MPH Internships: What You Need to Know

View all blog posts under Public Health | View all blog posts under Webinars

Lynn Short, a lecturer in the online Master of Public Health (MPH) program, shares an MPH Internships Overview detailing the process and various steps, including:

  • How to find an internship
  • Why networking is important
  • Where to search for a site
  • How to gain approval for an internship site


Sarah:   Hello, everyone.  I’m really excited to welcome you today to our online MPH Internships Webinar:  What You Need to Know.  We are going to be doing a deep dive with our speaker today, Lynn Short, who is a lecturer in the online MPH program and before we get started, if you are having any issues, please feel free to reach out to me as the host and I’d be happy to walk you through any technical difficulties.  But for now we’re going to move on and I’m just going to let you know a little bit about what we’re going to be talking about today.  So first I’ll introduce Lynn and she will do an MPH Internships overview, speak to finding an internship and networking where you can search for a site and how to go about gaining approval for that internship site.  Then we’ll speak a little bit about the online MPH admission requirements and leave the floor open to any questions that you might have personally about internships and how you go about finding them and approving them.  So, without further ado, I would like to introduce you to our faculty speaker, Lynn Short, who received her online MPH from Boston University School of Public Health in 1995 and I am going to just go ahead and turn it over to you, Lynn.  We’re really excited to hear from you today, um, and do this deep dive on internships.


Lynn:  Thank you so much, Sarah.  I’m excited to be, uh, to be a part of the webinar as well so I appreciate the invitation.  Um, as a (throat catches) Excuse me.  As Sarah said, I actually have worked in Public Health or have been involved in Public Health for almost 25 years, getting my MPH back in 1995.  I worked in higher education, government agencies, nonprofit organizations.  I’ve actually established a nonprofit and I work closely in developing programs in, uh, the local communities as well as a lot of advocacy and policy work.  Um, so my experience only mirrors the experience of the other faculty members that are involved in, uh, in the MPH program and I think that we bring a wealth of knowledge, uh, to this online program and to the students which really plays a huge factor in the internship process, in and finding internships.  Right now I personally have students that are in, uh, eight different states across the country so I think it gives you the breadth of, of the, the diversity of the program and the students, um, and the experiences that they’ll be – that they’ll be looking at going forward.


So what I’m gonna do is we’re actually just going to go over quickly, uh, what the internship, uh, overview is.  Um, every MPH internship student, uh, is required to participate, um, in that internship experience and I know some of you may have many years working in public health, uh, and you think perhaps that this might not be the – the opportunity for you, that you have the experience, you don’t need to do this.  And what I would actually say and I say it to people is if you want to work in public health or do you want to be a leader in public health?  Because leaders value lifelong learning and these internships experiences, um, provide you that through networking, developing partnerships, um, learning new skills, uh, and being there to actually, uh, to talk about what’s important to you with other public health professionals.  So there’s really a value for everyone, um, in participating in these particular internships.


The internship varies again from student to student and it’s based on their previous experience, whether or not they’ve worked or they want to work in say an agency or a nonprofit organization, what their career goals are and their specific area of interest that a student may have, uh, in public health.  So there’s really a – a, a wealth of, of opportunity to be able to investigate and explore within the internship, um, opportunity, um, at UNR.


The internship experience is part of the HF 798 which is considered the field studies course.  It spans three semesters.  In the first semester you’re actually preparing for the internship.  We’re going to be working together, um, to find that internship, uh, as well as, uh, various course assignments throughout that semester and I’m going to go over the, uh, the actual way that we’re going to look for the internships later on in the webinar.  In the second and third semester is when you complete the 270 hour internship.  And again there are course assignments that go along with that and they’re really there to develop leadership, uh, in public health and let you recognize perhaps what leadership is, um, and to develop your, um, your skills and your experiences with that.


Um, so the internship requirements are 270 hours so in the second and the third semester I do need you to complete 135 hours, um, of the internship.  The internship can be paid or it can be unpaid.  Uh, and there are values in, in both a paid internship as well as the values of an unpaid internship.  And these are some of the things you can start thinking about.  If it’s in fact a paid internship it can be at your place – your current place of employment but that current place of employment there would be restrictions applied to that.  So with each person we can go over that, uh, if that happened to be something that you would be interested in.  So, for instance, you can’t have the same preceptor that your current, um, manager that you’re working with and you can’t be working in the same department that you currently work in.  So those are some of the things to think about but that is an opportunity to, um, to do that.  I particularly don’t encourage students to do an internship in their own agency or their own place of employment because it doesn’t allow you perhaps that opportunity to grow and to network with other people.  Uh, but that is – that is an opportunity.


The site does need to be approved by the university and we do go through that with you and with the preceptor to get that – to get that approval process moving.  Sometimes it takes a little bit longer if it’s a larger governmental agency or a federal agency then it would for a local nonprofit but it does – it has been done and I am more than happy to work – to work through that process with you and the preceptor to get it approved.  The preceptor also needs to be approved as well.  So the general guidelines for the preceptor that will be working with you is – is your choice of the preceptor, uh, but that preceptor does need to have, uh, at least a Master’s degree, ideally in public health although it does not have to be in public health.  But they do have to have at least two years of public health experience behind them, uh, at that particular site to be an approved preceptor.  You also need a student learning contract and we’ll be working on that in that first semester with you and the preceptor to develop a student learning contract.


So in public health you learn assessments, planning, implementation and evaluation and all of that is rolled into that student learning contract where you’re really doing an assessment ahead of time of the site of the autumn project that you’re going to be doing, um, at that particular site.  The planning part of that is the student learning contract where you’re planning out that internship, how many hours you’re going to be in completing, what the activities will be and then what that product is on the back end of the internship.  The implementation is the internship, the 270 hours, and then the evaluation comes forward in the reports that you do, um, there’s a mid-internship as well as at the final 270 hours.  You also have a project, uh, including a poster presentation and also a short video that you’ll be developing so you can let us all know what the internship experience was like.  But, again, all of this is guided and, uh, you actually get quite a lot of assistance from the team.


So we really focus on a team effort, uh, and on the slide over here is the members of the team.  The student, which is you, the faculty advisor – each student, uh, has a faculty advisor, they are assigned a faculty advisor when they start the program.  The field study instructor, which is me, and your site preceptor.  So each of us actually works together, um, to help you.  Um, you first reaching out to that faculty advisor to get their insight and their input to discuss what your career goals are in public health and try to, uh, put you on a path with the internship that – that will get you some step closer to achieving your goal.  I work closely with the billing internship preparation as well as those hours.  And then also into the capstone class course which follows the internship or the CHS 798 course.  And also your preceptor whose really on the ground with you at the internship site.  They’re there to help you, uh, guide you through the project and to be your mentor during that 270 hours.


So in terms of searching for a site, this is a common question, um:  How do we find a site, especially if we’re not in Nevada or not currently working in, um – in a public health setting?  So it really comes to you first and really its thinking that who inspired you to think about, uh, a career in public health?  Who inspired you to think that, uh, your Masters in Public Health degree was – is the next step that you wanted to move at?  What were – what were their career goals, what was their path?  Uh, also what are your goals and interests in thinking about, uh – thinking about that, you know.  Do you want to work in a state agency?  Are you interested in, in children?  Are you interested in older adults, uh?  Do you like data collection and surveys and epidemiology biostatistics, different things like that?


So the other question to ask yourself is, you know:  Are you situated in a – in a location where you’re staying or are you able to go somewhere else and do an internship out of state?  Are you able to travel within your own state to be able to do an internship?  What sector, again, um:  Are you interested in nonprofits, in government?  Uh, what skills do you bring?  Do you have, uh, data skills behind you?  Um, have you, uh, developed programs before?  Uh, do you have advocacy, uh, skills and experience?  And then also what’s your dream position, 10 years from now, five years from now – where do you want to be?  What would you – who do you look up to and what position do they have?  All of this things rolled together are, um, are what builds the MPH internship so that you can provide you the best opportunities and – and get you into the right direction for finding that?

So the internship approval process:  The internship process starts with you meeting with your faculty advisor, ideally in the first semester that you’re starting the MPH program at the University of Nevada Reno.  Talking with them again about your goals and about your objectives for wanting the degree and where you see yourself as a public health leader.  That faculty advisor again will be working with you through your entire two years within the program and they’re going to get to know you and, and be able to provide you that guidance and that – that assistance as to what you’re looking for, uh, in your future in public health.  And that’s really where the conversation begins, uh, in regards to the internship.  You then want to start to ask questions and inquire.  If you’re working in public health you’re talking to people, uh, and getting to know what their – what their journey was to get where they are.  Um, if you have a boss that’s interested in public health, and know your physician, you know.  Oftentimes people don’t realize that their physician or their dentist or, um, other health professionals that they’re in touch with actually have Masters in Public Health degrees.  What interested them?  What was their pathway?  Uh, it also doesn’t hurt if you’re not working in public health.  You may be contacts in a nonprofit organization.  If you’re volunteering or you know people that are volunteering, uh, and maybe, you know, have a conversation with them.


Linkedin is a great opportunity to get involved and to search for people who, um, are working in public health.  There’s a lot of groups on Linkedin also that you can go into.  Uh, the American Public Health Association, uh, is the national organization for public health professionals.  They have a student chapter.  As well as each state has a state affiliate or a state public health association.  They’re great opportunities for you to meet up, network with people and find out what’s going on in your particular area in public health.  Weir internships are available.  Uh, what organizations are looking for assistance and who those mentors are?  There’s opportunities for you to actually find, you know, lifelong, career long mentors in those particular organizations and affiliations.


The next step after you’re doing, uh, that is to really look in closely again at your faculty advisor, uh, to identify three particular sites, uh, that you’re really very, very interested in and think that they might be great opportunities for you, um, to be able to find an internship.  At that particular point you begin working with me in completing the internship search form and that internship search form is where you’re going to be listed out the individual, um, uh, organizations or agencies, those sites where you want to do your internship.  And you’re going to be choosing goals – what’s the goal?  So you’re goal looking at a state agency may be different then your goal would be, um, in looking at the, uh, at the local nonprofit organization.  So these are some of the things that you’ll – that you’ll want to be thinking about in terms of the project that you will be doing.  Because the project is the outcome, it’s what you’re doing and working on for the entire 270 hours to have this product at the end.  The product isn’t – isn’t for you but the product needs to be a benefit to the organization or the agency that you’re working with.  So it’s really where you’re also working with that preceptor that you may have identified at that agency to determine what their needs are.  When we’re finished with this slide I’ll actually go over some of the opportunities that our students are, uh, experiencing right now so you can get some ideas as to what that product or that project would be.


Once you’ve completed the internship search form you’ll then sit and meet with me and we’ll discuss virtually online and then give you some sort of a plan so that you can begin contacting these organizations to set up interviews.  And that interview process happens again in that third semester of the course where we also help you revamp your – your resume, uh, give you hints on interviewing if you’re a little rusty or, um, or think you might need some assistance in doing that.  Uh, and again, you’re interviewing with those sites and you’re interviewing with the preceptors.  And I say those sites because maybe the first one doesn’t work out, you know?  Maybe you need to go to a second one, um, and, uh, interview there and it might even be the third opportunity that you’re looking at, that it really matches what your goals and objectives are.


Once you receive positive feedback from that site you then begin working with myself as well as, um, another department within the – within University of Nevada Reno and the school community helps finds this to get that site approved.  So I then, um, contact your preceptor and I have a conversation with your preceptor about their roles and their responsibilities and then another meeting is set up, uh, to get that, uh, that site approved by the university.  And there’s an organizational agreement that needs to be signed by each organization, uh, and then, um, during that simultaneously you’re working on a student learning contract and we talked about that two slides before.  It’s really, really laid out how you’re going to plan out your project, how it’s going to be implemented and then that evaluation.  And you work off the competency with public health in planning out that project so that you’re really, uh, demonstrating your competency in what you’ve learned in the didactic courses that you’ve taken over the previous 18 months or so and we’re implementing those and we’re showing, um, how successful you are, uh, doing that, uh, in the real public health setting.


But currently my thoughts are that I would just briefly go over some of the opportunities, um, that some of the students have had.  And some of the students have actually, um, done internships, uh, with nonprofit organizations.  Uh, one of those students right now is working with the children’s advocacy organization.  So the job that they have right now is they’re working, um, in a state agency in an HIV and AIDS, uh, work and they’ve gone totally outside of that, uh, to work with children because they want to learn about advocacy and that’s where they’re – where they’re getting their information so they’re learning about the legislature.  Uh, they’re evaluating data, they’re putting together legislative reports, um, and, uh, in one page briefs, uh, so that they can get that experience on what advocacy is.


Uh, I have another student that is, uh, working in a large health care organization and they’re going to be evaluating data so that they can look at, uh, broad spectrum antibiotic use and with prescribers.  So once they’re evaluating the data and looking at how frequently the prescribers are, uh, are prescribing the broad spectrum antibiotics, they’re actually going to be developing a tool kit for those particular prescribers so that they can recognize how often they’re – they’re prescribing antibiotics and perhaps considering some other type of, uh, treatment for those particular patients.


And then we have another student that’s working, uh, in a state agency.  They actually developed an escape-based survey to identify resources, um, our HIV and AIDS resources for the Native American population in that state.  Um, so they’re going all the way from developing the survey to implementing the survey and then they’re going to be evaluating the results of that survey and then reporting out on those results.  So I’m hoping that provides a broad spectrum of information.  You can see that some people are working in nonprofits, some are advocacy work, some are developing surveys, others are developing tool kits, uh, so it really – that project or that outcome can really be broad-based, uh, in regards to – in regards to the focus of the topic area, uh, that you’ve chosen to do.


So the key for success, um, for this particular, um, internship is really not lose.  It really is important and we talked that your faculty advisors and how important it is to begin talking with you, uh, right in that very first semester, to really start to develop, um, what your interests are, what your goals are for the program.  And if you don’t know to have you begin thinking about that.  Because, again, it’s up to you.  This is really based and subscribed on what your interest is in the internship experience.  And then discuss includes other students, clearly the students that you’re working with closely in the program and in your cohort to really provide some insight and information, especially those students that are already doing their internship and being able to talk with them virtually or through e-mails and conversations and getting information.  Again, we have students – I have students specifically in my courses that, uh, are from a different state and many of them are in the same state so it gives you that opportunity although it’s an online program, to really have colleagues and peers that you can have conversations with and work with.


Searching the internet is also an opportunity.  Um, Facebook and social media that everybody seems to be on are opportunities as well but Google, Linkedin clearly putting into a search tab, you know, nonprofit organizations, children and the community that you are living in might bring up opportunities that you never even thought of, uh, to be able to find an internship.  So if you’re interested in seniors you can do the same thing.  If you’re interested in, you know, the opioid crisis and, and substance abuse, you could put that in and find out what comes up, try to find those opportunities in those sites.  Again, uh, each one of the faculty members has a wealth of experience, uh, across the country, uh, just from their own professional work and their professional relationship to be able to provide ideas.  And, again, joining the American Public Health Association and your state’s public health association will put you in contact with public health leaders, um, in many different facets of public health that you may not even have thought of, uh, to be able to give you, uh, that – that opportunity to be able to choose or to find out about different, uh, opportunities within your area for internship experiences.


This is the admission requirements, uh, and very quickly I think hopefully the majority of you, um, have had an opportunity to speak to one of the University of Nevada Reno admissions counselors.  To be admitted to the university’s Master of Public Health online program, you need to have a Bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, uh, or in the last 60 credits that you’ve taken.  Uh, you need to have a course in statistics, three letters of recommendation, a written statement of purpose, an updated resume or CV.  The application fee is 60 dollars and if you’re an international applicant, uh, one whom English is not your first language, uh, you need to submit, uh, Toefl scores.  And also you, uh, admission, uh, deadline for the summer of 2018 and also, uh, coming up for the fall, can be answered with, uh, the enrollment advisors and their information is sitting right here as well, uh, to get that information.


Sarah:  Thank you so much, Lynn, and actually just so everyone is aware, we do have one of our enrollment advisors, Marcus Peoples, is on the line as well, so at this point we would love to open it up to questions and you can ask any questions you’ve had throughout the webinar or any personal questions by clicking on the Q&A tab at the bottom and sending us over any questions you might have for Lynn at this time.  This is a fantastic opportunity, uh, to really ask anything that you’ve been wondering about or thinking about in regards to internships but then also, since we have Marcus on the line, if there are any questions about the application process or anything of that nature, you are also, um, free to ask any questions about that.  So, to get us started, Lynn, when does a student actually need to apply for their internship?


Lynn:   Well, they’re going begin applying for their internship in that first semester of CHS 798, which is the very beginning of their second year of the program.  As I said, the CHS 798 course runs three semesters so it’s in that very first semester, uh, that we’re really honing in on the internship, doing the interviews, uh, securing the internship and completing that student learning, uh, contract.  So that in the second semester of, uh, of the course, they can actually begin their hours.


Sarah:  Thank you so much.  And, you know, it was really interesting to hear you share some of the internship experiences that other students, you know, have already embarked on.  Have you had scenarios where students have an issue finding an internship and in what capacity will, you know, you as the internship coordinator, step in to help them obtain an internship?


Lynn:   So I haven’t experienced anyone having trouble in finding an internship but I know from my own experience as being, uh, in higher education, it has happened, uh, not in this particular program but I do know that the faculty again have a wealth of knowledge in, in professional contacts throughout the country so, uh, if somebody is having trouble in finding an internship, um, I know that myself as well as my colleagues would be more than willing to step in and make a few phone calls and it may not be as our colleague, you know, it could be with a colleague of theirs.  Like it’s really important in regards to that networking, uh, opportunity and, and public health isn’t, isn’t about sitting in, you know, an office, and moving paperwork around.  It really is about a partnership and cooperation and, um, it’s really about networking and, and getting to know people and getting – and it isn’t just about getting to know people in regards to the internship.   From my own personal experience working as – working as a leader in public health, it’s those other partners out there, those other public health professionals that help you in getting your message out there about public health, when you’re out of school and you’re working in a particular program in a particular field.  Uh, so that networking is important so our networking is your networking as well to find that internship.


Sarah:  That’s wonderful.  Thank you, Lynn.  Our next question I’m going to actually throw over to Marcus and the question is:  Can a recommendation letter come from a non-health individual, maybe someone who has reviewed my work but never worked with me?


Marcus:  Excellent question.  Happy Wednesday, everyone.  We do not require letters of recommendation to come from public health officials.  So typically what I advise students, uh, the best place to probably receive your letters of recommendation are going to be people that you work with, such as supervisors, managers, directors, even trainers.  You want to seek anyone that’s in a leadership role that works with you.  Uh, if you can get some from professors, you can try that route.  Uh, typically what I see with students is that they haven’t been in school for five, six years and haven’t been in contact with some of their professors so, uh, that route isn’t really, uh, accessible for them but the, you know, basically getting letters of recommendation from people that you work with will be a lot easier for you if you go that route.


Sarah:  Thank you, Marcus.  And our next question – Marcus, it might be for you as well.  The question is:  I am a foreign trained dentist and I am planning to get my GRE in March.  However I have not taken any statistics courses.  Would that be okay?


Marcus:  Yes, uh, we don’t require the GRE as a part of our program.  Uh, if you – we do require the statistics as a, uh, prerequisite for the program and it has to be completed before you start the program so if you are going to go ahead and take that course before you go ahead and start your program, say in like the fall or maybe even the spring of next year, that’s definitely an opportunity for you to go ahead and take that class and get it completed before you start your program in those – in those particular terms.


Sarah:  Thank you, Marcus.  Also I, I just like to ask you as well:  What are the application deadlines for the upcoming term?


Marcus:  Excellent.  The application deadline for the summer is going to be basically classes are going to start in April and the application deadline for that is going to be March 1st.  Then for the fall, uh, the application, uh, the classes start in August and the application deadline for that is going to be the 1st of July.


Sarah:  Thanks, Marcus.  So, Lynn, I know you talked about this a little bit, uh, in some of your earlier slides but is there any sort of internship that you think are a little bit out of the box or that people might not consider, uh, in terms of the types of internships they can do during the program.


Lynn:  Um, you know, the internship isn’t prescribed so it doesn’t have to have specific qualifications.  Um, what it needs to – clearly it needs to be focused on public health, uh, but, you know, there’s opportunities and, uh, in various capacities.  Uh, you know, for instance, uh, it could be an education agency perhaps or an agency that’s focused, you know on child education.  Uh, there’s a lot of opportunity there to bring public health in and oftentimes these particular agencies or organizations may not have the capacity to do that on their own.  They may have a project, um, that’s there and, and no one to be able to implement that project or to plan it and, and implement it.  And they could be out there looking for someone so I wouldn’t specifically, uh, you know, have tunnel vision, um, but really look at a lot of different opportunities.  You know, um, it could be a school-based health center that’s – that you might not even think about, uh, that they might have an opportunity for a project in public health.  Uh, so I, you know, it could be a senior center, uh, or an agency focused on seniors and you might not even think that might be, you know, public health-related.


I was helping a student, uh, last week, um, looking in – you know, they wanted to think about working in an agency and, uh, I just started searching online for them and came up with an agency that focused on, uh, Native Americans and that wasn’t even something that they thought of, you know.  I mean there is such a thing as well.  There’s a lot of not specifically in the health sector but certainly people, um, work in public health, um, in insuring – in insurance.  And look in Medicaid, uh, Medicare, um, those are clearly public health related agencies that people may not think about in regards to a, an internship site.  You know, Blue Cross-Blue Shield, you know, with the Affordable Care Act.  If you’re interested in policy development – those are some opportunities to think about that people don’t often think, uh, that those would be there.  You know, there’s coalitions, um, that somebody might be interested in working on if they’re interested in advocacy work and policy.  Uh, so it is thinking that broad stroke rather than, you know, thinking pretty finely and finite in regards to finding something.


Sarah:  Well, I think it’s really wonderful that the students have the autonomy to pursue their passion and like you mentioned there’s so many areas of opportunity and so many organizations and agencies that may need, uh, you know, an individual’s help in this area so that students can be very innovative in – in finding something that really fits their needs and future goals is an awesome opportunity for them.


Lynn:  It’s a great opportunity, you know, it’s a wonderful program and, um, I don’t know of anybody that hasn’t enjoyed their experience online at the University of Nevada Reno program.


Sarah:  Well, on that note, I think we’ve answered all of our questions for today and we really appreciate, uh, everyone joining us as well as I’d really like to say a big Thank You to both Lynn and Marcus for being on the line as our – our experts today and Lynn, I’d like to thank you so much for really deep diving into this area.  You covered a lot of the common questions and it’s going to be very helpful moving forward so thank you.


Lynn:  You’re welcome and of course anybody can contact me if they have any questions.  My e-mail is in the Powerpoint.


Sarah:  Wonderful.  Well, thank you, everyone for joining us and have a great rest of your day.