Masters in Public Health Requirements
The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree usually, but not always, requires some undergraduate background that is relevant to the field. There is also a large number of professionals who have existing careers in healthcare that enroll in a MPH program in order to segue into public health policy or management. So the prerequisites for this degree may be a mix of academic or work experience, depending upon the school and the nature of the program. Some MPH degrees are designed for mid-career changes and accept professionals with work experience as readily as they take undergraduates with a healthcare related degree. The MPH is also a frequent choice for a dual degree program with a MBA, MSN or medical degree of some sort. For individuals who wish to work as medical practitioners or managers in a public health environment the MPH can be a reasonable dual degree option despite the demands of an accompanying medically oriented curriculum.
There are several core areas of public health that every MPH program attempts to address. Most programs also offer an area of specialization, which may mean continued studies in one of these core areas. The requirements for the MPH differ from school to school, and often the area of emphasis may be different. A few MPH programs offer substantial focus on global health issues. Some take a page from a MBA curriculum and offer courses in the financing and budgeting skills associated with the field. Generally these are the principal focal points for a MPH core curriculum:
1. Epidemiology: This science is at the heart of public health because it is the study of health patterns within a population, which may be related as much to social or economic issues as they are to infectious disease.
2. Biostatistics: Often this course of study is called Research Methods or Research & Analysis in Public Health or a similar title, but the topic is the same: the data used to analyze the state of public health, the issues, the patterns, and the areas of concern.
3. Health Policy and Management: Health policy is often more of a political scrap than it is a policy discussion, but once health policy has been legislated into place the implementation of it requires both budgetary and administrative skills.
4. Environmental and Occupational Health: This field is sometimes called Industrial & Occupational Health but more often today it concerns overall environmental impact, not just problems on the job site. In urban settings environmental health often has to do with living conditions and nutritional patterns.
5. Social and Behavioral Sciences: The delivery of public health services often becomes intertwined with family issues and behavioral problems within the family. Substance abuse, personal abuse and nutritional shortcomings are public health issues that are just as pressing as the lack of healthcare for millions of families and children.
Generally the MPH is designed to be a three to four semester program, requiring eighteen months to two years to complete. Many programs require a practicum or internship of some sort that provides an opportunity for the student to have some on-site experience working with public health professionals in an agency, a service center or on a research project. Credit hour requirements can range from 36 to 44, with some programs that have four unit courses requiring up to 60 credit hours. In all cases, eighteen months of non-stop study or two school years of study will complete the program. Students who want or need to continue working while enrolled may wish to opt for an online MPH, which is offered as an option by many fully accredited universities today.