Doctoral Training


The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is designed to prepare public health professionals to make substantive contributions to public health inquiry and practice. Public health professionals are focused on health promotion, disease prevention, and programs aimed at specific problems that disproportionately affect minority and economically disadvantaged groups. The PhD is a research degree and is granted after the student has shown proficiency and distinctive achievement in a specific field, has demonstrated the ability to do original, independent investigation, and has presented these findings with a high degree of literary skill in a dissertation.

  • Granted in recognition of high attainment in a specified field of knowledge.
  • Is a research degree and is not conferred solely upon the earning of credit or the completion of courses.
  • This degree requires a minimum of 55 credits post-masters.


Doctoral Milestones are a set of target activities that PhD students work towards during their 4-5 years of training. Starting with the most basic levels of achievement in each category, students gain experience and skills in Research, Teaching and Professional Development to prepare them for their next steps after completing their PhD. This may be a post-doctoral fellowship, an academic position as an Assistant Professor, or an entry position in a research or corporate setting. Students who graduate from the USF College of Public Health doctoral program are better prepared for these next steps because they have built a consistent and impressive portfolio of Doctoral Milestones – and our program helps them achieve these skills right from their first day of the program!

Examples of Doctoral Milestones:

Research skills – Grant writing, manuscript preparation, authorship of published manuscripts, presentations at professional conferences, experience on research studies

Teaching skills – Teaching assistantships, Instructor of Record experience, extensive teaching preparation and skill-building programs

Professional development – Preparation of materials for post-graduate positions, such as professional CVs, teaching and research statements, research presentation materials, cover letters, interviewing skills

The College of Public Health PhD students are supported by fellowships, which include tuition waivers and health insurance, research assistantships and graduate teaching assistantships, for which they apply and are appointed.

Additional opportunities are available for graduate students to obtain funding for graduate education. These options can typically be classified into three areas:

  1. National Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants: These are funds that are awarded by national, regional, or private agencies to individual graduate students.
  2. College, Department or Program Scholarships and Fellowships: Students are also encouraged to review their specific college website, and also the USF Foundation Scholarships page.
  3. USF Office of Graduate Studies Scholarships and Fellowships: The USF Office of Graduate Studies offers fellowship opportunities for new and continuing students. Some of these fellowships are only available to students through nominations by their Major/Department, while others are available by direct submission from students who meet the eligibility requirements outlined below.

For more information on these and other funding opportunities please visit the Office of Graduate Studies website.

On average, the doctoral program requires four to five years for completion following the Master’s or other advanced degree. The College of Public Health PhD program is delivered primarily on-campus. Students are required to be in or regularly commute to the Tampa for the duration of their program.


Below are concentrations in the College of Public Health in which a PhD can be earned.

  • Biostatistics

    The PhD concentration in Biostatistics provides advanced training and research opportunities in statistical theory and biostatistical methods. Skills taught are utilized in a wide spectrum of fields, including epidemiology, mental health services, environmental health, clinical trials and health services research. With a curriculum that is both interdisciplinary and adaptive to individual student needs and interests, the program prepares students for a career as a methodologist in academia, government, industries and health care organizations.

    Biostatistics involves the development and application of statistical techniques to scientific research in health-related fields. These fields include medicine, biology and public health. From the beginning of the 20th century, the field of biostatistics has been at the quantitative core of efforts to improve health and reduce illness. Biostatisticians play indispensable roles in designing studies and analyzing data as diverse as the testing of new drugs to combat AIDS, evaluating interventions to reduce drug and alcohol addiction, determining risk factors for heart disease, regulating environmental hazards and protecting food safety. Today biostatistics is becoming the backbone of informatics to process massive data that are generated on an unprecedented scale.

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  • Community and Family Health

    The educational goal of the PhD concentration in Community and Family Health is to prepare public health professionals to meet the challenges of improving the health status of families and the overall community.

    The concentration focuses on:

    1. Analysis of the health status and needs of a population, including social, behavioral and demographic factors and characteristics
    2. Health promotion and education
    3. Client and community-based intervention strategies
    4. Development and evaluation of community and family health programs

    This concentration and its faculty provide students with excellent research opportunities in domestic and international arenas through basic and applied research; conducting innovative community-based demonstration programs; providing consultation and technical assistance to agencies and communities; and providing continuing-education programs.

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  • Environmental and Occupational Health

    The Environmental and Occupational Health PhD concentration is designed to develop researchers in the broad field of industrial hygiene, occupational health, environmental health, toxicology and risk assessment. Graduates of the doctoral program will be qualified to conduct fundamental and applied research in the identification, evaluation and prevention of environmental and occupational health exposures and problems. The concentration offers a distinguished teaching and research curriculum that provides a sound basis for doctoral study.

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  • Epidemiology

    The Epidemiology PhD concentration is intended for individuals who wish to obtain an advanced understanding of public health with an emphasis on its epidemiologic principles and methods. Epidemiology, considered a fundamental science of public health, is the study of the distribution and determinants of disease and disability in populations. Epidemiology is historically rooted in the study of the causes of infectious diseases (epidemics); however, through industrial development and the demographic transition during the 20th century, epidemiology now encompasses the study of all types of health conditions.

    The knowledge and skills obtained through the concentration will enable graduates to characterize the health status of communities, critically evaluate research on determinants of health-related events, formulate strategies to evaluate the impact of health-related interventions and foster the application of epidemiologic methods for health-promotion/disease-prevention activities at the community level.

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  • Genomics

    The Genomics concentration within the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) program in Public Health is designed to provide students with in-depth training in high-throughput genomic data analysis and interpretation. Upon completion of their degree, graduates of the Genomics concentration will be able to demonstrate mastery of genomic data analysis and interpretation in fields relevant to public health (e.g., human population health, infectious disease, environmental health). The program offers a distinguished teaching and research program that provides a sound basis for doctoral study. The PhD concentration in Genomics encompasses a wide variety of research interests. Some of the major areas of investigation among our affiliated faculty include Population Genomics, Genetics of Human Disease, Genomics of Stress-related Mental Disorders, Molecular Parasitology, Systems Biology of Host-microbe Interactions, and Evolutionary and Genomic Underpinnings of Pregnancy. These topics can serve as research areas for a PhD candidate’s research and training.

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  • Global Health

    The PhD concentration in Global Communicable Disease prepares students to be qualified to conduct fundamental and applied research in the identification, evaluation and prevention of tropical and communicable diseases. The Global Communicable Disease PhD concentration encompasses a wide variety of research interests, including Genomics, Molecular Parasitology and Infectious Disease Ecology.

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    * IDE = Infectious Disease Ecology; GEN = Genomics; MP = Molecular Parasitology

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  • Health Services Research

    The PhD concentration in Health Services Research prepares students for research careers in in a multidisciplinary field that examines outcomes and effects health services for individuals and populations. Graduates of the concentration will be able to use their knowledge and skills, related to the structures, performance, quality, policy and societal context of health and health care, to formulate solutions for health policy problems.

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