Top 6 Requirements for Online MPH Degrees

A Master of Public Health degree, or MPH, is a graduate degree that helps students and professionals to learn the most important aspects of public health so that they can enjoy an exciting and rewarding career in the public health sector.

Graduating from an online MPH program  will prepare you for many different public health career options. Generally, public health-related jobs are on the upswing in the US, as the government and healthcare companies want to prevent diseases from occurring at all, rather than just treat diseases and illnesses after they happen. Preventative medicine saves money and it saves lives.

The MPH degree will provide you with comprehensive expertise in public health theory and practice, which will always make you more in demand for good jobs and salaries. This is borne out in research: Forbes magazine found in 2016 that an online biostatistics (public health) degree was the best master’s degree to earn, with a $104,000 mid career salary, and 18% increase in demand anticipated by 2024.

If you are considering to obtain your MPH degree, there are some requirements that you will need to figure out if you are going to be successful in your program. They are as follows:

Requirement #1: Choose Your Specialty

If you read about online MPH degrees very much, you know that you will have to select a speciality. You will have trouble studying for an MPH degree without declaring a speciality. Which one is for you? It always depends upon your interests, but also consider which type of public health job is in the most demand in your area. Also consider the work environment in which you want to work:

  • Biostatistics: You will become an expert in the application of quantitative methods to public health problems. You will discover how to use advanced statistical procedures to design and analyze public health studies and determine why public health issues are occurring in certain populations. You and other public health professionals will use this vital data to determine potential public health policy solutions.
  • Environmental health: This specialty concerns public health exposure to physical agents and chemicals that are harmful. Many professionals who pursue this speciality in public health move on to work in academia, and possibly in environmental mental protection and public health agencies at the local and state level.
  • Epidemiology: You will do research to determine what is the cause of human disease in certain populations and how to prevent it. As an epidemiologist, you will have to master many types of epidemiologic research, and you will study how many major diseases occur in different populations, such as TB, cancer, AIDs and also water borne diseases.
  • Social and behavior science: The focus of this public health speciality are on the aspects of social and behavioral science that influence the identification and the forming of solutions for serious public health problems. Also, you will study behavioral interventions and psychosocial influences on health and illness.
  • International public health: The specific focus of this concentration is to prepare you for leadership roles in international organizations that are dedicated to preserving public health. There is special emphasis on boosting the health of at risk populations in developing countries.

Which of these specialties that you choose will influence the program that you ultimately decide upon.

Requirement #2: Accreditation

As you are looking at online MPH degree programs, you should always be certain that the program is accredited by a highly respected organization. For MPH degree programs, you want an online degree program that is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, or CEPH. This is the main accrediting agency for public health education and is recognized by the US Department of Education.

If an online MPH program is accredited by the CEPH, you know that you are getting the highest quality of education. Also, know that many public health employers only will hire you if your degree program is CEPH accredited.

Requirement #3: Program Length

Keep in mind that for an online MPH program to meet strict CEPH standards, it must consist of at least 42 credit hours. In most online MPH programs, you will usually need to study for at least two years, or possibly three years if you attend part time.

There are a limited number of universities that offer one year MPH programs. While it is possible to complete this demanding degree in only a year, you will need to take on a very demanding program schedule to complete all of the CEPH-required credits. You should judge whether you have sufficient time in your personal and professional life to dedicate to this type of one year commitment.

Requirement #4: Prerequisites

This requirement, once again, will depend upon the exact program you choose, but generally, you will need to have the following prerequisites to enter most MPH degree programs:

  • Public health-related work experience: Most online MPH programs will want to see that you have significant work experience with some exposure to public health or health care related concerns. For example, Johns Hopkins University requires the student to have two years of health-related work experience to qualify for consideration for admission.
  • Strong academic background, which often includes calculus, algebra, statistics, biology, microbiology and/or anatomy and physiology.
  • Personal statement that synthesizes how your past academic and work experience has prepared you for a public health career.
  • Strong letters of recommendation from professional and academic sources.
  • Some online MPH programs will require GRE or GMAT scores, while others do not.

Requirement #5: Core Courses

Whichever online MPH degree program that you choose, and whichever specialization, you will need to take some common core courses. These core public health classes will serve as your foundation for what is coming later in your MPH program.

For example, the online MPH program at Johns Hopkins University requires the MPH student to take these core classes below. Other universities will differ as far as the course title, but the subject matter will be quite similar:

  • Academic research and ethics
  • Statistical reasoning for public health professionals
  • Methods in biostatistics for public health professionals
  • Environmental health
  • Public health policy
  • Problem solving in public health
  • Social and behavioral foundations of primary health care
  • Life course perspectives on health
  • Fundamentals of health, behavior and society
  • Population dynamics and public health

Also, every online public health degree program will require you to complete some type of practicum experience in a local public health setting. Typically, you need to complete 100 supervised hours that align with the goals of your public health career. You can usually choose to do your practicum in many public health settings – from a local public health department to a laboratory or even an environmental health non-profit.

Requirement #6 – Choosing Your Online MPH Program

After you have done your research about your public health career, you have to decide which online MPH program is best for your career goals, your work experience, prerequisites, and your time availability. Based upon those factors, you should be able to select a solid public health program to earn your MPH degree online.

One excellent, accredited online Master of Public Health program you may want to consider is the University of Southern California’s MPH program. The USC program is known as one of the top in the United States. More important features of this CEPH-accredited program include:

  • USC is a top ranked private research university.
  • The MPH program has some of the best public health faculty in the world, who regularly participate in groundbreaking public health research that influence public health around the globe.
  • A large network of public health professionals are connected to this elite, online MPH program, offering you many exciting, life long networking opportunities.
  • The MPH degree program is located on the Los Angeles CA campus on the Health Science campus, but it is taught online.

As noted earlier, the curriculum at USC requires a set of core classes, as all MPH programs do. In USC’s case, they are:

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Public health policy and management
  • Environmental and occupational health
  • Social and behavioral sciences

All students of the USC online MPH program must complete the five core classes, as well as a 400 hour practicum that is done in a local public health setting; the practicum site and work must be approved by your academic advisor at USC.

You also must select a set of track-specific core classes that will depend upon your career interests. The total credit hours in the program is 47 and can be completed usually within two years. Part time students should complete the program within five years.

For example, the core classes that you will take in the biostatistics and epidemiology track include:

  • Behavioral Epidemiology
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biological Threats and Terrorism
  • Chronic Disease Epidemiology
  • Design of Clinical Studies
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology
  • Program Evaluation and Research
  • Detection and Control of Diseases
  • Data Analysis

The USC program received its full accreditation by the CEPH in 2003. It assures you and employers that the program has been carefully evaluated and meets the rigorous standards that have been established by the Council on Education in Public Health.

If you are interested in a rewarding career in a public health speciality, make sure that you have met the above requirements so that you gain the maximum benefit from your MPH education.

Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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