The public health field interests people who want to address pressing health challenges and make a tangible impact on the well-being of individuals and communities. A Master of Public Health (MPH) is an advanced degree that equips students to become leaders in the health care sector.

An MPH program’s multidisciplinary curriculum allows students to research, present their findings, gain practical experience and develop real-world projects, all of which build key skills needed to advance in the field.

Public health professionals can work in a variety of settings, from research institutions and governmental agencies to nonprofits and higher education. An MPH can lead to many careers, but the specific role depends on an individual’s goals, skills, experience and interests.

MPH Definition

An MPH is an advanced degree that focuses on health policy and improving public health. MPH requirements combine practical skills and theoretical knowledge in core public health areas. Students interested in an MPH may be attracted to clinical or nonclinical roles, as well as research and academic positions. They may be recent graduates with a health-related undergraduate degree or career professionals looking to transition to a public health role.

Students entering an MPH program need a bachelor’s degree, typically in a related field.The length of an MPH program varies, but it can typically be completed within two years of full-time study or three to four years if attending part-time. Some programs offer online options for schedule flexibility.

MPH Program Curriculum and Goals

While requirements vary, most MPH programs focus on the following key areas: health management, informatics, social and behavioral health, epidemiology, biostatistics and environmental health. An MPH program includes practical experience through fieldwork, research or an internship.

For future clinicians, an MPH curriculum centers on community health, quality improvement and patient-centered health care. The nonclinical emphasis concentrates on community health promotion and health care delivery.

Examine Modern Public Health Challenges

In an MPH program, students explore contemporary public health issues and challenges, like healthy behaviors, environmental threats and disease prevention. Students address these concerns through an interdisciplinary curriculum that emphasizes community health, social behavior and strategic planning.

Prepare Leaders

Public health master’s programs focus on training students to become leaders and scientists, with offerings for individuals with clinical or nonclinical educational backgrounds. MPH programs highlight the development of problem-solving, critical thinking and communication skills. To drive change and serve as a leader in public health, individuals should be comfortable working with diverse communities to address public health issues, lead and evaluate public health programs and manage teams.

Promote Interdisciplinary Learning

An MPH is an interdisciplinary degree program that unites scientific research, health sciences, policy and medicine. The curriculum develops students’ ability to collaborate with different disciplines to address health disparities.

Benefits of Earning an MPH Degree

People pursue an advanced public health degree for several reasons, including broadening their knowledge, pursuing career advancement and gaining the ability to implement change through leadership. An MPH program offers value to students who seek the research and evaluation skills needed for clinical positions as well as training for nonclinical roles.

Gain Advanced Public Health Knowledge

Students in an MPH program receive a comprehensive and specialized understanding of public health and its various disciplines, such as health policy, biostatistics, and environmental health. In addition to core coursework, MPH requirements may include electives, such as health data management, health decision support systems, and health law and ethics.

Develop Practical Skills

Public health professionals add value in the community because they play a critical role in developing healthier, more equitable communities. Professionals apply the following practical skills:

  • Communication and interpersonal: In a public health setting, professionals must use their written and verbal skills to communicate with diverse backgrounds, convey information and work collaboratively.
  • Problem-solving and critical thinking: When a public health problem arises, individuals need to be able to identify and analyze the issue, and then develop an effective and thoughtful solution.
  • Leadership: Managing public health programs includes a series of skills, such as budgeting, delegating tasks, training individuals and prioritizing emergencies.
  • Analytical thinking: To evaluate trends, data, patterns and regulations, public health workers must apply analytical thinking to make informed decisions.

Obtain Career and Networking Support

A good MPH degree program offers students access to faculty with hands-on public health experience. A network of fellow students, faculty, and staff can also provide guidance and support. This, in turn, can lead to increased earning potential in various health care and public health roles.

MPH Careers and Salaries

Graduates of MPH programs can seek careers in health care and public health-related organizations, such as hospitals, academia, government agencies and nonprofits. Here are examples of careers and median salaries:

Health Education Specialist

The primary duty of a health education specialist is promoting wellness through educational materials, events and programs. Health education specialists also evaluate the effectiveness of programs, advocate for change and oversee staff. Individuals in this position apply their problem-solving, communication and analytical skills to determine if community initiatives are working.

Health education specialists earned a median annual salary of $60,600 as of May 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Emergency Management Specialist

Emergency management specialists lead the response to crises in their communities. Their duties range from reviewing emergency plans and coordinating resources to engaging with public safety officials and applying for federal funding. MPH graduates can use their leadership and critical thinking skills to manage disaster response and coordinate community efforts.

Emergency management specialists earned a median annual salary of $76,730 as of May 2021, according to the BLS.


Epidemiologists use their public health expertise to study the causes of injury and disease. Research is a significant part of this career, as is overseeing staff, managing programs, analyzing information and communicating data to others.

Epidemiologists earned a median annual salary of $78,830 as of May 2021, according to the BLS.


A biostatician investigates the causes of illnesses and outbreaks and may develop drug studies to determine how to effectively treat certain medical conditions. In an MPH program, students study biostatistics so that they can apply that knowledge to examining research findings and conducting statistical analyses.

Statisticians earned a median annual salary of $95,570 as of May 2021, according to the BLS.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers coordinate and plan medical and health services for organizations. They also ensure that ethical standards and regulatory requirements are current. They make sure that organizations are well-managed to deliver quality care to the community.

Medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $101,340 as of May 2021, according to the BLS.

Learn How an MPH Can Help You Serve Communities

Students with an MPH can make a real difference in the lives of community members and have a positive impact in the world by promoting health and wellness, addressing health challenges, and advocating for better health policies.

Augusta University Online’s MPH offers a two-year, online MPH program that prepares students for careers in the research, health care and nonprofit sectors. The Health Management concentration is geared toward leadership and administrative careers and the Health Informatics concentration is geared toward careers in health information systems and technology management.
Discover your journey to improve lives through public health.

American Public Health Association, What Is Public Health?
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, See Yourself in a Public Health Career
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Emergency Management Directors
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Epidemiologists
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Statisticians

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