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

A Master of Public Health professional teaches a healthcare colleague

By Michael Feder

At a glance

  • A Master of Public Health (MPH) can help prepare healthcare professionals to lead programs that positively affect individuals’ health and reduce community health disparities.
  • This degree teaches relevant skills like analyzing and interpreting data for healthcare decision-making, developing healthcare policy, communicating effectively with the public, advocating for health equity, carrying out healthcare administration duties and conducting community planning.
  • The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics lists some careers in which employees have a Master of Public Health degree, such as health educator and community health consultant.
  • University of Phoenix offers a Master of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Leadership, though the degree may not prepare graduates for all these career outcomes.

What is an MPH degree?

A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is a graduate-level degree that is concerned with overseeing and maintaining the health of populations rather than individuals. An online Master of Public Health degree allows you to take a big-picture look at healthcare across several different industries.


Application requirements will vary by school. However, students interested in pursuing a graduate degree in healthcare should consider first earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field. While not a requirement for this degree, note that some programs may require a standardized test score, either from the GRE, MCAT, GMAT or LSAT. The program you’re applying for should specify which, if any, test score is required.

Curriculum and concentrations

Specific courses will vary by program. However, the curriculum for MPH degrees is generally focused on evidence-based approaches to public health programs, community health leadership, global health, and healthcare systems, data analytics and planning and management to promote health. It is also possible to attain a degree with a heightened focus in one of these core areas in order to build greater skills and professional understanding of how to navigate public health more effectively.

After completing an MPH degree, you should be prepared to understand, create and implement community programs; connect with community leaders; and create large-scale change in healthcare.

Program length

You will need approximately 42 credits to graduate from an MPH program. The typical program length for an MPH is 24 months, although online programs can often be completed in less time. University of Phoenix, for example, offers an online Master of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Leadership that can be earned in approximately 19 months.

Transfer credit and work experience can also impact the length of the program. If you’re interested in pursuing an MPH, earning a bachelor’s degree in any science or medical field can help give you a good educational foundation.

How is an MPH different from an MHA?

An MHA, or Master of Health Administration, deals more with the business side of healthcare. While both an MPH and an MHA address administrative responsibilities, an MPH is focused more on understanding and addressing factors that impact the health of communities, while an MHA is focused on the organization and maintenance of crucial programs and services. With an MHA, you will deal much more closely with the business side of healthcare than you would with an MPH. These are both graduate degrees.

At University of Phoenix, the MHA program requires 36 credits to graduate, while an MPH requires 42, likely due to the science emphasis.

Benefits of earning a Master of Public Health degree

Earning a master’s degree, particularly a master’s in public health, has several benefits. For starters, an MPH program is a flexible healthcare degree that can prepare graduates to work in public and private sectors and industries like hospitals, care centers and social advocacy organizations

Other benefits of earning an MPH include:

●      Community impact: As the name suggests, those with MPH degrees work in the public healthcare sector. This means their work affects communities on a larger scale. Someone interested in making a large, lasting impact may want to consider an MPH.

●      Program flexibility: Professionals in this space have the flexibility to work in many industries, but that isn’t the only kind of flexibility an MPH degree offers. These degrees can be pursued at traditional universities and through online programs alike with equal requirements and accreditation involved in both options.

●     Travel opportunities: Many other clinical healthcare jobs require professionals to work out of a hospital or care center to serve patients within that particular setting. However, those with an MPH focus on the global health of the larger population, meaning that national or global job opportunities may exist, opening up opportunities for travel.

In search of: Healthcare skills 

What can you do with a master's in public health?

Having an MPH opens up many job opportunities. Advocacy, policymaking, community outreach, research — the list goes on. Because of these widespread opportunities, not only in industries but also for job titles, those with MPH degrees may have paths to branch out within the healthcare industry that other professionals in that field don’t have.

Public health careers

Generally, graduates with a master’s in public health can embark on a variety of careers, like epidemiology and policy specialization. However, while this program can provide the fundamental public health competencies required for this career, some careers — like epidemiology or medical science — may require a degree with a specific concentration. Below, you’ll find examples of a few careers for which most professionals in that field possess an MPH degree, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Health education specialist

Overview: Health education specialists are responsible for addressing the health needs of a population by evaluating and implementing education programs that help members of the community live healthier lifestyles.

National salary ranges: According to BLS, the salary range for health education specialists was between $28,010 and $70,790 in May 2020.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Education requirements: Working in this role typically requires at least a bachelor’s degree in health education; some businesses require employees to have a master’s degree. BLS notes that some employers prefer health education specialists to be certified, and some states have certification programs. 

Job outlook: Job growth for these professionals is projected to be 17% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the national average, according to BLS.

Community health worker

Overview: Similar to health education specialists, community health workers promote wellness in communities by helping people adopt health best practices.

National salary ranges: The salary range for community health workers was $28,010 to $70,790 in May 2020, according to BLS.

Education requirements: To become a community health worker, most employers typically require a high school diploma, although some may require postsecondary education like a bachelor’s or master’s degree.

Job outlook: BLS projects job growth for community health workers to be the same as for health education specialists: at 17% between 2020 and 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.


Overview: Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease and injury in the public health care sector. Epidemiologists are some of the leading scientists on newly discovered infectious and viral diseases.

National salary ranges: The salary for an epidemiologist ranged from $49,140 to $126,040 per year in May 2020, according to BLS.

Education requirements: To become an epidemiologist, you will need a master’s degree in biology, public health or medicine.

Job outlook: Jobs for epidemiologists are forecast to grow 30% between 2020 and 2030, which is much faster than the national average growth rate of 8% for other positions, according to BLS.

University of Phoenix does not offer a degree program directly aligned to a career as an epidemiologist. But the University offers an introductory course in epidemiology in its MPH program.

Getting a master’s degree in public health is one of the most flexible programs of study available in the healthcare field. It can lead to a variety of rewarding careers that can exert a lasting impact on your community.

Why choose an MPH program at University of Phoenix?

University of Phoenix’s Master of Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Leadership can help students develop skills for creating, leading and managing public health programs and directly addressing community health disparities.

In this program, students learn how to assess community health needs, analyze data, and implement and evaluate community health programs.

University of Phoenix focuses on providing a concrete set of skills that can be immediately applied on the job. These skills include:

  • Evaluating principles of epidemiology, environmental health and biostatistics
  • Applying public health research findings to community health initiatives
  • Developing public and community health programs
  • Communicating health policy response recommendations to leadership and stakeholders

At University of Phoenix, the MPH degree provides the foundational public health competencies required for the field, including epidemiology and policy, but not specific concentrations. As with any career path or degree program, invest the time to research your best options and opportunities. And be sure to leverage your university career center for guidance.

Another benefit is program length. Unlike most programs that take 24 months to complete, the MPH at University of Phoenix can be finished in approximately 19 months while taking one 6-week course at a time. Students are required to complete 42 credits, but course schedules may vary based on eligible transfer credits.

Become an agent of change in your community with a Master of Public Health degree!

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