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Deadly disease outbreaks. Health workers in biohazard suits. A mysterious illness unraveling in a bioscience lab. It’s the stuff movies are made of—and it all boils down to public health.

But what is public health outside of the movies? And how do you enter the profession? We review the basics, from what it is to the value of pursuing a master’s in public health.

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What is public health?

The movies may spotlight disease investigation (epidemiology), but public health is a varied, global field focused on the causes and prevention of disease, disability, and injury across communities and populations around the world.

From vaccinations and chronic disease prevention (such as heart disease, obesity, and diabetes) to ensuring public safety after national disasters, public health is much more than the big screen makes it out to be.

Do I need a master’s in public health?

A master’s in public health (often referred to as an MPH degree) can equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to address pressing public health issues. While it’s possible to gain valuable experience working in the field, many public health careers require a graduate degree, such as a master’s in public health.

What will I study in an MPH degree program?

Whether you want to get your master’s in public health on campus or online, MPH degree programs can offer you a solid foundation in biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, public health administration, and social and behavioral sciences. Many also include field experiences that allow you to apply what you’ve learned to real-world situations.

What can I do with a master’s in public health?

While epidemiology is certainly a career option for those who have a master’s in public health, an MPH degree lends itself to a wide variety of professions. From education and emergency preparedness to research and policy, earning a master of public health degree can qualify you for an array of careers,* including but not limited to:

  • Health officer
  • Occupational health and safety specialist
  • Environmental health specialist
  • Disease investigator
  • Public health educator
  • Public health information officer
  • Public health analyst
  • Public health policy coordinator
  • Public health emergency preparedness and response coordinator
  • Global health professional
  • Research analyst
  • Health policy advisor
  • Community health worker

What’s the job outlook for those with an MPH degree?

Forbes magazine rated MPH degrees as a top master’s degree for jobs in 2013, reporting mid-career median pay at nearly $85,000.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics backs up that claim, reporting that public health career opportunities are expected to grow as fast or faster than the average compared with all other occupations in the United States.

Getting an MPH: Online or on campus?

While some may prefer a traditional brick-and-mortar MPH degree program, many working professionals prefer the convenience of learning through an online MPH program designed to fit their busy schedules.

Ready to become a master of public health? Interested in pursuing your MPH online? Discover how Walden University’s online master’s in public health program can help make your career goals a reality.

Find information on costs, occupation types, completion rates, and median loan debt for this program at www.WaldenU.edu/programdata/mph.

* Career options may require additional experience, training, or other factors beyond the successful completion of this degree program.

† Forbes, “The Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs Right Now,” on the Internet at www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/06/07/the-best-and-worst-masters-degrees-for-jobs-right-now (viewed online May 12, 2015).

‡ Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ooh (viewed online May 12, 2015).

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