DFE > Frequently Asked Questions

Field Experience Team:

Jesse Casanova, MS
International Field Experience Administrator
(813) 974-4247

Kristin Moretto, PhD
Director of Experiential Learning
(813) 974-5878

Q: What is a Supervised Field Experience?

A: A Supervised Field Experience is an on site pre-professional placement that provides exposure to a public health issue or concern. Field Experience provides students with an opportunity to identify skills needed in a given field and gain practical work experience.

Q: Why must I serve a Field Experience?

A: A Field Experience is one of three culminating experiences for students seeking the MPH and the Industrial Hygiene MSPH. Students are expected to complete their Field Experience in an organization, agency, or community that provides planning or services relevant to public health. Your Field Experience will help further develop skills or competencies learned in your academic program as you have the opportunity to take theory you have learned in the classroom and apply it in a real world public health setting.

Practical experience is a critical part of professional preparation. It contributes meaningfully to a student's plan and vision for his/her public health career development. Students learn a great deal about organizational structure, collaborative team work and management skills, via the field experience.  They also are able to explore a profession or field of public health prior to graduation.

Q: What are the benefits of a Field Experience?

A: The benefits are two fold:
Professional Preparation
  • Provide community service
  • Integrate theory with practice
  • Identify areas for research
  • Analyze community health problem
Career Development
  • Gain work experience
  • Explore career options
  • Define career objectives
  • Develop contacts for the future

Q: When should I start looking for a Field Experience?

A: The second semester of your first year in the program is a good time to start exploring field experience possibilities. At the latest, begin looking for a field experience two semesters prior to your desired placement. Students participating in an international field experience should begin the process one year from the desired placement date. DFE and IFE students should have their placement secured one semester in advance of beginning the field experience.

Q: When should I register for a Field Experience?

A:Students should successfully complete all core classes before applying/registering for Field Experience. It is critical that students have knowledge and understanding of the key areas of Public Health. Students must register for their Field Experience during the semester when they intend to serve the Field Experience.

Q: How long is my Field Experience?

A: Your Field Experience can range from 1-12 credit hours, as determined by your academic advisor. The advisor will examine your educational and professional backgrounds, as well as departmental guidelines, to determine the number of credit hours that you must fulfill.  Note that 1credit hour = 45 contact hours that the field site.
The Field Experience may last one semester or may span several semesters.

Q: How and where do I find a Field Experience?

Q: How do I register for the Supervised Field Experience?

A: Review the field experience timeline and steps found at http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/academicaffairs/fe/dfe/stepstimeline.html.

Q: What resources are available for finding a Field Experience?

  • Review the field experience opportunities that are posted on the COPH student listserv and in the COPH student lobby
  • Review the list of previous field experience sites found at http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/academicaffairs/fe/pdf/Former%20Sites.pdf
  • Visit your academic department and speak with your faculty advisor, other professors and your academic coordinator about their recommendations for field experience
  • Contact the field placement coordinator for information on previous field experience sites
  • Utilize the Internet to research internships and field experience opportunities at organizations where you would like to work

    Q: Are Field Experiences paid?

    A: A field experience can be paid or unpaid.  The typical wage for paid field experiences is approximately $8-15 per hour.  In lieu of an hourly wage some field experiences will offer:
      • Stipend-A fixed some of money paid directly to the student
      • Tuition waiver-Money paid directly to USF to cover all or a portion of the tuition fees association with field experience
      • Transportation assistance-Mileage reimbursement or a fixed amount to assist with transportation to and from the field site
      • Housing allowance-Housing dedicated for student interns or money to offset/pay for hotel accommodations
      • Note that some sites (especially non-profits) are unable to offer any of the above

    Q: How do I develop my Field Experience?

    A: The best field experience is specifically tailored to a student's academic and career interests.  This is usually obtained when the placement is researched and obtained by the student.  There are four steps for developing your own field experience:
    1. Determine your academic and career goals
    2. Research the desired field of interest
    3. Network with others with the field of interest
    4. Contact field experience sites within the field of interest

    Q: How do I obtain a waiver for field experience?

    A:In compliance with the Council on Education for Public Health, the college's accrediting body who now requires field experience for all students and sets the standard for FE across all schools of public health, full waivers are not granted.

    However, if a student or faculty advisor desires a reduction in field experience hours, then:
    • Submit a written request to Dr. Rita Debate, Associate Dean of Graduate Studies
    • The request should clearly articulate that the student has at least three years of experience directly related to their concentration for each credit hour to be reduced
    • The request should be signed by the student's faculty advisor and department chair.

    Q: I am earning a dual degree with social work (MPH/MSW). What are my FE requirements in public health?

    A:The FE/practicum for dual degree students is primarily coordinated in the School of Social Work. However, public health students must obtain their COPH faculty advisor's approval prior to beginning the practicum sequence in social work. The COPH faculty advisor's approval will ensure that dual degree students also meet the requirements of the MPH field placement. Once approved, students should submit the following documentation to the FE office and their COPH faculty advisor over the course of their practicum.
    1. Field practicum application
    2. Field practicum planning agreement
    3. Field learning plan
    4. Process recording
    5. Field performance evaluation (Sequences 1-3)

    Q: May I conduct my Field Experience at my place of employment?

    A: According to the Council on Education for Public Health, the accrediting body for the USF COPH, "If the student can do a placement only in his or her regular place of employment, the assignment must extend beyond or be something other than his or her regular work duties and allow application of knowledge and skills being learned." Additionally, the college prefers that the student's job and FE supervisor not be the same person. Finally, students are encouraged to designate a portion of their workday/week solely for FE. This delineation will help the student and colleagues/supervisor to not allow the FE to infringe upon work time and vice versa.

    Q: I am an international student. Do I still have to complete an international field placement for global health practice?

    A: Yes and no. As a courtesy, the Global Health Department will allow international students to complete a domestic field placement. However, a few conditions must be met:
    • the domestic placement should still be international in nature
    • the domestic placement will be for six credit hours

    Q: I need a background check for my field experience. What is the process?

    A:Students are responsible for requesting and paying for their background check. To initiate the process, visit American DataBank at https://secure2.americandatabank.com/university_south_florida/package.asp and select the option for COPH students. As the sole person requesting the background check, students will be the only party to receive results. It is their responsibility to share the results with the FE supervisor, if requested.

    Note that it will take anywhere between 3-6 weeks to complete the process and receive results. The search is dependent upon how quickly the student completes all forms and mails them back to American DataBank, as well as the time the FBI takes to process the information.

    Q: I am an undergraduate student. Can I participate in field experience?

    A:No, but you do have options:

    Visit http://health.usf.edu/publichealth/undergrad/opportunities.htm for a list of service, internship and other opportunities.

    Q: I am earning a DrPH. What are my FE (practice-based specialized study/ internship) requirements in public health?

    A: First, students should visit http://health.usf.edu/NR/rdonlyres/7B36180A-A4EA-46DB-8DE5-979CD8986C51/0/DrPHStudentManual11011.pdf to familiarize themselves with the student handbook for their academic program. The practice section is on pages 12-16.

    Second, the internship for DrPH students is coordinated primarily between the student's major professor(s) and field supervisor. Review the DrPH manual for specific guidelines.

    Third, copies of any documentation/materials—specialized study contract, internships plan, learning objectives, description of deliverables, letter of acceptance, reports, presentations, abstracts, etc.--that relate to/or are produced during the internship should be directed to the student's major professor(s) and copies given to the FE office over the course of their internship.