What Can You Do With an MPH?

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A masked public health professional prepares a sample in a laboratory.

The field of public health is full of exciting career opportunities for those with the right combination of skills, knowledge and experience. Whether you’re interested in hands-on roles at the local level or high-impact positions with large organizations, a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree can provide the insight and expertise to tackle some of the world’s most pressing health challenges.

An MPH program can help you discover how professionals in the field effect real change through health research as well as policy and public outreach, offering an in-depth look at key topics such as biostatistics, epidemiology and health informatics. However, since the public health field is highly integrative and multifaceted, and offers so many professional options, it can be difficult to pin down a career path that aligns with your personal and professional interests.

To help you narrow down your search, we’ve put together a useful list of MPH jobs you might want to consider. Keep in mind, the public health field is constantly evolving. This adaptability allows you to embrace emerging health challenges and capitalize on new, innovative technologies. For example, social media platforms have enabled health researchers and educators to keep the general public informed about critical global issues, from the spread of diseases to breakthrough medical treatments.

As you explore what you might want to do with your MPH degree, it’s important to think about your ideal work environment and the types of responsibilities you’re hoping to take on.

Careers in Public Health

Public health is the science of preventing disease and promoting wellness for individuals and communities through organized research and outreach efforts. Where doctors work with individual patients to treat specific medical issues, public health professionals work to prevent people from becoming sick in the first place through public awareness campaigns, research studies, health care services and more.

At its core, public health is about promoting healthy behaviors, educating people about risk factors and ensuring everyone has access to high quality health care. The public health sector also plays an essential role in setting occupational safety standards, developing health programs and working with lawmakers to create effective and compassionate policy decisions. Of course, these initiatives often require close collaboration among professionals who have very different backgrounds.

Ultimately, the success of any public health campaign is built on experts with different specializations who are united by a common goal. Whether you’re a student or a mid-career professional, a master of public health can offer the technical expertise and real-world perspectives to truly make a difference. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some popular public health careers and the core skills that can help you excel after graduation. Below are just a few of the jobs that demonstrate what you can do with an MPH degree.

Biostatistician

Biostatisticians play a crucial role in modern health care settings by collecting, analyzing and interpreting data related to specific public health issues. Professionals in this line of work use applied and theoretical statistics to study how determining factors, such as genetics and social environments, impact the health and well-being of people around the world, according to the FDA. They also conduct research on the effects of new medical treatments, disease outbreaks, chronic illnesses and more. Nearly all of the compelling statistics used by health organizations and nonprofits come from biostatisticians, which makes them pivotal to the success of public outreach campaigns.

In their daily routine, most biostatisticians work in office settings and utilize computer programs like SPSS for statistical modeling and predictive analytics. After collecting and analyzing all the relevant information, professionals in the field may design research studies to further validate their findings and conclusions.

For example, biostatisticians working for pharmaceutical companies often analyze the results of clinical trials to determine the efficacy of experimental drugs and treatment methods. However, since new information is constantly being created, biostatisticians frequently reevaluate historical data on the topics they’re studying, such as risk factors for cancer, causes of workplace injuries and other pressing public health issues.

Biostatistician Core Skills

Because most of their work is rooted in statistics and deep research, biostatisticians usually have an aptitude for mathematics and/or a background in the natural sciences. They use their critical thinking skills to make correlations between different data points and solve complex problems. For example, a biostatistician studying diabetes must consider a variety of isolated risk factors, from genetics and environmental health to diet and nutrition, to create an accurate predictive model. Communication skills are also crucial, as biostatisticians often work alongside epidemiologists, health educators and other public health professionals on large research projects. Some other key skills include acumen in:

  •     Experimental design
  •     Survey methodology
  •     Data management
  •     Report writing

Biostatistician Job Outlook

The demand for biostatisticians continues to grow, thanks to modern innovations in data gathering and analysis technologies. Professionals in this role have a range of employment options throughout the public and private sectors. While most biostatisticians find work at pharmaceutical companies, government agencies and nonprofit groups, some partner with research facilities or educational institutions that focus on specific topics of interest.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes biostatisticians in the blanket category of mathematicians and statisticians. According to the BLS, overall employment of mathematicians and statisticians, including biostatisticians, is projected to grow by 33% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the growth projected for the job market as a whole.

Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists actively investigate chronic illnesses, infectious diseases, occupational injuries and other public health risks through scientific research and fieldwork. This branch of public health is responsible for studying (among other things) the behaviors of diseases and noninfectious medical conditions, including their root causes, population distribution and possible treatment methods, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Ultimately, epidemiologists work to reduce the severity and frequency of negative health outcomes by understanding the underlying risk factors and developing preventative strategies. The research they produce is often used to improve existing medical practices and develop new, innovative treatments.

While every epidemiology job is different, most professionals work in laboratories or in the field collecting data firsthand. They closely examine blood samples and other bodily fluids to monitor how diseases evolve over time, allowing them to create predictive epidemic models that can be applied at individual and population levels.

Epidemiologists also conduct descriptive studies on important public health issues to better inform the general public about chronic illnesses, mental health, environmental hazards and more. Their work is foundational to community health initiatives and the development of public health programs, policies and outreach campaigns.

Epidemiologist Core Skills

Epidemiology typically revolves around collecting and analyzing health-related information from field studies, scientific research and historical data. Professionals in this role often come from scientific backgrounds, as much of their time is spent in laboratory settings.

Depending on the organizations they work for, epidemiologists may actively design and implement clinical trials and research studies focused on key public health issues, such as the spread of Zika, rising drug abuse rates in specific populations and the frequency of workplace injuries within industrial environments. They must also be able to effectively present their findings and make succinct recommendations for improving existing medical treatments and preventative strategies. Other core skills in epidemiology include competency in:

  •     Statistical analysis
  •     Systems evaluation
  •     Critical thinking
  •     Clinical methodologies

Epidemiologist Job Outlook

Although this profession is highly specialized compared to other public health roles, epidemiologists can find gainful employment in a wide range of settings, including local and state governments, medical facilities and large health organizations. For example, the CDC relies on epidemiologists to tackle some of the biggest domestic and global health challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the impact of natural disasters on small communities.

According to the BLS, employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow by 30% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than what’s projected for all other occupations. Job growth will be driven by several factors, such as the need to replace workers who retire or transfer to other occupations, and an increased demand for professionals who understand how to identify and mitigate diseases.

Public Health Analyst

Public health analysts exist in the gray area between research and administrative environments, helping to evaluate the impact of existing health and wellness initiatives. They closely collaborate with scientists and policymakers to spread awareness of key public health issues on a local, state, national, and even global scale. Some common areas of focus include chronic illnesses, industrial hazards, mental health and substance abuse.

Generally speaking, public health analysts are responsible for gathering relevant research data and partnering with a range of medical experts to improve health care policies and community-level programs. Professionals in this field also brief lawmakers about new clinical studies, create engaging content on pressing health topics, and draft detailed reports and policy recommendations.

In a sense, public health analysts are the problem solvers of the health care field. They use data analysis tools and their knowledge of health care reform to find practical solutions to specific health challenges. For example, combating infectious diseases in underserved communities may call for new health programs or policies at the local level, which often require the support of both nonprofit groups and government agencies.

As such, public health analysts spend much of their time networking with health experts and organizations, learning about new innovations in patient care, and speaking with members of their local community in person. While there can be a lot of variability between positions, the overarching goal of this profession is to promote healthy behaviors and advocate for the medical resources real people need.

Public Health Analyst Core Skills

Unlike many research-focused positions in the public health field, this role typically requires exceptional communication and interpersonal skills. In some instances, students interested in pursuing this career path may benefit from completing a public health policy internship. Public health analysts must be able to effectively collaborate with medical professionals and everyday citizens from a diverse range of backgrounds, as conducting on-site visits is relatively common.

Depending on their role and employer, analysts may also need to have some experience with budgeting and finance, as many in this field are responsible for calculating health care costs for specific programs. Professionals in more public-facing positions should have a strong aptitude for public speaking and digital communications, which are crucial for engaging the general public on key health issues. Some other important skills include demonstrated competency in:

  •     Statistical analysis
  •     Content development
  •     Survey methodologies
  •     Health policy reform

Public Health Analyst Job Outlook

Depending on their occupational goals, public health analysts can pursue a variety of specialized career paths throughout the health care sector. For example, candidates with a strong interest in health care policy often take on roles within state or federal health agencies, while those who are passionate about community outreach may prefer to work for a nonprofit organization or local hospital. The BLS includes public health analysts in the larger category of health care occupations. According to BLS data, employment within health care occupations, including public health analysts, is projected to grow 16% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than what’s projected for the job market as a whole.

How a Master’s Degree in Public Health Can Help Kickstart Your Career

What makes the public health sector so unique is that it unites professionals from a diverse range of educational backgrounds and specializations under a single, unified charter — to improve the lives of people everywhere through scientific research, compassionate health policies and public outreach.

Students interested in pursuing roles beyond entrylevel public health jobs will find that completing an advanced degree — such as University of Nevada, Reno’s online Master of Public Health — can provide the real-world perspectives and technical expertise to make a real difference.

This MPH program is entirely online and can be completed in as few as 24 months, allowing you to balance your education and professional commitments. Through the comprehensive MPH curriculum, you can develop both foundational and specialized knowledge on a range of key topics, including:

  •     Biostatistics
  •     Research methods
  •     Finance and budgeting
  •     Public health law, ethics and policy analysis
  •     Information systems management

Since public health careers are multifaceted, many students benefit from broad coursework that offers insight into a variety of important public health topics. By concentrating in public health, you can assemble transferable skills and experience to pursue jobs that require an MPH degree and appeal to your personal interests.

To find out more about what you can do with an MPH degree, explore the online MPH degree page or reach out to an admission representative today.

Recommended Reading:

Public Health vs. Global Health: Understanding The Difference

Key Issues in Advertising that Impact Public Health

University of Nevada, Reno Online Master of Public Health

Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Introduction to Public Health

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, What Is Epidemiology?

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Environmental Science and Protection Technicians

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Epidemiologists

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Healthcare Occupations

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mathematicians and Statisticians