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Katherine Gustafson

March 14, 2022

An MPH will teach you how to think critically about the social and cultural influences that impact health.

In 1966 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told the Medical Committee for Human Rights that, “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman." Over 50 years later, the weight of his words remains true: we haven't yet discovered how to provide equal footing in health and healthcare for all, despite being a matter of profound importance.

In the United States, healthcare spending is projected to comprise nearly 20 percent of GDP by 2025. As a sector, healthcare currently employs more workers than any other industry. In large part this growth is thanks to new technologies, whose efforts to improve access to (and quality of) healthcare are disrupting the industry at an ever more rapid pace. All of which is precisely why the pursuit of careers—and education—in healthcare are booming just as quickly... and why understanding how such changes to this industry will ultimately ripple out across society.

The study of public health focuses exactly upon those concerns. If you are interested in understanding, analyzing, and influencing trends in healthcare, a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is worth consideration.

_(Food for thought: Which Career Path Is Right For You: MPH or MHA?)_

An master's degree in public health teaches strategies for measuring and analyzing the spread of diseases (epidemiology), the skills for administration of health services and healthcare planning, and how to think critically about the social and cultural influences that impact health.

These are the top 10 reasons to pursue an MPH.

1. You’ll make a difference. Studying public health can put you in place to help people in concrete ways—like increasing life expectancy, reducing infant mortality, and warding off the spread of disease. With a master's degree in public health, there's a good chance you'll save lives.

2. You’ll learn to look at the social context of health. One of the major values of the MPH degree is its sociological perspective. Unlike medical and nursing degrees, or graduate degrees in healthcare administration or healthcare management, an MPH focuses on the bigger societal picture of health and healthcare.

3. You’ll have lots of career options. An MPH prepares students for a variety of jobs in healthcare and beyond. Just a few of the career paths you can take with a master's in public health: healthcare administrator, biostatistician, epidemiologist/research analyst, public health project manager, health and safety engineer, disaster management specialist, public health planner, global infectious disease specialist, and director of population health.

4. You won't get bored. MPH graduates can apply their expertise in many different ways. With a master's in public health, you can become a medical journalist, grant writer, environmental inspector, policy analyst, lobbyist, or political scientist. While an MPH is designed to be a terminal degree, some graduates continue their studies to earn a PhD in public health, to become a professor.

5. You’ll be able to pursue public service. Many MPH graduates make a difference by working in the public sector, whether in policy or as a provider of direct service. Those who lean toward public service careers often find many satisfying avenues in the field of public health.

6. You can work for all sorts of institutions. Graduates of MPH programs are hired for critical roles in hospitals, universities, government agencies, NGOs, health tech start-ups, pharmaceutical companies, consulting firms, and businesses of all kinds. Their expertise can be applied in a huge number of ways, from shaping government policy to designing new health-promoting products and services.

7. You can earn a strong salary. Earning potential for those with an MPH degree vary widely, given that there are so many types of jobs one can do with this degree. If a high salary is important ot you, it’s possible to earn salaries with a master's in public health. For example, health care policy analysts and biostatistician can work their way up to around $150,000 in annual compensation.

8. You’ll be qualified for research opportunities. Research into how particular communities are affected by specific health problems, and how best to manage health threats at a population level, are essential to the field of public health. An MPH degree prepares graduates to join this important research community.

9. You can dive into advocacy. MPH graduates have valuable perspective on what needs to change on a big-picture level in order to enable positive health outcomes at an individual level. There is a role for those who are interested in advocating for that kind of change; MPH graduates can put their skills to use promoting and lobbying for health-promoting legislation.

10. You’ll find opportunities abroad. In our globalized world, health concerns don’t stop at borders; the field of public health encompasses global health, which applies the same sociological and epidemiological lens to health trends around the world. While a specialized degree in global health is the best way to prepare for these opportunities, an MPH offers the appropriate training and skills to allow graduates to succeed in international assignments.

An MPH degree is best suited to those interested in looking at health in a community or population context. Graduates have wide-ranging choice regarding their career path, and have the opportunity to do good in the world—potentially even saving lives without ever stepping into a hospital.

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