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What is a Master's in Public Health (MPH)?

December 06, 2023
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A Master's in Public Health is a versatile degree that deeply prepares students for a fulfilling career in many fields related to health. With diverse specializations available, this flexible degree equips students with wide-ranging skills that identify and address crucial health issues, ultimately preparing them for a satisfying income and fulfilling roles within the public health professions.

Prepare for a Pivotal Role in Public Health

The field of public health is critical for promoting and protecting the health of people and communities. Remarkable advances in population health, including immunization programs, improved maternal and infant care, and effective tobacco control, have resulted in a 30-year increase in Americans' average lifespan since the 1900s.1, 2

Public health professionals play an essential role in these health initiatives' success. Public health programs, particularly the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, develop students’ analytical, planning, and research skills, which are much needed in improving community health and environmental health conditions.

The online master's in public health is a graduate-level degree designed to prepare students for their role as public health practitioners. MPH students learn the connections between health outcomes and behavioral, social, economic, and environmental conditions. They also learn about disease prevention tools, including health education and promotion, screening, and treatment.3

Read on to discover more about the public health degree programs including the Kent State online Master of Public Health, program planning methodology, and the many career options you have in the public health professions.

A Deep Dive into the Master's in Public Health Degree

The MPH degree program offers rigorous coursework, blending public health science with policy and healthcare management. Students delve into topics like biostatistics, social and behavioral determinants, epidemiology, and environmental health, acquiring core skills for health services coordination. Upon completing an MPH program, public health professionals will possess skills in:4

  • Data analytics and assessment
  • Policy development and program planning
  • Communication
  • Understanding of health equity
  • Community partnerships
  • Public health sciences
  • Finance management
  • Leadership
  • Systems thinking

Specializations in MPH Programs

Public health is a broad field, and degree specializations provide an opportunity to attain additional skills in areas such as epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health policy, or social sciences. Kent State University offers the following specializations, along with an online Master of Science (MS) in Clinical Epidemiology.

Health Policy and Management

The health policy and management concentration covers health services planning and administration. MPH students in this specialization develop skills to analyze health policies and health care delivery models, manage healthcare organizations and improve services. You also learn financial stewardship and innovative ways to fund health services.5

Social and Behavioral Sciences

The social and behavioral sciences track studies the impact of human behavior and social factors on population health.6 It prepares future public health educators to understand human behavior, identify health-shaping factors and develop strategies to address these aspects.


Epidemiology studies health and disease distribution in a population and the factors that influence it.7 A focus on epidemiology and disease control prepares students to investigate disease outbreaks, understand disease-causing factors, and research health trends within a population.

Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals with a Master of Public Health

An online public health degree program opens up diverse career paths, from research and public health education to medical practice and non-profit work.

Entering Research and Academia

Data analysis is a core component of public health and public health careers in research and academia are popular among MPH program graduates. Potential job roles include:

  • Environmental scientist
  • Biostatistician
  • Epidemiologist
  • Health data analyst
  • Public health educator or lecturer

Embracing Public Health Practice

Public health practitioners often engage in community health through medical and public health practice. The following jobs are options to consider:

  • Community health worker
  • Public health nurse
  • Public health physician
  • Dietitian
  • Food and safety inspector

While some career roles, such as nurse, physician and dietitian, require additional education and training, the MPH degree prepares you specifically for direct community outreach as a public health professional.

Engaging in Healthcare Consulting and Policy Analysis

A career in the private sector, consulting for hospitals, health care agencies, government agencies or private organizations, is another possible career path for public health MPH graduates.

You might analyze data on current health policies, health outcomes, and workplace safety trends. Or you might help public health agencies with public health surveillance and health services research. Working with government agencies concerned with human health, you might also leverage your expertise in research methods to support health policy promotion and health care legislation.

Contributing to Global Health Initiatives

Non-profit career pathways include working with intergovernmental organizations like the WHO, the UN, or international research and charity foundations. Roles could be research-oriented or involve healthcare delivery including administering vaccines, disaster relief, and refugee protection.

If you are more interested in communications and public outreach, another important way to provide public health service is by helping raise public awareness of health issues that affect communities, which can improve health outcomes and promote healthy behaviors.

Is a Master's in Public Health Worth It?

Earning your master's degree in public health is a valuable step if you are committed to following one of the career paths dedicated to improving community health. It can help you develop the perspective you need to effectively lead in a wide range of public health and healthcare disciplines, while also helping you develop your professional network. Explore the salary potential for different MPH graduate career paths.

An online MPH degree develops your expertise in the field, deepening your understanding of population health and health disparities, so you are well-qualified to guide policy decisions, and manage public health emergencies.

Enrolling in Kent State University's online Master of Public Health program provides the opportunity to network with and learn from public health professionals who are leaders in the field, while you study on your own schedule and create lasting partnerships with your future peers.

MPH Admission Requirements and Application Process

MPH admission requirements vary by university. Universities including Kent State have suspended GRE requirements in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.8 Kent State’s online MPH admission criteria include:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Official university or college transcripts
  • Resume or CV
  • Goal statement of two pages or less
  • Three letters of recommendation

An admissions outreach advisor can provide you with more details about these requirements and other topics related to continuing your professional education with Kent State University.

Balancing Work and Study as an MPH Student

Earning an advanced degree takes time and dedication. Thankfully, flexible study options such as part-time and online public health programs allow students to balance study, work and other obligations. Organization and time management are must-have skills for success. Online programs that offer asynchronous classes allow you to study whenever you can carve out the time to focus on your learning with limited distractions.

Financial Preparations for Your Master's in Public Health

A good financial plan can ease the stress of funding your public health education and help you concentrate on your learning. Check with your university for grants and scholarship options. Also, check with organizations and foundations dedicated to public health. For example, the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health has a directory of financial aid, student loans and scholarship resources available to public health students.9

Advance Your Career with an MPH Degree

Kent State University's online Master of Public Health degree equips you to advance your career as a public health practitioner and actively address public health challenges. You'll understand public health theories, gain real-world experience, and network with healthcare industry leaders. An admissions outreach advisor can help you learn what you need to know to move forward with the experts at Kent State

  1. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4861644/
  2. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6019a5.htm
  3. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470250/
  4. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from phf.org/resourcestools/Documents/Core_Competencies_for_Public_Health_Professionals_2021October.pdf
  5. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from onlinedegrees.kent.edu/college-of-public-health/masters-public-health#health-policy-and-management
  6. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from thisispublichealth.aspph.org/behavioral-and-social-science/
  7. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK7993/
  8. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7710796/
  9. Retrieved on November 10, 2023, from thisispublichealth.aspph.org/financing-your-degree/