The UC Berkeley Public Health Nutrition Program trains current and future leaders in food and nutrition research, policy, and practice to identify current and emerging public health nutrition challenges and solutions.
The program is structured to provide students with the skills needed to contribute to scientific understanding of public health nutrition challenges, create healthy food systems, identify and advocate for effective food policies, and plan, implement, and evaluate programs to improve population nutrition and health. We seek to train people who want to lead at the local, state, national, and global levels in tackling nutrition challenges and improving population diet and health. This program offers training in core public health skills and specifically focuses on nutrition policy, epidemiology, and food systems, as well as overall critical thinking, analysis, and leadership skills.
Our partnerships offer our students unique opportunities to enhance their academic coursework by seeking out hands-on learning experiences through jobs and internships, workshops, talks, and events, as well as fellowships and funding:
- The Berkeley Food Institute (BFI) seeks to empower new leaders with capacities to cultivate diverse, just, resilient, and healthy food systems. Our students have held jobs, received fellowships to work with sustainable food systems organizations, attended events and forums, and have helped inform the BFI’s work by participating in the BFI Graduate Council.
- The Graduate Certificate in Food Systems prepares students to think critically about the multi-level, multi-system factors that affect food production, distribution, and consumption locally, nationally, and globally.
- The Nutrition Policy Institute (NPI) brings together a wide range of experts who develop and conduct research on nutrition, food insecurity, physical activity, wellness, and the prevention of obesity, diabetes and other related health problems. NPI holds monthly brown bag seminars and frequently hires our students as research assistants or interns.
- The Center for Global Public Health (CGPH) provides fellowships in global health research and global health reporting for investigating issues related to health disparities and/or health equity in low-to-middle income countries. CGPH also offers a Specialty Area in Global Health which provides students with additional opportunity to study global health as part of their MPH curriculum.
- The Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Nutrition Training Program provides future MCH Nutrition leaders with the skills to identify, monitor, evaluate and implement public health nutrition programs. Although funding through the training program is reserved for students who have, or are eligible for, the Registered Dietitian certification, other experiences and opportunities throughout the year sponsored by the MCH Nutrition Training Program are open to all students.
The two-year, full-time MPH graduate students are expected to complete at least 48 units of coursework over four academic semesters and one summer. Students must complete both school-wide required courses as well as PHN required courses. Elective courses may be chosen from anywhere in the school or university. Elective courses must be numbered 100 and higher to count toward the 48-unit minimum requirement for graduation. All two-Year MPH students complete a public health practice experience for a minimum of 12 weeks over the summer between their first and second years in the program. Internship sites are chosen from a wide range of public health organizations and research institutions and are selected based on the student’s objectives for professional development and the needs of the organization. Many sites are local, but students may also intern in other parts of the country or the world.
Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree, preferably one that includes coursework in food and nutrition sciences, human biology, biochemistry, and/or physiology. These courses are strongly recommended before beginning graduate work in public health nutrition at UC Berkeley.
Coursework in other social sciences, including psychology, behavioral science, or economics strengthen an application. Successful applicants also should have excellent written and oral communication. Candidates should have at least 1 to 2 years of paid or volunteer public health or nutrition-related work experience to strengthen and support their interests in working in this field.
Applicants who have not taken the basic recommended courses are encouraged to take the courses they are missing before applying to the Public Health Nutrition Program, either through UC Extension (see Post-Baccalaureate Pre-Health Professions Program courses) or from another college or university with equivalent offerings.
Characteristics of Strong Applicants:
- Excellent GRE scores and grades from nationally or internationally recognized undergraduate institutions.
- Generally, some coursework in the sciences underlying human nutrition (including biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, biochemistry, physiology), and in food and nutrition sciences, with good to excellent grades in these courses.
- Cultural competence and demonstrated knowledge of and interest in other cultures and languages.
- Communication skills—demonstrated in the Statement of Purpose—that reflect an understanding of what public health is and why you want to specialize in Public Health Nutrition.
- Critical thinking ability with an analytical approach to solving current issues in nutrition and public health.
- Enthusiasm for and commitment to making a contribution to the public’s health as reflected in your Statement of Purpose.
- Relevant work experience in public health nutrition or related fields.
- Letters of recommendation that attest to the applicant’s qualities in the areas mentioned above.
The MPH in Public Health Nutrition prepares students for work in state or local government or nonprofit health agencies, or other community, policy development or research organizations that deal with health and nutrition policy and program design, implementation, and evaluation. PHN graduates have held positions at a variety of organizations, including: California Food Policy Advocates, USDA, Policy Link, Prevention Institute, Nutrition Policy Institute, UCSF, Berkeley Media Studies Group, American Heart Association, University of California Cooperative Extension, Kaiser Permanente Division of Research, and Public Health Advocates.
Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree that ideally includes some coursework in food and nutrition sciences, human biology, biochemistry, and/or physiology. Coursework in other social sciences, including psychology, behavioral science, or economics can strengthen your application. If you have not completed any of this coursework during your undergraduate degree, we strongly encourage you to take the courses you are missing before applying to the Public Health Nutrition program for a stronger application.
Lia Fernald PhD, MBA
Brian and Jennifer Maxwell Endowed Professor in Public Health, Community Health Sciences
Barbara Laraia PhD, MPH, RD
Professor, Community Health Sciences
Kristine Madsen MD, MPH
Professor, Joint Medical Program; Public Health Nutrition; Community Health Sciences
Hannah Thompson PhD, MPH
Assistant Research Professor, Community Health Sciences