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Grad Program: Public Health

Basic Information

Public Health is dedicated to the assessment of health problems and risks, the creation of policies to solve or alleviate health problems, and the oversight and management health care systems, including promotion of well being and disease prevention. Graduate programs in Public Health achieve these goals through an interdisciplinary approach, involving the study of both the politics and science behind health care, as well as the study of public health policy.

Whether investigating communicable diseases, working with the mentally ill, implementing nutrition programs, or studying policy, public health workers strive to fulfill the mission of the World Health Organization, which is indicated in its definition of health: "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."

Public Health graduate programs vary greatly in terms of academic emphasis and training. As different programs will appeal to students with different interests and career goals, it is important to research which programs will best meet your personal goals. Some of the most common specialties within public health grad programs are environmental health, health education, epidemiology and biostatistics, health services, international health, disease prevention, and child health. While students usually specialize in a public health field, most M.P.H. programs address program management, policy, and public health problems. In addition to traditional classroom and lab instruction, M.P.H. students also work outside the classroom, doing field research in a range of health care environments.

Degree Information

Most graduate students will work toward a master’s degree of Public Health (M.P.H.) or a doctorate in Public Health (D.P.H.). Joint degrees are possible such as a M.D./M.P.H.; M.P.H./J.D., M.P.P./M.P.H. (with a School of Public Policy), or a M.P.H./M.S.W. (with a School of Social Work). Some graduate programs also offer a combined M.P.H./N.P. (Nurse Practitioner). Another option is to be a Certified Health Education Specialist (C.H.E.S.).

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program
  • What is the program's emphasis or focus? What types of health issues does the basic curriculum address?
  • What type of electives are offered?
  • What research opportunities exist for students?
  • What types of health research does the faculty engage in?
  • What opportunities exist for community involvement? What types of internships are available?
  • Do students have access to a wide range of health environments and facilities?
  • What type of health services career do I wish to pursue after graduation? Do I want to be a community organizer, a health educator, or a health administrator?
  • Will the programs that I am considering give me the resources, training, and opportunities I want?

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