What is a MPH (Masters in Public Health)?

If you want to make a real difference to communities across the world, you may want to consider completing a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree. Through this degree, you will be able to improve health outcomes for people the world over. Career opportunities are varied, but all play an important role in positive health outcomes.

There are a number of global health issues, such as global warming, malnutrition, SARS, avian bird flu, obesity, the Ebola virus, and AIDS. These crises raised the general public’s understanding and awareness of the importance of public health professionals. If this is a field that you want to contribute to, then the MPH is the right degree for you.

Studying Towards a Master’s in Public Health

The MPH degree usually has a strong international focus, demonstrating the crucial role these professionals play in global health outcomes. Diseases and infections are not stopped by borders, which is why cooperation between researchers and public health leaders across the globe is needed.

While studying for your degree, you will learn about the varied and complex nature of the field of public health, looking at specific issues that people face today. As a graduate, you will be able to use your skills and experience to positively impact the quality of life people have, as well as their longevity. The degree is suitable for passionate people who want to reduce health risks across the world.

As part of the MPH degree, you will be provided with quantitative and qualitative analytical research skills, and the ability to focus on the interdisciplinary nature of the world of health. Because of this interdisciplinary nature, your study will usually overlap with a range of other fields, including international relations, politics, statistics, economics, psychology, sociology, and nursing.

Usually, it will take you two years to complete an MPH degree, although many schools now offer accelerated programs, meaning you can complete such a program in 12 to 18 months. Additionally, such programs are focused on working professionals. This means that it is often possible to complete them part time, through distance learning, or even online.

How to Choose Your Program

If you want to complete an MPH degree, you will have to carefully choose the school to enroll in. It is important that you have a general idea of where you would like your career to go. Do make sure that, whatever program you choose, it is properly accredited, with the Council on Education for Public Health being one of the main accrediting bodies. Additionally, you should look at the specializations that the school offers, so that you can fully streamline it to your personal goals.

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The specializations you can choose as part of your MPH degree vary from one school to the next, which is another reason why it is so important to properly research the different schools. Common areas of specialization include:

  • Environmental health
  • Biostatistics (closely linked to epidemiology) in which you will design and analyze studies relating to the biological development of diseases, with a focus on disease prevention
  • Health education and communication
  • Epidemiology, whereby you will study the effects on health for large population groups, focusing particularly on preventing various diseases. This is an important field in which risk factors can be identified and, where possible, eliminated. The focus is on collecting and interpreting data, and making recommendations based on that.
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Health law
  • Maternal and child health
  • International health and development
  • Social and behavioral sciences
  • Nutrition
  • Toxicology
  • Parasitology
  • Tropical medicine
  • Health services management, which looks at how health care delivery services are managed. This is a business-like specialization, in which you will focus on achieving excellent outcomes through funding, proper organization, excellent delivery, service availability, quality of care, and cost. Usually, your overall goal will be to improve the health outcomes of services, while at the same time remaining within budget.
  • Public security, which is closely related to international relations. Here, you will study how terrorism and political instability are linked to overall global health outcomes. You will look at issues, such as epidemics, bioterrorism, emergency management, and the health aspects of disasters.
  • Health promotion, whereby your goal will be to develop, implement, run, evaluate, and improve community health efforts, focusing on educating the public about available services and disease prevention efforts.

Jobs for MPH Degree Holders

Once you hold an MPH degree, there are a number of careers available to you. Your chosen specialization will determine greatly which job you will end up having. Careers exist in public and private sectors, as well as with NGOs and nonprofit organizations. Common roles for MPH degree holders include:

  • Epidemiologists, who look at disease patterns and try to identify the cause and effect of certain diseases and illnesses. You can take on various roles in this field, whether you focus on actual medicine or not. You can even focus specifically on veterinary epidemiology.
  • Health administrator, whereby you will ensure the health center that you work for operates smoothly, within budget, without compromising on quality of care. In fact, passionate health administrators will work not just on maintaining excellent levels of care. They will actively work to improve them.
  • Biostatisticians, who work with data to analyze whether a certain treatment plan worked, what are the influence of certain environmental conditions, and more. Pharmaceutical companies, educational institutions, and government agencies are the most common employers.
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  • Public health practitioner, in which role you will help educate the public about how to achieve better health outcomes, while also promoting efforts to achieve this. Your role will be to identify how to take control in improving health outcomes across the world. It is a very strategic role, but remains at grassroots level, as you will work directly with members of the community to improve their overall quality of life and longevity.
  • Public health lobbyist or public affairs consultant, in which role you will try to lobby government officials by asking them to make a strong commitment towards wanting to improve overall health outcomes across the country. This can be in general terms, or as part of a more specific agenda.

As you can see, the options out there for an MPH degree holder are numerous. It is important that you consider exactly what your personal career expectations are, because there are so many related degrees to choose from as well. Speaking to a career guidance counselor, for instance, may be beneficial in terms of finding the right program, as well as the right school.

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