What is a Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree?

Are you passionate about community health and preventing illness? Pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree to become a leader in this dynamic field. Gain skills in addressing community issues, collaborating across sectors, and educating the public. With an MPH, you can analyze data, shape policies, monitor public health threats, and conduct impactful health research.

How is an MPH different from an MS or MHA?

The Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Science (MS) and Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA) degrees prepare students to help improve the health of the general public. However, they come at this goal from very different perspectives.

An MPH program trains students to become public health practitioners who work in government, at non-profits, or in industry to work with communities, implement and evaluate public health programs, and/or help raise public awareness of best health care practices.

A Master of Science (MS) degree will prepare you for a career in research or analysis, or for an opportunity to apply to a PhD program.

An MHA is designed to help professionals effectively run the business side of healthcare organizations and manage teams of health care professionals.

Master of Public Health

  • Focus: Emphasis on preparing for a career as a public health practitioner.
  • MPH programs: Community Health Promotion, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Maternal & Child Health, Public Health Administration & Policy, Public Health Data Science, and Public Health Nutrition
  • Executive MPH programs: Public Health Administration & Policy and Public Health Practice
  • Types of jobs: Community outreach coordinator, health educator, health engagement marketing manager, public policy coordinator, substance abuse counselor, research coordinator, clinical dietician, healthcare administrator, epidemiologist, health educator, and environmental health scientist

Master of Science

  • Focus: Emphasis on science and rigorous research. An MS degree will prepare you for a career in research or analysis or the opportunity to apply to a PhD program.
  • MS programs: Biostatistics, Clinical Research, Environmental Health, and Health Services Research, Policy & Administration
  • Types of jobs: Biostatistician, senior research analyst, academic physician, biomedical researcher, environmental chemist, occupational hygienist, research scientist, and epidemiologist

Master of Healthcare Administration

  • Focus: Mastering leadership and management tools to effectively run the business side of healthcare organizations and manage teams of health care professionals
  • Topics covered: Core business courses like management, finance, accounting, and economics, as well as health care policy and law
  • Types of jobs: Director of hospital operations; practice manager; director of patient safety; director of business development; chief nursing officer; and chief executive officer

Benefits of earning an MPH

An MPH can open the door to higher-paying jobs with more responsibilities. Many hospitals and health care facilities require that job candidates have a master’s degree. Considering the long-term salary potential in these leadership roles, obtaining an MPH is worth the cost in time and finances.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the healthcare industry is expected to add more jobs than any other field in the coming decade. Health care jobs in general are expected to increase by 13 percent and management roles by 28 percent between 2021 and 2031.

Additionally, jobs that require an MPH typically offer much-higher-than-average salaries. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median pay for medical and health services managers in the U.S. for 2021 was $101,340 per year.

The following chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the 2021 U.S. median annual wages for medical and health services managers in the top industries:

Government $117,000
Hospitals: state, local, and private $119,450
Outpatient care centers $99,540
Offices of physicians $98,230
Nursing and residential care facilities $83,550

The Bureau reported that the 2021 U.S. median wages for epidemiologists was $78,830. Dietitians earned a median wage of $61,650.

Why choose an MPH program at the UMN School of Public Health?

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health ranks consistently high in the annual U.S. News & World Report.

Research done at the UMN School of Public Health has led to many innovations with far-reaching effects. A few examples are:

  • Legislation that allows Medicaid payment for services from a certified doula for pregnant women in Minnesota
  • Legislation that requires all new and remodeled buildings to be fully accessible to people with disabilities
  • National Minor’s Consent to Health Services Act of 1971
  • First comprehensive definition of childhood abuse and neglect
  • First report to show high rates of concussions associated with youth football players
  • First city-wide ban of cigarette vending machines in the U.S.
  • FDA-proposed restrictions of tanning bed use by people 18 years of age and younger

Which MPH program is right for me?

The UMN School of Public Health offers nine MPH master programs. They can be completed in two years and may require engagement in the community.

  • Community Health Promotion
  • Environmental Health
  • Epidemiology
  • Maternal & Child Health
  • Public Health Administration & Policy
  • Public Health Administration & Policy (Executive)
  • Public Health Nutrition
  • Public Health Practice

Community Health Promotion

This program trains students to improve health and reduce health inequity at a community level.

The curriculum emphasizes the importance of using research to assess behavioral health patterns and psychosocial risk factors; design community-wide prevention and intervention programs; influence health policies; and evaluate outcomes of behavioral health change.

Students complete their coursework through a combination of classroom and applied practical experience. Most of the classes are on campus during the day. Part-time enrollment is available, giving students up to five years to complete the degree.

Learn more about the Community Health Promotion MPH.

Environmental Health

In addition to developing a strong foundation in environmental and occupational health concerns, students can choose from the following areas of emphasis:

  • Environmental Infectious Disease
  • Global Environmental Health
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing
  • Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Occupational Injury Prevention Research Training
  • Toxicology

The job market for graduates with an MPH in Environmental Health remains healthy, due to an increasing number of environmental and workplace health issues. Positions are available in universities, public and private companies, governmental departments, and non-governmental organizations.

Learn more about the Environmental Health MPH.


When the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe in 2020, the need for epidemiologists increased dramatically. Epidemiologists function as disease detectives who investigate health-related issues and their frequency, distribution, and determinants, and they discover ways to promote health for whole populations.

Students have three options within this program:

  • Standard coursework
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology area of emphasis
  • Accelerated program, which is available to students with an MD, DDS, DVM, or PhD in a related field

Learn more about the Epidemiology MPH.

Maternal & Child Health

The UMN School of Public Health was the first university in the nation to offer this program focused on improving the health of women, children, birthing people, and families.

The program offers two curriculum options, both of which can be completed online, in-person, or a combination of the two.

  • Standard: ideal for students with limited experience.
  • Advanced Standing: designed for students with an advanced health degree or at least three years of professional experience in maternal and child health or public health.

Learn more about the Maternal & Child Health MPH.

Public Health Administration & Policy

This top-ranked public health policy program trains students to become effective leaders and innovators in public health administration roles. Graduates learn how to improve and manage organizations and influence policy with a goal of improving public health.

Positions for graduates with this MPH degree are available in governmental agencies, non-profits, and businesses dedicated to improving public health.

Courses are available in-person, online or hybrid.

Learn more about the Public Health Administration & Policy MPH.

Public Health Administration & Policy (Executive)

This program is designed for professionals with at least three years of experience who are taking or want to take on leadership roles while improving the health of populations.

Students work together to solve problems and gain experience. The program blends online and on-campus coursework and can be completed in 25 months.

Learn more about the Public Health Administration & Policy Executive MPH.

Public Health Data Science

This innovative new Public Health Data Science MPH program — one of only a handful such programs in the U.S. — equips students with the comprehensive skills required to help design, understand, implement, and analyze public health initiatives and campaigns.

Learn more about the Public Health Data Science MPH program.

Public Health Nutrition

Better nutrition and better health help create stronger communities. Graduates help promote health and disease prevention at the individual and community level through good food choices.

The program is offered in two formats:

  • Traditional: emphasizes nutritional assessment, program planning, health behavior change, intervention strategies, and policy development.
  • Coordinated: enables students to earn an MPH and prepare for the Registered Dietician exam.

Learn more about the Public Health Nutrition MPH program.

Public Health Practice (Executive)

Working professionals with advanced degrees who want to advance their health care careers will appreciate this flexible program. It is tailored to meet their schedules and individual educational needs.

Students can take courses from across the University of Minnesota and can attend either online or in person.

Learn more about the Public Health Practice Executive MPH.

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