How do I get a Master's Degree in Public Health?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2018
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A master's degree in public health may be an important step in starting a public health career. This degree, offered by many accredited universities, is geared toward creating graduates that will be leaders in the improvement and implementation of public health policies. In order to obtain a master's degree in public health, a person must apply and be accepted to a program that furnishes the degree and fulfill all requirements needed to graduate. Along the way, a student pursuing a master's degree in public health will gain vital skills and education that can help launch a career.

Most programs that offer a master's degree in public health require that students have a bachelor's degree. In most cases, the degree does not have to be in health, public health, or any related field. If a qualified applicant does not have an undergraduate degree, the school may offer them the chance to receive a certificate of completion instead of a master's degree. For this certificate, all graduation requirements are typically the same.

Some programs that offer a master's degree in public health may require applicants to take a standardized test as part of admission. Many, though not all, programs use the Graduate Record Exam® or GRE®. This test is a basic standardized format that tests reasoning, critical writing, and mathematics skills. Check with each school to see the GRE® or a similar test is required for admission.


When applying to schools, be sure to check materials thoroughly to find the best program. Look for available student programs, such as scholarship and grant availability, internships, and housing. Some colleges have a reputation for an outstanding program, but don't rely too heavily on reputation; consider visiting top choice schools and talking to current students to get a clear idea about the program.

Once accepted, schools will provide incoming students with a list of required classes, plus additional requirements such as internships. Depending on the program, a student may have some flexibility in the order classes are taken, allowing him or her to craft a workable schedule. Classes may include courses on epidemiology, biostatistics, public policy, and environmental health.

Although many students trying to get a master's degree in public health will attend classes full time, some schools now offer part-time or online programs. These options allow those with jobs, family, or other responsibilities to achieve a degree on a more flexible schedule. While part-time attendance may not result in a degree as quickly, it can be a great option for those looking to switch careers or finish a degree.



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