As the world continues to grow and evolve, people everywhere are beginning to realize that public health is a field that needs more people. There’s no doubt that the current global pandemic has made people acutely aware that the sector needs more qualified people to keep populations in good health.
Public health needs and healthcare in the current world are rapidly changing. New problems are coming about daily, but alongside them, new tools and technologies have been coming out to help the public deal with and tackle health issues that people once thought impossible.
Healthcare needs resourceful and innovative leaders who understand public health needs and perspectives. It’s also important for these leaders to understand the realities that healthcare professionals, companies, policymakers, and patients face every single day.
If you want to become one of those leaders, a master’s in public health may be for you.
If you’re interested in getting yourself a master’s degree in public health, this guide will help you with everything you need to know.
What’s an MPH Degree?
Public health deals with environmental, economic, social, and community health issues, such as disparities in populations’ access to healthcare and healthcare outcomes, trauma, violence, food insecurity, malnutrition, and social isolation.
Those committed to helping people live much healthier lives can do well with an MPH. A master’s degree in public health is skills-based and applicable to various professions, disciplines, and fields. Perhaps somewhat unexpectedly, public health goes far beyond the traditional view of healthcare as provider-to-patient care.
A master’s degree in public health is a non-thesis professional graduate degree that focuses on experience, immersion, and coursework. It’s a program that trains candidates to be more effective in their vocation of protecting and improving the public’s health.
Pros and Cons of Getting a Master’s of Public Health
There are a few pros and cons to getting into a master of public health program. If you can’t figure out whether you want to get an MPH degree, you can look at some of them below to help you decide.
Alternatives to Getting a Master of Public Health Degree
If you’re undecided about going into the field of public health, there are other related industries you can also look into, such as:
- Health Sciences
- Environmental Health
- Social Work
- Criminal Justice
These fields will still allow you to help people without necessarily going into public health if you find it’s not your cup of tea.
Careers in Public Health
Having a master’s degree in public health can help you find employment in many places. If you prefer, you can work for the private sector in places like private foundations, physician’s practices, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities.
Alternatively, you can work in the public sector, such as in nonprofits, public hospitals, and local, state, or federal health agencies.
You’re also not limited to working within the actual healthcare industry. You can also choose to bring your knowledge and skills to other fields such as business, policymaking, law, science and technology, and pharmaceuticals.
If you’re curious about the kinds of jobs you can do in this field, here are some examples.
1) Healthcare Administrator
Average Yearly Salary: $99,730
Healthcare administrators oversee the daily operations of various healthcare facilities such as hospitals, physicians’ practices, and elderly care facilities. They also sometimes oversee operations for research laboratories. This position is higher up on the ladder and may take some time to get to, but it is one of the highest-paying employment opportunities in the field.
2) Registered Nurse
Average Yearly Salary: $71,730
Registered nurses work in just about any patient-facing healthcare facility. They help assess their patients’ health and provide them the corresponding care, such as administrating medicines and treatments. They also record any symptoms to inform the doctors of patients’ needs later on. Nurses may even help with analyzing test results.
Beyond the care these nurses normally provide, they also act as a support system for patients.
Average Yearly Salary: $69,660
Epidemiologists are becoming even more important in the world today since they study how disease spreads. They look at the patterns involved in disease and aim to improve the public’s health by publishing new research, developing new health-related policies, establishing community (re)education programs, and putting together new healthcare protocols.
4) Social and Community Service Management
Average Yearly Salary: $65,320
In this line of work, you may find yourself managing and supervising social service programs and community outreach programs and organizations. You may likely work with homeless shelters, mental health facilities, and substance abuse clinics.
5) Nutritionist or Dietitian
Average Yearly Salary: $60,370
Nutritionists and dietitians assess and advise on their clients’ nutritional needs and eating habits. They may help clients develop healthier eating habits that can benefit them in the long run. Often, they help by creating diet or meal plans with guidelines to make it easier for people to make their lifestyle changes.
Average Yearly Salary: $44,630
Counselors help people with their mental health and related issues such as substance abuse, behavioral disorders, and eating disorders. They help people by evaluating them, recommending treatment programs, or referring them to support groups, job placements, and further psychological care.
7) Health Information and Medical Records Technician
Average Yearly Salary: $40,350
Health information and medical record technicians organize and analyze health information and data. They also report on this information, providing an in-depth look at the data they’ve studied. Their tasks are to ensure that patient health information is secure and accurate. They ensure the info is coded and categorized to find information more easily.
Best Public Health Master’s Programs
There are plenty of master’s programs for public health, but some stand head and shoulders above the rest. Here are some of the top programs to look at, along with everything you need to know about them.
East Tennesee State University (Johnson City)
Average Tuition: In-state $8,640/year, Out-of-state $23,760/year
On-campus or Online? Available campus-based or fully-online
Financial Aid: Coverdell Fellows Program scholarships are available
One of the best public health master’s programs is offered at East Tennessee State University. This institution’s College of Public Health programs are accredited by CEPH (Council on Education for Public Health). Students can choose between a spring or fall start and can opt for on-campus education or a fully-online education.
ETSU offers MPH degrees in various concentrations, including epidemiology, community health, environmental health, and biostatistics. Students can also choose between the MD/MPH or PharmD/MPH dual degree programs.
University of Colorado (Denver)
Average Tuition: In-state $6,786/year, Out-of-state $22,590/year
On-campus or Online? Campus-based, online available for certain concentrations
Financial Aid: Available
The University of Colorado offers its great masters in public health programs through its three collaborating institutions: CU Anschutz Medical Campus, Colorado State University, and The University of Northern Colorado in Greeley.
Each institution offers different concentrations, so your campus may vary depending on your focus. However, if you’d like to go for online studies, online programs are available in Population Mental Health and Wellbeing and Leadership and Public Health Practice.
Students can finish their masters as quickly as two years but have up to five years to complete their studies.
University of South Florida (Tampa)
Average Tuition: In-state $8,350/year, Out-of-state $19,048/year
On-campus or Online? Campus-based, online available
Financial Aid: Available
USF’s public health master’s program can be more appealing thanks to the lower tuition cost for out-of-state students. Aside from the more affordable out-of-state tuition costs, this university provides a flexible program that allows students to choose between on-campus and online programs.
The University of South Florida’s College of Public Health offers 19 concentrations within the field, allowing you to choose the area you prefer most. There are also core courses, namely:
- Population Assessment
- History and Systems of Public Health
- Translation to Public Health Practice
Students will benefit from integrated learning, which includes practice experience. A bachelor’s to master’s pathway program is also available for students looking to save time and money along the way.
Texas A&M University (College Station)
Average Tuition: In-state $6,677/year, Out-of-state $18,700/year
On-campus or Online? On-campus, online available
Financial Aid: Some scholarships available, not specifically for the Public Health program
Texas A&M University’s MPH program is another more affordable option that provides interested students with a more reachable opportunity.
Students who study at Texas A&M will experience a curriculum that emphasizes practical skills and cross-disciplinary education. There are six concentrations available to choose from where students can learn problem-solving skills for real-world problems relating to health and environmental/occupational safety.
Students aren’t required to present a GRE score. While a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution is required, the degree does not need to be related to public health.
UCLA – University of California (Los Angeles)
Average Tuition: In-state $11,442/year, Out-of-state $26,544/year
On-campus or Online? On-campus
Financial Aid: Available
UCLA’s Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, offers an MPH that students can complete in about two years. The school has five unique departments that allow students to specialize in an area of particular interest. One thing that sets UCLA’s MPH program apart is the diversity of students who come from as many as 25 countries.
Although the MPH takes two years to complete on average, those who have qualifying credentials like a clinical doctorate can take advantage of the accelerated track, which will allow earlier completion. Students working full-time as they study for their MPH can opt for the Executive MPH program. Each student gets hands-on training opportunities to prepare them for real-world situations.
Rutgers University (New Brunswick, New Jersey)
Average Tuition: In-state $17,736/year, Out-of-state $30,144/year
On-campus or Online? On-campus
Financial Aid: Available
Rutgers University isn’t as affordable as other options on this list, but the university is the only Council on Education for Public Health accredited grad school in the state. With locations in New Brunswick and Newark, students can choose a better site for them.
The university’s MPH program is 45 units, and students can usually complete it in two years. There are nine concentrations available, and students can choose from ten certificate options.
A GRE score is required for admission unless you already have a doctorate from an accredited educational institution in Canada or the US or are US/Canada medical board certified. Alternatively, you can send in your MCAT, DAT, GMAT, or Step 1 of USMLE completed.
Related: What is on the GRE? GRE Preparation Tips to Ace Your GRE
Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, Maryland)
Average Tuition: $55,350 per year
On-campus or Online? On-campus or Online
Financial Aid: Available
Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health offers one of the very best master’s in public health programs out in the world today. It’s a standard-setter in the world of public health. Of course, this comes at a price — a very hefty one. An MPH in this institution is easily one of the most expensive ones you can get, although some financial aid opportunities are available.
The university offers a full-time program that students can complete as quickly as eleven months. Alternatively, students can opt for an online or part-time program completable in two to three years. The program has an interdisciplinary structure that provides students with a solid foundation and flexibility to change their public health focus areas.
Students will be required to take the following core courses:
- The Social Determinants of Public Health
- Population Dynamics and Public Health
- Negotiation and Mediation for Public Health Professionals
Students must also complete a practicum lasting 100 clock hours for experience aligning with their career goals. This practicum acts as a culminating experience that allows MPH students to apply their knowledge to real-world public health challenges.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Need a Bachelor’s in Public Health to Apply for a Master’s in Public Health Degree?
The short answer is: not necessarily. To apply for an MPH, you need an undergrad degree, preferably within the field of healthcare. Some programs may also require higher degrees. For example, if you’re trying to get into Harvard’s School of Public Health, you’ll need a health-related master’s or doctoral degree.
Is it Hard to Earn an MPH Degree?
It can be difficult to earn your MPH, especially if you’re also trying to balance work and family responsibilities simultaneously. It can also be quite taxing to your finances, and you may find yourself lacking free time for the duration of your studies. However, with enough hard work and dedication, it’s certainly possible.
Which Specialization is Best in Public Health?
It can be difficult to point out the best specialization in public health since “best” can be subjective. Some of the highest-paying positions are healthcare administration, registered nurse, and epidemiologist. In terms of helping people, you may also want to become a counselor or work in community and social services management.
Where Do Public Health Workers Work?
Public health graduates work in private sectors and organizations, nonprofits, healthcare institutions and physicians’ practices, hospitals, and local, state, and federal health agencies. You can choose to work within the law, business, pharmaceuticals, technology, policymaking, and science.
Choosing The Correct Program for You
When deciding which MPH program to go for, there’s no single perfect choice or answer. The best thing you can do is compare each option and create a shortlist of schools and programs that meet your requirements and needs. Once you’ve got your shortlist going, you can start applying for them.
From there, you will have narrowed down your options to the programs you are accepted into. Ask questions, visit the campus (if it’s an in-person program), and talk to graduates. Then you can begin your public health education and get on your way to helping the population!
Chriselle has been a passionate professional content writer for over 10 years. She writes educational content for The Grad Cafe, Productivity Spot, The College Monk, and other digital publications. When she isn't busy writing, she spends her time streaming video games and learning new skills.
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