Many students pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) because they want to make a difference in people’s lives and improve the health of communities across the globe. An MPH is a multi-disciplinary professional degree that covers topics such as biostatistics, epidemiology, health communication and education, health policy and administration, environmental health, and behavioral and social sciences. People who earn an MPH degree are prepared to utilize this diverse set of competencies in a variety of applied public health careers.
There are several factors potential students should explore when considering any advanced degree such as future career options, program accreditation, cost and length.
The multi-disciplinary nature of an MPH allows degree-holders to pursue a variety of career options. Graduates are prepared to work for community health clinics, state or local government health departments, NGOs, international health organizations, nonprofits, and policy and advocacy organizations. Although most people seek careers in public health practice, there are opportunities in both research and academia as well. Ultimately, earning an MPH degree demonstrates a comprehensive expertise in public health theory and practice, which makes job seekers more competitive in any field related to health, health education and social justice issues such as health disparities and affordable access to health care. According to Forbes, a Master of Public Health is one of the 10 best master’s degrees for long-term opportunities based on salary and employment.
When looking for a graduate degree program, particularly online, it’s important to ensure the program is properly accredited. For MPH programs, the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is the primary accrediting agency. CEPH is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education that develops accreditation standards that set high expectations for the quality of education offered by MPH programs. The agency defines quality in “terms of individual knowledge, skills and achievement.” These accreditation standards ensure a high level of quality education, and many employers will only hire people who earn their MPH from a CEPH accredited institution.
The cost of MPH degree programs varies, so it’s important to research tuition prices of individual programs. Although tuition may be more expensive for a program that is CEPH accredited, the value of the program is often greater because of the quality of education and future career opportunities. Many students are eligible for grants, scholarships and loans that can help fund their MPH program. When exploring tuition costs, students should also look through the program’s financial aid information to determine if they qualify for funding. Students already working in a public health related field may be able to receive financial support from their employer.
To meet CEPH accreditation standards, MPH programs must be at least 42 semester-credit units in length. MPH programs usually take two years of full-time study or three years with a part-time schedule. This two- to three-year time frame is structured to give students the ability to complete coursework while balancing personal and professional obligations.
A number of institutions offer the option to complete an MPH degree through one-year programs. In these accelerated programs, students must take on a demanding course load in order to complete more credits per semester. Students should consider their personal commitments — and whether they want to continue working full time during graduate school — when deciding what program length is right for them.
The Benefits of an MPH
An MPH can empower you to make a broad impact on entire populations of people, rather than focusing on helping one individual at a time. Whether you are interested in working in an NGO, an advocacy organization or a government agency, an MPH can provide a wide variety of fulfilling career opportunities. When selecting a graduate program, it’s important to ask your Admissions Counselor about accreditation and financial aid information, as these can vary from program to program.
If you are considering an MPH degree, MPH@GW is one of a few online Master of Public Health programs that is fully accredited by CEPH. MPH@GW is a dynamic online program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University that features live, interactive classes, collaborative activities and a field-based practicum. MPH@GW offers students the opportunity to earn a top-ranked degree without having to relocate to attend an on-campus program. Request information about MPH@GW to learn more.