Leadership Concentration in Public Health Degrees

To many, public health is a dynamic, interdisciplinary field. There are several specializations students may choose to focus on in their course of study, including community health, epidemiology, and leadership. 

Since leadership plays an important role in the public health sphere, many schools include coursework about leadership in public health in their curricula. Additionally, some Master of Public Health (MPH) and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs allow students to specialize in leadership.

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Explore Online Public Health Programs

Baylor University Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH online in as few as 18 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes

George Washington University Master of Public Health

Earn your MPH online in as few as 12 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 45 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

Tufts University Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH online in as few as 20 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

University of North Carolina Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH Online in as few as 20 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

Simmons University Master of Public Health

Earn your MPH online in as few as 21 months  

  • No GRE required
  • 45 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

University of North Carolina Master of Public Health/Registered Dietitian 

Earn your MPH in as few as 20 months

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by ACEND

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What is Leadership in Public Health?

Leadership in public health encompasses a variety of skills, competencies, and goals such as learning to effectively orchestrate change, communicating and implementing problem-solving strategies, and becoming a positive community influence in public health through knowledge-based ideas and approaches. The definition of leadership in public health is fostering key community needs such as disease prevention, education, and policy development by implementing organizational change, community building, and collaboration between different sectors of public health such as medicine, biology, anthropology and education. Focusing on leadership in public health means taking a collaborative approach to issues in the community in order to best solve problems and impart positive change. It also means learning to become an informed leader who is equipped to take on complex public health challenges by leading teams, managing projects, and designing solutions. 

Why is Leadership Education Important in Public Health?

What is the importance of leadership in public health? By focusing on leadership during your public health studies, you can learn key skills, theories, and practices that will ultimately help you resolve issues within communities once you begin your career. Professionals who focus on leadership in public health design strategies to address conflict, reduce resistance, and increase cooperation as they implement plans and policies related to community change. They apply their knowledge to communicate recommendations, improve organizational strategy, and enhance accountability across public health domains. 

Students can expect coursework within this specialization to cover topics such as health administration, policy analysis, conceptual skills, and applied skills. 

Leadership in public health is significant because it teaches future change-makers how to best deal with issues that have lasting impact on public health at the local, national, and global levels. These issues include bioterrorism, infectious diseases, obesity, famine, and substance abuse. 

Public Health Leadership Bachelor’s Degrees

Completing a bachelor’s degree in public health may prepare students to work in a variety of public health careers and continue their education in the public health realm with a master’s or doctorate degree. 

There are currently no Bachelor of Public Health programs accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) that offer leadership in public health concentrations, but students may still take courses that teach them key skills related to the concentration and prepare them for more specialized leadership in public health education in the future.

Students who wish to complete coursework related to leadership in public health may take classes such as Leadership, Communication, & Group Dynamics, Public Health Leadership, or Organizational Leadership & Management. 

Public Health Leadership Master’s Degrees

Students who wish to pursue a Master of Public Health in Leadership will focus on using a combination of research and practice-based evidence to strategically align systems and organizations, mobilize community resources, and implement broad change. These programs help students bridge competencies from different areas of public health such as policy, environmental and global health, and political analysis. 

Every program has different admissions requirements—but most expect aspiring students to have a bachelor’s degree, and some don’t require that degree to be in a specific area of study.  In addition to an undergraduate degree, certain schools seek applicants with at least two years of applicable work experience. 

For some programs, acceptance requires full-time enrollment, but there are also online MPH programs available—some of which allow part-time study.

In addition to offering an MPH in Leadership, some programs also have concentrations called Leadership in Practice and Health Policy and Management. Though there are some differences in these concentrations, the overall focus is very similar.

Leadership concentrations are available in MPH programs, however they are not available in Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) programs. MPH programs focus on the applied and practical elements of public health, while MSPH programs are more focused on research. 

List of MPH Programs with Leadership Concentrations 

There are several CEPH-accredited programs that offer concentrations in leadership in practice or policy and management—both of which relate to leadership in public health. Below, we share some details for accredited programs that offer an MPH in Leadership, or a leadership-related concentration.

School Program & Concentration Location Online or
On-Campus
Claremont Graduate University – School of Community & Global Health MPH in Leadership & Management Claremont, California On-Campus
East Carolina University – Department of Public Health MPH in Health Policy, Administration & Leadership Greenville, North Carolina On-Campus
Johns Hopkins University – Bloomberg School of Public Health MPH in Health Leadership & Management Baltimore, Maryland Both
University of Alabama at Birmingham – School of Public Health MPH in Maternal & Child Health Policy & Leadership Birmingham, Alabama Both
University of North Carolina – Gillings School of Global Public Health
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MPH in Leadership in Practice Chapel Hill, North Carolina Both
University of San Francisco – School of Nursing & Health Professions MPH in Health Policy Leadership San Francisco, California Both

Table was last updated September 2020

Curriculum for MPH in Leadership

Curriculum for MPH in Leadership programs includes a variety of coursework. Since leadership in public health focuses on collaboration between many sectors of public health, students can expect to take courses in several realms of the field, not just courses related specifically to leadership. Below is a list of example courses students may take:

Project Management Principles & Practices. This course focuses on project management skills that are applicable to organizations within the public health sphere. Students will learn about topics such as the lifecycle of a project, how to improve project management systems, and how to achieve maximum efficiency when working as an organizational team. 

Principles in Public Health Leadership. This course will introduce students to major concepts and theories in public health leadership. Topics may include models of leadership, ethics in leadership, and how to approach and impart change at various community levels.  

Political and Policy Analysis. This course will teach students how to analyze policy and approach issues with a goal of actionable change. Topics covered include cost-benefit analysis, consensus building, and policy assessment. 

Public Health Leadership Doctorate Degrees

A doctorate in public health, commonly referred to as a DrPH degree, focuses on a combination of professional and academic skills. Many programs are geared toward mid- to senior-level professionals who wish to advance in their careers. Students can expect to learn about leadership in public health from an interdisciplinary perspective and gain the necessary skills to take on greater leadership roles in both the public and private sector at the community, national, and global level.

Though there are only a few schools that offer specific concentrations in leadership at the doctoral level, students can still learn key leadership in public health skills by taking coursework that focuses on topics related to this realm.

Doctorate programs in public health generally require several years of work experience, demonstrated leadership ability, and a graduate degree (although some programs do not require a master’s in public health) for admission. 

Concentrations in leadership are available for DrPH programs, but not for Ph.D. programs. DrPH programs are geared toward professionals who wish to work in the field, focusing on applications and practices, while Ph.D. programs are more research oriented. 

Curriculum for a DrPH in Leadership

Since these programs are interdisciplinary in nature, students can expect to take courses that enable them to learn about a variety of skills and competencies in different sectors of public health, as well as courses related specifically to leadership. Below is a list of example courses students may take:

Program Evaluation for Health Leaders. This course will cover fundamental program evaluation frameworks. Students will learn how to identify appropriate evaluation and data collection strategies. This course will also go over research design. 

Health Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Leaders. This course will teach students how to understand and evaluate policy design by showing them how to implement strategies for change at the policy level. 

Careers Options for Those Focusing on Public Health Leadership

What can you do with a public health degree? There are a variety of career options available for those who choose to pursue an MPH in Leadership or who focus on leadership at other academic levels. The field is broad and interdisciplinary, meaning there is some overlap between jobs for those focusing on leadership and those focusing on other sectors of public health. Career options for students who specialize in leadership include roles in project management, organizational management, and program management. These roles can be found at various local, national, and global levels, as well as in both public and private capacities. 

Frequently Asked Questions about the Public Health Leadership Concentration

If you are considering earning a degree that focuses on leadership in public health, there are several important factors to keep in mind. The following section explores frequently asked questions for those who are considering an MPH in Leadership, a DrPH in Leadership, or who wish to focus on leadership at the undergraduate level.

Is a public health leadership concentration worth it?

As mentioned above, a public health leadership concentration presents students with the opportunity to learn a variety of skills, competencies, and practices related to leadership in the public health sphere. Leadership is an important element of public health, and narrowing your studies to focus on this aspect of public health may present various career and educational opportunities.

What is the difference between an MPH in Leadership and an Executive MPH?

Both MPH in Leadership and Executive MPH programs may require applicants to have a certain number of years of work experience. The MPH in Leadership is a regular MPH program geared toward professionals seeking leadership skills training, while an Executive MPH is specifically designed for those who are currently working in public health positions and seek more flexibility yet less interruptions in their careers. Students in Executive MPH programs are allowed to choose a concentration as well.

What is the difference between an MPH in Leadership and an MBA?

As stated in the sections above, an MPH in Leadership focuses on teaching students how to enact positive changes in settings related to public health. A Master of Business Administration (MBA) teaches students skills and knowledge related to business principles and practices.

What is the difference between an MPH in Leadership and an MHA?

Though both degrees focus on leadership in some capacity, traditional or online MHA programs are specifically for those whose work is related to daily operations of medical facilities, such as hospital administration or staffing regulations. MPH in Leadership programs, on the other hand, focus on solving public health issues and promoting disease prevention within populations through effective projects and team management.

Information last updated August 2020

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Explore All Public Health Degree Programs

Baylor University Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH online in as few as 18 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes

George Washington University Master of Public Health

Earn your MPH online in as few as 12 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 45 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

Tufts University Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH online in as few as 20 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

University of North Carolina Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH Online in as few as 20 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

Simmons University Master of Public Health

Earn your MPH online in as few as 21 months  

  • No GRE required
  • 45 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

University of North Carolina Master of Public Health/Registered Dietitian 

Earn your MPH in as few as 20 months

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by ACEND

George Washington University Master of Health Administration 

Earn your MHA online in as few as 24 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 50 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CAHME

Tufts University Master of Health Informatics & Analytics

Earn your MHI online in as few as 20 months

  • No GRE required
  • 36 credits
  • Live, online classes

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