MPH vs. MBA: Choosing the Right Degree

doctor holding patient hand

When deciding to pursue a graduate degree in public health, it can be challenging to select the right academic path. Within the field, there are two central options – the Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a focus in health care. Depending on your academic needs and professional goals, the curriculum and training can prepare you for significantly different career paths.

When considering an MPH vs. MBA degree, keep in mind that both programs can serve as springboards to launch careers in the rapidly growing health care industry and its related fields. While the MBA may offer a greater chance of pursuing management-focused occupations, the MPH prepares students for hands-on leadership and research in positions throughout the public health field.

MPH vs. MBA: The MPH program

MPH programs offer in-depth instruction about the economic, social and environmental forces that influence the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities.

Students learn to develop and manage initiatives to counteract community health problems and fight societal inequalities in access to housing, health care, healthy food, clean air, clean water and transportation.

The MPH curriculum introduces students to the fundamentals of public health, covering subjects such as epidemiology, biostatistics, health administration and policy, social and behavioral health, and environmental health. After satisfying core requirements, students transition into specialized elective classes within their academic concentrations – such as program planning or local health policy. Electives may cover topics including leadership and management, financial planning, grant writing and other areas.

Career prospects for MPH graduates

MPH graduates often pursue positions throughout the health industry, including at community-based organizations, nonprofit groups, hospitals and health networks, government agencies, research firms and private employers. There is a wide array of vocational options within these fields. For example, graduates may choose to become epidemiologists, program officers, health educators, biostatisticians or administrators of federally funded health centers. Because the MPH has gained global acceptance, graduates may also find opportunities to work internationally.

MPH vs. MBA: MBA with a health care focus

For students interested in blending the study of health and business, the MBA with a health care focus might be the right choice. The MBA is designed for students seeking to pivot into the health care business or current health care professionals looking to develop business leadership, project management and operational experience for today’s growing health care industry.

The core curriculum of health care MBA programs builds a solid foundation in business administration with courses in finance and financial reporting, accounting, strategic planning, marketing management, economics and statistics. Students also learn about issues such as care financing, health care product development, health service delivery, staffing management, and regulatory and legal frameworks.

Career prospects for health care MBA graduates

Graduates of health-focused MBA programs possess a valuable combination of general management skills and advanced knowledge of health care processes, policies and trends. This background prepares them to take on management and leadership roles in a diverse range of disciplines, such as finance, marketing, operations, health care consulting, pharmaceutical brand management, data analytics and health informatics. Graduates may also work for public or private health care providers.

Making the right choice

MPH and MBA degrees offer different road maps to fulfilling careers in the rapidly growing and fast-changing field of health care. In regards to comparing an MPH versus an MBA, both programs have the same overarching focus, but they differ in the emphasis, curriculum and practical training they provide to students. An MPH program may be the best option for a student who wants to work in the policy side of health care, as an administrator at a public health agency, nonprofit or research organization. The MBA degree would likely be the preferred track for business-minded students who desire management-level positions at companies in the health care sector. Choosing the right graduate program is an important decision. Make sure to explore your own interests before diving into a program.

MPH at the University of Nevada, Reno

Ranked as a national Tier 1 university by U.S. News & World Report, the University of Nevada, Reno offers a flexible and fully online Master of Public Health program that is tailored to accommodate the needs of working students and greatly enhance their career prospects. The university offers a concentration in public health practice with a curriculum structured around important topics such as biostatistics, social and behavioral health, environmental health, epidemiology, finance and budget, health informatics, and health policy. The transformational program allows graduates to take on complex challenges in public health and to work toward healthier, more equitable futures for all people. Through a well-rounded approach to theory and applied learning, the program teaches students how to assess current public health initiatives, identify weaknesses and develop programs that lead to improvements within their community.

The MPH program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), and multiple start dates are available throughout the year. Students can graduate in as few as 24 months. There is no GRE requirement for admission into the program.

After satisfying core requirements, students take specialized elective classes such as program planning, leadership and management, financial planning and grant writing.

The online Master of Public Health program at the University of Nevada, Reno provides a strong educational foundation for students who are interested in shaping health policy and participating in the development and implementation of programs that will make a positive impact on people and communities.

Sources:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers

University of Reno, Nevada, MBA

University of Reno, Nevada, MPH