Students in the Master of Public Health Program are required to take 13 credits of electives. (Please note that students who matriculate in 2019 or after will be required to complete 7-8 elective credits.) Electives assist students to individualize their program of study and develop specialty skills.

Electives may be taken to enhance public health skills and knowledge or to improve knowledge gaps and deficits. The MPH Program has approved a list of elective courses that address the core and cross-cutting public health competencies and that are frequently taken by MPH students. The courses are categorized based on the master of public health competencies established by the Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health. Categorizing courses by competencies makes it easy for students to choose courses within a specific competency area.

In addition, while not all departmental courses are listed on the approved electives list, any PHS 500-level course or above is considered acceptable to be taken as an approved elective.

Students who wish to take a course for elective credit that does not appear on the approved electives list should seek individual approval from the Master of Public Health Program by contacting Mindy Schreiner, the student services coordinator. In general, courses should include 50 percent or more public health or public health-related content and must be at a 500 level or above. Students making a request to include a course as an elective must be prepared to make a justification as to why this course should be included in the student’s program plan and also provide a copy of the course syllabus.

Approved graduate certificates

Courses taken as part of an approved graduate-level certificate will count toward the MPH Program’s elective credits. All courses taken as part of the graduate certificates must be a 500 level course or above.

View more information on certificates

For complete up-to-date course offerings, please check UW-Madison’s Schedule of Classes and Course Guide.

Approved electives by competency


Biostatistics is the development and application of statistical reasoning and methods in addressing, analyzing and solving problems in public health; health care; and biomedical, clinical and population-based research.

Environmental health

Environmental health sciences represent the study of environmental factors including biological, physical and chemical factors that affect the health of a community.


Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease and injury in human populations and the application of this study to the control of health problems.

Health policy and management

Health policy and management is a multidisciplinary field of inquiry and practice concerned with the delivery, quality and costs of health care for individuals and populations. This definition assumes both a managerial and a policy concern with the structure, process and outcomes of health services including the costs, financing, organization, outcomes and accessibility of care.

Social and behavioral sciences

The social and behavioral sciences in public health address the behavioral, social and cultural factors related to individual and population health and health disparities over the life course. Research and practice in this area contributes to the development, administration and evaluation of programs and policies in public health and health services to promote and sustain healthy environments and healthy lives for individuals and populations.

Communication and informatics

The ability to collect, manage and organize data to produce information and meaning that is exchanged by use of signs and symbols; to gather, process, and present information to different audiences in person, through information technologies or through media channels; and to strategically design the information and knowledge exchange process to achieve specific objectives.

Diversity and culture

The ability to interact with both diverse individuals and communities to produce or impact an intended public health outcome.

Leadership and professionalism

The ability to create and communicate a shared vision for a changing future, champion solutions to organizational and community challenges, and energize commitment to goals.

Program planning

The ability to plan for the design, development, implementation and evaluation of strategies to improve individual and community health.

Public health biology

The ability to incorporate public health biology – the biological and molecular context of public health – into public health practice.

Systems thinking

The ability to recognize system level properties that result from dynamic interactions among human and social systems and how they affect the relationships among individuals, groups, organizations, communities, and environments.