Master’s in public health degrees provide specialized knowledge and skills for careers promoting and protecting population health. These interdisciplinary programs often combine coursework in public health research, health education, health science, and leadership.
Admission to a good public health master’s program typically requires a minimum 3.0 GPA and a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited school. Many programs also require prerequisite coursework in biology and mathematics. Some programs look for candidates with relevant professional experience. Application requirements may include recommendation letters, curriculum vitae or resumes, GRE scores, and essays.
Master’s degrees in public health can prepare graduates for various high-level careers or doctoral programs. Common career paths for graduates include epidemiologist, public health analyst, community health program or facility director, and medical and health services manager. The Bureau of Labor Statistics cites a median annual salary of $100,980 and a projected 32% job growth for medical and health services managers from 2019 to 2029.
What can you use a public health degree for?
Master’s in public health degrees can lead to careers in public health research, policy, clinical practice, and leadership.
Is public health in the medical field?
Public health focuses on disease and injury prevention, rather than on direct provision of medical care.
What does a career in public health look like?
Public health professionals work to protect the public from various harms, hazards, and diseases. This career often entails research or advocacy supporting effective public health policy and practice.
What are examples of public health?
Public health fields include environmental health, global health, epidemiology, and health promotion.
What Are the Goals of a Public Health Degree?
Public health students can pursue various master’s degree options, including a master of arts in public health (MPH), a master of science in public health (MSPH), and an MBA/MPH dual degree. The MPH typically serves professionals interested in policy or community health work, while the MSPH often prepares graduates for research careers. MBA/MPH students typically use this degree to qualify for advanced management or administration careers.
Most master’s in public health programs include courses on public health data collection and analysis, clinical practice, and disease prevention. Enrollees typically choose a specialization such as environmental health, health policy, community health education, or epidemiology. Some programs include concentrations in niche fields such as bioethics or biostatistics.
Why Get a Public Health Degree?
Earning a master’s degree in public health can yield many potential personal and professional benefits, including career and salary advancement, specialized knowledge, and professional networking. See below for descriptions of various advantages associated with a public health master’s degree.
- Many MPH graduates use their public health degree to qualify for upper-level administrative careers such as medical and health services manager or director.
- Salary Advancement
- Master’s degrees typically lead to higher salaries. PayScale salary data indicates that master’s in public health graduates earn nearly $10,000 more annually than bachelor’s graduates in the same field.
- Master’s-level public health programs typically encourage enrollees to specialize their degree in preparation for work in a particular role, niche field, population, or employment context. Specialization can increase graduates’ chances of acquiring desired positions.
- Master’s in public health programs introduce enrollees to accomplished public health peers and professors. Internships and cohort-based programs increase opportunities for professional networking.
- Research Skills
- Graduate students usually take required research courses and create capstone theses or projects involving high-level research. Master’s-level research skills can support research-focused careers such as public health analyst or epidemiologist.
What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?
What Are the Requirements for a Public Health Degree?
Master’s programs typically require at least a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Public health master’s programs may expect math and science prerequisites. Applicants with public health-related bachelor’s degrees or relevant professional experience may receive precedence.
Competitive candidates for master’s in public health programs typically need a minimum 3.0 GPA. Application requirements usually include essays, official transcripts, recommendation letters, and resumes or curriculum vitae. Some programs also require GRE scores.
Once accepted, MPH students in full-time, semester-based programs complete 42-45 credits over 2-3 years. Most MPH programs require internship or practicum experiences focused on community health, policy, or research. Enrollees choose field experiences that align with their interests and career goals. Many programs also require a thesis, capstone project, or examination.
Professional Organizations for Public Health Students
Professional organizations can provide valuable advantages to members, including continuing education, career resources, and networking opportunities. Many professional organizations also advocate for associated professions and work on various equity and public education initiatives. The following professional organizations support public health professionals and students.
American Public Health Association
APHA focuses on public health policy and advocacy, professional development, and networking. Founded in 1872, this professional organization has served public health professionals for nearly 150 years. APHA provides continuing education, webinars, a public health report, and various significant publications.
Society for Public Health Education
A nonprofit, international professional association, SOPHE serves almost 4,000 health education students and professionals. SOPHE supports educators and students employed in healthcare settings, schools, and federal agencies. This society also offers a career hub, volunteer opportunities, continuing education, and various financial awards.
Scholarships for Public Health Students
Many college students qualify for scholarships offered by schools, private funders, government, or professional organizations. Scholarships often serve learners from particular backgrounds or in a specified field of study. Additional requirements typically include a minimum 3.0 GPA and full-time enrollment in an accredited program. Many scholarships look for students with financial need. See below for three scholarships available to qualifying public health students.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports Alaska Native or American Indian students who belong to a federally recognized tribe and seek full-time clinical public health careers in tribal communities. Qualified applicants have enrolled in eligible health profession programs. Recipients commit to a period of service after graduation.
Who Can Apply: This SOPHE scholarship goes to full-time students in health education. Eligible candidates demonstrate academic merit, financial need, SOPHE membership, and completion of at least one-third of their program. Scholarship recipients must assist with a SOPHE initiative, committee, or task force for at least one year.
Who Can Apply: Funded by the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH), this scholarship supports community health center staff in pursuing their healthcare education goals. NCFH selects recipients based on career goals, personal experience, and commitment to serving agricultural communities. Applicants with a family history of agricultural work receive precedence.
Best Master’s in Public Health Degrees 2021
A public university based in Gainesville, UF offers a master of public health. The degree features six possible concentrations to help students direct their career paths, including biostatistics, population health management, environmental health, public health practice, epidemiology, and social and behavioral sciences.
The 48-credit curriculum includes core courses such as introduction to the U.S. healthcare system, environmental health concepts in public health, and statistical methods for health science. From there, students participate in electives covering topics in their chosen concentration.
Students can choose between on-campus, online, or hybrid programming. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA for all coursework completed after the first 60 credits. Students must also submit GRE and MCAT scores (waived through fall 2021). Students pursuing the public health practice concentration need prior work experience in a health-related field.
UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
University of California-Los Angeles
UCLA's Fielding School of Public Health offers a master of public health with students specializing in one of the school's five departments: biostatistics, community health sciences, epidemiology, environmental health sciences, or health policy and management.
Students take core courses such as fundamentals of public health and electives like responsible conduct of research in global health. Students complete courses in their concentration area and a field training. The concentrations offer unique curriculum tracks with around 60 credits each, depending on the concentration and elective tracks. Each concentration track has its own requirements and length for graduation.
Applicants must submit GRE scores to qualify for admission (waived through fall 2021). UCLA is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.
Based in Columbus, Ohio State offers a master of public health in a traditional and flexible online format. Students may choose from eight concentrations, including biomedical informatics, clinical translation science, and veterinary public health — as well as a professional track offered online.
Students take 45-48 credits, including core courses such as design and analysis of studies in health sciences, principles of environmental health sciences, and introduction to healthcare organizations. From there, students complete elective courses in their chosen concentration area before completing a final practicum and a culminating project in public health. Students receive hands-on experience through an approved placement and tackle a specific challenge in public health for an organization or community.
Applicants need a 3.0 minimum GPA on all undergraduate courses and strong professional recommendations demonstrating leadership ability and public health experience. OSU does not require GRE scores. OSU is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
University of California-Berkeley
Berkeley offers a master of public health online or in a traditional format. Students can create an interdisciplinary track by handpicking electives or specialize in one of six concentrations, including epidemiology, infectious diseases and vaccinology, health policy and management, and environmental health sciences.
All concentrations begin with required core courses, including courses in public health, probability and statistics in public health and biology, and epidemiological methods. From there, students take courses in their chosen specialty or blend electives to create a logical interdisciplinary degree track. All concentrations demonstrate skills mastery through a 12-week internship during the summer term. Students completing the 27-month online program must also participate in two short residencies — one occurring each year of the degree.
Applicants must possess an undergraduate degree with a 3.0 minimum GPA to qualify for admission. Students must also meet any individual requirements specified by concentration. Berkeley is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission.
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Located in Madison, UW offers a practice-oriented master of public health. Students can choose to pair graduate certificates, such as patient safety or consumer health advocacy, with their master's — or pursue one of eight full dual-degree tracks. Options for dual degrees include juris doctorate, doctor of veterinary medicine, and doctor of pharmacy.
Core course topics include determinants of health and health equity, quantitative approaches to public health, and planning and management to promote health. A 240-hour applied practice experience happens during the final semester, allowing students to consult and receive hands-on experience in public health challenges at an approved location. Students may also extend the practicum beyond a single semester with permission from the department.
Applicants need an undergraduate degree with a minimum GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. Students must also complete at least one course in college-level mathematics and an undergraduate public health course. Applicants must also submit GRE scores (waived through fall 2022).
UW is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.