FAQ for Doctoral Degrees

How does the PhD Program Differ From the DrPH?

It boils down to focus, coursework and length of training, and careersThe PhD and the DrPH 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 the length of training.

What is the typical funding package offered by the department? 

Beginning in the autumn of 2016, the Department of Sociomedical Sciences has offered five years of funding to accepted students in both the PhD and DrPH program. These five-year packages in some cases combine funding from existing NIH training programs or endowed scholarships with additional funds provided by the department and/or school. Over the course of their training, students are expected to complete 6-8 “rotations”, which will include training in research, teaching, and grant-writing.

Prospective students are encouraged to apply for external funding at the same time as they are applying to the program, and all SMS students are expected to submit applications for external funding. SMS doctoral students have an outstanding record of success with NSF Graduate Research Fellowships and with NIH F31 awards, and the department provides additional support. Unfortunately, NIH training programs are not applicable to international students.

How can I know if an SMS faculty member is taking new doctoral students?

Because of the small size of our program, the faculty who work with doctoral students (here’s the list of approved SMS dissertation sponsors) always welcome an opportunity to mentor students. Due to the large volume of applications, the small proportion of applicants admitted, and the fact that SMS does not use a ‘mentorship’ model of admissions in which students are admitted with an explicit commitment to working with a particular faculty member, we do not encourage prospective applicants to reach out directly to check with prospective mentors. The small and varying size of our cohorts reflects the funding we have for doctoral students and our commitment to providing five-years of support, rather than the quality of the pool; regrettably, we are not able to admit many extraordinary applicants. 

However, we do strongly encourage prospective students to list on their application which SMS faculty they would hope to have as mentors. We take mentorship extremely seriously, and the fit between a students’ theoretical and substantive foci and faculty expertise and interests is certainly weighed in admissions decisions. Once in SMS, students’ intellectual interests sometimes change and evolve, so that they end up working with a different faculty member than those listed on the application. Therefore, prospective students should know that listing faculty on the application is just one way that we assess an applicant’s fit with the department, rather than a hard and fast commitment to work only with those faculty.

Prospective students who have thoroughly reviewed the website and still have unanswered questions about the program are more than welcome to reach out to disciplinary (PhD) and programmatic (DrPH) liaisons, listed on the contact page, for more information. Current students are also a great source of information about the program; many are listed on the SMS doctoral students page

Can students in one concentration or program have a primary mentor who is in a different concentration or program? 

Yes. There are instances in which students concentrating in one discipline benefit from having a dissertation sponsor in another. Most students have faculty from another discipline or program as one of the five members of their dissertation committee. However, applicants should review the research interests of the faculty in Sociomedical Sciences, both in general and within the specific concentration or program to which they are applying, to ensure faculty are working in areas of interest.


An MPH or equivalent professional degree is required for students applying to the DrPH program.

A master’s degree is not required for application to the PhD program. However, admission is extremely competitive, and the majority of offers in recent years have gone to students with a master's degree. A small number of extraordinary students have been offered admission without having a master’s degree. Browse current student bios more info on typical applicant experience.

If the PhD is granted by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, why do students not apply through GSAS? 

As of Fall 2011, all Mailman School applications at the master’s and doctoral level were moved to the Schools of Public Health (SOPHAS) common application. The PhD degree continues to be granted by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The SOPHAS application contains a number of questions on public health work experience and public health leadership aspirations. While PhD applicants must answer those questions, these questions are not weighted heavily in the admissions process. For the PhD program, we seek students with a demonstrated capacity for academic excellence and the ability to ask innovative and important questions at the juncture of their discipline of choice and public health.

Where can I learn more about faculty and courses available in the GSAS departments in which PhD students take courses? 

Prospective students should look at the Arts and Sciences department pages for more information on faculty and courses: Anthropology, HistoryPsychology, and Sociology. After the first year, students may also take courses at NYU, the CUNY graduate center, Princeton, and other institutions that participate in the consortium. 

Where can I find bios and contact information for current students in the department? 

Most of our current students have online profiles - emails are linked to their profile heading. 

Who should I contact if I want to know more about the doctoral programs offered by Sociomedical Sciences? 

Please see the Contact Us page for complete information on whom to contact for general questions and for each concentration or program.