Master in Public Health

Master in Public Health

A Master in Public Health degree (MPH) is appropriate for those who are interested in a career in public health administration, non-profit or service oriented healthcare, or who plan to pursue a career in hospital, city health, or other large-scale health administration. It is a graduate level degree program which typically consists of two to six years of focused study, as well as the completion of a thesis related to the field of public health. The Master in public health is perhaps the most widely accepted credential for leadership positions in public health.

What Exactly is Public Health?

Public health is a profession in which individuals work to protect and improve the health of the entire community. Unlike direct patient care, in which the health of the individual is the focus, public health focuses on the bigger picture by creating large-scale initiatives, programs and other changes that will improve and protect the health of the whole community. This is accomplished through health education programs, preventative medicine initiatives, monitoring and elimination of environmental hazards.

Master In Public Health

Through improved conditions and better public understanding of health issues, public health officials are able to control the spread of diseases, increase sanitary practices, and remove other environmental social, behavioral and environmental factors that negatively impact the health of the community.

While public health is of major concern in developing nations where resources are limited and public education or understanding of the factors which negatively affect people’s health are lacking, public health is a field that is essential throughout the globe. The focus and scope of public health projects and organizations in the developing world may be different than it is in developed countries, but the essential aspects of public health activities and focus remain consistent no matter where a Master in public health degree holder may be employed.

Master in Public Health Curriculum

The Master of public health degree focuses entirely on public health practice or implementation, rather than on teaching or research methodologies. The Master in public health degree, regardless of what school is offering the program, includes specific core competencies or areas of study. Graduate students must master all competencies in order to successfully complete the program. These focused areas of study include:

  • Epidemiology
  • Administration of Public Health Services
  • Public Health Education
  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health
  • Behavioral Science
  • Prenatal and Maternal Health and Health Services
  • Child Health and Health Services
  • Public Health Practices
  • Public Nutrition and Health
  • Public Health Policy and Administration

The Master in public health degree is a multi-disciplinary program which incorporates aspects of many fields in order to prepare students for leadership positions in dynamic organizations and extremely influential positions. In addition to the aforementioned core competencies, many Master in public health programs also incorporate several other areas of study, including social work, urban planning, public communications, social advocacy, and policy development and administration.

Careers in Public Health

Master in public health degree holders may go on to follow several different career paths in the public health sector, including community non-profit organization leadership roles, international social service agency administration and front line positions. Public health also includes positions in urban planning, environmental improvement and maintenance organizations, non-governmental organizations, and community health and wellness, to name just a few.
Master of public health degree holders may work at the local community level, or the state, regional or national level. Many of the leaders of international public health organizations also hold Master’s Degrees in public health, as well. While some may have political aspirations or responsibilities in their roles, as is the case with leadership positions in the World Health Organization and the Center for Disease Control in The United States, most who study public health as the master’s level do so in order to serve in a non-political social service capacity.

The Master in Public Health Certification Examination

As with any professional level field, completion of the degree itself is usually only a portion of the credentialing process. Passing a professional certification exam is the real final step. Though the certification may not be required by all employers, holding the additional credential will be seen quite favorably by most.
 
In the United States, the organization which administers the Certification in Public Health Exam is the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) www.nbphe.org. The material covered in the examination is based on the core competencies which are part of every Master in public health degree program. The examination material was agreed upon by all of the primary organizations in the field of public health within the United States and those same organizations make up the board of directors for the NBPHE, including:

  • Association of Schools of Public Health - www.asph.org
  • Association of Prevention Teaching and Research – www.atpm.org
  • American Public Health Association – www.apha.org
  • National Association of County and City Health Officials – www.naccho.org
  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials – www.astho.org

In addition to the initial certification process, professionals who have completed their Master in Public Health and hold the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential are expected to remain current in their field. Continuing education is required in order to maintain the CPH status.

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