Undergraduates interested in public health will now be able to get a master’s degree in five years, through a new joint program.

The Yale School of Public Health will begin taking applications this spring for its Select Program in Public Health, a five-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree track for undergraduates similar to those offered for engineering and environmental studies majors.

Brian Leaderer EPH ’71 GRD ’75, interim dean of the School of Public Health and chair of the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, said after two years of development the program was finalized in the spring of 2005 as a joint endeavor between Yale College faculty and the public health school.

“It meets a need we have seen over the last couple of years,” he said “For a while we have had undergraduates taking graduate level courses with us, who have expressed interest in pursuing careers in public health.”

Students on the five-year track will take classes toward an undergraduate degree along with graduate school courses in the public health master’s program, Leaderer said, then spend their fifth year studying at the School of Public Health.

Students interested in entering the program next fall must submit applications by March 2006. Though both current sophomores and juniors may apply this academic year, in the future the program will be open to only sophomores.

Leaderer said the dual-degree track will accept students with a wide range of interests and, unlike some of Yale’s other five-year programs, is not tied to any one undergraduate major. Students completing the program will be prepared for a wide range of career paths, he said, including work in health policy economics, infectious disease epidemiology, biostatistics and global healthcare.

Anne Pistell, associate dean for student affairs at the School of Public Health, said more than a dozen undergraduates have already expressed interest in the five-year track this fall.

“Many students have become aware of the program from paragraphs in the Blue Book,” she said.

Pistell said about 10 students will be admitted to the program each year.

Several freshmen said the program sounds appealing because it could allow them to streamline their academic pursuits, while others were not as keen on committing to a particular field of graduate study at a young age.

Jessica Jeffers ’09 said she found the process of deciding on a career path during the spring of sophomore year counter-intuitive for a multi-disciplinary university.

“We came to a liberal arts university not knowing what we want to do,” she said. “I think a five-year program for a master’s in public health would be too hasty a decision to make your sophomore year.”

But many students said they were encouraged by the opportunities the new program creates.

Mai Hoang ’09 said she is interested in a career combining both law and public health, and the five-year program could put her directly on that path.

“With a master’s in public health, it would allow me to explore the health-related aspects of the law,” she said.

Zan Romanoff ’09 said the five-year master’s program would not only save time but also reduce stress during her undergraduate experience.

“I think that this program is very appealing to me because I would love to have a master’s in five years.” Romanoff said. “I would also like to have a set path and be able to concentrate on my studies rather than worry about getting into a graduate program.”

Students completing the five-year program will be required to finish separate undergraduate and master’s theses and a public health internship. Students will concentrate in one of eight divisions or programs at the Public Health School.