Getting Started in Public Health

The study of public health provides a rich intellectual framework for the multidisciplinary study of society’s most challenging problems. Our public health program is designed to help students develop the many different skills that are needed to understand and respond to health challenges that arise in local, regional, and global populations.

Our public health program offers both BA and BS degrees in a variety of areas, and it can be difficult to know which one might best fit your interest. Our program offers degrees in:

Interested students could also choose from one of our four minors or six clusters. **Students may choose to major, minor, or complete a cluster within the undergraduate public health program, but they may not do more than one.

All the public health programs require a set of core competencies a variety of disciplines, and each of the majors incorporates courses from many different departments to support its intellectual goals.

Suggested Courses

There are multiple avenues to start exploring public health programs, depending on what your interests are. We’ve included some suggestions here, but students are welcome to reach out to the undergraduate coordinator as well.

Interest: Public Health

For students interested in exploring the broader topic of public health, we recommend starting with PHLT 101: Introduction to Public Health I (fall and spring). This is a broad survey course designed to introduce beginning students to public health history, concepts, and contemporary issues locally, nationally, and globally.

In addition to PHLT 101, PHLT 103, and PHLT 116 (described below) are also great general introductions to the topics of public health.

Interest: Epidemiology

PHLT 103: Concepts of Epidemiology (fall and spring) is an excellent course for students interested in learning more about epidemiology. This course provides students with the fundamental concepts needed to understand health-related information and health policy and introduces them to the history of epidemiology and the basic methodological principles used to describe disease occurrence in populations and identify causes of disease.

Interest: Health Policy or Health, Behavior, and Society

Whether you’re interested in health policy or health, behavior, and society, PHLT 116: Introduction to the U.S. Health System (fall) is a good course to get you started. This course examines the organization, financing, and functioning of the United States health care system. It also explores historical perspectives and the insights of international comparisons. Topics include the economics of the U.S. health system, access to care, health policy and politics, and disability and disability politics.

Interest: Environmental Health

PHLT 201W: Environmental Health (spring) is a great place to start for students interested in environmental health. This course covers the basic principles used to evaluate the potential human health risk of exposure to environmental contaminants in air, water, and food.

Interest: Bioethics

Students interested in bioethics should consider taking PHIL 103: Contemporary Moral Problems (fall and spring). This course is an introduction to moral philosophy as applied to current topics. Some questions to be explored:

  • What sorts of socioeconomic principles are morally justifiable?
  • Does the history of racial injustice in the U.S. create a moral demand for reparations, and if so, what is the best argument for this?
  • What is the relation, if any, between morality and religion?
  • Do animals have moral rights?
  • How should we understand the meaning and value of human life and death?
  • Can abortion sometimes be justified, and if so, how?