Research-Focused Masters Degree Programs in Public Health

There are 2 types of general public health professionals – those that provide public health services to the public and those that provide research and development into the field of public health. The people that work in the field promoting healthy lifestyles rely on researchers and development specialists to provide insight on how to improve the efficacy, effectiveness, and efficiency of public health interventions and outcomes.

Because research and evidence-based practices are part of the core foundation of public health, there are various masters-level degrees that focus on developing advanced research methods and analytical skills. These research-focused degrees include Master’s of Science in Public Health (MSPH), Masters of Science (ScM), and Masters of Science in Critical Research (MS-CR), and are designed for students who wish to pursue a doctorate level degree or seek careers in research and/or academia. 

Masters of Science in Public Health (MSPH)

The Masters of Science in Public Health (MSPH) differs from a Masters of Public Health (MPH) 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 also 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, either way, the degree is marketed, many MSPH programs touch on the core disciplines of an MPH degree, but with an additional emphasis on research methods, epidemiology, and biostatistics. Students will develop a solid foundation in behavioral sciences principles and theories, along with advanced skills in program planning, implementation, and evaluation. Some MSPH programs offer students the opportunity to take part in studies regarding health policy, initiatives, and health education. 

This field provides students with the advantage of knowing the different levels of public health, from application to research, which equips students for research or technical positions in government, industry, academia, or private institutions. Individuals interested in this field should be analysis-oriented and focused on the greater good of citizens in the public health sector.

Masters of Science (MS/ScM)

Similar to an MSPH, a Masters of Science (MS/ScM) degree is designed for students preparing for doctorate programs or considering upper-level research positions in academia, government or industry. However, MS and ScM degrees are more specialized with narrowly-tailored research objectives, rigorous training in laboratory research, and a higher focus in the sciences (microbiology, immunology, epidemiology, etc) and biostatistics.

Most MS and ScM programs are constructed to provide students with a capacity to perform independent research and develop a firm understanding of research practices and principals while building on the fundamentals of public health. Students will become familiar with the social, behavioral, and environmental determinants of health and learn how to design and evaluate health programs by utilizing multilevel perspectives and a variety of methodological, analytic, and advocacy skills. Additionally, students within an MS or ScM program should be able to evaluate scientific literature, communicate scientific information orally and in writing to both healthcare professionals and the general public, design research studies of human health and disease, and draw inferences from quantitative data, 

Typically, MS and ScM graduates assume positions in research or professional settings as scientific project coordinators and data analysts.

Masters of Science in Clinical Research (MS-CR) 

Clinical Research is a component of healthcare that focuses on the safety and efficacy of medications, diagnostics, and medical treatment. Since clinical research is a key factor in addressing complex health issues, a trained clinical research workforce is critical to ensuring that research is aligned with the highest scientific, ethical, and regulatory standards.

The Master of Science in Clinical Research (MS-CR) degree will help health professionals become competent clinical researchers through didactic course work that focuses on clinical research methodology, grant writing, epidemiology, computational and statistical sciences, biomedical ethics, and principles of clinical pharmacology. With the skills gained through the MS-CR degree, students should be able to design and conduct clinical research, analyze data and interpret the results, read and critique clinical research literature, present findings to peers and the general public, and successfully compete for funding.

The MS-CR degree is designed for a variety of health professionals, including physicians who will plan and oversee translational research and clinical trials; research nurses; study coordinators; managers in clinical research and site management organizations; and professionals in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, and medical device industries. Graduates from this degree can obtain positions in academia, industry, and government institutions and/or pursue additional advanced professional degrees in medicine, dentistry, and public health