What is the difference between Applied Practice Experience (APE) and the Practicum?

Difference between Applied Practice Experience vs PracticumTo get the inside scoop on what defines the Applied Practice Experience (APE) versus the Public Health Practicum, we spoke with Dr. Titilola Balogun, MBBS, MPH, DrPH. She is the Assistant Director for Public Health Practice for the Graduate Programs in Public Health in the College of Graduate and Professional Studies here at the University of New England.

Dr. Balogun supports students who are about to begin their Public Health Practicum or Applied Practice Experience.

What is a Practicum?

The Practicum is the version of the public health field experience that we had before the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), our accrediting body, came up with updated requirements.

While the definition of “Practicum” varies from school to school, at CGPS, the Practicum requirements are simply that the student needs to complete a minimum of 120 hours in the field, and must meet a minimum of five competencies. The Practicum is taken in the final semester in the student’s program, and it’s the last requirement a student completes before they graduate with their MPH.

What is the Applied Practice Experience?

The Applied Practice Experience (APE) is the newer version of the Practicum experience. The student is eligible to take the APE after they have completed their core courses. Students take their required courses, then they take the APE, and then they take their electives. In their final semester, they write their ‘thesis’ as part of the Integrative Learning Experience and then graduate.

There is no time minimum or hourly requirements for the APE. Instead, the deliverable for the APE is the creation of two high-quality products that are useful for the practice experience site. Those products are submitted to the APE instructor who assesses and grades them.

The plan is for students to take their APE before their electives so that it helps them make an informed choice about what electives to take. Some students may not know what electives they want to take, but by the time they get to the field, they get a feel for what real-world public health is like.

For example, some students want to do research or think they may be interested in epidemiology, but by the time they get into the field and see what exactly that entails, they might find that they are not quite as interested anymore. This timing allows students to modify their elective schedule accordingly.

The basic differences between the APE and the Practicum

Applied Practice Experience

(GPH 743)

Integrated Public Health Practicum

(GPH 747)

Credit hours

3 credit hours

4 credit hours


Students need to pass all core and required courses before registering.

Students need to pass all core, required, and elective courses before registering.

Time commitment and deliverables

There is no minimum number of hours required, but a minimum of two final products that are useful to the host organization is required. This is predetermined before the APE begins.

A minimum of 120 hours at the site is required. The time commitment required is predetermined before the practicum begins.

Experience site

The APE must be completed at a community-based practice site, not at universities or hospitals.

The practicum can be completed at community-based sites, universities or hospitals.

Blackboard assignments

Consist of assignments related to the APE and professional development only.

Consist of assignments related to the practicum, professional development, and the capstone paper.


Students are not able to petition to take the APE before completing core and required courses.

Students can petition to take the practicum early.

Competency attainment

The experience should address five competencies, at least three of which must be foundational.

The experience should address at least three program competencies.

Does UNE find practice experience placements for students?

UNE online has students all over the country and abroad. While the long term goal is to develop formal academic-practice relationships in multiple cities across the U.S., the reality is that we cannot find practice experience sites for all of our students. The challenge lies in the details.

Click here for an entire blog post on APE and public health practicum ideas. 

Applied practice experience sites should be chosen based on the student’s interests and career goals. Therefore, in order for us to find a site for every student, we would have to know each student’s interests and then find preceptors and sites to match those interests. Thus it is prohibitively resource-intensive for us to find a site for every student. We do as much as we can to help students in their journey of finding a practicum site.

At CGPS, we have developed an online portal where students can see many MPH practicum ideas, including a list of sites that other UNE Online students have completed their practice experiences. When students reach out to me and they need help with finding a place to start their search, I have them start with that list.

Because we are local to Portland, Maine, we have a partnership with the City of Portland Public Health Department. Because of this partnership and because our full-time staff are local to the Portland area, we’re able to leverage those relationships and provide more guidance to students who live in and around our Portland campus.

Read more: Career Services for the Graduate Programs in Public Health

How long, on average, do you work with each student?

I work one-on-one with each of my students, and the time it takes varies from student to student. There are a lot of fine details that need to be attended to. Some students go ahead and find a site all on their own, and just send along the paperwork. Then I have some students who live in rural areas or live in places with no public health officials, who need more assistance in identifying what would be the closest health department or nonprofit that they can connect with.

For some students, their total contact time with me before they get into their placement is minimal and it may be an aggregate of two hours all told. And then other students I speak to weekly or daily as the deadline for paperwork approaches. It varies from student to student, depending on their situation.

If you have questions about the Graduate Programs in Public Health at UNE Online, or if you would like to apply to our public health program, click the button below to get in touch!

Click here for more info on the MPH program!

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