Medical professionals with a master’s in public health (MPH) make key decisions that move forward innovations in modern healthcare. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in public healthcare management are projected to grow at a rate of 20%, well above the national average.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), careers in public healthcare management are projected to grow at a rate of 20%, well above the national average.
With a yearly salary between $39,000-$98,000, healthcare managers and technicians are well compensated for developing and improving healthcare policy, implementing and improving documentation, and directing a complex community of medical professionals.
Healthcare is a fast-growing field that continues to evolve as Americans increasingly strive to live longer and more fulfilling lives. An MPH opens the door to many career opportunities. Choose a professional healthcare career that you find most rewarding.
Should I Get a Master's in Public Health?
Before entering an MPH program, consider the following questions. First, what are the benefits to a master’s in public health? And what programs are available to you? An MPH opens up careers in public health administration and analysis across both the public and private sectors, including community health centers, nonprofits, and private consultancy groups. Degree holders focus on trends and innovations in the medical profession, often specializing in one of five topics: biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health policy or administration, and social or behavioral sciences.
MPH degree programs are available both on campus and online. Program length varies depending on your previous educational background and average time commitment, often ranging 1-2 years. For undergraduates or recent graduates of a bachelor’s program, transitioning into a campus program is fairly straightforward, and those with a bachelor’s in nursing or medical studies can complete the MPH in as little as one year. For non-traditional students or working professionals, a hybrid or online program offers more flexibility in time and location. Depending on previous experience and the speed of coursework, online students typically complete programs within two years.
Regardless if the program is in a classroom or online, participants benefit from networking with classmates and educators, and gain a sense for the profession’s ethics. After graduation, your degree distinguishes you from the growing percentage of bachelor’s degree holders in the medical field, and jumpstarts your public health career.
What Can I Do With a Master’s in Public Health?
Public health is an ever-expanding field, offering careers in government, healthcare institutions, and private companies. Master’s degrees in public health can also inspire careers in healthcare lobbying, where dedicated professionals speak for underserved communities. Community outreach program coordinators help the public understand disease prevention and how to make better lifestyle choices. Public health consultants work with companies to meet ethical standards in product promotion and marketing. These career choices cater to a variety of personalities and strengths. The following list details just a few of the possible directions you can pursue.
- Health Educator and Community Health Worker
Become a voice for change in your community as a health educator or community health worker. In this profession, individuals develop programs and information campaigns to spread awareness of key health issues on the local level; instruct others how to identify and manage existing health conditions; and advocate for better healthcare access and policies.
Median Annual Salary: $45,360
Projected Growth Rate: 16%
- Healthcare Administrator
These professionals analyze and improve the complex infrastructure of medical centers, private care facilities, or nonprofits to deliver the best healthcare possible. Administrators train new employees and manage accounts and facility documentation to maintain organization in an often frenetic profession.
Median Annual Salary: $98,350
Projected Growth Rate: 20%
By monitoring situations and collecting data, epidemiologists identify and track outbreaks and long-standing problems that put entire communities as risk. Working with health practitioners, policymakers, and community members, epidemiologists effectively stem infection and increase awareness of chronic community issues such as substance abuse and environmental health risks.
Median Annual Salary: $69,660
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
- Environmental Scientist
These professionals approach the medical profession from an environmental viewpoint, offering new solutions to contemporary issues. Through data collection, analysis, and publication, scientists inform the public of environmental issues affected or instigated by modern healthcare practices.
Median Annual Salary: $69,400
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
With a strong background in mathematics or statistics, these professionals combine computational skills with biological trends. Critical to many research teams, they gather data from ongoing studies to provide clear demographic percentages of ongoing trends and predictive analytics. Biostatisticians solve real-world problems in the medical field by applying their analytical skills.
Median Annual Salary: $84,760
Projected Growth Rate: 33%
How to Choose a Master's in Public Health Program
As you research MPH programs, be sure to examine differences in program length, curriculum, and financial costs. Typically, an MPH program takes 1-2 years to complete, which is the case for most on-campus, hybrid, and online programs. Regardless of the program, most accredited schools offer similar coursework with standardized subject matter focusing on health policies. Learners explore environmental or social and behavioral issues, as well as research skills in biostatistics and epidemiology. Schools also offer specialized coursework in healthcare management, quantitative analysis, and clinical effectiveness to prepare participants for field research.
Finally, consider how much it costs to complete your MPH degree. Degree costs differ depending on format, length, and location. Typically, programs charge standard tuitions by the term, so if you enroll in a two-year program, you pay more than in a single-year program. Other expenses to consider include housing costs and material fees, such as textbooks and computer programs. Living at home rather than on campus or working while in a program may save money in the long term. Even so, other costs may inhibit online or working students. An intensive one-year program may cost in total as much as a two-year program, though the speed at which you can enter the job market may outweigh that initial cost.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master’s in Public Health Programs
School accreditation is like a seal of approval that guarantees the quality of your degree after graduation. Accreditation declares to future colleagues and employers the value of your knowledge and training, and attests to a focused background in the latest issues in public healthcare. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits all public health programs in the nation. The CEPH is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, which also sanctions regional accreditation bodies such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and the Higher Learning Commission. The CEPH specifically focuses on master of public health degree programs by monitoring public health educators to ensure student access to the latest information and up-to-date policy decisions.
All public or government institutions require degrees from accredited institutions in order to be eligible for hire, and most jobs in the private sector hold that same standard. It is critical for individuals to check school accreditation before enrolling in any MPH programs.
Master's in Public Health Program Admissions
To apply for a degree at the master’s level, all prospective students must submit an application. Admissions vary by school and program, though some standards include set application dates and fees; proof of previous educational training; and statements of interest and support. Given the complexity of applications, be sure to begin searching for prospective MPH programs at least a year in advance of your intended enrolment date.
Whether on campus or online, most applications have a deadline, usually in late fall or winter of the year prior to starting school. Online programs may offer more flexibility by providing multiple application deadlines throughout the year, often one in the fall and another in early spring. The following list details some of the common prerequisites and application materials that you should expect to provide when applying for a master’s in public health.
- Bachelor’s Degree: All MPH degree programs require a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution prior to enrollment. Some programs require a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the medical profession, such as nursing, biology, or mathematics. Review your potential school’s requirements for details.
- Professional Experience: Many schools require some form of professional experience prior to enrolment (often two years). This experience need not be in public health specifically. This requirement allows you to demonstrate your maturity; collaborative and leadership skills; and career aspirations.
- Minimum GPA: Typically, MPH programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA from your bachelor’s program. If your undergraduate GPA is not the strongest, post-baccalaureate classes completed prior to MPH enrollment can also demonstrate your commitment to education.
- Application: All master’s of public health degree programs require a complete application. Typically, these applications include general information about the applicant, previous educational background, and an explanation of personal reasons for pursuing a career in public health, expressed through a personal statement or essay.
- Transcripts: A transcript is a roadmap of your previous education, easily legible by institutions during the application process. You must submit official transcripts from your bachelor’s program, provided directly by your undergraduate institution. Note that possible fees may apply.
- Recommendation Letters: Letters of support fill in the human story behind the dry numbers of a transcript. Previous instructors or professors are the most common resource for recommendations, though coaches, community leaders, and employers may also submit letters. MPH programs typically require 2-3 letters. You should request letters of support at least one month in advance of the application deadline to give the writer time to compose a thoughtful response.
- Test Scores: Applicants must supply GRE test scores from a test taken within the last five years to be considered for any MPH program. For international applicants or students for whom English is a second language, the TOEFL exam is also required to prove language proficiency.
- Application Fee: Application fees typically range from $50-$100. This cost covers the financial burden of reviewing your application. In rare cases of financial hardship, this fee can be waived. Contact your prospective schools for details.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's in Public Health Program?
Though every school strives to offer a personalized educational experience, most MPH programs cover similar degree focuses relevant to the modern healthcare system. The following section explains five popular concentrations in MPH programs, detailing the objectives behind each specialization and potential resulting careers.
|Epidemiology||Epidemiologists study trends in infectious diseases, chronic illness, environmental health factors, and public emergency responses to assess and advocate for innovations in public health. In this professional branch, learners study outbreaks and systematic issues to save future generations.||Center for Disease Control (CDC) researcher Public health epidemiology specialist (local government) HIV/AIDS researcher|
|Biostatistics||By approaching medical and environmental issues from a mathematical or statistical background, biostatisticians identify and follow trends in contemporary public health to project future outcomes or growing issues in both local and global arenas.||Research project coordinator/manager Quantitative healthcare researcher Clinical scientist|
|Global Health||Compare diverse communities and locations with a global health perspective. Work from macro- to micro-scales to implement healthcare solutions across a diverse range of external and cultural stressors.||Nonprofit or private healthcare consultant International maternal and childhood mortality advocate Healthcare lobbyist|
|Health Policy or Administration||Valuable for future clinicians, managers, and policy writers, administrative training exposes students to the framework encompassing healthcare, including its innovations and its limitations. Skills in strategic management, organizational behaviors, finance, and economics prepare future managers and policy writers to continuously improve the public healthcare system.||Public healthcare policy writer Healthcare administrator (public or private sector) Director of healthcare administrative programs and services|
|Social/Behavioral Sciences||Explore the social, psychological, and behavioral factors that impact current public health issues. Spanning illness and recovery, as well as general wellness, this branch identifies and tracks behavioral side effects of psycho-social issues to promote positive behavioral patterns.||Psychosocial epidemiologist Social computing specialist (private sector) Social and behavioral sciences librarian|
Courses in a Master’s in Public Health Program
While courses differ by school, all institutions accredited by the CEPH follow similar instructional guidelines. All MPH programs acquaint participants in the five major areas of public health, in addition to providing specialist training in the student’s chosen focus area. The following five courses are typical of MPH degree programs.
- Principles of Biostatistics
An intensive course on biostatistical methodology, this class surveys previous and current trends in statistical analysis of biological data. Learners delve into data analysis by identifying probabilities, hypothesis testing, and variant analyses. Ultimately, this course introduces students to the fundamentals of inference and systematic projection that help diagnose public health crises.
- Financial Management
Most healthcare administrators will at some point be involved in the financial side of public health. This course introduces learners to organizational decisions, including operational and capital budgeting, and long-term financial analysis. Individuals study the practicalities of GAAP accounting, and financial tracking and documentation to prepare for future responsibilities in public health finance.
- Global Environmental Health
By taking a global perspective on environmental health, this course exposes students to the diversity of environmental effects on public health worldwide. Through isolated cases, and interrelated studies of cultural or environmental contact, students examine and critique public healthcare responses to complex disease outbreaks and chronic issues.
- Methods in Community Health Research
Students learn how to tackle healthcare issues through quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis. Public health crises arise in the form of epidemics and outbreaks; underlying issues; and natural and man-made disasters. By encouraging multi-avenue approaches to research, students gain real-world training in responses to public health issues.
- Nutritional Epidemiology
Students learn the tenets of observation and intervention in nutritional habits to stem the spread of disease outbreaks or manage chronic illness. Coursework combines nutrition with physiology, biochemistry, and statistics to fully comprehend the value of nutrition analysis in epidemiology.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master’s in Public Health?
Many factors impact the speed at which you complete your MPH degree program. If your undergraduate education focused on medical or related fields such as biology or mathematics, or if you hold a registered nurse (RN) certification, you may qualify for an accelerated, one-year MPH program. Without prior experience, students can earn an MPH degree in about two years. However, part-time students may take longer to complete a program.
The final capstone or practicum can also potentially impact a student’s timeline. A capstone project is a research project designed and executed by the student, required for submission prior to graduation. Research projects typically take as much time as you give them, so be sure to prioritize your time to stay on track for graduation.
By contrast, the practicum is a supervised practice experience in an internship situation. While preparation for the practicum is often more expedient, finding the venue for a practicum can be challenging. Take the initiative to find internship opportunities before the start of your final term to ensure you have a stage to present your skills.
How Much is a Master’s in Public Health?
Master’s degrees in public health vary in cost by school, program length, and location. The number of semester or quarter terms taken is commonly the largest financial impact. A one-year program, open to students with a previous background in medical or scientific fields, costs less than a two-year master’s. An accelerated or intensive program, designed to catch up non-specialists in about one year, generally costs more because students take more courses in a shorter time span. A traditional two-year program that brings students from a variety of backgrounds into the field costs more.
Beyond tuition costs, be sure to account for additional expenses such as housing fees. After enrollment, this is often students’ largest expense. Consider the pros and cons of living on campus, near campus, or working remotely to complete your degree. Likewise, consider the financial burden of out-of-state schools versus in-state institutions. Do any local programs offer your desired MPH specializations?
Certifications and Licenses a Master’s in Public Health Prepares For
- Certification in Public Health
Accredited by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, this is the only public health certification recognized nationwide. Certification requires passing the CPH exam, consisting of 200 questions to be completed within four hours. After passing the exam, members must maintain certification with a minimum 50 continuing education credits every two years.
- Certified Health Education Specialist
Become a specialist in education with this certification from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. This two-level exam series for both young and established professionals declares competency and an ongoing commitment to skill-building in health education. Certification requires successful completion of the CHES exam, with recertification every five years.
- Workplace Wellness Certification
The Wellness Council of America (WCA) strives for better working conditions across the public and private sector by training wellness professionals, occupational health nurses, dieticians, and human resources administrators how to analyze, identify, and manage intersocial stressors, and inspire community collaboration. The WCA increases awareness of workplace dynamics and encourages positive communication across businesses and organizations.
- Registered Environmental Health Specialist
Standardized by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the REHS credential focuses on environmental issues impacting public health, from clean air and water, to safe food and waste disposal. Specialists handle spontaneous or natural disasters; coordinate emergency or long-term responses; and increase community awareness.
- Certification of Infection Control and Epidemiology
This certification qualifies your skills in identification of infectious diseases; surveillance and epidemiological analysis; data interpretation; and prevention planning. Run by the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology, this exam is offered year round, and qualifies successful applicants for five years with the possibility of recertification.
Resources for Public Health Graduate Students
Contribute to the largest student organization in public health as a member of the American Public Health Association Student Assembly. Gain free access to the American Journal of Public Health and qualify for conference grants from the APHA.
Connect with established researchers, scholars, and professionals engaged with environmental health as a student member of the NEHA. This organization offers accreditation, internship opportunities, scholarships, and professional conferences.
What began as a Yale University graduate student association has grown into a consortium of graduate students at over 100 research universities in 20 countries, all dedicated to increasing global access to medication. Join this association to participate in annual conferences and access internships regarding global public health.
Orchestrated by the NIH of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, this resource lists internship, job, and research campaign opportunities supported by the U.S. government. Discover current academic and contractor positions available through a career services page.
As an association of CEPH-accredited institutions, this resource offers students access to ongoing or specialty education opportunities; undergraduate and graduate networks; and job search engines.
Professional Organizations in Public Health
Having decided to enter the public health field, your next step is to identify and join the professional organizations that will develop your career. These organizations offer vital networking and job-search centers, as well as mentor programs and internship directories to launch your professional life. Conferences and continuing education opportunities offer venues to present your ongoing research and build your professional repertoire with connections and specialty certifications. Impress your colleagues and employers with your dedication to the contemporary public health issues as a contributor to the professional arena.
Stay current on international innovations in public health as a member of the IEA, which publishes a journal on current events in epidemiology and holds regional and international conferences.
With publications, continuing education opportunities, and the public health career center, the APHA inspires professionals to continuously engage with current events and network nationwide.
Intended to bring statistics professionals together across disciplines in private industries, government, and academia, the ASA offers ongoing educational and publication opportunities, and networking venues to build one’s career.
This independent international organization evaluates standards of private, government, and nonprofit clinical trials. Intended to spread awareness and educate professionals across public and private sectors, the SCT facilitates scientific meetings and webinars to keep members current on ethical clinical research.
Connect with all levels of professional nutrition and holistic medicine as a member of the NANP. Demonstrate your commitment to nutritional health by participating in the association’s annual conferences, and qualify to take certification exams with prorated fees.