Should I Pursue An MPH?
August 03, 2020
Considering pursuing a graduate degree in Public Health? Here's some of what you can expect.
Having an interest in Public Health most likely stemmed from your passion for helping others. Although academic pathways focusing on advocating for the health or well-being of others are varied, Public Health specifically is defined as the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities. Pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) does not necessitate that your undergraduate degree was a Bachelor's of Science in Public Health. Public Policy, Social Work, and International Relations are just a few examples of undergraduate degrees that would prime a relevant lead into an MPH. As the demand for highly-qualified, learned candidates in the job market increases, there will be more opportunities available to you with a graduate degree.
BSPH vs. MPH
With a BS in Public Health, there are plenty of meaningful jobs in a variety of sectors that will fulfill an interest in helping improve the health of people and their communities. Job titles for those with a BSPH may include Community Health Specialist, Research Assistant, or Prevention Specialist. The employment-based decision to pursue a graduate degree in public health depends on the specificity of your public health interest, the sector you would like to work in, and the salary you expect to earn. While the four foundations of public health coursework - Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Ethics, and Health Care Systems - are covered in comprehensive BSPH programs, the advanced concentration-specific courses are reserved for graduate school. BSPH students have the opportunity to take focused and interesting electives during undergraduate that help form one's specified interest in the scope of public health. More than just program-specific coursework, graduate schools open up a whole new peer and professional network to you as a student that can oftentimes be a way to get hired! Once in graduate school, you can parlay that developed interest into your program concentration. Back to those aforementioned foundations of public health, concentrations can fall under one of those four or even more varied scopes of public health work. Health Education, Maternal and Child Health, Environmental Health, and Reproductive Health are just a few examples of concentrations in MPH programs that would be realized by individual interest. Just one of the bonuses of a graduate-level public health program is that there are fewer core requirements that all students need to complete, giving the student more academic freedom to hone in on their interest(s). Although many MPH programs will require graduate students to complete these foundational courses on the graduate level, the course content will be much more comprehensive and in-depth than what was taught at the undergraduate level. As you build critical skills in public health research and application, your understanding and abilities as a student of public health will broaden, making you an attractive candidate for public health employers.
The format of Master of Public Health programs at different universities varies slightly (i.e., graduation requirements, practical experience) but one core principle reigns true: Pursuing an MPH will deepen your understanding of the role and applications of Public Health. Reflecting on what courses, subjects, and experiences you enjoyed most during undergraduate is a helpful way to guide selection of an MPH concentration. The more knowledgeable you are in your field, the greater the leg up you will have when it's time to start looking for jobs.
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