What is a Master of Science (MS) Degree?

Do you enjoy deep analysis and digging through figurative weeds to find patterns or anomalies? Do you want to identify new ways that social, behavioral, and environmental factors affect global health? Do you want to uncover new truths that can be used to improve health care for millions, or even billions, of people?

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.

With an MS from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health (SPH), you will be able to:

  • Draw inferences from quantitative data
  • Write and evaluate scientific literature
  • Help direct the future of healthcare

How is an MS different from an MPH?

The Master of Science and Master of Public Health degrees prepare students to help improve the health of the general public. However, they come at this goal from different perspectives.

An MS is designed for students who want a career in research or analysis. The MS degree can also serve as a stepping stone for students wanting to continue their education with a PhD. With an MS, students can focus on a specialized field of study. Through research and analysis, graduates can help inform and develop the best health care practices that MPH graduates help implement and communicate.

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.

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 at SPH: 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 Public Health

  • Focus: Emphasis on preparing for a career in population health and community awareness and the practical aspects of public health, as well as in-depth information about disease and research methods
  • MPH programs at SPH: 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: Biostatistician, community outreach coordinator, health educator, health engagement marketing manager, public policy coordinator, clinical dietician, healthcare administrator, epidemiologist, health educator, and environmental health scientist

Benefits of earning an MS

Graduates with an MS degree can do research and work that has grand-scale implications. Advances in their field of study can improve the health of millions, if not billions, of people worldwide.

The job outlook is also bright. 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 by 18 percent between 2018 and 2028.

Graduates with an MS may also find lucrative salaries. Here are the average salaries in the U.S. for jobs that often require a Master of Science degree, as reported by ziprecruiter.com:

Job Title Average Salary in U.S.
Academic Physician $82,121
Biomedical Researcher $74,910
Biostatistician $118,078
Environmental Chemist $57,466
Epidemiologist $89,398
Industrial Hygienist $72,580
Senior Research Analyst $67,851

Considering the job outlook and the long-term salary potential in these roles, obtaining an MS is worth the cost in time and finances.

Why choose an MS program at the School of Public Health?

The University of Minnesota School of Public Health is ranked #10 in the country by U.S. News & World Report and #6 in funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Research done at SPH has led to many innovations with far-reaching effects. A few examples are:

  • First model to predict probability of complications from radiation therapy
  • 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
  • Changes in the care and treatment of HIV-positive people worldwide based on the SPH global START trial
  • Development of the Minnesota Model used nationwide to track foodborne illness outbreaks
  • Development of the Minnesota Code to read electrocardiograms in a universally applicable and understandable way

Which MS program is right for me?

SPH offers four MS programs:

  • Biostatistics
  • Clinical Research
  • Environmental Health
  • Health Services Research, Policy & Administration

Each program requires a thesis and usually takes two to three years to complete.


Data without analysis is random facts. Biostatisticians develop analysis tools and methods to drill through the data and extract meaning that can be used to solve health-related problems.

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

Learn more about the Biostatistics MS

Clinical Research

The more we know, the more we realize how much we don’t know. Clinical researchers play a critical role in increasing our understanding of diseases and their outcomes.

Students learn how to interact with patients to better understand disease; develop therapeutic interventions; conduct clinical trials; conduct epidemiologic and behavioral studies; and write grants.

Learn more about the Clinical Research MS

Environmental Health

This program addresses environmental and occupational health concerns as they relate to public health. Students must complete a minimum of 30 credits.

The General Program in Environmental Health provides a broad, solid foundation in the subject. Alternatively, students can focus on one of several concentrations:

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Environmental Infectious Diseases
  • Exposure Sciences
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Industrial Hygiene
  • Occupational Injury Prevention Research Training
  • Toxicology

Learn more about the Environmental Health MS

Health Services Research, Policy & Administration

Master the foundations of data analysis and research methods to identify ways to improve health care services and population health. 

Students gain in-demand skills in programming languages such as R, SQL, and SAS, to drive strategic decision-making for health and health care. The curriculum prepares students to:

  • Apply rigorous scientific inquiry to the growing field of health data analytics.
  • Explore big data including Electronic Health Records, claims, and survey data, to solve health care’s grand challenges. 
  • Effectively translate and visualize data in business communications to guide meaningful action.

Learn more about the Health Services Research, Policy & Administration MS

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