Master of Science (MS): Public Health Degree Overview

Read details about a specific master's degree program in public health. Learn about admission requirements, coursework, continuing education and career options for graduates. Get statistics pertaining to job growth potential, as well as yearly earnings for those working in the public health field.

Essential Information

Whereas a Master of Public Health program is typically considered a professional degree, the Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) is an academic degree that usually emphasizes research. Students can learn to collect and analyze health data gathered in the community. They can explore theory development and can learn to understand how those theories affect problems in public and community health. Students in MSPH degree programs generally choose from various concentrations of study, such as health policy, epidemiology, biostatistics, health management or environmental health.

Master's degree programs in this field can take two years to complete, generally requiring 36-40 semester hours. A student may be required to write and defend a thesis to fulfill degree requirements. Before admission into an MSPH program, a prospective student usually must have a bachelor's degree, in addition to meeting other requirements.

Education Prerequisites

Although a health-related major isn't generally required, those students with majors outside of the field may be required to complete additional prerequisite coursework. Students must typically submit test scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and meet a minimum GPA requirement.

Course Topics

In addition to classroom coursework, students can benefit from internship programs to gain real-world experience at research facilities. Courses in this program may include:

  • Data management
  • Epidemiology
  • Social and behavioral medicine
  • Health service management
  • Health care policies
  • Health care law
  • Biostatistics
  • Biomedical applications
  • Designing clinical trials

Popular Career Options

Graduates from an MSPH degree program can find employment opportunities either in research or in the implementation of healthcare policies. They can work in government, private industry or academia. Some possible job titles could include:

  • Health policy analyst
  • Healthcare program director
  • Community healthcare advocate
  • Research consultant
  • Government policy specialist

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has employment outlook information for professions that require master's degrees in public health, including health educators and epidemiologists. These professions had respective job growths of 19% and 10% from 2012-2022. Epidemiologists earned a median salary of $65,270 in 2012, while health educators earned $48,790 as a median salary.

Continuing Education

Graduates interested in an advanced graduate degree can pursue a Ph.D. degree in public health. An advanced degree could lead to higher-level management positions in hospitals and research facilities.

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