Those with an interest in different aspects of human health, and the environmental, behavioral and sociological factors that impact it, can consider higher education in the form of the Master of Public Health degree.
Students who choose this path won’t just learn about common health best practices, though – they’ll also be introduced to the key aspects that can contribute to individual and group or community health and wellbeing.
Public health is critically important today, and isn’t just an individual pursuit – public health professionals study the concepts and factors that can affect the condition of an entire community or regional area. Those working in this sector typically have a passion for helping others, and supporting the physical health practices and mental wellbeing of those around them.
A Master of Public Health degree is a natural next step for students who have already completed a Bachelor’s degree in public health, or a similar program area. In addition, those with an undergraduate degree in science, health care or other areas may also find the Master of Public Health an attractive next step, depending upon their personal and employment goals.
This degree can also open the door to a variety of fulfilling career paths, including within health administration and government agencies.
Today, we’re taking a closer look at the field of public health, what an MPH degree entails and how it can prepare graduates for rewarding career opportunities.
Degree in public health: What is MPH?
Overall, a Master of Public Health focuses on the health of populations as a whole. As noted by the University of Nevada, Reno Public Health program, public health practitioners don’t just focus on physical health and wellbeing, but also the factors related to individuals’ and communities’ environment, economics and sociology.
The MPH degree teaches students to look beyond basic physical health, and think critically and analyze the elements that impact it. Aspects like a region’s economic standing, sociological behaviors and access to information about beneficial health care practices can all affect the public health conditions of the area.
As MPH Online pointed out, the MPH degree is centered around the practical aspects of public health, as well as the surrounding factors that can impact it. The MPH is not heavily focused on research, although most MPH programs include courses on research methods.
The Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), on the other hand, encompasses considerable study in public health research, and the scientific methods used to identify, analyze and understand public health conditions like disease and health care practices. In this way, students with an interest in scientific method and research as well as public health should consider the MSPH.
MPH degree: Coursework and program completion
Let’s take a more in-depth look at MPH program details, including what students can expect within online MPH programs like that offered by the University of Nevada, Reno.
Ahead of applying to the MPH degree program, students must have completed a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school of public health. This can include a bachelor’s level public health degree, which lays a beneficial foundation for the Master’s-level public health program curriculum. However, any bachelor’s degree is sufficient for applying to an MPH program, so long as students achieved a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and completed at least one course in statistics.
Online MPH programs like the University of Nevada, Reno include comprehensive coursework, meant to prepare graduates for several different career paths in the field of public health.
Typically, programs encompass 45 credits in total, including:
- Core curriculum courses
- Additional courses in a specialization area (for example, public health practice)
- Practicum or field study
- A capstone or graduate study thesis demonstrating public health knowledge
Students participate in courses and build their skill and understanding around concepts like:
- Health and the environment
- Health policy
- Health administration
- Social and behavioral health factors
- Research methods
- Public health finance
- Project management principles
- Emergency preparedness
- Public health law
- Information systems and data management in public health
Students will also take part in real-world, public health field study opportunities for their three-credit practicum requirement. This typically happens toward the end of the MPH program, and enables students to expand their course knowledge in real-world public health settings.
A Master of Public Health usually takes two years to complete. Within online Master’s degree programs, students can complete their coursework online, with no requirements for their residency in certain states. In addition, the University of Nevada, Reno offers several program start dates over the course of the year, and no GRE requirement, so students can begin their path to higher learning according to a schedule that best fits their needs.
Post-graduate career options for public health professionals
The curriculum, knowledge, skill and experience students receive through schools of public health enable them to pursue a variety of different career opportunities. Depending upon their own individual interests, strengths and passions, public health professionals that complete a Master’s program can consider the following career options:
Public health educator
This role enables professionals to educate individuals, groups and communities about health practices that support beneficial physical and mental wellbeing. In addition to leading educational efforts and disseminating information about health best practices, public health educators also engage in data collection and analysis around regional health concerns.
Educators may work alongside other public health and health care workers, as well as leaders in local communities, to discuss their findings and the ways in which public health can be improved, according to data findings.
Public health educators can work in several different settings, including hospitals, schools and education institutions, internally within business, at nonprofit organizations or other government agencies.
This role can earn public health professionals an average salary or median annual wage of about $46,080 annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Medical and health services manager
The medical and health services manager position sees public health professionals typically working in the healthcare field. Health administrators are responsible for planning, directing, coordinating and overseeing the business-related activities of healthcare organizations.
As the Bureau of Labor Statistics pointed out, while some health administrators enter the field with a bachelor’s level degree, a Master’s degree program completion is much more common recently. As health administrators engage in processes like ensuring facility compliance, improving efficiency and quality in healthcare services, establishing and tracking progress with organizational goals and managing the finances of an institution, an MPH provides an ideal educational foundation for this type of career path.
The BLS noted that the median annual pay for health administrators was $99,730 annually in 2018, and there is 18% growth expected in the job outlook for this role through 2028.
MPH graduates can also consider work in the public health field of epidemiology. This more science and research-focused position enables public health professionals to study the root causes, patterns and spread of disease and injury. Typically, epidemiologists center their analyses around specific populations, or certain regions being impacted by a public health issue.
Epidemiologists can work in an array of different settings, but many opportunities exist in government agencies like the health departments in state or local governing bodies. This role is also prevalent within hospitals, colleges, universities and research organizations.
Professionals working in this role have at least a Master’s level degree, and many also complete doctoral degrees in medicine, health care, epidemiology or another related field.
Currently, epidemiologists earn an average salary of about $69,660, according to the BLS. The job outlook for this role will see 5% growth through 2028, about average for the field.
Thanks to the particularly extensive and comprehensive curriculum of a program like the University of Nevada, Reno Master of Public Health, graduates can also pursue career opportunities, including those that are outside the health industry:
- Infection Control Officer: In this role, professionals are responsible for ensuring that healthcare facilities and emergency response organizations are aligned with current local, state and federal health regulations.
- Emergency Management Specialist: Individuals in this position spearhead planning and preparation for every stage of emergency response, including for possible natural disaster or terror threats.
- Budget Administrator: This more business-focused role enables professionals to develop and oversee an organization’s budget, implement cost management processes, and execute strategy that aligns with budgetary goals.
- Environmental Engineer: MPH graduates can also consider this role, where professionals leverage concepts from science, biology, engineering, chemistry and other areas to identify solutions to current, pressing environmental issues. These problems might relate to recycling, waste disposal, water and air pollution or other elements that could challenge public health.
Professionals with MPH degrees often enjoy average or above-average earning power, and take part in fulfilling careers that benefit themselves and the institutions or communities they work in.