Public Health Degree Programs

Public Health Degree Programs

There are a number of degree programs for students who are interested in careers in public health. The more well-known degrees are the Master of Public Health (MPH) and the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH). Additional degree programs include: 

MSPH – Master of Science in Public Health 
MHA – Master of Heath Administration
MSHA – Master of Science in Health Administration
PhD – Doctor of Philosophy

Master of Public Health (MPH)

The Master of Public Health is the most commonly awarded post-baccalaureate public health degree. It prepares students for public health practice at the local, state, and federal levels. Myriad organizations including medical schools, departments of health, not-for-profit organizations, and government agencies seek the expertise of professionals with master-level training. The Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have listed the following competencies to be addressed during MPH training:

Discipline-Specific Competencies

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy and Management
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences


Inter-disciplinary/Cross-cutting Competencies

  • Communication and Informatics
  • Diversity and Culture
  • Leadership
  • Public Health Biology
  • Professionalism
  • Program Planning
  • Systems Thinking


Different schools introduce these competencies in different ways, but MPH curricula across the country are centered on these primary concepts. The Commonwealth PHTC partner universities all maintain graduate public health programs:


Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

If the Master of Public Health is the basic public health degree, then the Doctor of Public Health is offered for advanced training in public health leadership. The Association of Public Health Schools DrPH Steering Committee1 offers the following comparison between the DrPH and the PhD:

…both the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and DrPH degree programs should prepare graduates for research careers, with PhD training typically aimed at graduates who focus their research in narrowly defined areas, while the DrPH is aimed at advanced professional degree designed to prepare individuals for public health evidence-based leadership and practice-based research roles.

The ASPH lists the following core competencies as essential to DrPH training:

  • Advocacy
  • Communication
  • Community/Cultural Orientation
  • Critical Analysis
  • Leadership
  • Management
  • Professionalism and Ethics


The Doctor of Public Health combines the five core public health sciences (emphasized during MPH training) with high-level leadership and analytical skills. The diagram below illustrates this relationship:

  1. Association of Public Health Schools. Doctor of Public Health Core Competency Model. November 2009. [Online] Accessed at