People are attracted to the field of public health for a wide variety of reasons, but a common thread uniting them all is a desire to play a role in improving their broader community's health and welfare. As someone now working in the field I can say without qualification that public health is a rewarding career in which you'll never be bored.
Unfortunately, making the decision to pursue a career in public health is perhaps the easiest step in the process of selecting and applying to a public health program. That is because, unlike other fields, until recently there was no resource which listed all of the available accredited MPH programs. That was the primary motivation for me to create my website Masters in Public Health.
To that end, I've compiled a list of considerations students should ask themselves before selecting which MPH program to apply to:
1. Regional Accreditation - The explosion of online colleges over the last decade has brought convenience to MPH students. However, it has also introduced a level of uncertainty as to the quality of the education you might be receiving which did not exist before. As a means of conducting a quick check on the quality of the institution, you should always first check that the MPH program is regionally accredited. While national accreditation sounds more prestigious, it is actually the regional accrediting bodies which have much more stringent standards and which allow a school to qualify for the full gamut of federal tuition assistance and loan programs. While a school which is regionally accredited will almost certainly mention it, a nationally accredited school will likely just say it is "accredited". Therefore, beware.
2. Online vs. Campus - There are a growing number of students who select an online school for their MPH degree. The reasons are obvious, convenience, ability to keep your job and take classes at night, and depending on the school affordability. The downsides, however, are often not that obvious: tuition tends to be higher than at most state schools, graduation rates tend to be lower, and employer perception can be lower. Either choice is valid, but make sure you know not just the positives but also the negatives to pursuing your education online.
3. Sub-Specialty - Obtaining your "Masters in Public Health" is almost akin to obtaining your degree in "business" in the sense that it is an extremely broad field. Increasingly schools are offering sub-specialties which focus your MPH program on a particular aspect of the field and prepare you for a particular sub-set of careers. Unfortunately, no school offers every sub-specialty, therefore, the time to decide your sub-specialty is before you apply. Unfortunately, most students do not take the time before applying to a program to investigate the many options they have when it comes to MPH programs and instead can feel trapped once they're attending a program because the career they ultimately want is better served by a sub- specialty not offered at their school. So investigate early.
The Masters in Public Health degree is a degree which opens the doors to a wonderful career. However, there are far too many students who are uninformed as to their options prior to applying and as a result are admitted to programs with aggressive admissions officers rather than the school that will best meet their needs. We invite you to use our site, Masters in Public Health, or another reliable non-profit resource and educate yourself as to your options before you choose your educational institution.
Mary Hench and her husband Paul maintain http://www.mastersinpublichealth.net/, a nonprofit website devoted to educating students about their options for an MPH degree. Mary is passionate about the field of public health and long term plans to transition into educating future MPH professionals.