Your Complete Guide to

Masters in Public Health

Online Masters Degree
on February 7, 2024

Why We Love It

  • Competitive Salary
  • Excellent Growth Potential
  • Feeling Good About Yourself
  • Lots of Options

* The Why We Love It section is solely based on the opinion of's Editorial Team. Any salary & growth research or estimates should be referenced further at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics data published at for your specific desired career.

What is an MPH Degree?

MPH stands for Master of Public Health, a professional degree in areas of study related to the important field of public health, the science, and the art of preventing disease.

Public health is concerned with prolonging life as well as improving quality of life. This is achieved on many levels: by individuals, communities, organizations, and society as a whole. This encompasses not only physical health but also psychological health and social well-being.

It is based on analyzing the health of a population, what determines the health of that population, and what threatens that health. Historically, public health has been concerned with the absence of disease or other health problems, but it has evolved into a resource for everyday life, and this growth means an abundance of new jobs.

A Master of Public Health will teach you about five core discipline areas of public health:

  • Biostatistics: This combines math and science in designing biological experiments, collecting and analyzing data from those experiments, and interpreting the results in a useful way.
  • Epidemiology: A buzzword in 2020 for sure, this is the branch of medicine that deals with studying and analyzing the who, when, and where of health and disease conditions within a population, as well as the possible control of these factors.
  • Environmental health: This branch of public health examines how the natural and built environments affect human health. Included subjects of study are environmental science, occupational medicine, toxicology, and the aforementioned epidemiology.
  • Health policy and health administration: Health policy deals with decisions, plans, and actions to achieve specific healthcare goals in a society, while health administration covers the leadership, management, and administration of hospitals and public health systems.
  • Social and behavioral sciences: While “social science” used to refer to the field of sociology, it now denotes the study of societies and the relationships between the individuals within those societies. This comprises such subjects as psychology, anthropology, economics, linguistics, and even political science.

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What Can You Do With a Master of Public Health?

A better question might be, “What can’t you do?”

An epidemiologist tracks infection rates of COVID-19. A biostatistician identifies a genetic marker for a common type of cancer. A health inspector ensures that the food handling practices of a restaurant are safe. These are all potential futures for someone with a Master of Public Health, and they could all save lives.

Public health is more important than ever. An MPH degree could prepare you for a career in epidemiology, biostatistics, or your local Department of Public Health, as well as a range of “non-health” occupations, like monitoring building codes or ensuring public access to safe water.

And ever since the pandemic hit, globally the demand for public health professionals with degrees in Public health has risen. The wave, since then, has not died down. This means this is a promising field for those looking for a lifelong career to serve their communities.

These are only a few examples. The possibilities are endless. You get to choose what you’ll do, and you don’t have to know what that is right now. An MPH could give you the tools you need to do a wide variety of jobs, so you’re not committing to a career before you even finish your degree.

Best Programs for Master of Public Health

Here’s the best part: We’re going to give you the secrets to finding the best programs for adults, programs that could help you get your MPH degree faster and with as few headaches as possible.

We know planning for college can be confusing, and is dedicated to helping you find the right path for you so that you can complete your degree and start your new career as soon as possible.

Why We Love an MPH Degree

  1. Competitive salary:  Public health professionals are well-paid. Even when the economy is in tatters, the demand for public health professionals continues to be high and these positions come with salaries and benefits that are quite competitive.
  2. Excellent growth potential:  Public health is a growing field with plenty of room for advancement. The health challenges are only continuing to rise, becoming more and more complex, hence you can be assured that there is growing to be plenty of room to grow, whether in the public sector, private sector, or non-profit organizations.
  3. Feeling good about yourself:  An MPH is a great way to give back to the community and help ensure the safety of those you care about. There is no better feeling than knowing that your professional success comes with personal happiness and satisfaction as well.
  4. Lots of options:  An MPH degree could be your gateway to a wide variety of career paths. And this is something really important in a challenging economy like the present one, where job opportunities can disappear in an instant. In such a scenario, the more career options you have, the better it is.

Online vs. Traditional Campus

Most people who think about going back to school and getting their master’s degree never even get started. But there can be various entrance hurdles like exams and application fees, making it a challenging decision.

It can also be tough to make schoolwork around your schedule. For married, or working individuals, it may seem nearly impossible, because of work and family-related commitments.

Right? Well, not exactly . . . Or, at least, it doesn’t have to be.

With adult-friendly schools, there is really no reason not to go back to school anymore. What makes a school adult-friendly? Here are a few key attributes:

  • Adult-friendly schools are totally online. Online learning is best for busy adults, who have to balance their ongoing education with work, kids, and everything else that comes with being a grownup. With flexible schedules and remote learning options, such online programs help students to manage their education without compromising on their professional and sometimes familial commitments as well. This is important for working adults.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer accelerated programs, with ongoing enrollment. What’s better than getting your master’s in two years? Getting it in fourteen months. And with ongoing enrollment, you don’t have to wait until fall or spring to start on your new journey; many schools offer monthly enrollment periods, meaning you can start whenever it works for you.
  • Adult-friendly schools can offer more support than traditional schools. This includes but is not limited to, career services, making it easier for you to begin your new career. Support services can make a huge difference in how you begin in your career and how far you go. Hence, it cannot be ignored.

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Admissions Requirements for Master of Public Health

So what do you need to go to grad school? You need to take the GRE or another entrance exam, right?


Many Adult-friendly schools do not require GRE or entrance exams. Online programs generally require only a bachelor’s degree to get started, and there are no application fees to worry about. You start when you’re ready.

Master of Public Health Curriculum

As mentioned above, a Master of Public Health degree will expose you to five key aspects of public health: biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, health policy and health administration, and social and behavioral sciences.

These areas of knowledge are essential to the prevention of disease, prolonging life, and improving quality of life, helping you to help others in your community.

What Courses Will I Take in My MPH Program?

Because preventing disease and helping people to live long and healthy lives is so important, the core curriculum of an MPH program will include courses that build a foundation of knowledge in public health.

Examples include:

  1. Human Physiology: This is a foundation of modern medicine, the science of the human body’s physical, mechanical, and biochemical functions. It is important for someone in public health to understand how the human body reacts and adapts to things like exercise and disease.
  2. Infectious Diseases: While many organisms such as viruses, bacteria, fungi, and parasites can live in our bodies without negative effects, some may cause disease under certain conditions. Protecting people against these infectious diseases is an important function of public health.
  3. Children in Crisis: Protecting the most vulnerable among us is absolutely critical. Public health officials are ultimately responsible for ensuring that our children are safe and healthy, especially those who have been abused or neglected in the past.
  4. Human Nutrition: Poor nutrition is an epidemic, a chronic problem that public health officials are working to solve so that people, especially children, can live in better physical and mental health.
  5. Environmental Health: As mentioned above, this examines how environments, both natural and man-made, affect human health. This takes into account environmental science, occupational medicine, toxicology, and epidemiology.
  6. Biology of Pandemic Influenza: Understanding the pathology of common viruses, like those that cause influenza, is more important than ever, as we’ve certainly all seen with the 2020 coronavirus pandemic.
  7. Vaccine Development: From laboratory and animal studies to human trials to implementation, this is how vaccines are developed, tested, and regulated.

Specializations and Concentrations

While a Master of Public Health (MPH) is the most common professional degree of public health, there are other post-graduate degrees in the field with different specializations and concentrations. These include:

  • Maternal and Child Health: The main focus of many national and international initiatives, this specialization is designed to help public health professionals understand and work to protect women, children, and families.
  • Community Health: The focus here is the protection and improvement of the health of a community as a whole, sometimes overlapping with other concentrations. Concerns include child or domestic abuse, crime, addiction, poverty, and polluted drinking water.
  • Global Health: This deals with some of the most widespread issues on an international level, such as war-torn communities, racism, and family planning. CDC global health initiatives focus on helping Americans while also lending assistance to the international community.
  • Occupational Health: This involves on-the-job issues, helping to identify and address risks to the health and safety of workers through training, protection, and removal of health hazards from workplaces.
  • Disaster Management and Emergency Preparedness: This is designed to prepare you not only to plan and prepare for mass casualty disaster situations but also for medical management of trauma patients such as the principles of disaster triage.

You could also find that a different, MPH-related degree is a better fit for your career of choice. Other professional degrees of public health include:

  • Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH): Whereas an MPH is a professional degree, this is an academic degree focused on research, an important tool of public health.
  • Master of Medical Science in Public Health (MMSPH): As the title implies, this degree involves an emphasis on the medical science aspect of public health.
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH): For those who wish to continue their education after their MPH, this degree could lead to teaching, high-level administration, or public health practice.
  • International Masters for Health Leadership (IMHL): This degree is designed to develop the management and leadership skills necessary to improve healthcare around the world.

Master of Public Health Program Length

Most Master of Public Health degrees require between 42 and 45 credits to graduate. Normally, an MPH program takes about two years to complete. An accelerated plan, however, could take closer to half that time.

This is where adult-friendly schools really shine. They know their students have jobs, kids, and other obligations that make a traditional school schedule unrealistic. Also, in a highly competitive market, and with supply greater than demand, no opportunity will wait for you.

Some of the best adult-friendly schools take all this into account and try and make the overall educational experience as convenient as possible and this ability to enter the workforce as fast as possible is a really important factor.

Choosing the Right University or College MPH Program

Choosing the right school for you can be exciting, but it can also be a hassle. Tuition costs, application fees, accreditation, enrollment windows, and entrance exams are just some of the variables to consider.

That’s why we created the Smartplan. We want to help people go back to school, to make college more accessible and affordable for everyone. With our Smartplan, we make it easy for you to start on your path towards your Master of Public Health.

Here are just some of the benefits of your Smartplan:

  • No application fees
  • Accredited colleges and universities
  • No entrance exams or testing
  • Faculty and professors who understand adults
  • Discounts and scholarships available
  • Open enrollment dates

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Best Jobs for Those With a Master of Public Health

What can you do with an MPH? What kind of salary can you expect?

Here are some common careers for MPH holders, with salary data estimates provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

  • Community Health Worker: This is someone who provides basic health and medical care within their community, including preventive, promotional, and rehabilitation care. You could make anywhere from $26,018 to $68,350 per year.
  • Environmental Scientist: This puts your knowledge of natural sciences to use protecting the environment and human health. You could make anywhere from $46,200 to $129,070 per year.
  • Hospital Administrator: A hospital administrator is responsible for the organizational side of health services, helping to ensure the best medical care possible at their facility. You could make anywhere from $51,000 to $153,000 per year.
  • Epidemiologist: An epidemiologist studies disease outbreaks within a population, treats existing diseases, and works to prevent future outbreaks. You could make anywhere from $50,100 to $130,050 per year.
  • Medical and Health Service Manager: Also called a healthcare executive or healthcare administrator, a medical and health service manager plans, directs, and coordinates medical and health services. You might manage an entire facility, a specific department, or a practice. You could make anywhere from $60,780 to $205,620 per year.
  • Statistician: This position combines your statistical knowledge with your expertise in public health, likely involving collaboration with scientists. You could make anywhere from $49,350 to $157,300 per year.

We’ve compiled some of our favorite careers, but this degree does provide you with broad skills to work in a variety of public health jobs, which will likely allow you to draw an excellent salary while helping keep your community healthy and safe.

The best careers are those that pay well AND let you feel fulfilled by giving something back. And again, you don’t need to know right now which job you want.

Not only can you have the autonomy of career choice, but you can always be your own boss, and have your own start-up. These are just some of the possibilities you can choose from.

Cost and Tuition

Cost and tuition vary from school to school, and you’ll want to speak with each of your prospective schools directly. Fortunately, online schools are generally more affordable than their in-person counterparts, offering opportunities to save through financial aid to those who are eligible.

Given the state of the economy, affordability, as well as flexibility that comes with online education, can be really helpful in enabling career advancement. Students can advance in their careers without the extra financial burden of high tuition costs.

This can really be a winning solution. You’ll definitely want to speak to a few schools, and can help you with that.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q: Do I need to know what job I want before I start an MPH program?

A: No! An MPH program could prepare you for a wide variety of careers. You certainly don’t need to know what job you want today.

Q: Will I make more money with an MPH?

A: That depends on a variety of factors. But as you can see above in the “Best Jobs for Those With a Master of Public Health” section, your MPH could mean excellent earning potential.

Q: How long will I be in school?

A: That could depend on you, your current job, and any other obligations you might have. An MPH program could take anywhere from 12 to 30 months, but our Smartplan is designed to help you find the right degree for you, so could finish as quickly as possible!

How to save time and money

Our mission is to help you to avoid paying full price for college. We want your Masters in Public Health degree to be affordable and accessible. Here’s how you could save:

Create Your Free SmartPlan

There are many ways to make college affordable and accessible.

That’s why we created a helpful tool called SmartPlan.

It’s free, and helps you find potential ways to save and tons of information about each school you’re considering

Think of it as your “college blueprint”, to help you instantly craft a path to your degree:

  • Which Colleges Match Your Needs
  • Ways You Could Save Time & Money
  • Free Courses You Could Take for Credit
  • Valuable Data and Insights on Each College
  • Detailed Steps You Should Take!

See what’s possible for you and generate a free plan within just a few minutes

Create My SmartPlan

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About the Author
Grant founded with a purpose-driven mission: make college accessible and affordable for everyone. After graduating college with an overwhelming amount of debt, he was determined to change how students embark on their education. He's a frequent speaker and author in higher education, and has been featured in Forbes, Bloomberg Businessweek, Business Insider, American Express, AOL, MSN, Thrive Global, Reader's Digest, Inside Higher Ed, Evolllution, EducationDive, and nearly 100 radio shows and podcasts.

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