Preparing for Doctoral Programs: How to set yourself up for success at Rollins.

By: Robert Fairman – Behavioral Sciences & Health Education

I know, you probably think it is too early to be thinking about getting another degree after your time at Rollins. But the reality of it is you have to start thinking about it now! I recently gone through the process of applying to PhD programs, and will be starting in the fall. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

     1. Decide if you want a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), or a Doctor of Philosophy            (PhD).

A DrPH is typically centered on administration and leadership in public health practice, which allows someone who holds it to focus more on being an executive or in leadership, with less concentration on research, and often not as common in academia. A DrPH typically requires 5 years of work in a managerial role, as well as an MPH.

A PhD is the classic research-oriented degree that is seen more in academia, and in my experience, more seen in the CDC as well. If you want to focus on research, practice, and academia, a PhD is the degree for you.

I chose to pursue a PhD because of the utility of the degree, as well the fact that I could go straight through from my MPH, and not have to take a break in my education. The ability to use my PhD to go into research, academia, or leadership is also very appealing to me. I do not want to “give up” my research skills to pursue a DrPH because with increased research activity in the world of public health, I need to be in front of that curve.

     2. Faculty members are your friends.

Almost all of Rollins full-time faculty hold a doctoral level degree, and want to see you succeed. When I was applying to programs, I had 2 or 3 of my professors and mentors read my personal statement, and make recommendations. It also is helpful if you identify faculty members that went to the programs you are applying to, or faculty members who are on the admissions committee. Additionally, faculty may even reach out and give the program a little nudge and suggest they look closely at your application.

     3. Do your research about faculty and funding.

I call this the “2 Fs of Grad School.” When applying to doctoral programs, make sure you do research and find programs that have faculty that do work in your field. For example, if I want to research tobacco policy, and the “School of Public Health Examples” does not have faculty doing that research, it would not make sense for me to be there. Additionally, see if the school guarantees tuition waivers and funding. I knew when I applied that I wanted to be at a school that wanted me there, so much that they would pay me to work with them, as well as pay for my schooling. One of my mentors said that any doctoral program should be paying you to get the degree, you should not be paying them, and that is something I really take to heart.

     4. Take a deep breath. At the end of the day, you still have training at Emory.

I am the classic over thinker. When I decided about my programs, I was worried about rankings, location, what employers would think if I went to one program instead of the other, and my mentor told me to stop and breathe. At the end of the day, I am being trained at the #5 school of public health, and that will shine on my CV. Picking the program that is right for you is so important. Do not worry about the name or the ranking. At the end of the day, you are getting a doctoral degree, and you have training at Emory. That is so valuable.


Hopefully, these four tips will help set you up for success after Rollins. Rollins prepares you, but why not be a step or two ahead?


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