There are no standard course requirements for MPH programs although it is useful to take an undergraduate course in statistics and one year of biology.
Public health is an interdisciplinary field that seeks to promote the health and well-being of populations. Public health practice is distinct from clinical medicine in its focus on communities rather than individuals and on prevention rather than treatment.
Because the public health field encompasses a wide range of services and responsibilities, graduate schools of public health are interested in applicants with a variety of undergraduate majors. Almost any undergraduate course of study will prepare you to enter at least one of the public health specialties. For more information on the field of public health, visit the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) or the American Public Health Association (APHA) websites.
Most often, public health professionals complete a master's degree which takes two years of graduate study. The Master of Public Health (MPH) is an interdisciplinary degree that includes courses from health administration, epidemiology, environmental health, and behavioral health. There are also other graduate degrees with a specific focus on individual fields of public health such as Master of Health Services Administration or a Master of Science in Epidemiology.
The APHA provides the following examples as specific fields of public health:
- First responders
- Restaurant inspectors
- Health educators
- Scientists and researchers
- Community planners
- Social workers
- Public health physicians
- Public health nurses
- Public policymakers
Seeking out health-related experience through internships and externships will strengthen your application and demonstrate an understanding of public health practice. Experiences outside the classroom are also vitally important for discerning and refining your specific areas of interest within this very broad field. Visit the Center for Global Peace and Citizenship (CPGC) and Marilou Allen Office of Service & Community Collaboration (formerly known as 8th Dimension) to learn how to participate in one of their many established public health related opportunities that are available in the US and abroad. Although some MPH programs will accept applications from college seniors who have acquired significant experience, most graduate programs firmly prefer that applicants work for one-two years after graduating from college before applying..
Refer to the Gaining Experience section for more information and resources regarding leadership and service, patient centered experience, and research.
Applicants to graduate programs in public health take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) general exam.
Students interested in epidemiology or biostatics may wish to inquire with specific departments regarding minimum percentile scores on the quantitative portion of the GRE.
Applying to MPH Programs
Most U.S. schools and programs of public health utilize the online, centralized Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS). Deadlines vary, depending upon when matriculation can take place, but most schools have fall deadlines.
Public health schools want applicants to be committed to the public health field, rather than to use their degree as a stepping-stone into medical school. You will be required to submit three letters of recommendation from faculty and supervisors. Your personal statement, resume and letters of recommendation should demonstrate proven dedication to the field evident from substantive experience.