Master’s in Public Health Programs (MPH)

There are multiple options for students interested in earning a master’s degree in the public health field, the most common being a master’s in public health (MPH). Leveraging problem-solving skills and ingenuity, a master’s in public health is an option for those interested in health and healthcare on a broader scale than provider-to-patient care. It may pave the way to a rewarding career and can be paired with related degrees or stand on its own.

This resource can help prospective students learn more about the MPH degree, MPH programs and admissions requirements, allowing them to determine if a master’s in public health program is a right choice.

What Is an MPH Degree?

An MPH degree is a graduate-level degree that prepares individuals to work with specific populations and communities to improve their health through awareness, education, policy and research. A master’s in public health program can provide students with a more advanced understanding of the five core disciplines of public health (biostatistics; epidemiology; environmental health; health policy and administration and social and behavioral sciences).

This graduate degree program typically reviews then builds upon the foundational elements of public health while allowing students to focus on a specific public health concentration. After acquiring knowledge, skills and tools during the initial phase of their MPH program, students will then utilize them in the latter part, typically engaging in original research and practical experience through a practicum. The way in which these advanced programs are designed enables students to explore essential topics within the field while identifying which roles align best with their interests.

 There is a constant need for health professionals, and more universities are now offering hybrid and online MPH programs, where students can learn from the comfort of their home and still receive field experience through internships and capstone projects.


The master’s in public health curriculum may vary across schools, concentrations and the amount of time a student chooses to complete their degree. The criteria for accreditation set by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) requires that all MPH degrees be awarded for no fewer than 42 semester credits of coursework. However, the credits needed for an MPH degree range from 42-80 credits depending on the MPH program.

Using a standard two-year MPH degree as an example, the common curriculum structure may be as follows: A student will complete the required foundational courses in the first year. These courses teach and build upon the principles of epidemiology; biostatistics; health policy and/or management; environmental health and social and behavioral sciences, which are the public health core competencies. Students gain the skills needed for community assessments, conducting research and grant writing. Additionally, these courses will help students gain an understanding of how behavior and environmental factors affect health and health policies. After completing these core courses, an individual will continue on to take elective courses as well as those focused on their concentration. Depending on the program, some elective and specialization courses can be taken alongside core courses.

Once the required courses are completed, MPH candidates will take the skills learned and directly apply them to real-world experiences through capstone projects and internships. For most programs, capstone projects and internships are required for graduation and occur during the final semesters of the MPH program. More information about capstones and internships can be found lower on this page under the “Requirements for master’s in public health” section.

Descriptions of core courses that may typically be required:

  • Foundations of epidemiology – This course typically seeks to provide definitions, examples and explanations into the reasoning and biology behind various illnesses and diseases. Students in this course may have the opportunity to investigate case studies and draw their own conclusions about how illness and disease can be maintained and spread throughout communities.
  • Health policy and management – This class may teach students proper management techniques and policy analysis. Ethics, diversity and personnel management may also be a large portion of focus. Health policy and management coursework aims to instruct students in effectively managing a public health-related team, addressing proper business practices and organizational concerns.
  • Program planning and research – Students may be introduced to various research methods that are applicable to the community health discipline. Finding applicable research subjects, designing a research plan and analyzing results are a large portion of what can be included in this process. Public health initiatives are the focus.


Master’s in public health programs typically offer students the opportunity to choose a specialization. The most common concentrations/tracks are the five core disciplines in public health: biostatistics; epidemiology; environmental health; health policy and administration and social and behavioral sciences. However, other common public health concentrations include community health and health promotion, maternal and child health and nutrition.

Not all of the disciplines may be offered in every school or program, and some programs offer more nuanced or specialized concentrations to choose from, so it is beneficial to research what the school has to offer before applying. In each concentration, an individual typically takes core courses to gain a solid base of public health knowledge and then continue to take specialized courses in their chosen track.

To learn more about different public health concentrations or determine which MPH concentration is best for you, visit our specializations page.

Program Length

Most MPH programs are designed to be completed in the standard two-year window when the student attends full time. However, there are master’s in public health programs that can be completed in as little as one year, usually labeled as “12-month” or “Accelerated.” For these accelerated tracks, it is usually recommended, or even required, that students do not work while in the program. View accelerated online MPH programs.

If students would like to work while attending classes, part-time programs are available. The length of time to complete the MPH degree while working and going to school part time can vary depending on the program, university, and the number of credits the student can take per semester. Most students who earn their degree while working can receive their diploma within two and four years.

Additionally, some MPH programs will offer extended or shortened time-frames for individuals to complete their degree. 

CEPH-Accredited MPH Programs

Some MPH programs are accredited by the CEPH, which is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education that sets standards and requirements for public health education. While it is currently not a requirement for a public health program to be CEPH-accredited in the U.S., some employment opportunities may only be available to individuals who graduate from a CEPH-accredited program. Additionally, the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) offers a national credentialing exam only to graduates of CEPH-accredited programs.

MSPH vs. MPH – What Are the Differences?

While researching graduate degrees in public health, prospective students may come across programs that offer a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) rather than a master’s in public health (MPH).

The Master of Science in Public Health differs from a Master of Public Health in multiple ways. An MSPH is an academic research degree that prepares students for an advanced degree, such as a doctorate, whereas an MPH is a professional degree that is geared toward practitioners. Depending on the school and/or program, the MSPH degree may be an alternative for students who want to focus on a specific field of public health or who lack two years of health-related work experience. However, MSPH programs may touch on the core disciplines of an MPH degree, but with an additional emphasis on research methods, epidemiology and biostatistics.

If you are interested in pursuing an MSPH or a more research-based degree in public health, visit our research-based programs page.

Requirements for Master’s in Public Health

Application/Admissions Requirements

MPH admission requirements generally include a bachelor’s degree, standardized test scores (GRE, MCAT, LSAT, etc.), letters of recommendation, a résumé or CV and a personal statement. Depending on the school and/or program, prospective students may be required to have a designated amount of time working in a professional, health-related work environment. MPH application requirements may also depend on the concentration chosen.

Each school will have a slightly different set of requirements for admissions, such as MPH programs without GRE requirements, so it is important to work with an admissions advisor to ensure your application meets all the appropriate requirements. 

Capstone and Practicum Experience to Complete an MPH Degree

Two other requirements that MPH students typically need to complete their degree are a capstone and practicum. These two experiences will prepare students through hands-on experiences and real-life examples.

The capstone project or seminar usually includes a paper with an oral presentation. The capstone project is an opportunity for the student to utilize all they have learned through their degree and apply it in one, organized method to show their level of comprehension and application. This tends to be in the form of original research.

The second requirement is a practicum experience which provides the students with a field-based experience in which to apply their freshly learned skills and knowledge. This practicum experience must be in the scope of the concentration the student has chosen and often needs to be found by the student.

Choose the Right Master’s In Public Health Program

With numerous CEPH-accredited master’s in public health programs and schools to choose from, prospective students may find it difficult to decide which MPH program is right for them. There are a few things to consider when applying to programs: First, would you like to combine the MPH with another master’s degree that compliments your public health career goals? Second, would you like to take classes online or in-person? Finally, what field or work environment would you like to pursue a public health career in?

MPH Dual Degrees

A master’s in public health is a degree that can stand alone or be paired with other graduate degrees. Dual degree programs provide an avenue for students to concurrently enroll in two degree programs so that duplication in course content is minimized, academic interaction is more efficient and the time and costs incurred are reduced compared to earning the degrees independently.

If multiple fields of study interest you, you may want to consider exploring different MPH dual degree options, such as MPH-MD or MPH-MBA. 

Online or On-Campus Programs

More universities are launching MPH programs and extending the opportunity for students to gain their MPH degree online. Depending on one’s personality, work ethic and schedule, enrolling in an online MPH program may be the best option.

The classroom experience is the greatest differentiating factor between an online degree and an in-person one. In many ways, a comprehensive online experience can feel a lot like a traditional one. With access to technology and the know-how to use it, anyone can become an online student. Some example elements of an online education experience are virtual live classes using a webcam; a learning management system for discussions and assignment access; interactive course content designed by university faculty and access to tech support.

MPH Career Options

When choosing a degree, students are encouraged to carefully consider which career paths and work environments they are interested in. Professionals holding master’s degrees in public health typically work in governmental public health agencies, community-based service organizations, academic and research institutions, private organizations, hospitals, health insurance companies and medical groups. Due to the various types of work environments, salaries and job roles can significantly vary, from conducting health assessments to developing health policies. Some career options include occupational and environmental health specialists; epidemiologists; biostatisticians; health program administrators and educators; health economists; planners and policy analysts.

Explore our public health career guide for more information regarding the different career opportunities for MPH graduates.

Frequently Asked Questions about Master’s in Public Health Degrees

Do I need a bachelor’s in public health to apply for an MPH degree?

Most schools require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited university or college, but not necessarily in public health. Some schools may require students to have taken certain course prerequisites. For those who don’t have a bachelor’s in public health, relevant work and volunteer experiences may be beneficial.

Do I need work experience for MPH degree applications?

A few schools may require at least one year full-time work experience related to public health and most schools may not specify this requirement for admissions. However, it’s recommended that applicants have at least some internship or volunteer experiences prior to MPH applications. These experiences may give them a better understanding of public health and help them articulate their career goals in their applications.

Is an MPH worth it?

Students can learn practical approaches in preventing the prevalence of illness and promoting public health awareness that can impact a community. Graduates may be able to work in a wide range of career fields, some of which may require a master’s degree in public health.

Is it hard to earn an MPH degree?

The overall workload of MPH can be manageable depending on the student. Most MPH programs consist of 42 to 45 credits and can be completed in a two-year window. However, MPH programs do require students’ dedication and focus if they want to conduct rigorous and in-depth study, as well as apply their knowledge into practice during their capstone or practicum.

Is an MPH graduate a doctor?

No, an MPH graduate is not a doctor. An MPH is a master’s-level degree in public health, however, depending on the job role, a public health professional can be viewed as a public health practitioner providing information and select health services to individuals.

Explore Master’s in Public Health Programs (MPH)

We provide school listings of both on-campus and online public health programs. An online MPH could be a fit for an individual who desires to work while in school or their public health program of choice may require relocation.

Consider a featured master’s in public health program, currently accepting applicants:

Last updated July 2023.