Master of Public Health

Welcome, FHS MPH students

The information here is for current MPH students. As questions arise, refer back here over the course of your graduate studies.

Course Planning

Course substitutions

Course substitution refers to the substitution of a course in a student’s degree program. Course substitutions in the MPH program will only be considered in exceptional circumstances. Students must submit a course substitution request for each course they wish to substitute over the course of their degree program, available in the forms and documents page.


Bridging theory and practice in different public and community health settings, the practicum is a planned, supervised and evaluated practice experience where you are mentored and supported by qualified public health preceptors and faculty.

The practicum is a unique opportunity for MPH students to learn how to apply public health concepts, methods and theory in public health settings in Canada or globally. All students undertake the practicum in the summer of the first year at the beginning of May in a designated workplace for 11 weeks. After the practicum and upon return to the program in the fall, students prepare and present a poster summarizing the practicum experience at a celebratory event in October.

Since 2007, MPH students have completed their practicum with 214 different organizations located in 112 cities and 55 countries worldwide. Students of the MPH program complete their practicum in locations locally, nationally and internationally, and the faculty keeps a sample list of past practicum locations for your reference. Many consider the experience to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Refer to the full practicum guide for more information.

The practicum process:

The Coordinator, Public Health Practice oversees the planning of practicum and works with practice partners to identify practicum opportunities for students every year. Students can elect to find their own practicums in consultation with the Coordinator and Director of Public Heath Practice. Practicum preparation begins in two core concept courses HSCI 900 and HSCI 901 where you will prepare and be coached so you are ready. At the end of the fall semester in HSCI 900, all available practicum opportunities are posted in a practicum portal for students to review and consider their fit. In January as part of HSCI 901, students are invited to apply for opportunities of interest by submitting a cover letter, resume and writing sample.

Site preceptor’s select and interview prospective students typically in February and March. Once a student has been offered and accepts a practicum, they develop a practicum plan in consultation with their preceptor. The practicum plan is the terminal assignment for HSCI 901 which is reviewed and approved by both the preceptor and the HSCI 901 course instructor at end of the course in April. In addition to the practicum plan, all students must submit pre-departure forms to the practicum portal before they can be enrolled HSCI 880 and begin their practicum in May.

All practicum students are considered full-time in the term of their practicum. This is important for student visas as well as for funding such as loans, awards and bursaries. Print your own confirmation of enrollment letter to show your full-time status.   

If you need a visa letter, contact the Coordinator, Public Health Practice at

Poster examples

Capstone or thesis?

Every MPH student must complete either a capstone or a thesis.


The MPH capstone takes the form of an authentic, complex case study where students will work collaboratively to: 

  • specify and examine the issues and populations impacted;
  • apply secondary data to understand the issues;
  • propose an appropriate conceptual framework(s) for analyzing and synthesizing the data and finally will propose recommendations for comprehensive solution(s) that will address the challenge.

The case inquiry will require teamwork, reflexivity and problem-solving.

The capstone includes an intensive week in late April culminating in a presentation of videos by project groups that addresses a complex case study.  Plan ahead so that you  are available for this mandatory course in your last term.

Master’s thesis

Students interested in the thesis option, in place of the project, are required to secure a supervisor from the Faculty of Health Sciences. Availability of the thesis option will depend on a faculty member’s interests and schedule. Students taking the thesis option will spend a minimum of two additional terms in the program in order to meet the full requirements of the thesis. Students considering the thesis option are encouraged to review faculty research interests by consulting the Faculty profiles on the FHS People Directory page.

Students who pursue this option need to complete a thesis proposal, thesis and oral thesis defence according to SFU regulations. You may need to obtain relevant ethics, biosafety, and experimental animal handling approvals prior to starting your research. You can reference the FHS MSc section of this handbook for more information as well as the Graduate General Regulations of the SFU Calendar. Students will now reference the guidelines and procedures documents, which will be found on the ‘Forms and Documents’ page.

In the term in which you are ready to defend, you’re required to enroll in HSCI 898 (Master’s Thesis). If you don’t defend your thesis in the intended term, you must continue to enroll in HSCI 898 until you’ve successfully defended your thesis. Thesis students still need to complete a practicum.

Thesis students will complete at least 49 units, which includes all MPH core courses, electives and the thesis (HSCI 898-6). As a thesis student, you can expect your time in the MPH program to be extended by at least one to two terms.