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Applied Practice Experience (APEx)

MPH students complete an Applied Practice Experience (similar to an internship) to apply classroom learning, develop practical skills, and demonstrate public health competency attainment.

The Applied Practice Experience (APEx) is a 240-hour (minimum) work experience enabling graduate students to develop and demonstrate public health competencies while contributing to projects that benefit the organization.

The Applied Practice Experience site is selected by students based on their career and educational goals. The Applied Practice Experience typically occurs during the last semester in order to serve as a springboard for the MPH graduates’ next steps. Within one year of graduation, our students have had a 100% job placement rate, which means they are either employed or pursuing further education. The university’s Center for Career Development & Academic Exploration provides extensive job search and career resources for students and alumni.

The Applied Practice Experience contributes an important professional preparation dimension to the MPH program. MPH candidates have the opportunity to actively integrate theory and concepts with practical experience in a variety of locations and settings. Over 200 agencies and facilities in thirty-two states have provided practice sites for the program. Graduate students have competed successfully for placements in highly visible settings, including federal agencies. The involvement of practicing health professionals in the education of MPH students is a recognized strength of the MPH program. See examples of APEx in Action.

Faculty are dedicated to public health outreach and strongly believe in the value of experiential-based graduate education. Through the individualized Applied Practice Experience, students benefit by developing their skills and competencies outside the classroom setting; and the precepting agencies receive the benefits of the interns’ enthusiasm, knowledge, and expanding skills.

Applied Practice Experience Information and Forms

  • APEx Guidelines for Preceptors (.pdf) –  An overview of the requirements and preceptor responsibilities for the Applied Practice Experience.
  • APEx Guidelines for Students (.pdf) – An overview of the requirements, student responsibilities, and deliverables for the Applied Practice Experience.
  • APEx Handbook (.pdf)—A detailed list of responsibilities for the student, university, and field site
  • APEx Timeline (.pdf) –  A timeline of steps for MPH students to prepare and plan for their Applied Practice Experience.
  • Assessment and Interest Form (.pdf) – A brainstorming and self-assessment form for students to complete when planning for their Applied Practice Experience.
  • Learning Agreement – Students must complete this agreement with their preceptor before registering for PUBH 587 and beginning APEx contract hours. This agreement serves as confirmation of a student’s APEx placement. (Example Form)
  • MPH Competencies (.pdf) – Appropriate intern projects must demonstrate at least five public health competencies (three foundational and two concentration) and result in at least two products that are useful to the field site.
  • Student Request Form — Students must complete this request with an updated resume at least 4-5 months prior to the start of the Applied Practice Experience. Suggested resume format (.pdf)
  • Tips for finding an APEx (.pdf)


  • Spring internships should be confirmed by November 20th.
  • Summer internships should be confirmed by April 15th.
  • Fall internships (less common) should be confirmed by July 15th.

The student is ultimately responsible. The APEx coordinator and faculty advisors will support the intern by providing a list of past field sites and sharing contacts of prospective sites. However, it is the student’s responsibility to contact the field site and secure a placement.

Students can request a list of past field sites and current partnerships from the APEx coordinator. Students are encouraged to seek out a variety of opportunities as there are multiple agencies that could be appropriate field sites including clinics, hospitals, non-profits, schools, government contractors, consulting firms, etc.

Students complete their APEx in the final or second to final semester prior to graduation. Foundational and concentration courses should be completed so that students can use the knowledge and skills from those courses during the APEx. Final decisions on when a student can complete their APEx are made by the faculty advisor and APEx coordinator.

It’s never too early! Begin thinking about your interests and career goals early. This may shift as you take new classes and progress through the MPH program and that’s okay! Network, research organizations in your desired concentration/location, and contact your faculty advisor and/or the Career Center for guidance on creating a quality resume and cover letter. Attend the first year and second-year APEx orientation sessions hosted by the APEx coordinator. The earlier you begin researching and connecting with potential field sites, the greater chance of success during your Applied Practice Experience.

Satisfactory/No Credit. The APEx coordinator and faculty advisor determines if a student has met requirements for a Satisfactory grade.

An intern could receive a Satisfactory Incomplete (SI) for reasons such as: not submitting all the required reports on time, not incorporating requested edits/revisions to reports, or not meeting the minimum requirements in terms of contact hours, deliverables, and/or demonstration of public health competencies. A student given an Incomplete will have one year to complete the incomplete requirements.

Depending on the student’s schedule and availability, the Applied Practice Experience can be completed over the course of two semesters. The student should work with the APEx coordinator, their faculty advisor, and preceptor to confirm this. This will result in less hours per week (typically 8-10) to spread out the 240 required hours.

Work schedules are determined by the student and their preceptor. Some field sites may require interns to work within a typical work schedule (e.g., Monday – Friday between 8 and 5) while others may have the flexibility for an intern to work during the evenings or weekends.

Yes, but this is ultimately the decision of the field site and preceptor. Some field sites may require interns to be in-person, some may prefer a hybrid schedule of in-person and remote, and others may be fully remote. Students should discuss these options when contacting field sites.

Students should change the number of credits manually in myUTK. Once registered for the course, under ‘Register for Classes’ click on the tab ‘Schedule and Options.’ Next to PUBH 587, click on the course credit number (3). This will change to a text box, and six can be manually entered.

It is not recommended for students to complete their APEx at their workplace since the APEx should be a unique, new experience that applies knowledge and skills learned from the MPH program. However, students may complete the APEx at their workplace if the experience differs substantially from the student’s current role and responsibilities at work. The student’s preceptor must be someone other than their current supervisor.

The APEx may be compensated or uncompensated. This varies and is determined by the field site. The Department of Public Health is not involved in arranging payment for students but can assist students with finding past experiences that have been paid.

Appropriate products must demonstrate at least five MPH competencies (3 foundational, 2 concentration). Products may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Grant proposal
  • Evaluation or evaluation plan
  • Process or quality improvement project
  • Literature review
  • Surveys or questionnaires
  • Interview guide
  • Policy brief
  • Journal article or manuscript
  • Needs assessment
  • Data analysis
  • Lecture or presentation
  • Social media campaign or plan
  • Curriculum development or implementation
  • Training guide or manual
  • Fact sheet or infographic
  • Logic model

Two products is the minimum requirement. It may take more products for a student to demonstrate five competencies (3 foundational, 2 concentration). For example, one product may demonstrate three competencies while the other demonstrates two. A student may also complete five products with each product demonstrating one competency. This is determined by the student and their preceptor.

There are examples of past student experiences on the APEx in Action webpage. For additional examples, please contact the APEx coordinator.

  • The APEx coordinator hosts APEx orientations annually each fall. There are separate orientation sessions for distance education students, 1st-year on-campus students, and 2nd-year on-campus students. Additionally, students can meet with the APEx coordinator 1:1 at any time during the year.
  • It is the ‘gold standard’ for preceptors to have a MPH degree or higher, but this is not required. Qualified preceptors may have graduate degrees in related fields (child and family studies, education, social work, etc.). Years of public health work experience, ideally in a supervisory position, may substitute for a graduate degree.