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Master of Science in Public Health

At the graduate level, public health programs are most commonly found as Master of Public Health degrees rather than Master of Science degrees. Learn about public health master's degrees, including common course topics and online availability.

What Can I Do with a Master's Degree in Public Health?

A master's degree in public health will give you the specialized skills needed to work in a community setting in the areas of disease prevention, risk analysis and reduction, wellness and health promotion. With this degree, you will be prepared to work in a state or local public health department, hospital, public clinic, corporate wellness program, non-profit agency or similar organization.

Work Environments Wellness programs, hospitals, non-profit agencies, public health departments, public clinics
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree is required; some institutions may require students to submit a current resume
Key Topics Discussed Biostatistics, health care management, environmental health, epidemiology, public health ethics
Learning Environments Traditional classroom and distance learning degree options are available
Degree Duration Varies, depending upon a student's enrollment status; full-time students typically complete the program in two years
Job Outlook (2016-2026)9% growth (for epidemiologists )*
Median Salary (2018)$69,660 (for epidemiologists )*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Prerequisites?

You will be expected to have an undergraduate degree in a related field. If you don't, you'll be asked to demonstrate experience or a strong interest in the public health field, and students with public-health-related undergraduate degrees may be given preference. Many programs also require you to submit your resume and detail any relevant research or volunteer experience.

What Will I Study?

Your specific coursework depends on whether you have chosen a concentration or not. Some schools offer concentrations in areas such as health care policy, global health, family and community health, occupational health, health law and more. Generally, though, you can expect to cover topics such as the following:

  • Clinical epidemiology
  • Health care management
  • Ethics in public health
  • Biostatistics
  • Medical research and health data analysis
  • Environmental health
  • Community health evaluation
  • Social and behavioral principles in public health
  • Global health.

You may also be expected to write a thesis and complete a practicum of 200-400 hours. If you have extensive public health experience already, the practicum requirement can sometimes be waived.

Can I Earn the Degree Online?

Some schools do offer this degree online. You'll take all of your classes via the school's website, but you will have to arrange to complete your practicum requirements at a nearby campus or healthcare site in order to complete the degree. To access the online course materials, you'll typically need a computer with an Internet connection and familiarity with Web browsing and word processing software. Some programs have brief on-campus residency requirements, such as two weekends per semester.

How Long Does It Take?

You can expect to complete your degree in about two years if you choose a full-time program. Part-time and online study may take longer. Many programs are designed for working people who want to keep their jobs while they study, so you will find some schools also offer classes at night and on Saturdays.