About the Major

Public health seeks to improve human health through the development and application of knowledge that prevents disease, protects the public from harm, and promotes health throughout the state, the nation, and the world.

Under the public health major, undergraduates will develop and apply knowledge from multiple disciplines for the promotion and protection of the health of the human population, giving due consideration to principles of human rights and cultural perspectives that abound in our multicultural country and world.

Berkeley Public Health Undergrad Peer Advisors Talk About the Major

About a Capped Major

Every semester, we have to turn away several great candidates because of limited capacity. Because we are a capped major, you should also have backup majors in mind. The most common backup majors are:

Although the major remains capped, we do encourage all qualified students to apply. To qualify, you must have completed the prerequisites in math, bio, and social sciences, with a minimum passing grade in all of the prerequisites. You may not apply to the major if you have earned more than 80 college semester credits; this only includes credits earned after high school.

Declaring the Major

You may apply to declare a major in Public Health after you complete the lower division requirements, generally at the end of your sophomore year. In 2016, the opportunities to apply will be May 17–31 (spring), August 17–31 (summer), and December 17–31 (fall). Transfer students should apply during the fall dates, after completing the prerequisite coursework at community college and are ready to declare the major at the beginning of their first semester at UC Berkeley.

To declare a major in Public Health, you must first complete all of the lower division prerequisites (mathematics, biology, and social sciences). After you fulfill these requirements, submit an application and application essay, carefully following the instructions.

Go to application and instructions

The application to declare the Public Health major includes: A) a review of your academic preparation (coursework and GPA), and B) two application essays: 1) a Statement of Purpose that describes the pathway that led you to your interest in this field of study, your experience relevant to Public Health (including volunteering), and your long-term ambitions for what you are thinking about doing with a degree in Public Health, and 2) a Personal History Statement, which gives you the opportunity to add individuality and depth to the information provided in your Statement of Purpose. Your Personal History Statement can include information about who you are as a person, your family background, cultural background, socioeconomic status, educational disadvantages, and experiences growing up. It is intended to give you the opportunity to provide a narrative about your diverse lived-experiences. For guidelines, please see the Personal History Statement Guide  on the UC Berkeley Graduate Division website.

All applications will be reviewed by Public Health faculty.

As you go about completing the prerequisites for Public Health, you should at the same time be taking all necessary steps to prepare yourself to declare an alternate major. According to the Academic Senate regulations, a student should declare a major when they reach 60 units of coursework. Please keep this in mind as you decide on the major that is right for you.

While we will do our best to bring in all qualified students, there is no guarantee that any one particular student will be admitted into the major. Therefore, students interested in the Public Health major should be prepared for a back-up major just in case they are not selected. Students hopeful of making a valuable contribution to our public health should be prepared to declare alternative majors such as Anthropology, Molecular and Cell Biology, Integrative Biology, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Communications, Conservation Resource Studies, Earth and Planetary Science, the ISF (Interdisciplinary Studies) Major, American Studies, Social Welfare, or Psychology—just to list a few. Our public health demands everyone's attention—there are myriad undergraduate majors here at Berkeley that will help prepare you to dedicate your professional life to our, literally vital, cause.

All students interested in the major, or the field of public health in general, are encouraged to consult with the Academic Advisor.