Public Health


Public health is the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research and promotion of healthy lifestyles. In public health, the focus is on health promotion and disease/injury prevention, in contrast to the medical model of care, which focuses more heavily upon diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions after they occur. Public health professionals analyze and develop programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad. The United States is placing a high priority on building up the nation’s public health workforce.

A career in public health opens the door to diverse opportunities in a variety of sectors such as federal, private and non-governmental organizations. Because of their “big picture” perspective, public health experts play a key role in emergency preparedness and response. This may be why public health has become such a growing field in recent years.


Public Health graduate students come from a wide variety of academic backgrounds. Graduate programs generally do not have very strict prerequisites, as the field is interdisciplinary. At least one course in the following areas is often recommended if not required: Statistics (STAT 110 or STAT 212), general Biology, and life-sciences (human anatomy, physiology, nutrition, etc.). Master of Public Health programs are one to two years in length. Public health doctoral (PhD) and Master of Science (MS) programs are also available. There are over 20 major fields of study in Public Health. The five core disciplines are: Behavioral Science/Health Education, Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, and Health Services Administration. However, the public health degree can also be in fields such as global health, laboratory practice, nutrition/dietetics, occupational health and safety, and tropical medicine Be sure to check the admission requirements for the specific programs you will be applying to!




Entrance exam:

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for most public health graduate programs. Some institutions accept the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT), or the Law School Admission Test (LSAT).

General application:

  • SOPHAS – Public Health Centralized Application Service


St. Olaf courses related to Public Health:

BIO 124- The Biology of Women (interim)

BIO 233- Intermediate Genetics

BIO 231- Microbiology

BIO 284- Peruvian Medical Experience (study abroad)

BIO 271/272 or 321/322- Biology in South India (study abroad)

BIO 363- Immunology

ECON 245- Health Care Econ

ESTH 110- Nutrition and Wellness

ID 110- Exploration in Healthcare (interim)

ID 245- Integrated Science/Society

NURS 140- Health Social Inequality (interim)

PHIL 250- Biomedical Ethics

PHIL 259- Global Health Ethics

PSYCH 378- Health Psychology

SOAN 267- Medical Anthropology

STAT 212- Statistics for Science

STAT 302- Biostatistics

SWRK 122- Global Challenges (interim)

SWRK 258- Social Policy

Extended version of the above list with course descriptions: Public health related courses at St. Olaf

Online resources:

Professional associations and organizations:

Student organizations:


List of graduate programs: