Health Policy Certificate
Health care is at once a critical part of people’s lives and a highly consequential part of the U.S. economy. Health policy works at the intersection of how health care is delivered to consumers and communities, and its effect on the economy, society, governments, and the private sector. Health policy researchers seek evidence-based solutions to the leading issues and problems confronting our health system.
Duke-Margolis and the Sanford School of Public Policy jointly educate students in evidence-based health policy analysis, development, and implementation so they are prepared to address complex challenges in health and health care at local, state, national, and global levels.
Why Pursue the Health Policy Certificate?
- Learn about the intersection of many different disciplines, such as medicine, ethics, economics, global health, and public policy
- Explore a health policy pathway through directed, hands-on learning experiences
- Apply classroom learning and experiences to real-world problems
Your Certificate Pathway
To earn the Health Policy Certificate, you must take four courses, complete two experiential learning activities, and create a public-facing e-portfolio that details your health policy work and scholarship.
The Health Policy Certificate is open to second semester first-year students, sophomores, and first-semester juniors, regardless of field of study. Students should apply when they feel ready to pursue such an interdisciplinary track of study.
The only requirement is a genuine interest in the field of health policy. Applying early to the Certificate program benefits students by giving them a longer period to complete the requirements and access the experiential learning opportunities.
Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.
Certificate Requirements, Application & FAQs
- Complete four health policy-related courses in the following sequence:
1.) Introductory Course: PUBPOL/HLTHPOL 165: Introduction to the US Healthcare System (prior to electives)
2.) Two Elective Courses (may be taken concurrently with the Introductory Course). NO elective courses will count if taken before the Introductory Course.
Capstone Course: HLTHPOL 480: Capstone Seminar for Certificate in Health Policy
- Complete two separate and distinct health policy-related experiential learning activities:
One 150+ hours learning experience
One 300+ hours learning experience
- Create a public-facing e-portfolio about your health policy work and scholarship
Introduction to the United States Health Care System (PUBPOL/HLTHPOL 165) is typically offered during both fall and spring semesters. You must take the Introductory Course PRIOR TO OR CONCURRENTLY WITH your electives and PRIOR TO the Capstone Course.
This course provides an overview of key health policy issues in the United States. Topics include:
• sources of morbidity and mortality;
• access to health care;
• health care financing, including an overview of how health insurance works, the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and why there are uninsured persons and to what effect;
• health care quality;
• end-of-life issues and care in advanced stage illness;
• role of non-profit versus for-profit ownership of health care facilities and to what effect; long-term care and care-giving issues; and
• impact of social phenomenon such as income inequality, social class and culture on health care.
Electives are an opportunity for you to explore your health policy interests further. You may choose from the electives list on our website or talk to the Faculty Director for consideration of another relevant course.
In place of one elective course, you may apply to participate in a Health Policy & Innovation Theme Bass Connections project for academic credit. If you have met your elective needs, and would like your Bass experience to be counted towards your experiential learning requirement, contact the Faculty Director for approval. (Note: Bass Connections courses can count as learning experience only if they are NOT taken for credit.)
Key Notes on Electives
- Electives taken BEFORE THE INTRODUCTORY COURSE WILL NOT COUNT towards the Certificate. You may take electives concurrently with the Introductory Course.
- Only one elective course may be taken outside of Duke.
- Acceptance into the Certificate does not guarantee enrollment in electives.
- The selection of recommended electives undergoes regular updates.
- You may propose alternative electives which will need approval from the Faculty Director. You must submit courses using the elective course approval form on the Undergraduate Certificate Student Portal.
Approved Electives as of July 2023
The Capstone Seminar for Certificate in Health Policy (HLTHPOL 480) is a culminating seminar with a group project to integrate the academic and experiential learning components of the Certificate, normally taken in the spring of the senior year. The Capstone must be taken after all other course requirements are completed.
Designed to be a culminating course that integrates what students have learned from their coursework and their experiential learning activities into a final product (research paper, policy memo, TedTalk, or some other medium approved by the course instructor). Students meet in a formal course setting to discuss their academic journey into health policy, what they have learned, and relevant research and health policy developments, culminating in a final project.
The course will draw on the expertise of health policy faculty and researchers across the university. Guest speakers will be chosen based on student project topics and the interdisciplinary nature of health policy. Speakers from different disciplines such as law, business, engineering, environmental science, and ethics will discuss how their academic field of study intersects with and influences the design, adoption, and implementation of health policy, as well as highlight cutting-edge issues in their policy topic area(s). Lessons from both previous and ongoing efforts as well as future opportunities for interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration and partnerships to advance health, health equity, and health care delivery will be highlighted.
To earn the Health Policy Certificate you must complete two separate and distinct health policy-related learning experiences. Both are opportunities for you to gain hands-on and practical experience beyond the classroom. One learning experience must be at least 300 hours and the second learning experience must be at least 150 hours. These experiential learning components are an essential part of health policy education and training, and you will be immersed in a dynamic and collaborative community that is passionate about improving health, health equity, and the value of health care. By working with and learning from experts in the field, you will to gain skills and abilities invaluable for a career in health policy.
The experiences are not time-bound. You may choose to do them at any time and over any period of time, as long as they meet the minimum hour requirements, have a clearly defined health policy-focused concept and are limited in scope so that they can be completed within the timeframe of the experience. However, they have to be distinct from each other and one cannot be a continuation of one single project. Both must be completed PRIOR to taking the Capstone.
You are responsible for identifying two relevant experiences and must submit an approval form for each one to determine if they meet the criteria for the Certificate.
Experiences do not have to be with Duke-affiliated entities. Outside opportunities, however, have an additional vetting process, and it will most likely take longer to get approval.
Example experiences include:
- 10-week Margolis Summer Experience at Margolis
- Health policy-related Data+ projects. For more information about current projects, please visit the Data+ website.
- Health policy-related Story+ projects. For more information about current projects, please visit the Story+ website.
- Health policy-related Duke Engage project. For more information, please visit the DukeEngage website.
- Joining a Bass Connections Health Policy & Innovation theme project or any health policy-related Bass Connections project as a volunteer (counts as experience only if NOT graded and NOT for course credit). For more information about upcoming Bass Connections projects with a health policy theme, please visit the Bass Connections Health Policy & Innovation website.
- Research assistantships in health policy with Duke-affiliated faculty or researchers.
Resources at Duke
There are many other opportunities for health policy-related experiences at Duke. Please peruse the following websites for appropriate experiences.
Advisors at the Duke Career Hub can support you in finding a relevant opportunity.
REMEMBER: All experiences need to be approved before they can count toward the Certificate.
Key Notes on Learning Experiences
- You are responsible for identifying possible learning experiences.
- All experiences must go through an approval process.
- Experiences may be completed at any time during the Certificate, either during the academic year or in the summer, but BEFORE the Capstone Course.
- Experiences must have a health policy focus and clearly defined deliverables.
- We highly recommend that you let your potential supervisor know that you are enrolled in the Certificate and that you would like your work with them count for the Certificate, so that you are both clear about expectations, requirements, scope and format and deliverables, and how to track hours.
- If you would like to work with a faculty member or researcher, we can help you to identify someone who works in your area of interest. However, it is incumbent upon you to reach out to them and express your interest in working with them.
- You must apply for retroactive approval for experiences taken prior to the Introductory Course.
The e-portfolio is a creative space to showcase what you have accomplished throughout your Health Policy Certificate experience and serves as archive for your learning journey. Your e-Portfolio can be public-facing, therefore, accessible to prospective employers or future academic programs.
Your e-portfolio will consist of health policy-related papers, presentations, reflections on courses, learning experiences, conferences, and projects completed to provide evidence that you have attained the learning outcomes targeted by the program. Final e-portfolios will be reviewed by the Faculty Director the semester you take the Capstone Course (HLTHPOL 480).
More information about the e-portfolio will be provided by the Faculty Director or Certificate program coordinator upon admission to the Certificate program.
Your application is your opportunity to demonstrate a good fit with the program and detail your cohesive, thoughtful pathway through the Certificate.
If you are ready to apply, please download and complete the Certificate application as a Word document first to understand what is required before you complete the online form. Once ready, please submit your complete application here.
If you have questions, please fill out the contact form here.
Who is eligible to apply?
Second-semester first-year students, sophomores, and first-semester juniors are encouraged to apply. The only requirement is a genuine interest in the field of health policy.
When should I apply?
You are encouraged to apply as soon as you are eligible and feel ready to pursue such an interdisciplinary track of study. The benefits of applying earlier are that you will have a longer period of time to complete the requirements and access to the advising and enrichment opportunities that accompany the program. Note that we cannot accept applications from students after the first-semester of their junior year.
Do I need to know what my specific learning experiences will be when I apply?
No. Although you should be able to broadly identify the type of experiences you want to undertake as part of the Certificate and justify why they are a good fit for your overall pathway through the program.
May I change my plan for my courses and learning experiences after I am accepted into the program?
Yes. You may change the selection and timing of your courses and experiences after you are accepted. We understand that your plan may evolve as you progress through your undergraduate career and accumulate more experience.
Who approves my application?
An advisory board will vet student applications. It is comprised of Duke-Margolis and Sanford School of Public Policy faculty and staff and chaired by the Faculty Director.
What information is requested in the application?
You must submit:
- a written 300-500 word essay outlining why you would like to pursue a Certificate in Health Policy and how it will complement your academic interests at Duke
- identify your proposed two electives
- describe two proposed learning experiences
See How to Apply to download the Certificate application.
How long does it take to complete the Certificate?
The time to complete varies, depending on when you start the program. You have until the time you graduate from Duke to complete the Certificate requirements.
Does the Introductory Course (PUBPOL 165) count even if I took it prior to applying?
Yes. If you have completed the required Introductory Course before you are accepted into the program, it will count towards fulfilling the Certificate requirements.
How do I know if an experience will count towards the Certificate?
After you are admitted into the program, you will meet with an advisor to discuss whether the learning experience you would like to pursue meets the criteria for the Certificate. You will then submit an approval form to get formal approval for the experience from the Faculty Director.
I have already completed one relevant learning experience prior to applying. Will it count towards fulfilling the Certificate requirements?
It could. Experiences may predate the completion of the Introductory Course. The Faculty Director must be contacted and an approval form submitted to confirm that the experience meets the Health Policy Certificate requirements.
Do the experiences have to be completed over the summer?
No. The experiences are not time-bound. You may choose to do them at any time and over any period of time, as long as they meet the minimum hour requirements (300+ hours and 150+ hours) and are both completed prior to the Capstone Course.
I have already taken one of the electives prior to applying. Will it count towards my Certificate requirements?
No. Unfortunately electives cannot count toward completion of the Certificate if they were taken prior to the Introductory Course PUBPOL/HLTHPOL 165. Electives may be taken concurrently with the Introductory Course, however.
The sequence of courses is:
- Introductory Course (PUBPOL/HLTHPOL 165)
- Electives (may be taken concurrently with the Introductory Course)
- Capstone Course (HLTHPOL 480)
I have found a course I want to take as elective for the Certificate, but it is not on the approved list. Will it count towards the Certificate?
If you have already been accepted into the Certificate, contact the faculty director or the program coordinator to discuss the appropriateness of the course. Be prepared to give a rationale for why you believe this course fits your pathway and should count towards fulfilling the requirements of the Certificate. If you are in the process of applying to the program, feel free to suggest any elective that you believe to be an appropriate addition to the Health Policy Certificate electives list, and our faculty will review the requested course.
Will courses, learning experiences, or independent studies I have taken to fulfill requirements of my major/minor/other certificate also count towards the Health Policy Certificate?
That depends on the course and/or learning experience and will be evaluated by the Faculty Director or Certificate advisor.
Do I have to take the Capstone Course during the spring semester of my senior year?
You are not required to take the Capstone Course during the second semester of your senior year, although this is likely when most people will take it, and seniors will be given priority for the course. You may take the Capstone any spring semester after you have completed the Introductory Course, two electives, and both, the 150+ and 300+ hours learning experiences. Please note, the Capstone Course is offered only in the spring semester.
What are the requirements of the e-portfolio?
The e-portfolio is a creative space to showcase what you’ve accomplished throughout your Health Policy Certificate experience. Your e-portfolio can be public and serve as one tool to document all you have achieved when applying for jobs or to post-graduate education. A well-crafted portfolio can give you an advantage with prospective employers or future academic programs.
Your e-portfolio will consist of health-policy related papers, presentations, course reflections, experiential learning reflections, and projects completed to provide evidence that you have attained the learning outcomes targeted by the program. Final e-portfolios will be reviewed by the Faculty Director the semester you take the Capstone Course (HLTHPOL 480). More information about the e-portfolio will be provided by the Faculty Director or Certificate Program Coordinator upon admission to the Certificate program.
Does my independent study count as the 150+ hour experiential component?
Does my honors seminar count as elective if my thesis has a health policy focus?
Does my honors thesis count as Capstone project?
No. An honors thesis does not count as your Capstone project. Your Capstone project may build off your existing research but does not take the form of a formal paper. Rather, the Capstone project is focused on translating health policy research into a product for different audiences, such as a podcast, a lightning talk, a policy brief, or some other representation of your work and its relevance in the real world.
What are further resources or opportunities available to me if I join the program?
As a member of the Health Policy Certificate program, you will become part of a community of Duke students dedicated to learning about health policy. Certificate students also will have individual advising as well as special access to Duke-Margolis and Sanford events, workshops, speakers, and career planning advice and networking opportunities.
Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with questions! We look forward to hearing from you.
Careers and Resources
With a health policy background, you can work in both public and private organizations or institutions. Many professionals in the field research, analyze, and solve health policy issues in the following industries:
- health care delivery systems
- legislative and executive branches of state and federal government
- health insurance companies
- trade associations
- nonprofit organizations
- drug and device manufacturers
- think tanks
- private sector consulting firms
You can find out more about career opportunities, employment, fellowships, internships, and career planning in health policy on the US Health Policy Gateway website.
Professional Health and Health Policy-Related Organizations
Non-profit organization that represents nearly 3000 local health departments in the United States. NACCHO’s mission is to improve the health or communities by strengthening and advocating for local health departments. It provides leadership and resources to help effective public health policies and programs. It is a voice for local public health, advocating for policies and funding that support local health departments and the communities they serve. It also promotes collaboration and information-sharing among departments, other public health organizations and partners in government and the public sector.
AHIP is the national association whose members provide health care coverage, services, and solutions to hundreds of millions of Americans every day. We are committed to market-based solutions and public-private partnerships that make health care better and to help create a space where coverage is more affordable and accessible for everyone.
Largest public health organization in the US with a focus on improving public health and preventing disease. It advocates for policies that promote health equity and provides training for public health professionals.
Provides nonpartisan support for the development of policies that promote and sustain healthy people and communities, advance high quality and affordable health care, and address health equity. Offers regular webinars.
For More Information
If you have questions or would like more information, please fill out and submit the Student Interest Form.
Faculty Director, Health Policy Undergraduate Certificate
Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Sanford School of Public Policy
Associate Research Professor in the Sanford School of Public Policy
Margolis Core Faculty