Public Health Competencies

Competency-based education focuses on what students need to know and be able to do in varying and complex situations. These competencies are based on faculty’s field experience, expectations of employers, and the established Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) competencies.

The competencies are specific to each degree program and concentration.

  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Master of Public Health (MPH)

BUSPH graduates bring a well-rounded, evidence-based approach to addressing public health problems. They are aware of the interplay of the biological, social, economic, cultural, political, behavioral, and environmental factors that affect health, and are prepared to work in a wide array of settings to address public health problems. They critically analyze public health literature, create innovative solutions to problems in collaboration with others, evaluate program effectiveness, and present their views clearly in both spoken and written communications. Upon completion of the MPH degree requirements, graduates are able to:

  • Identify the determinants of health and disease
  • Estimate the burden and patterns of disease in communities in order to prioritize health needs
  • Use systematic approaches to develop, implement, and evaluate public health policies, programs, or services
  • Communicate effectively to promote the health of all members of our communities, especially the disadvantaged, underserved, and vulnerable
  • Demonstrate the ability to access and use data to identify and solve public health problems
  • Demonstrate the ability to work independently and as part of a team, and identify effective leadership qualities and practices
  • Make decisions that reflect ethical frameworks and respect for the values, beliefs, and practices within diverse communities and cultures
  • Demonstrate professional knowledge and skills for effective practice in a selected field of study

Additional Competencies

Biostatistics Concentrators

  • Analyze data from observational studies, clinical trials, epidemiological studies, medical surveys, and evaluations of health care programs using statistical programming software
  • Identify potential sources of bias and confounding in study design, and develop analytic and design strategies to minimize these effects
  • Interpret and communicate the results and limitations of statistical analyses of public health data in both technical and non-technical terms

Environmental Health Concentrators

  • Explain the scientific characteristics, including exposure and mode of action, of major biological, chemical, physical hazards that result in human health risk
  • Manipulate environmental data, calculate dose and exposure, and present analyses
  • Critically read and describe the hypothesis, experimental design, methods and results and conclusions presented in papers from technical journal articles in environmental health

Epidemiology Concentrators

  • Design valid epidemiological studies
  • Use statistical software to analyze and interpret health-related data
  • Critically evaluate published research with regard to internal and external validity as well as public health importance

Health Law, Bioethics & Human Rights Concentrators

  • Conduct research using public health, legal, ethics and/or human rights literature on public health problems
  • Apply critical reasoning in a paper that integrates public health skills with policy, regulatory and legislative goals
  • Create and deliver a clear and effective oral presentation on a public health topic that presents ethical or legal issues

Health Policy & Management Concentrators

  • Analyze how the structures, processes and outcomes observed in the organization, delivery, and financing of health services in the US are related both to one another and to historical and contextual influences, and compare these aspects of the US system to those in other developed nations
  • Analyze the current health care policy issues that face US, state, and local communities; evaluate policies in terms of their effectiveness, efficiency and equity; and identify the factors influencing successful policy implementation
  • Assess how political, organizational, and occupational structures, cultures, and norms influence the ways in which health care is allocated and provided, analyze how these factors affect changes in health policy and/or systems, and develop strategies to promote an organizations or constituency’s position
  • Critically appraise health care quality data and measurement methods for pursuing quality improvement, identify strategies for quality improvement and apply structured approaches to implementing change

International Health Concentrators

  • Demonstrate skills in program and budget management that can be used to design and implement health programs in low and middle-income country settings
  • Apply a multidisciplinary approach to analyze health systems and institutions involved in financing and providing preventative and curative health services at the multilateral, bilateral, national, and community levels in low and middle-income countries
  • Integrate information and apply models from epidemiologic, economic, behavioral, and cultural perspectives to promote social changes required to improve the health of populations

Maternal & Child Health Concentrators

  • Describe the historic, sociocultural, economic, and political contexts that shape the health of women, children and families, focusing on the US with a global perspective
  • Apply a life course perspective, combining theories of human development and the cumulative effects of social determinants, to understand and solve maternal and child health challenges of the 21st century
  • Demonstrate the ability to integrate theoretical perspectives, empirical evidence, and practice in at least one area of MCH importance

Social & Behavioral Sciences Concentrators

  • Access and analyze archival and other data to assess a public health problem for a specific place and population
  • Apply social and behavioral theories and quantitative and qualitative methods to the development of innovative and effective public health intervention programs
  • Develop rigorous evaluation trials to assess the efficacy of public health interventions
  • Communicate findings to the public and to policy makers
  • Advocate for the institutionalization of evidence-based public health programs

Master of Science (MS)

MS in Environmental Health

Upon completing the requirements for the MS in Environmental Health graduates are able to:

  • Communicate the basic characteristics of major chemical, physical, and biological hazards and the properties that govern the hazards’ behavior in the environment
  • Explain the scientific characteristics (e.g., route of exposure, dose response, mode of action) of major biological, chemical, and physical hazards that result in human health risk
  • Explain and analyze genetic, physiologic, and social factors that affect the susceptibility to adverse health outcomes following exposure to environmental hazards
  • Critically evaluate and interpret the hypothesis, experimental design, methods and results presented in a paper from a technical journal article in an environmental health discipline (toxicology, epidemiology, exposure assessment)
  • Analyze and interpret environmental health data
  • Identify appropriate intervention strategies for specific environmental health problems
  • Communicate the results of a scientific study in a written and oral format

MS in Epidemiology

Upon completing the requirements for the MS in Epidemiology graduates are able to:

  • Develop a scientific hypothesis, beginning with a review of existing literature, and design an epidemiologic study to assess the hypothesis validly and efficiently
  • Develop competence in a chosen substantive area of epidemiology for which competence requires a proficient understanding of risk factors for the disease(s), the impact of the disease(s) on populations, and an awareness of methodologic issues specific to the substantive area
  • Analyze a complex epidemiologic data set using at least one computer-aided tool, such as Excel or SAS
  • Communicate the results of research both orally and in writing, with the written presentation meeting the current standards of publication in refereed journals
  • Critically evaluate in writing a published epidemiologic investigation, with respect to:
    • the choice of study population and design
    • measurement of the exposure, disease, and covariates
    • the data description and analytic method
    • the investigator’s interpretation of the study’s findings

MS in Health Services Research

Upon completing the requirements for the MS in Health Services Research graduates are able to:

  • Evaluate current trends in health care spending, finance, utilization of services, changes in organization, health care status, and incidence of disease
  • Choose appropriate solutions to issues in the measurement of health care outcomes and quality
  • Describe contributions (and limitations) of perspectives derived from the fields of sociology, political science, law, economics, epidemiology, and medicine
  • Locate, obtain, and apply appropriate publicly available data to solve health services research problems
  • Formulate testable hypotheses and choose the appropriate research methods to test that hypothesis
  • Apply methods and data analysis using both qualitative and quantitative techniques
  • Conduct a critical and analytical review of the health services literature
  • Identify design options that might compromise the efficiency of a study
  • Apply advanced statistical concepts including confidence intervals and hypothesis testing, sample size and power considerations, analysis of variance and multiple comparisons, correlation and regression, logistic regression, and survival analysis
  • Locate and utilize a broad range of databases and other resources for conducting health services and health policy research
  • Develop and conduct a peer review publishable research study in a topic area of interest
  • Communicate research findings to managers and policy makers

Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

Upon completion of the DrPH, graduates possess many competencies, shown here by category:


  • Analyze the impact of legislation, judicial opinions, regulations, and policies on population health
  • Develop evidence-based strategies for changing health law and policy
  • Utilize consensus-building, negotiation, and conflict avoidance and resolution techniques


  • Develop informational and persuasive communications
  • Employ evidence-based communication program models for disseminating research and evaluation outcomes
  • Explain program proposals and evaluations to lay, professional, and policy audiences

Community/Cultural Orientation

  • Apply research from anthropology, psychology, history, demography, sociology, and social epidemiology in national and international contexts
  • Develop collaborative partnerships with communities, policy makers, and other relevant groups
  • Assess cultural, environmental, and social justice influences on the health of communities

Critical Analysis

  • Interpret quantitative and qualitative data following current scientific standards and apply theoretical and evidence-based perspectives from multiple disciplines in the design and implementation of programs, policies, and systems
  • Synthesize information from multiple sources for research and practice and evaluate the performance and impact of health programs, policies, and systems
  • Identify and navigate the secondary data sources available for use at the regional and community levels internationally and in the US and understand and apply meta-analysis to evaluate policies, especially in situations involving inconsistent or limited data


  • Create a shared vision and articulate this vision to diverse groups, stakeholders, and other professional collaborators to achieve high standards of performance and accountability
  • Develop skilled teams and capacity-building strategies at the individual, organizational, and community level
  • Guide organizational decision-making and planning based on internal and external environmental research


  • Implement strategic planning processes
  • Evaluate organizational performance in relation to strategic and defined goals
  • Organize the work environment with defined lines of responsibility, authority, communication, and governance and develop financial and business plans for health programs and services

Professionalism and Ethics

  • Apply relevant ethical, legal, and human rights principles to difficult and controversial public health policy decisions while demonstrating a commitment to personal and professional values
  • Articulate the major ethical, legal, and human rights principles relevant to public health policy making, both in the US and internationally
  • Design strategies for resolving ethical concerns in research, law, and regulations

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

PhD in Environmental Health

Upon completing the requirements for the PhD in Environmental Health, graduates are able to:

  • Communicate the basic characteristics of major chemical, physical, and biological hazards and the properties that govern the hazards’ behavior in the environment
  • Explain the scientific characteristics (e.g., route of exposure, dose response, mode of action) of major chemical, physical, and biological hazards that result in human health risk
  • Explain and analyze genetic, physiologic, and social factors that affect the susceptibility to adverse health outcomes following exposure to environmental hazards
  • Critically evaluate and interpret the hypothesis, experimental design, methods, and results presented in a paper from a technical journal article in an environmental health discipline (toxicology, epidemiology, exposure assessment, environmental policy)
  • Identify data gaps and formulate testable hypotheses about critical questions in environmental health (epidemiology, toxicology, exposure assessment, environmental policy)
  • Design and implement data collection strategies and rigorous evaluations to test hypotheses using novel or current techniques
  • Analyze and interpret environmental health data
  • Identify appropriate intervention strategies for specific environmental health problems
  • Prepare scientific manuscripts for publication in peer-reviewed journals in the field of environmental health
  • Communicate scientific results at national and/or international conferences in the field of environmental health

PhD in Epidemiology

In addition to meeting the MS in Epidemiology competencies, upon completing the requirements for the PhD in Epidemiology graduates are able to:

  • Formulate research hypotheses that can be evaluated through empirical epidemiologic investigation
  • Critically evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of epidemiologic study designs applied to particular etiologic associations
  • Analyze and interpret epidemiologic studies using appropriate methods
  • Explain the theoretical underpinnings of epidemiology, including new and traditional study designs
  • Demonstrate understanding of sources of bias and approaches to evaluating and controlling bias
  • Demonstrate proficiency in data collection, data analysis, and written summaries of statistical analyses
  • Demonstrate expertise in at least one substantive area of epidemiology and apply that expertise to preparation of the dissertation proposal
  • Perform all the steps of conducting a hypothesis-driven epidemiologic study, from developing hypotheses, to designing, analyzing, and interpreting results, to writing up findings in the form of a publication-quality manuscript; as demonstrated by the PhD dissertation, which requires three manuscripts judged to be suitable for publication

PhD in Health Services Research

In addition to the MS in Health Services Research competencies, upon completion of the PhD in Health Services Research, the graduate is able to:

  • Acquire knowledge of the context of health and health care systems, institutions, and actors, and environment
  • Apply or develop theoretical and conceptual models relevant to health services research
  • Pose relevant and important research questions, evaluate them, and formulate solutions to health problems, practice, and policy
  • Use or develop a conceptual model to specify study constructs for a health services research question and develop variables that reliably and validly measure these constructs
  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of study designs to appropriately address specific health services research questions
  • Sample and collect primary health and health care data and/or assemble and manage existing data from public and private sources
  • Execute and document procedures that ensure the reproducibility of the science, the responsible use of resources, and the ethical treatment of research subjects
  • Demonstrate proficiency in the appropriate application of analytical techniques to evaluate health services research questions
  • Work collaboratively in teams within disciplines, across disciplines, and/or with stakeholders
  • Effectively communicate the process, findings, and implications of health services research through multiple modalities with stakeholders
  • Effectively translate knowledge to policy and practice