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

Do you want to improve health on a community level? Do you want to prevent illness? Do you want to be at the forefront of a rapidly evolving field that touches all populations?

A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree trains students to protect and improve the health of entire populations. Students learn how to tackle the challenging issues that affect communities, work with people across sectors, and educate the public about best health care practices.

With an MPH degree, you will be able to analyze data, influence public policy, study and monitor threats to public health, and/or conduct 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: Biostatistics, Community Health Promotion, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Maternal & Child Health, Public Health Administration & Policy, 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, industrial 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 14 percent and management roles in particular by 18 percent between 2018 and 2028.

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 2019 was $100,980 per year.

The following chart from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows the 2019 U.S. median annual wages for medical and health services managers in the top industries:

Government $111,520
Hospitals: state, local, and private 110,430
Outpatient care centers 95,320
Offices of physicians 91,600
Nursing and residential care facilities 86,820

The Bureau reported that the 2019 U.S. median wages for epidemiologists was $70,990. Dieticians earned a median wage of $61,270.

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

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health is ranked #10 in the country by U.S. News & World Report. Additionally, the school was the first in the nation to offer a Maternal & Child Health MPH program.

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.

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


Data without analysis is random facts. Biostatisticians help design biomedical studies, analyze data, and put the results in context to help solve human health-related problems.

This is a rapidly developing field with career options in academic, governmental, non-governmental and private industries. Prior to graduation, most MPH students can secure a job with a starting salary between $65,000 and $80,000.

Learn more about the Biostatistics MPH

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 to focus on one of several concentrations:

  • Environmental Infectious Disease
  • Global Environmental Health
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • Occupational and Environmental Health Nursing
  • Occupational and Environmental Medicine
  • Occupational Injury Prevention Research Training
  • Regulatory Toxicology and Risk Assessment

The job market for graduates with an MPH in Environmental Health is extremely strong, thanks to an increasing number of environmental and workplace health concerns. Positions are available in universities, public and private companies, and governmental departments and non-governmental organizations.

Learn more about the Environmental Health MPH


The need for epidemiologists was highlighted in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic covered the globe. Epidemiologists are disease detectives who investigate health-related issues and their frequency, distribution, and determinants, and discover ways to promote health for whole populations.

Students have three options for this program:

  • Standard coursework
  • Infectious Disease Epidemiology track
  • 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, and families.

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

  • Standard track: ideal for students with limited experience
  • Advanced Standing track: 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 10 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 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:

  • The standard program emphasizes nutritional assessment, program planning, health behavior change, intervention strategies, and policy development.
  • The Coordinated Master’s Program 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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