Choose a Public Health Degree Program

There are several public health degree options. Learn the characteristics of each type.

What degree levels are available?

Public health careers require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, but a master’s degree in public health has become the standard. Your degree level will also dictate what types of jobs are available to you. Bachelor’s degrees will help you enter the field, while a master’s degree will be integral for advancement. Doctorate degrees can lead to leadership, teaching and research opportunities.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

During the first year or two of your undergraduate education, you’ll take general education courses in English, humanities and math. In the final two years, your courses will focus on your public health major. While some programs may offer a concentration within your major, such as health management, you’ll typically encounter the following types of courses:

  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Principles of Statistics
  • Human Disease
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy
  • Global health
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Master’s Degree Programs

These days, a master’s in public health (MPH) is the gold standard for many professions. While a bachelor’s degree is a great introduction to the field, earning a master’s level education ensures employers you’re well-versed in complex issues, leadership tactics and economics.

Many MPH programs are designed for students who already hold an advanced degree in law, medicine, behavioral and social sciences.

As an example of an MPH course load, the University of San Francisco’s MPH program includes the following classes:

  • Biostatistics in Public Health
  • Social Justice, Health Policy, Ethics, Public Health Law
  • Public Health Planning, Management and Evaluation
  • Public Health Systems Leadership and Administration
  • Addressing Mental Health Issues in Public Health
  • Agriculture, Food and Nutrition
  • Health Economics and Public Health

In addition to the time in class, students are also required to complete 300 hours of fieldwork.

Students not holding an advanced degree can receive their Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), which is intended for students who plan to continue on to a PhD program.

Doctorate Degree Programs

Two types of doctoral degrees exist in the field of public health: Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health. The DrPH is a professional degree and the PhD is the highest level of education in public health. The latter degree is usually earned by students looking to participate in research or teach.

Some DrPH programs will have a general public health focus, while others may be more specific like a DrPH in Epidemiology. Regardless of the concentration, a public health doctorate education prepares students to make advances in the field.

What accreditation is there for my program?

Accreditation is the seal of approval that a school or program meets the highest standards set by an accrediting organization. Without accreditation, a school isn’t eligible for federally-funded and state entitlement programs, like financial aid. As a student, attending an accredited school qualifies you to earn advanced degrees from other accredited programs.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is the independent accrediting body for public health programs and schools. CEPH is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

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