The Masters in Public Health (MPH) is one of the major advanced degrees in public health: the one most commonly pursued by those interested in public health careers. It is a professional degree that prepares you to apply your education to practical settings and address public health needs in communities. The MPH trains you for leadership by emphasizing practice over theory and incorporating real-world experience and research into its curriculum. Academic degrees such as a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), on the other hand, prepare you to become a public health educator or researcher. Many colleges offer public health degrees, and the MPH is often available through medical schools, schools of public health, and schools of public affairs. Some universities offer their MPH degree online.
While each school is unique, Masters in Public Health programs follow similar structures to ensure a well-rounded foundation in the principles of public health. Programs are usually structured in accordance with the standards of the Council on Education for Public Health, an accreditation you should look for when choosing a program. Click here for more information on what to look for in an MPH program.
MPH degree programs consist of core classes that provide a theoretical approach to the basics of public health. These courses include introductions to biostatistical methods, health policy, and research techniques, among others. Advanced classes delve into specialized topics, and it is at this point that you chose a concentration related to your intended career path. Most programs also have an MPH practicum: the practical component, usually a public health internship or other public health service project. There is also the MPH capstone, a research project that allows you to thoroughly learn about a topic of your choice under the guidance of a faculty advisor.
Featured Online Healthcare Programs
|MPH@Simmons||MPH@Simmons, the online Master of Public Health from Simmons College, is designed to give you the real-world skills you need to address health inequity on a local, national, and global level.|
|MPH@GW||An innovative online Master of Public Health program offered by the top-ranked Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.|
|MHA@GW||Offered by the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University, this online Executive Master of Health Administration program is designed for healthcare professionals who aspire to become leaders in their field.|
The Masters in Public Health usually takes two to three years to complete, and students are often able to continue working while pursuing the degree. While there is no particular age for students to enroll in an MPH, it is generally uncommon to enroll before the age of 24 or 25. The MPH is a professional degree, so most school requires at least two years of working experience. This can be volunteer or paid work, and should involve practical experience: advocacy, healthcare, public policy, research and analysis, and anything else related to public health.
People who pursue a career in public health must be dedicated to helping others, having a positive impact, and implementing change. Schools look for experience to prove an applicant’s dedication, and most curricula assume some level of prior experience. At the bare minimum, a bachelor’s degree is required. While there is no ideal undergraduate degree (the emphasis is on work experience), a bachelor’s in a related field will better prepare you for an MPH and may be more appealing. A degree in any of the sciences is helpful, as are degrees in mathematics, statistics, anthropology, public policy, or economics.
A lot of students already have an interest in nursing, elderly care, social work, or occupational health surveillance. These are careers that, even without an MPH, have a direct impact on public health without necessarily dealing with the specific science of health. A person looking to work in one of these fields might pursue an MPH because of an interest in public health, or to benefit from a more expanded approach to these career paths.
The Value of an MPH
Like all Masters degrees, a Masters in Public Health demonstrates that you are an expert in your field. More specifically, an MPH shows that you are dedicated to social justice, building and promoting good health practices across disparate communities, and helping those who don’t otherwise have access to a solid health education. This makes you an asset to industries in the public health sector and gives you a competitive edge in the job market.
Not only is an MPH worth it because it prepares you for one of the few careers where you can see the tangible impact you have; it is also a fiscally responsible decision. According to Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine, an MPH is one of five advanced degrees still worth the debt.