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Public Health is dedicated to the assessment of health problems and risks, the creation of policies to solve or alleviate health problems, and the oversight and management health care systems, including promotion of well being and disease prevention. Graduate programs in Public Health achieve these goals through an interdisciplinary approach, involving the study of both the politics and science behind health care, as well as the study of public health policy.

Whether investigating communicable diseases, working with the mentally ill, implementing nutrition programs, or studying policy, public health workers strive to fulfill the mission of the World Health Organization, which is indicated in its definition of health: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

Public Health graduate programs vary greatly in terms of academic emphasis and training. As different programs will appeal to students with different interests and career goals, it is important to research which programs will best meet your personal goals. Some of the most common specialties within public health grad programs are environmental health, health education, epidemiology and biostatistics, health services, international health, disease prevention, and child health. While students usually specialize in a public health field, most M.P.H. programs address program management, policy, and public health problems. In addition to traditional classroom and lab instruction, M.P.H. students also work outside the classroom, doing field research in a range of health care environments.

Degree Information

Most graduate students will work toward a master’s degree of Public Health (M.P.H.) or a doctorate in Public Health (D.P.H.). Joint degrees are possible such as a M.D./M.P.H.; M.P.H./J.D., M.P.P./M.P.H. (with a School of Public Policy), or a M.P.H./M.S.W. (with a School of Social Work). Some graduate programs also offer a combined M.P.H./N.P. (Nurse Practitioner). Another option is to be a Certified Health Education Specialist (C.H.E.S.).

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What is the program's emphasis or focus? What types of health issues does the basic curriculum address?
  • What type of electives are offered?
  • What research opportunities exist for students?
  • What types of health research does the faculty engage in?
  • What opportunities exist for community involvement? What types of internships are available?
  • Do students have access to a wide range of health environments and facilities?
  • What type of health services career do I wish to pursue after graduation? Do I want to be a community organizer, a health educator, or a health administrator?
  • Will the programs that I am considering give me the resources, training, and opportunities I want?

Career Overview

Public health professionals monitor the health needs of the public, evaluate complex problems facing health care, promote healthy practices and behaviors, and try to identify environmental hazards at workplaces and in the larger community. They work in every aspect of the health care system, including the government, hospitals, health systems, universities, and private companies.

Depending on your educational focus, a degree in public health can take you many places. Some public health graduates use their skills in an administrative/management position in health related institutions and organizations, such as pharmaceutical companies, hospital supply firms, government agencies, or HMOs. Other M.P.H. professionals work in community medicine, in positions such as city health planner, medical center infection control practitioner, county epidemiologist, and director of public health nursing services.

Many graduates also choose to work as public health educators, planning, organizing, and directing health education programs to special groups or the community. Health educators work in a variety of environments, such as consumer advocacy organizations, state legislative committees, and nonprofit organizations. Some health educators work in hospitals

Public health professionals also work in basic and applied research. Their work addresses a range of areas. Some examples include the toxicological and chemical effects of toxic wastes, psychosocial impact of disease and injury, cancer epidemiology, the human/animal interface, design and evaluation of clinical trials for drug therapies, behavior changes to prevent disease, and alternative delivery systems of care, to name a few.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no licensing requirements necessary for a career in Public Health.

Salary Information

Due to the wide range of career options available with the MPH degree, starting salaries for M.P.H. graduates range between $32,000 and $80,000, depending on the type of agency and the type of position held.

Related Links

World Health Organization (WHO)
WHO is the United Nations specialized agency for health. It provides links to all WHO websites, information on current disease outbreaks, and all sorts of information on health topics.

American Public Health Association
The American Public Health Association has a wealth of information on the subject of Public Health as well as links to other Public Health resources.

Society for Public Health Education
The Society for Public Health Education is a professional organization for health educators.


  • Philosophy Of Public Health

  • Environmental Health Practice

  • Fieldwork

  • Health Promotion And Disease Prevention

  • Health Services Administration

  • Introduction To Health Care Management

  • Perspectives In Environmental Health

  • Principles Of Biostatistics

  • Principles Of Epidemiology

  • Social And Behavioral Foundations Of Public Health

  • Survey Of Applied Statistics For The Health Sciences