral part of the master of public health (MPH) degree at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health. Internships are the primary means through which students strengthen their practice knowledge and skills. The requirement for an approved, supervised internship applies to MPH students in the two- and three-year programs and to all areas of concentration. The Center for Public Health Practice & Leadership (CPHPL) provides the academic and administrative structure for the practice component of the MPH program.
An internship provides the opportunity to integrate classroom learning and practice in a public health work environment. The intern contributes to a community's resources and to the solution of public health problems while developing personal confidence and leadership as a public health professional.
A planned, supervised internship, and the preparation leading to it, fosters professional development in several areas:
- The application of public health core knowledge and specialty skills
- The development of new practice-based skills
- Attention to professional self-assessment and personal growth
Emphasis is placed on demonstrating an awareness of how the intern's activities and projects are part of a larger public health context.
A practice experience provides an important first step to a career in the field if a student has little or no prior experience. If the student has extensive experience or advanced degrees in other fields, they have the opportunity to apply existing skills at a higher level and to develop new professional skills in public health. Many students also obtain jobs through their internships.
The School of Public Health requires students pursuing the two- and three-year MPH degree to complete a three-month supervised internship while registered at UC Berkeley. Students in Health Policy and Management have the option to complete a six-month internship. The internship follows the first year of academic study in public health. The internship is a 12-week, full-time work experience during the summer, typically 480 hours based on a standard 40-hour work week. Based on the special needs of the student or the site, a part-time academic year placement can be arranged.
CPHPL Internship Application and Placement Process
CPHPL coordinates a comprehensive internship application and placement process for MPH students in all concentrations. CPHPL recruits more than 130 summer and part-time school year internship opportunities for MPH students. Internship opportunities are made available for students to apply for through the SPH Job Site. CPHPL works through our extensive relationships with community partners, employers, and alumni to offer students meaningful, paid internship placements in a wide range of public health settings, including: health departments, health systems, community-based organizations, academic and research institutions, biotechnology firms, and federal and state governmental agencies. While most placements are in California, there are also opportunities in other areas of the country and internationally. In addition to having access to these opportunities, CPHPL field supervisors work with students individually to develop other internship options that may suit their unique interests or help students assess and finalize internship opportunities they may identify on their own. Field supervisors are experienced practitioners and teachers who are dedicated to assisting students in their assigned concentrations pursue their career and internship interests and providing support to students throughout their internships and MPH program.
Through these mechanisms, all MPH students are able to obtain a summer internship. Interns report a high level of satisfaction with their internships. While not guaranteed, many students continue their internships on a part-time basis while completing school and/or are offered permanent post-graduation jobs.
Internship Process Overview
Preparation for the summer internship between first and second year begins in the first semester. Students in all concentrations have either an internship preparation course or series of group meetings. Students also meet with their CPHPL field supervisor to begin refining career and professional development interests, developing internship objectives, and identifying potential sites and contacts. Students attend the "What Can You Do with a Public Health Degree?" seminars and numerous fall CPHPL courses and events to gain exposure and contacts. Students also conduct informational interviews and attend alumni association activities. Through these activities, students are able to refine their internship interests, become well prepared for the start of the internship process or in some cases secure an internship.
The student internship application process typically begins in late January or early February. CPHPL will have worked with employers to post internships on the SPH job site. Students review opportunities and apply through the job site. Students typically apply for five to seven opportunities. Employers then interview selected students in March and make recommendations to CPHPL. CPHPL makes the final placement decision in early to mid April based on student and employer preferences. Internships begin in May after the end of school or early June.
Most internships are paid. Pay varies significantly by the type of organization, project and geographic location. The internship pay typically ranges from $1,500 to $5,000 per month, with competitive compensation around $2,500 to $3,500 per month. Some organizations, particularly those in private industry or targeting MBA/MPH students, pay significantly more. In cases where the organization cannot afford to pay, the field supervisors work with students to pursue potential funding sources.
Leadership Development in the MPH Internship Award
Each year, the Center for Public Health Practice & Leadership (CPHPL) presents the "Leading From Where You Are" awards at the Preceptor and Student Intern Recognition event in September. These awards were created specifically to recognize student efforts to impact change and serve as a leader in their summer internships, in order to further the goals and/or effectiveness of their organization, project, or community. Learn more here.