For those wishing to pursue a career in public health—and make a difference—going for a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is a solid choice, allowing the opportunity to enact change in the world. Work-life balance, cost, and just plain old effort are considerations, so even if you go plan to enter graduate school fresh off of a bachelor’s degree, you'll probably be making lifestyle changes. Most graduates who use their degree use it for a specific, often emotional purpose.
Solving Big Problems
By its nature, public health is a broad field. It encompasses fields like epidemiology and biostatistics and adds its own flavor to public policy, law, environmental studies, and health care.
HIV/AIDS, bringing clean water to populations in developing nations, and teen pregnancy rates are just some of the big problems that public health professionals tackle each day. These problems demand interdisciplinary approaches, and professionals with MPH degrees are trained to coordinate teams that work toward an attainable solution.
Public health professionals are ultimately concerned about people—focusing their work on making people’s lives better— while public health professionals in other sectors might approach helping others in a different way. For instance, epidemiologist studies how disease moves from one host to another and figures out ways to slow or stop the disease. The epidemiologist’s focus is on the disease, but the work is about preserving people’s health and perhaps even their lives.
Here’s another example: a public health educator specializing in HIV/AIDS works with individuals to help them make healthy choices for both themselves and for their romantic partners. The public health educator wants each person who comes for advice, counseling, or information to live healthier. The educator’s knowledge is about HIV/AIDS, but the work is focused on individuals’ health. No matter what areas of study you choose as your focus in your MPH program, prepare yourself for work helping people.
Digging Into What's Really of Interest
Public health is an umbrella for a group of related fields including but not limited to epidemiology, biostatistics, health care policy, environmental public health, and public health law. And within each field, there are many facets to explore and upon which you can build a career. By studying public health, you can dig into what interests you. Graduate school is the place to take deep dives into subject matters that grab your attention.
Strengthening Research Skills
Research is a critical component of most graduate programs. In an MPH program, you conduct original research, in addition to learning about the material in your courses. Even before you graduate, you will have the opportunity to contribute new knowledge to your chosen field. In fact, many graduates go into careers as researchers.
Becoming a Better Writer
The days of multiple-choice tests are all but extinct. Once you’re in graduate school, you’re looking at essay questions and research papers as ways to earn your grades. These assignments put an emphasis on explaining what you know. If for no other reason than the sheer volume of practice, you will become a better writer. If you’re not a strong writer at the start of graduate school, you can become an accomplished writer by the time you earn your MPH. These skills will be put to the test almost every day in the field, as you will find yourself writing many grant proposals which are usually parsed for their marketing potential.
Beefing Up a Resume
Adding initials behind your name is a good way to make yourself more marketable to employers. By earning a degree relevant to the job you want, you give yourself a better shot at beating out the competition. Working in the health sector should give you plenty of impetus to rise in the ranks, as the higher you climb, the more people you are able to help. A graduate degree shows you are serious about your field and that you are invested in your career, accompanied by a salary commensurate with your educational experience.