Master of Public Health (MPH) Curriculum

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Learning about health

Educated public health professionals leverage their advanced knowledge of disease prevention and health promotion to advocate for higher standards of health throughout their communities. This complex field engages professionals in many different capacities, ranging from jobs that involve organizing public health services to others that are based around infectious disease control programs. The University of Nevada, Reno Master of Public Health program was constructed to help students develop mastery over the core tenets of the public health profession, thereby preparing them to obtain fulfilling work in the field.

MPH Curriculum Focus Areas

A Master of Public Health program discusses the advanced practical elements of public health and how public health is used to the benefit of societies. The curriculum typically focuses on critical public health-related topics, such as health policy, epidemiology, environmental health, occupational health, biostatistics, and the social/behavioral sciences. Studying each of these subjects in a graduate setting will allow students to weave together a multifaceted skill set that allows them to find work across public health disciplines. In addition to the rigorous core curriculum, a few common curriculum focus areas for MPH programs include the following:

Health Policy and Administration: The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health policy as decisions, plans and actions that are undertaken to achieve specific health care goals within a society. A health policy articulates a vision for the future by establishing targets and listing actionable measures; it should describe the roles of different groups, raise awareness of the goals, and build consensus among individuals and communities. This concentration is designed for students who would like to specialize in advocating for the improvement of public health standards. Graduated professionals should be fully capable of navigating the administrative structure of healthcare systems and contributing to the health policy making process.

Biostatistics: Biostatistics provides quantitative evidence to answer research questions about the cause and spread of disease. For example, a major branch of biostatistics is medical biostatistics, used in clinical trials to develop new drugs. Students choosing this concentration are offered a deeper understanding of how data can be used to improve health science-related research studies.  It involves learning how to collaborate with epidemiologists and other health practitioners to design studies and analyze the results. Using these skills, they should be able to contribute useful biostatistical data to studies being conducted in fields like public health and medicine.

Epidemiology: Epidemiology is the study of the distribution and causes of disease and health issues in human populations. Epidemiologists illustrate a public health issue in terms of magnitude, person, time and place; they calculate basic epidemiology measures and summarize results for public and professional audiences. Students choosing this concentration study principles and methods of descriptive and analytic epidemiology with an emphasis on current public health research. Through their coursework, they will learn how different factors can be measured and evaluated to determine the source of diseases.

Epidemiology and biostatistics are closely linked and are used in the development of public health response planning, management and policymaking. Together they form the basic sciences of public health. Epidemiologists use biostatistics to help them make decisions.

Key Skills for Public Health Professionals

Generally, MPH curriculums are designed to give students the opportunity to develop skills in communication, leadership, cultural competency, and analytical thinking. These skills are critical for career success in public health.

Communication: To ensure the effectiveness of public health measures, public health professionals must identify and assess the literacy of populations. They must then use written and verbal communication that is culturally and linguistically accurate to convey public health information.

Leadership: Ethics and leadership go hand in hand, especially in the field of public health. Professionals in this field interact with individuals, organizations and communities to achieve public health goals. To develop leadership skills founded on firm ethical principles, aspiring public health leaders should take graduate courses covering leadership and ethics, and continually engage in professional development through training, mentoring, peer advising and coaching.

Cultural Competency: To understand, address and advocate for diverse populations, public health professionals must recognize the ways diversity influences policies, programs, services and the health of a community. Cultural competency skills are used in the process of developing, implementing and communicating public health policies and programs among culturally diverse populations.

Program Planning and Evaluation: In order to reach organizational goals, public health institutions must outline the steps they will take to achieve them. Program planning involves setting such goals and sharing them in a way that highlights why each minor objective is important to achieving an ultimate goal. MPH coursework will teach students how to plan programs for themselves and how to evaluate the plans of others to make improvements. These skills are critical when studying the health of large populations, because the ability to develop and improve clear strategies helps keep such projects running smoothly.

Analytical Thinking and Assessment: Public health professionals use this skill to identify and evaluate quantitative and qualitative data that is vital to assessing the health of a community.

Common Courses for a Master in Public Health

The following courses are included in the University of Nevada, Reno MPH curriculum:

Social and Behavioral Dimensions of Health: This course covers the concepts and methods used in social and behavioral sciences to identify and solve public health problems. Students may learn to describe the role of social and community factors in identifying potential solutions, and to apply social justice and human rights principles when addressing community needs.

Epidemiology in Public Health: This course studies the principles and methods of descriptive and analytical epidemiology, with an emphasis on the critical examination of current public health research. Students can learn how to calculate basic epidemiology measures and apply causal inference and hypothesis testing, among other practices.

Health Policy and Administration: This course in the MPH curriculum examines public health policy and organizational sciences in health administration. Students can learn about the current challenges the public health system faces to finance and deliver health care services.

Biostatistics in Public Health: This course introduces the underlying principles of biostatistics and the variety of applications in public health research. Students learn how to apply basic concepts of random variation, probability and statistical probability distributions. They also learn how to apply common statistical methods for inference.

Learn More

The online Master of Public Health at the University of Nevada, Reno can help give students the tools they need to enter the public health profession with a firm grasp of key concepts and training. Find out more about our comprehensive curriculum and apply today.

Recommended Reading:

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Career Spotlight: Biostatistician

University of Nevada, Reno Master of Public Health


World Health Organization

World Health Organization, Health Policy

Encyclopedia Britannica, Public Health

The Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice, Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals