In the runup to the 2018 midterm elections, “healthcare" was the most-searched political issue on Google. As America heads into the 2020 presidential elections, equal access to healthcare for all remains a front-and-center issue. Yet apart from running for public office, how can you help push healthcare reform forward? With a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH).
A master’s in public health prepares students who want to serve as educators, researchers, or journalists to center their scholarship on healthcare systems and the public good. The MS public health degree, on the other hand, is somewhat different from the Master of Public Health. A master's in pubilc health is a professional degree that prepares students to work in government, nonprofits, healthcare institutions, and other private sector entities. While someone with an MSPH can certainly work in any of those roles, the master of science in public health degree is designed for academically-oriented individuals who hope to impact policy through research.
As an industry, public health is rapidly accelerating in both growth and change. The complexity present in healthcare systems in the U.S. and around the world offer MS in public health students a wealth of careers (and specializations) from which to choose.
1. You’ll make a difference in a life-or-death field. Dedicating your career to public health research puts you in a position of discovery and outreach in a field that is key to human survival. Those holding public health jobs often work to prevent disease outbreaks, provide education around smoking cessation, or conduct research on the opioid epidemic. Upon earning your public health degree, you may find a role reporting health-related news, analyzing preventable disease occurrences, or educating students about epidemiology. Whatever you do with a public health degree, you’ll influence lives for the better—often for generations to come.
2. You’ll be able to specialize in thought-provoking subjects. Some MSPH degree programs offer the option to specialize in areas such as biostatistics, clinical research, and environmental health. Specializing is an excellent way to develop your expertise, which will prepare you to excel in a vareiety of public health jobs. For example, an MSPH student who specializes in biostatistics will be qualified to pursue research about the efficacy and safety of new drugs in development. An epidemiology specialization might lead to work monitoring bioterrorism threats or tracking the spread of disease.
3. You’ll be trained to take on noteworthy research. As an academically-oriented degree, an MSPH trains students to perform public health research and advance the field in meaningful ways. With a public health degree, you’ll be prepared to study how certain diseases are spread and to elucidate the social dynamics of noncommunicable disease. You’ll also be qualified to pursue various research avenues as you move into your career and to push understandings of public health in a new direction as you work toward breakthroughs that could improve the lives of millions.
4. You’ll gain a high-level understanding of statistics. An MSPH is a technical, research-oriented public health degree. As such, students are trained to source and understand statistics. If you’re a numbers-lover intent on looking for patterns in what appears to be quantitative chaos, you’ll be a natural for an MSPH.
5. An MSPH is basically an MPH and then some. The MSPH curriculum includes most of the classes needed for the MPH degree, with additional study in research methods, epidemiology, and biostatistics. MSPH programs also generally require students to complete a research thesis, digging into a single subject and developing specialized expertise. This level of academic study is similar in rigor to that of a PhD.
6. You’ll write a thesis. If you’re into that sort of thing. Again, most MSPH students must complete a research thesis in order to graduate. You’ll be academically supported as you work on research that sparks your interest, and you’ll experience the ultimate satisfaction of completing a substantial project. The thesis writing process will deepen your expertise in a given area, leading you to various opportunities down the line. As a bonus, your thesis work may provide a spark for the body of research you pursue as a professional or PhD student.
7. You’ll be prepared to pursue your PhD. If you want to become a leading expert in the field of public health, an MSPH is the right place to start. It’s an academic degree centered around research, and a solid first step towards the ultimate goal of earning a PhD. A PhD will enable you to seek tenure track jobs in academia, pursue your own research agenda, and educate others on your specialty.
8. You’ll be qualified for many different careers. Graduates of MSPH programs are able to transition their skills into a large variety of jobs, from epidemiology, to nutrition, to program management. Not interested in pursuing a PhD after earning your MSPH? Conduct research in a biomedical lab, consult in the environmental health field, or become the leader of a healthcare institution instead.
9. Your job prospects will be secure. The healthcare and social assistance sectors are only going to grow over the coming decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2026, one third of all new jobs will come from these fields. An MSPH will open up lots of opportunities, and you can feel secure knowing that there will always be good public health jobs available.
10. You’ll increase your earning potential. A master’s degree will help you maximize salary potential across the entire public health job market. MSPH graduates are qualified to take on a wide variety of jobs, and earnings will depend on the roles you choose to pursue. According to PayScale, the average salary for a clinical research associate is $63,267, a biostatician can expect to make $75,788 on average, and an environmental health director can make $76,908. With an MSPH, you’ll qualify for competitive positions with lots of room for growth.
If you’re interested in getting a PhD or otherwise pursuing research-oriented public health jobs, an MSPH degree is the appropriate choice for you. If these are not your goals, there are many other ways in which you can benefit from an MSPH program. All that’s required to succeed in this degree is an interest in the workings of health and healthcare, and an orientation toward research and statistics.
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