MPH vs. MSPH vs. MHS

Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Health Science (MHS): What are the differences?

These graduate-level degrees play an important part in public health. They differ in their focus and specialization, but they all share a goal of improving health outcomes for as many groups and individuals as possible. Let’s take a look at some of the differences of MPH vs. MSPH and MHS vs. MPH degrees.

What Are the Differences Between MPH and MSPH?

Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree programs have a very similar foundation and both take about two years to complete. They both help students develop the skills needed to improve health outcomes for the general public. 

They also allow students to declare a concentration in public health or select elective courses in these areas. Some common areas including: epidemiology, public health policy, biostatistics, environmental health, and behavioral/social science. Many universities offer similar concentrations for MPH and MSPH programs. 

However, the differences between MPH and MSPH curriculums reflect the unique focus of each degree and the careers they prepare students for.

MPH vs. MSPH: Curriculum Comparison

An MPH degree prepares students to play a more active role in the community regarding awareness and education of disease, injury, violence prevention and other health matters. MPH programs are applied or professional degree programs, which means completing internships or projects in their field of study is part of the curriculum. By completing an internship, it ensures that students are equipped to apply their skills and knowledge in practical work settings. 

An MSPH is considered more of an academic degree program with a more research-focused curriculum than an MPH. It focuses on research design, data collection and analysis studies. It prepares students for careers as educators and researchers. Some may pursue a higher degree in public health, such as a doctorate in public health.

MPH vs. MSPH: More Differences

Admissions Requirements: MPH and MSPH require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree to be accepted into their programs. While work experience usually is not required for either program, some MPH programs may prefer applicants to have full-time work experience in public health. The majors in bachelor’s degrees are not often specified in the admissions requirements, but since the focus of an MSPH is research and analysis, students with good quantitative and qualitative skills and  comprehensive research experience might be preferable.

Program Length: Most MSPH and MPH programs take about two years to complete. Some institutions offer accelerated MPH programs that can be completed in as little as a year.

Career Path: There might be a lot of overlap because of the similarities between the two programs. 

Upon MPH program completion, students have the skills to contribute to and interpret public health studies. You can even affect policy changes for the betterment of public health. With an MPH degree, you can often find employment in public policy, health care, nonprofit, government agency, administration, education or even community practice settings. 

An MSPH can also equip you with the tools to advocate public health policy change. Compared to MPH professionals, however, MSPH professionals operate on a more macro level—looking at the big picture of public health. MSPH degree holders tend to pursue more careers related to academia. They may become researchers, health educators, lecturers, or gain advanced public health degrees to become scientists. 

Delivery Format: Both MPH and MSPH programs are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. If students are considering studying for a degree online, there are more CEPH-accredited online MPH programs—over 60 in the U.S., compared with less than 10 online MSPH programs.

Read on to see the full list of CEPH-accredited online MPH Programs.

What Are the Differences Between MPH and MHS?

Master of Health Science (MHS) and MPH programs are also built on similar foundations. When comparing an MHS vs. MPH, an MHS curriculum also takes about two years to complete but is usually more specialized than an MPH program. Similar to an MSPH, an MHS is also research-oriented. MPH programs focus on public health more generally, while MHS programs tend to focus on a specific area, such as children’s, women’s, environmental or geriatric health. In an MHS program, you’ll intensively study an aspect of public health, preparing for research careers or continued graduate work in the discipline. 

This tailored curriculum better prepares students who know what area of public health they’d like to specialize in, making this an efficient option for those who have planned their career path. 

MPH vs. MSPH vs. MHS: Which One Is Right for You?

Health care workers crucial to public health come from each of these educational backgrounds. But, how do you decide between an MPH vs. MSPH or an MHS vs. MPH? It comes down to your personal interests, strengths and career goals. Here are some things to consider:

  • If you’re interested in working in a hands-on public health setting (or aren’t sure which area you’d like to specialize in), an MPH can equip you with a broad skill set to build pon. It applies to many careers. If you’re still weighing an MPH vs. MSPH, know that—even though MPH degrees have less of an academic focus—MPH holders can still work as educators.
  • If you already plan to pursue a doctorate after earning a master’s, an academic degree such as MSPH or MHS might be a better fit, even though MPH degrees are acceptable in DPH programs as well.
  • If you want a hands-on public health career and have an idea what you’d like to specialize in, an MHS can fast track you in that direction. Your MHS experience might even set you apart from other job applicants in the field.
  • An MSPH is best for people who wish to affect change in public health from an academic, research-intensive perspective. If you’re interested in analyzing data to draw meaningful health conclusions, an MSPH program may be optimal.
What are the main differences between MPH and MSPH and MHS?

MSPH and MHS degrees are considered more academic degrees that focus on research methods in public health, while an MPH is considered more of a professional degree for practitioners and may enable students to handle a variety of public health issues.

Information last updated in June 2020