Public health careers appeal to different people for different reasons, just as certain universities make more sense for certain individuals. The university you choose should be a conduit through which you can achieve your aspirations, and there are many factors to consider in the selection process. For some the most important of these may be prestige, while others may weigh connections or affordability more heavily.
For those in the public health field who want to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to take on leadership roles but are reluctant to halt their current career progress, an online master’s in public health program like the one offered by Kent State University can provide the right mix of convenience and rigor. See the online experience through the eyes of Kent State online Master of Public Health (MPH) student Jocelyn Rogers, and gain some tips and insight for your own journey.
Consider Convenience and Affordability
After completing a yearlong public health internship at an East Coast university, Rogers was looking for a challenging program that would connect her with a diverse group of professionals after graduation. She considered several universities, but it was Kent State’s convenient admissions requirements and affordability that proved to be a key factors in her selection. “The application was inexpensive, my GRE scores were waived and I was notified that the entire program would only cost me $30,000,” Rogers says.
Her next consideration was setting. The online learning format doesn’t suit everyone’s learning styles, and there are still those who have qualms about whether or not it’s as effective as a conventional brick-and-mortar setting. In fact, Rogers was one of those people: She worried that this format wouldn’t mesh with her needs, or that she wouldn’t get the same level of education as she would in a traditional classroom. In the end, online learning turned out to be a good fit for her: “The program exceeded all my expectations, quite honestly,” she declares, “I was able to obtain advanced educational training while making an impact in my organization and in my community.”
Form Meaningful Connections
One of the most common concerns voiced by prospective online students is whether or not the human connection will be the same as that in an on-ground program. Rogers’ cohort was quick to remedy this potential problem by creating a Facebook group in which they could bond and communicate. “It has been very helpful to recognize that we are not alone in our concerns and frustrations” through interactions in this online social space, she says.
As important as it is to have a support system at home, connecting with classmates and forming meaningful bonds is equally imperative. Sharing struggles and triumphs, challenging viewpoints, and working together to cope with the everyday stresses involved in balancing an online master’s program with an existing work and personal life can lead to surprising interpersonal dynamics as well as networking opportunities. For Rogers, her very first semester led to an actual friendship with a classmate who lives across the country: “I thought it was very real and humanizing to have a friend so far away who I met through an online program,” she recalls.
Concentrate on Career Outcomes
Kent State’s online MPH degree program allows for students to specialize in Health Policy and Management or Social and Behavioral Sciences, tailoring the curriculum to the content and career path that best suits them. Rogers chose Health Policy Management because she thought it would best help her make a powerful impact in public health. But even within a specialized track, Rogers still contends that she “received a broad range of knowledge from financial management to social and behavioral theories.”
Another career-focused aspect of the online MPH program is its practicum requirement—a 300-hour field-based experience that requires students to apply knowledge and skills gained throughout the program and results in the development of a professional portfolio. When selecting a practicum site, Rogers used her professional network to seek out opportunities, and upon the recommendation of a former internship supervisor, chose to work on a U.S. Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) Tier 1B grant-funded program. It seems apparent that the skills Rogers already possessed along with the knowledge she’s gained throughout the online master’s program in public health have combined productively, as she was hired on this program’s staff full time after her practicum concluded.
A Word of Advice
While online master’s programs offer many benefits and conveniences, they do require discipline and planning. When asked if she had any advice for potential students, Rogers stresses staying on top of coursework, noting that, “Deadlines come fast, and not every professor is graceful with late assignments.” She also recommends seizing every opportunity available and making as many connections as possible: “Find at least two professors throughout your program who will vouch for you and your master’s-level work.”
If you have a calling to improve others’ lives and the current public health landscape, consider how Kent State’s online Master of Public Health could help you initiate vital conversations and implement meaningful change in the public health sector.