Focus | Coursework and Length of Training | Careers

At the heart of Sociomedical Sciences’ intellectual community, our doctoral programs offer cutting-edge training under the directon of some of the world’s leading social and behavioral scientists, historians, and public health researchers. Through coursework, opportunities to work alongside faculty on their own research, and students’ own dissertation research, our students become scholars who use social science theory and methods to address public health’s most pressing questions. 

For the PhD, students concentrate in a specific discipline (anthropology, history, political science, psychology and sociology). The DrPH is intended for students with a Master’s in Public Health and an interest in a social and behavioral scientific orientation, rather than in a particular discipline. Both programs offer research-oriented training, and our graduates secure positions at academic institutions, public health agencies, not-for-profit agencies, and the private sector.


The PhD and the DrPH are both research-oriented training, and graduates from both programs go on to academic careers as well as into the public or private sectors. They differ in the level of engagement with a specific discipline (as opposed to a more general social and behavioral science perspective), in coursework, and in length of training.

Coursework and Length of Training

Students in the PhD program complete coursework in the discipline in which they concentrate as well as in public health. The DrPH coursework consists primarily of courses at the Mailman School of Public Health. The doctoral program handbook provides specific information about course requirements and other milestones.

Students in the DrPH program, who are required to complete fewer credits, frequently finish coursework in three semesters. PhD students take up to three years, although applicants with a master’s degree (either in social science or in public health) can apply for advanced standing and so may complete the coursework in two years. PhD students must also fulfill additional requirements for advanced training in their chosen discipline. For both degrees, students are expected to complete their training within seven years, but it is not unusual for students to complete the DrPH in six years.


Graduates of both the DrPH and PhD programs secure positions at leading research and teaching institutions, both in the United States and around the world, or in senior roles at government and non-governmental agencies. Read profiles of some SMS doctoral program alumni, and job titles of DrPH and PhD program graduates to get a sense of the different opportunities available to graduates.