This article details why you should earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, and it includes the types of specialties you can focus on, how to choose a program, joint degrees, degree accreditation and many of the career options available.
What Is an MPH Degree?
The MPH degree is a graduate degree that provides you with the skills to work in many public health fields, including biostatistics, epidemiology, public health education, and environmental health. The most common way to enter the public health field is to earn either a master’s degree or doctoral degree in public health.
Why Earn an MPH Degree?
The public health field is becoming a very desirable, long term option for people who want to be well paid and have plenty of work. There are many in demand specialties in public health, and which one you choose is an important decision. That is why we provide details on those major public health specialities in the next section.
One of the areas of public health in most demand in the job world is statisticians, with a 34% increase in job demand by 2024, according to government statistics.
To be certain that you get the best start possible in the public health field, you will want to determine which speciality interests you most, and also choose the best program. It is important to select a highly regarded program for your MPH, given that there is a lot of competition in this growing field.
Also, spend some time to consider if you want to go to school full or part time. Earning an MPH degree full time usually takes two years, but this can be drawn out by another two years if you go part time.
You also can earn your MPH degree online, which allows you to continue to work full time. If you already work in public health, you may be able to apply what you are learning to your current position.
Choose Your Career Path
After you have determined if you want to go get your MPH full or part time, you should decide which MPH speciality is of most interest to you. Your career direction will vary widely depending upon which speciality you focus on. Read about the specific public health specialties that you can select:
- Biostatistics: This specialty involves analyzing statistics in public health, processing it and then interpreting the results. This work is critical in the design of research studies and analyzing public health data. This is a career field that is best for people who are highly detail oriented, love numbers and are highly skilled at processing and interpreting data.
- Epidemiology: An epidemiologist studies diseases and illnesses, and the associated risks with a certain population, and then learn how it was and will be affected. Epidemiological studies are extremely important for the prevention and control of diseases. Epidemiologists must take complex health and medical data and provide that information to policy makers or the public.
- Public health administration: This area of public health concentrates on how public and private health services are financed, organized and delivered. This is an excellent option for an administrative or managerial professional who wants to pursue a leadership position in a public health organization.
- Public health nursing: Public health nursing is done by registered nurses who focus more on the community in general and the prevention of diseases in the general population, rather than working on an individual patient after he or she is ill. To become a public health nurse, you must also earn a Master of Science in Nursing, or MSN degree.
- Environmental health: This MPH speciality encompasses many things, including disease prevention, occupational dangers, air quality, water quality, and living conditions in at risk communities. This speciality studies human health, the health of the environment and how it has an effect on human health.
Online MPH Degree Options
For an excellent online MPH program where you can earn an accredited public health degree in several specialities, consider the University of South Florida. This online MPH program provides you with a real world learning experience in an online, interactive environment with many other dedicated public health professionals.
Most of your classmates are already working in public health; many students enrolled here already work at the CDC, in the military and at public health offices across the US.
This accredited public health program provides students with the chance to learn public health practice leadership skills, as well as advanced public health tools in several specialties:
- Public health administration
- Infection control
- Global disaster management
- Public health practice
- Environmental safety and health
Required courses will vary depending upon your specialty, but may include:
- History and Systems of Public Health
- Principles of Health Policy and Management
- Environmental and Occupational Health
- Population Assessment 1 and 2
- Epidemiology Methods 1 and II
- Categorical Data Analysis
- Computer Applications for Public Health Researchers
Joint MPH Degree Options
If you are sure you want to work in public health, you also have the option of pairing that degree with another master’s or professional degree and enjoy even more career options. You also can probably earn both degrees at the same time, and save yourself considerable time and expense:
- MPH/MBA: Earn a public health degree while you earn an MBA so that you can offer your public health organization business expertise in a highly competitive global marketplace.
- MPH/MSW: If you are dedicated to public health, you may want to also earn your master’s degree in social work so that you can help at need people with public health and social service needs.
- MPH/MSN: If you want to work as a public health nurse, the most efficient choice is to earn a nursing degree with your MPH.
- MPH/JD: If your passion is public health, you may find it beneficial to become an attorney so that you can share your expertise on public health law.
As you are considering any MPH program, you should determine its accreditation status. With an accreditation from a respected body in the field, you and employers know that you have learned your MPH skills from a rigorous program, and you have learned what you need to know to be a successful professional.
Generally, you should look for accreditation of public health programs from the Council on Education in Public Health or CEPH. This is a highly regarded independent agency that has been recognized by the Department of Education to accredit public health schools.
The field of public health is wide open for ambitious professionals who want to make a good salary and enjoy an exciting and dynamic career where helping others is the goal. Earning an MPH is how to get going on that career path.