Frequently Asked Questions about Practicum

What is a practicum?

A practicum is an individualized, mentored, experiential learning opportunity that serves as a bridge between a student’s academic training and applied public health practice.  The goal of the MPH practicum is to provide students the opportunity to use knowledge and skills acquired in the academic program in a practice setting, under the direction of a supervisor whom is a health care practitioner. The practicum also affords an opportunity to apply competencies that are combined with a student’s academic coursework.

What are the practicum requirements?

The MPH curriculum requires students to complete a minimum of 200 hours of practical fieldwork experience in a public health practice setting. The practicum is intended to be a mutually beneficial experience for both the student and the organization.

What are the preceptor requirements?

A qualified preceptor must commit time to supervising a student throughout the experience and provide feedback on the student’s work. The preceptor should have knowledge of the project area and work with the student to develop the practicum project in order to guide a student throughout the process. Preceptors should hold an MPH preferably or other related graduate degree. The site supervisor cannot be the student’s current faculty advisor or regular work supervisor. 

How to become a practicum site?

A site supervisor should contact the Master of Public Health Practicum Coordinator, Dr. Karen Niemchick, at [email protected] to express interest in hosting a GVSU MPH student for practicum and to begin the process of completing an Affiliation Agreement prior to the initiation of a student’s practicum experience (if necessary).

A site supervisor should identify a project for students to complete with several objectives to be completed for consideration. This can be done along with a student in mind, or in request of a student to fill a specific need for the organization.

What is affiliation agreement?

Affiliation agreements are required for all practicum sites. An affiliation agreement is a legal document spelling out the responsibilities of and between the practicum site and the university. It is an agreement between institutions, not individuals. The agreement is essentially a risk management document which protects all parties should difficulties arise throughout the practicum.

What knowledge and skills do students bring to the practicum?

Students should begin a practicum after their completion of the appropriate core coursework and after receiving approval from their faculty advisor. The practicum should be scheduled when best suited to meet the student and participating organization's needs, primarily in year 2 of the student’s coursework.

Students who have fulfilled the following compliance criteria will be eligible for the practicum:

  • Good standing and appropriate coursework completed
  • Departmental faculty advisor approval
  • Blood-borne Pathogens training completed
  • Training on Ebola and/or contemporary virus(es) threat completed
  • HIPAA Training completed
  • Program Compliance Completed
  • CITI Training Program completed (must be valid through the practicum period)
  • Attended GVSU MPH Practicum Bootcamp
  • Completed and signed MPH Practicum Learning Agreement

Can the practicum be a paid experience?

A practicum site should provide resources and/or material assistance as necessary. While compensation is not required, many students would welcome a paid practicum, if available. Compensation for the practicum varies significantly by the type of organization, project, and location. Students can be compensated at an hourly rate or by a stipend.

What do students do during their practicum?

The practicum experience is ideally project-based and allows students to work alongside public health professionals to solve real-world problems while enhancing their own skills and networking in the field.

Practicum activities and objectives vary in accordance with the practicum site’s needs and the student’s interests and learning objectives.

Examples of practicum activities include:

  • Coding or recoding data
  • Conducting a literature review
  • Curriculum development
  • Data analysis
  • Database management
  • Development of social marketing materials
  • Evaluation (planning, instrument development, reporting)
  • Formative research (interviews, focus groups, surveys)
  • Grant writing
  • Implementation of a health intervention
  • IRB application development, submission, and/or renewal
  • Program planning
  • Qualitative data collection
  • Quantitative data collection
  • Questionnaire/survey design
  • Report writing


What is the timeline for offering a practicum opportunity and selecting a practicum student?

Spring/Summer 2023 semester

  • Students to complete program compliance and confirm placement site with practicum coordinator by February 15, 2023

Fall 2023 semester

  • Students to complete program compliance and confirm placement site with practicum coordinator by June 15, 2023

Winter 2024 semester

  • Students to complete program compliance and confirm placement site with practicum coordinator by September 15, 2023

Spring/Summer 2024 semester

  • Students to complete program compliance and confirm placement site with practicum coordinator by February 15, 2024

If you are interested in hosting one or more GVSU MPH students for a future practicum experience, please contact Dr. Niemchick via email at [email protected] or call our main office at (616) 331-5570. At that time, we can begin discussing next steps, including identification of a Preceptor and potential practicum projects of interest to you and your organization.

On behalf of the GVSU MPH program, thank you for your consideration of participation in the MPH program practicum experience. We look forward to working with you!

Page last modified July 19, 2023