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The 5 Core Competencies of a Public Health Degree

Especially relevant to MPH degree programs, five core disciplines form the foundation of all public health degree programs.

If you’re passionate about the idea of keeping populations safe and healthy, a career in public health may be for you—and a public health degree can equip you with the knowledge you need to make an impact in this important field.

While it’s possible to gain experience on the job, many public health careers require a Master of Public Health degree (commonly referred to as an MPH) for entry and advancement in the field.

The 5 Core Competencies of a Public Health Degree

Whether you want to study on campus or online, a good MPH program will help prepare you for a variety of public health careers by offering a solid foundation in the core competencies of public health, all of which are essential for burgeoning public health professionals.

What are the core competencies of public health?

Developed by a team of national experts, the core competencies of public health form the basis of a broad public health education, specifically a master’s degree in public health. While those pursuing an undergraduate degree in public health will certainly become familiar with these competencies, it is essential that MPH students are proficient in the skills required for each discipline upon graduation.

The five core competencies of public health are as follows:


This competency applies the science of statistics to the field of public health. Biostatistics enable public health professionals to address pressing health issues by analyzing and interpreting data, then applying mathematical and statistical formulas to solve public health problems.

Environmental Health Sciences

Environmental factors can have significant impacts on the health of a community. The field of environmental health sciences focuses on how the environment—including biological, physical, and chemical factors—affects human health.


A field commonly associated with public health and public health degree programs, epidemiology is the study of diseases within populations, including the patterns, detection, causes, and control of infectious disease epidemics.

Health Policy and Management

Access to and delivery of healthcare and healthcare programs can determine the well-being of communities. The multidisciplinary field of health policy and management is concerned with the delivery, quality, and costs of healthcare for individuals and populations from a managerial and a policy perspective, including but not limited to the cost, organization, and accessibility of care.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Sociocultural and behavioral factors greatly contribute to the health of populations. With an ultimate goal of creating and sustaining healthy communities, the study of social and behavioral sciences in the field of public health examines how behavioral, social, and cultural issues contribute to public health issues.

How will these core competencies impact my public health degree program?

Because the core competencies of public health are the foundation for anyone preparing for a public health career, these five disciplines will form the basis for your on-campus or online MPH degree program.

Whether you decide to attend a traditional brick-and-mortar institution or an accredited online university, these core competencies, combined with a completed MPH degree, will prepare you for a rich, rewarding, and multifaceted public health career.

Ready to keep populations around the world safe and healthy with a master’s in public health? Backed by a strong foundation in the core competencies of public health, Walden University offers a rigorous online MPH degree program that equips today’s public health professionals with the education they need to address the world’s most pressing health issues.


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