How to Find Public Health Internships for MPH Students

As public health issues become increasingly complex, those who enter this field will need the education and experience to meet these challenges. Public health internships are a great way to gain work experience, learn new skills and find a specialization for public health students. Internships may have the potential to influence the course of students’ post-academic careers in public health and potentially lead to employment opportunities. 

There are various public health internships at different levels that students can apply for. Here are five organizations that offer public health internships and are open to master’s level students in public health fields. 

Most of the organizations highlighted on this page provide the opportunity to participate in programs and projects that contribute to the organization’s mission and improve public health. Public health interns may assist with research projects, grant writing, event planning and much more. If you are currently enrolled in a Master of Public Health (MPH) program, below are a list of public health internships, along with helpful tips on finding an internship and how to apply for one.

1. The World Health Organization (WHO) Internships

The World Health Organization (WHO) offers a robust MPH internship program with specific objectives. This includes exposing students to WHO’s work, supplementing the educational experience through practical assignments, and allowing interns to provide input on the programs. Public health students with a global health concentration or interest in WHO may find this internship rewarding.

  • Internship timing: Programs vary between six and 24 weeks.
  • Compensation: Stipends provided depending on location and program.
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • At least 20 years of age when you apply.
    • Must be enrolled in a course of graduate or postgraduate study.
    • Must have completed three years of full-time studies.
    • Must possess a degree in public health or similar field.
    • Must not be related to a WHO staff member, have no previous participation in the program, and have a valid passport.

2. The American Public Health Association (APHA) Internships

The American Public Health Association (APHA) offers a variety of internships in public health policy, environmental health, global health and more. There are also internships available for students who want to work on APHA campaigns and projects, such as the Get Ready campaign.

  • Internship timing: The APHA hosts three internships per year in the fall, spring and summer. A commitment of a minimum of 20 hours per week for a minimum of eight weeks is preferred.
  • Compensation: Internships are all unpaid, but internships may be eligible for academic credit.
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • Both undergraduates and graduates are welcome to apply (must be enrolled in school).
    • All majors are accepted.
    • Applicants need to submit an application for each program they are interested in.
    • Specific requirements may vary between programs.

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Internships

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), partnering with different organizations and universities, offers multiple internships and fellowships programs for master’s students to gain hands-on experience in different work settings. Programs cover areas of specialties in environmental health, infectious diseases and more, as well as fellowships in different departments of the CDC. Here are some of the internships available:

Administrative and Communication Internships and Externships

  • Internship timing: 9-14 weeks
  • Compensation: Unpaid
  • Eligibility requirements: Currently enrolled in master’s-level programs earning degrees in public health, public policy, public administration, communication, business or similar disciplines.

CDC Summer Graduate Environmental Health (GEH) Internship

  • Internship timing: Nine weeks
  • Compensation: Paid
  • Eligibility requirements: Graduate students who are enrolled full time in a program applicable to environmental health.

Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN) Health Equity Internship

  • Internship timing: 12 weeks
  • Compensation: Paid
  • Eligibility requirements: Undergraduate and graduate students from minority-serving institutions.

National Environmental Public Health Internship Program (NEPHIP)

  • Internship timing: 10 weeks
  • Compensation: Paid
  • Eligibility requirements: Current sophomore, junior, senior or graduate students at the time the application is submitted with the majority of courses in environmental health focus areas. Must be with an EHAC accredited environmental health academic program.

ORISE CDC Research and Fellowships Opportunities:

  • Internship timing: Varies
  • Compensation: Paid
  • Eligibility requirements: Undergraduate, graduate, post-master’s, doctoral and postdoctoral applicants can apply.
  • Fellowship examples: Epidemiology, public health, infectious disease surveillance and health policy. Note that the postings may be updated frequently.

CDC short-term internships help students with an interest in learning more about public health, leadership, critical thinking and providing solutions to protect the public’s health. If you are interested in becoming an epidemiologist, internship or fellowships at CDC might be an option to consider. 

4. Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) Internships

Those who wish to pursue a public health career in the nonprofit sector may find the Society of Public Health Education (SOPHE) internship program beneficial. Students accepted to this program are studying public health, health policy, health promotion and health education; however, students from other majors may be eligible. Past program participants have gotten to plan SOPHE-sponsored events, create communications plans for National Health Week, and assist with research.

  • Internship timing: Summer, fall and spring internship sessions for 12-13 weeks. Application deadlines are several months before program start dates.
  • Compensation: Not specified, but academic credit is available. Other fellowships listed on the SOPHE website mention stipends.
  • Eligibility requirements:
    • Most candidates are enrolled in college or graduate school, or are recent graduates.
    • Must be able to live in Washington, D.C., for the duration of internship.
    • At least two or more years of completed coursework with a 3.0 GPA or above is preferred.
    • Public health background preferred.

5. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Internships

The emphasis of the HRSA’s internship program is on professional development and growth as students are HRSA ambassadors. Programs evolve and change with the needs of the administration, but are always relevant and timely. They are all skills-based and support HRSA programs. An HRSA internship may be ideal for someone looking for a career in public health policy, however any MPH student may benefit from this program.

  • Internship timing: Internships are a full semester.
  • Compensation: Internships are unpaid.
  • Eligibility requirements: Must be an undergraduate or graduate enrolled in an accredited U.S. University in a School of Public Health.

Tips on How to Find Public Health Internships

To find the public health internship that is right for you, determine what your ideal role and agency look like. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your areas of interest?
  • Will your future job require experience within the field, or can you complete any public health internship?
  • Are you looking for compensation or academic credit?
  • Are you interested in an internship that can lead to employment with that organization?
  • Would you prefer to complete the internship during the semester?
  • Would you like to intern at an agency, government office or private nongovernmental organization?

Once you have answered those questions, you can take a look at some of the organizations highlighted above to get started or do additional research. Make sure you give yourself enough time to apply, especially if it is a seasonal internship. To find an internship, you may need to try multiple sources.

Visit Your School’s Career Center 

A visit to your school’s career center to meet with a placement advisor can help you navigate your internship options, particularly if you have a difficult time locating internships or settling on a choice. Some schools also offer online appointments for those who can’t come to the campus. 

A helpful tip is to see if your school has any partnerships with agencies in which they have a history of placing students. The information on upcoming careers networking events or webinars organized by schools or partners usually can be found on the school’s website as well.

Search Job Postings Online 

There are many general career databases to help you get started. If using one of these, try searching for public health phrases like “epidemiology internships” or “community health promoter” to narrow your results. You may be able to set up job alerts when new, relevant positions are available.

Some companies may only post positions on their own websites. If you know of some organizations, check to see if they list internship or career opportunities

Your school’s program may also list internship opportunities on the department’s website. Many colleges and universities have their own job databases as well.

Reach Out to Your Network

Networking becomes increasingly beneficial as you explore internships, practicums and careers. Use your network as well as your online network to help make contacts. Bridge the gap and set yourself apart from other candidates by having a personal introduction and/or recommendation if at all possible.

If you don’t already have a network, begin to build one. Talk with professors, other students and mentors to see what opportunities are available. If your program has a special event or hosts a guest lecturer, consider attending. Check on the school websites frequently to see if there are any upcoming careers networking events. You never know who you’ll meet. 

Just remember, before you go to each event or reach out to your contacts, it’s best to do some research on the industries or employers you are interested in. Equipped with that information, you may come up with specific questions and the people can better address your questions as well.

Tips to Apply to Public Health Internships

Your educational background, previous experience, and skills that you have gained will position you to remain competitive throughout your internship and job search. Here are some tips to help you apply:

  • Develop a strong academic resume.
  • Draw on previous experience. Even if you don’t have relevant work experience, use personal or educational experience to illustrate your abilities. 
  • Do your homework before the interview. Research the company, the program and any relevant news stories or current events.
  • Customize your resume to highlight the knowledge and skills required by the employers
  • Compile a list of interview questions to show the agency that you are serious about the role. 

Public health internships can enhance the educational experience for MPH students, offering real-time, relevant work experience. No matter if students are enrolled in a traditional on-campus Master of Public Health (MPH) program or an online MPH program, gaining hands-on experience in the real world is an important step for them to learn more about their potential careers. View our career guides if you are interested in one of the following public health roles:

Information updated June 2020