Doctor Specialties in Public Health

Most schools of public health offer several specializations within their Master of Public Health (MPH) program that allow students to concentrate on an area that reflects their interests and professional goals. Doctors who decide to pursue an MPH often have clearly identified goals that coincide with a specific specialty. Here are some of the most common specialties chosen by doctors:

Environmental Health

Due to increased pollution, chemical exposure and the global effects of climate change, environmental health has become one of the most critical public health issues. The specialization is concerned with the impact of physical, chemical and biological agents in the environment on human health. It focuses on environmental health science and policy, and gives graduates the tools needed to solve health problems in various community and work settings. Depending on the program, students may focus on environmental epidemiology, environmental hazards and exposure, and risk assessment. This specialization is pursued by doctors who intend to practice environmental medicine or hold positions in environmental management or policy. MPH graduates who choose this specialization hold positions in federal, state and county departments of occupational and environmental protection, consulting and research companies, academic institutions and a variety of business industries.

Global Health

This specialization addresses the challenges, processes and policies that affect the health of populations in an international context. Doctors who have an interest in global health can use this specialization to gain skills in strategic planning, crisis management, professional networking and policy development that can be applied in both national health systems and international health organizations. The global health specialization prepares physicians to assume leadership roles in intergovernmental organizations, NGOs, national ministries of health, research and academic institutions, and the private sector.

Public Health Management and Policy

Doctors who practice in public health settings can gain expertise in the administration of public health organizations and the development of policies that impact health programs with this specialization. Graduates become familiar with the factors that influence local, national and global health policies, and are equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to formulate and implement sound solutions to complex public health problems. This specialization prepares graduates for careers as managers of health care organizations or policy analysts in government agencies at the federal, state and local level.


The study of the patterns of medical conditions and disease within population groups is the cornerstone of public health, playing a key role in the identification of risk factors, the development of preventive medicine and the formation of public policy. In addition to addressing chronic and infectious diseases, physicians who are also epidemiologists may focus on environmental and occupation health, emergency response, bioterrorism, substance abuse and injury prevention. Physicians who are interested in medical care for populations as well as for individual patients often specialize in epidemiology. Doctors who specialize in epidemiology may work for universities and focus on research or may chose to address public health directly in government agencies. There are also positions for epidemiologists in private health insurance and pharmaceutical companies.

Quantitative Methods / Biostatistics

Doctors who want to apply quantitative and analytical skills to public health problems often chose this specialization, which emphasizes the skills needed to design public health studies and to analyze and interpret the results through the application of quantitative methods. This specialization prepares MPH graduates to serve as leaders in population-based and clinical research programs in government agencies, health care organizations and private industries, and for careers in research and project management in the nonprofit and private sectors. The biostatistics specialization also provides an analytical foundation for physicians who want to pursue an academic career in public health.