Global Health PhD

Global Health FAQ

For information on the application process, deadlines and funding, please see our Graduate Admission FAQs.


Q: What is the global health PhD degree?
A: Our focus is on identifying the best ways to use social, cultural, ecological, biological and historical insights to solve contemporary health problems rather than on the promotion of singular approaches or modes of enquiry. The research of global health faculty at ASU – and thus the training they provide – tends to be theoretically and methodologically varied and transdisciplinary.

Q: What makes global health different?
A: We offer two relevant graduate degrees at the PhD level – the PhD in anthropology and the PhD in global health. The former is managed entirely within the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and is suited to those planning to enter more traditional medical anthropology careers. It requires a dissertation focused to some extent on disciplinary problems related to health and/or disease (i.e., those defined as anthropologically relevant). If you are suited to this more classic degree in medical anthropology, be sure to apply to the anthropology PhD and select an approach within the school to align with (e.g., sociocultural anthropology, evolutionary anthropology, bioarchaeology or the cross-cutting environment, technology and society area).

The PhD in global health is alternatively designed to train those who anticipate working in transdisciplinary academic settings, medical schools or non-academic health settings, such as governmental agencies, NGOs and the private sector. While elective courses are the same for this degree as for students training in medical anthropology in the anthropology PhD (and there is a very long list of options), the emphasis of the training and thus the core requirements are different.

Global health graduates will be expected to have competency in health-relevant social science methodologies, such as epidemiology, GIS, ethnography, statistics and survey techniques.

Q: Who is the ideal global health PhD student?
A: If you want to develop a top-notch professional social science skill set, are driven, open-minded and willing to work as part of a collaborative team with the faculty and other students, this is definitely the right place for you. In this degree we train and professionalize you, not just provide supervision. Arizona State University’s fast-paced, dynamic campus is an academically demanding environment and a vibrant laboratory for demanding adaptation, collaboration and innovation. If you find you do not like to work collaboratively, that you prefer more direct supervision or that you are focused on the health part and not the social sciences part, this program may not be the best fit for you.

Q: What type of graduate-level training will I receive within the global health degree?
A: A few areas of faculty expertise at ASU where we provide particularly strong graduate-level training for this program include:

  • the links between culture and health
  • social justice and the relationships between disease and social/environmental inequality
  • health in the Americas (especially the Southwest U.S. and borderlands, Mexico and tropical South America) and Asia, where many of our faculty do fieldwork
  • community-based health research that values the movement from theory to practice
  • indigenous and minority health; children’s and women’s health; immigrant health
  • nutrition/nutritional anthropology
  • epidemiological approaches to social science and life science questions about health
  • urban and environmental health
  • formal social science methodologies for culturally and socially oriented health research (such as ethnography, text analysis, social survey, social network analysis, spatial analysis, participatory action research, demography, and mathematical and computer-based modeling)
  • bio-cultural and life history approaches to contemporary health
  • medical anthropology and medical sociology
  • health in the past (such as seen through approaches from history, genetics and bioarchaeology)
  • with the recent addition of applied mathematics for the life and social sciences degrees in our school, we are also able to offer world-class training in mathematical epidemiology

We are very interested in graduate students who wish to work in two or more of these areas.

Q: What faculty will I work with?
A: The degree is administered by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and leverages ASU’s campus-wide strength in advanced training in the area of global health, with at least 75 nationally recognized participating program faculty from health, social, life and applied sciences. While we boast 15 or so medical anthropologists on campus, we also take advantage of a much wider set of skills offered by medical sociology, demography, human geography and epidemiology. ASU is also home to numerous environmentally focused research projects and centers, affording students opportunities for direct research experience. Please see and select our degree from the drop-down menu for a complete list of faculty.

Q: What careers is this global health PhD degree suited for? 
A: Essentially, the application of the degree is similar to any social science PhD. About 70 percent of our students intend to pursue academic careers, mostly as professors in transdisciplinary programs, just like this one, in which they will be doing research and teaching university students. Other students plan to use the degree to move into leadership positions in NGOs, government agencies and research positions in health fields, though the terminal master’s degree may be more suited to those with these types of career goals.

Q: What degree will I graduate with?
A: A PhD in global health.

Q: What are some of the baccalaureate degrees of current global health PhD students?
A: Our students come from areas such as anthropology, the biological sciences, physical therapy and sociology, but you can enter the PhD with an MA in a relevant field or directly from a bachelor’s degree. We generally recommend that people have a master’s degree in a relevant field (e.g., MPH) before they join the program, and this is looked upon favorably in the selection process. Students entering without any background in health usually find the transition easier than those entering without a strong background in the social sciences. For those with no social science background, we highly recommend taking some key social sciences courses at the graduate level before applying (e.g., in human geography, medical sociology or medical anthropology), and to have completed a master’s degree.

Q: Can I talk to someone about the program? 
A: Yes, we have a full-time academic success specialist dedicated to our graduate programs. She can guide you through the process, refer you to others on campus as needed and answer or further research all of your questions. She can be reached at