What Can You Do With A Master's in Public Health

Wondering what can you do with a master’s in public health? Here, you’ll learn about various careers in public health, the different responsibilities, and what you’ll learn while earning an MPH.

Plus, discover the different types of germs, how long they live, and how you can help fight the spread of diseases through a public health masters!

What Is an MPH Degree?

An MPH degree, or master of public health, strives to educate individuals committed to making a difference by solving public health problems through the application of critical and analytical skills.

In addition, many MPH degrees are designed to increase your ability to think critically and creatively to solve current issues in public health and to protect the health of various communities. Some of the goals of MPH programs are:

  • Understand high scientific standards for research
  • Evaluate effectiveness and equity in health care, public health, and regulatory systems
  • Convey health information to a diverse audience to improve community health
  • Interpret data to apply evidence-based approached to public health research

Available MPH Concentrations

With a variety of fields that fall under the public health umbrella, many students choose a concentration or a degree that is offered under a school’s department of public health.

Nine of the most common choices are:

  1. Epidemiology
  2. Biostatistics
  3. Bioethics
  4. Health Education and Communication
  5. Environmental Health Science and Policy
  6. Global Environmental Health
  7. Public Health Nutrition
  8. Maternal and Child Health
  9. Physical Activity

Differences Between MPH Degrees

While these choices all offer a similar core curriculum focused on the biological concepts of public health and the principles of epidemiology, most MPH programs allot more than half of your coursework to your chosen concentration.

With a different focus, these programs analyze different aspects of the field. For instance, an epidemiology master of public health concentration analyzes patterns, outbreak investigations, statistics, and researches the causes and effects of health and diseases.

On the other hand, a public health nutrition focus analyzes the science of nutrition, various nutritional programs and services, and socioeconomic detriments of proper nutrition.

Practicum Requirements

Many programs also require that you complete a practicum so that you can apply the lessons and research you examine in the classroom to real-life situations. These experiences focus on developing skills in designing, implementing, and evaluating a project.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health?

As you can see from the various concentrations and types of MPH degrees, there are a variety of public health careers you can choose from upon earning your degree. Often, these careers depend on the concentration you’ve chosen for your master’s and your professional experience.

Types of Public Health Jobs

Some of the public health careers you may pursue after earning your MPH, and their 2017 median annual salary, are:

  • Medical and Health Services Managers: $98,350i
  • Epidemiologists: $69,660ii
  • Environmental Scientists and Specialists: $69,400iii
  • Health Educators: $53,940iv
  • Community Health Workers: $38,370iv
  • Life Scientists: $74,540v

Keep in mind that this is not a complete list, nor do all of these careers require a master’s degree for entry level positions.

Public Health Careers

These careers, as with the various types of MPH degrees, have a similar overall focus, but are tailored to meet specific needs.

For example, epidemiologists investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury. Through research, community education, and health policy recommendations, they seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes.vi

On the other hand, environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of natural sciences to protect the environment and human health. This can include reclaiming lands and waters that have been contaminated by pollution or assessing the risks of new construction projects to the environment.vii

Both of these roles are designed to enhance the overall health of the public and to make sure that communities are protected from germs and potential illnesses.

Which Is Not an Aim of a Public Health Official?

Public health covers a wide range of fields and how to use various research and findings to protect the health of communities large and small.

However, public health officials do not treat illnesses and infections. Instead, their goal, regardless of the specific field inside of public health they are focused on, is to analyze the potential health risks and protect the public.

Therefore, the main focus of public health officials is:

  • Collecting and analyzing health status and utilization information
  • Developing policies and policy recommendations to maintain and protect the public’s health
  • Informing the public and officials of its analysis and recommendations
  • Working to develop consensus on needed action
  • Making sure that necessary public health and personal health services are available to all

Types of Germs

What can you do with a masters in public health

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As germs are responsible for all infections and illnesses, while earning a master’s in public health, and then while working in the field, you’ll more than likely be focused on how to control germs in various settings and how to protect communities.

The four types of germs range in size and type, and the types of illnesses they cause, all of which are listed below.

#1: Bacteria

Bacteria are single-celled organisms that can be found just about everywhere on earth and are so small that you can only see them through a microscope. In fact, they’re smaller than the tip of a pin and it takes a thousand or more to fit across the end of a pencil eraser.

While there are many good bacteria, including those inside your body that helps you digest food, other bacteria produce toxins that make you sick.

Types of Illnesses Caused by Bacteria and Possible Treatments

Some illnesses caused by bacteria are:

  • Strep throat
  • Tuberculosis
  • Urinary tract infections

The best way to treat a bacterial infection is through the use of antibiotics. However, some studies have shown that the overuse of antibiotics has made many types of bacteria resistant to the medicine.

Not as Bad as You Think

Fewer than 1% of bacteria cause diseases in people.

#2: Virus

Viruses are actually smaller than bacteria. In fact, the largest virus is smaller than the smallest bacteria. And, unlike bacteria, viruses can’t live without a host, which is why they attach themselves to cells to reproduce.

Also, unlike bacteria, viruses have a very specific mission. Once a virus finds a host, their goal is to reproduce and spread. To accomplish this goal, they can even mutate quickly to adjust to a new environment. In fact, some viruses completely destroy host cells as they reproduce.

Types of Illnesses Caused by Viruses and Available Treatments

Viruses are responsible for many diseases, including:

  • HIV/AIDS
  • Common cold
  • Influenza
  • Chickenpox and shingles

Antibiotics designed for bacteria have no effect on viruses and the best way to treat them is through vaccines, which have helped protect against diseases such as:

  • Measles
  • Chickenpox
  • Polio

#3: Fungi

As with other germs, there are many varieties of fungi that aren’t harmful, including many of which that we eat, such as mushrooms, the mold that forms to make blue cheese, and yeast, which is a necessary ingredient for many types of bread.

Other types of fungus, which are primitive plant-like organisms made up of many cells, can cause rashes. However, many of these infections are relatively harmless besides causing itchiness.

Types of Infections Caused by Fungi and Treatments

Some of the common types of infections from fungi are:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Ringworm
  • Yeast infections

Commonly, fungal infections can be treated with over-the-counter drugs, though severe cases may need prescriptions. These treatments include:

  • Topical creams
  • Tablets
  • Suppositories
  • Ointments

#4: Protozoa

Like bacteria, protozoa are one-celled organisms that are able to move on their own. In fact, protozoa act like tiny animals by hunting and gathering other microbes for food.

While many protozoa live in bodies of water, some are parasites that live off of other living things, such as humans. Often, protozoa enter our body through another source, such as a mosquito bite or by drinking contaminated water.

Diseases Caused by Protozoa and Treatments

Some of the diseases caused by protozoa are:

  • Malaria
  • Giardia
  • Toxoplasmosis

Some of the available treatment options are called antiprotozoal and include:

  • Tablets (daraprim or pyrimethamine)
  • Injections (pentacarinat or pentamidine)
  • Liquids through the mouth (wellvone or atovaquone)

How Long Do Germs Live?

Germs live everywhere: throughout your house, in the car, on the TV remote, and everywhere else. However, different types of germs live for different amounts of time, especially depending on temperature, humidity, and the type of surface the germs are on.

Generally, viruses remain infectious longest on hard surfaces, such as plastic, glass, and metal, then they do on soft surfaces such as fabrics.

On the other hand, bacteria are more likely to persist on porous materials, though how long they live outside the body depends on how different external conditions are to their preferred environment and whether or not the bacteria are capable of producing spores. Many types of spores may persist in adverse conditions and live for many years or even centuries.

Alcohol Gel Hand Sanitizers Work

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), using alcohol gel hand sanitizers in the classroom provided an overall reduction in absenteeism due to infection by 19.8% among 16 elementary schools and 6,000 students.

Learn How You Can Fight Diseases!

If you’re interested in helping others protect themselves from diseases and to keep them healthy and wondering what can you do with a master's in public health, then you’ve come to the right place. Keep reading to learn about a few MPH programs and how you can apply today!

Simmons College

The MPH at Simmons prepares students to address health inequity and positively impact public health at the local, national, and international level. Plus, the practice-based curriculum strives to give students the real-world skills needed to effectively serve in the field.

The MPH explores topics in:

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Health Policy / Health Services
  • Environmental Health
  • Social / Behavioral Health

George Washington University

The Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University has the mission of providing the best public health educational experience by incorporating their core values of scholarship and leadership, scientific rigor and policy analysis, and training to foster the next generation of thought leaders in the field.

GWU offers a number of different majors and concentrations for their online master of public health program, including:

  • Biostatistics
  • Epidemiology
  • Global Health Policy
  • Health Promotion
  • Public Health Communication and Marketing
  • Plus, many others!

University of North Carolina

Designed to prepare you for leadership positions by developing population-level knowledge and skills with an interdisciplinary emphasis, the Gillings School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina:

  • Builds upon professional experience
  • Teaches collaboratively to assess community health needs
  • Teaches how to develop innovative policies and programs

Some of the available programs include:


[i] bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm#tab-5 [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/epidemiologists.htm#tab-5 [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm#tab-5 [iv] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm#tab-5 [v] bls.gov/oes/current/oes191099.htm [vi] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/epidemiologists.htm#tab-2 [vii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm#tab-2

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