Public health is a dynamic field that works to improve the health of entire communities. When you think of public health, you may think of your local public health department providing immunizations to prevent infectious diseases, or you may think of international organizations that provide safe drinking water to people in developing countries. Both of these images are correct, since public health is concerned with all kinds of communities throughout the world. Public health often focuses on the prevention and tracking of disease as well as the prevention of disasters, all in an effort to improve living conditions, and provide basic health care and health education.
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Public health professionals work toward improving the health of groups of people. There are many different professions within the field. All of them work toward improving the health of groups of people. Some public health professionals are involved with creating and running public health programs. Program managers, health educators and health services administrators are among this group. Other public health professionals, such as epidemiologists and biostatisticians, conduct research. Other professionals provide basic health services to communities, such as public health nurses and social workers. Then there are those who work in law and policy to affect public health at a broad scale.
Check the Guide to Accreditation in Higher Education to learn more about accreditation and how to determine if the program you select meets the necessary standards.
A bachelor’s degree will prepare you for entry-level jobs in public health or for an advanced degree in public health. Majoring in public health will provide you with a broad introduction to the field of public health. However, public health professionals hold bachelors degrees in many other subjects as well, including mathematics, sociology, business, biology and chemistry.
A Bachelor of Arts (BA) is oriented toward social services and public policy. This option is a good choice for students interested in public health policy, health services administration and behavioral science in public health. It is similar to the BS.
A Bachelor of Science (BS) is oriented toward the scientific basis of public health. This option is a good choice for students interested in research, statistical analysis, environmental health and infectious disease control. It is similar to the BA and identical to the BPH.
A Bachelor of Public Health (BPH) is the same as a BS in public health and focuses on the science used in public health.
A Master of Science (MS) is research oriented. Coursework focuses on research methods and analysis of health data. This degree is a good choice for students seeking careers in research.
A Master of Public Health (MPH) focuses on the factors that affect population health. This option is a good choice for students who want to manage public health programs and services.
A Master of Health Services Administration (MHSA) is a business degree oriented toward the management, organization and financing of healthcare services. This option is a good choice for students who want to work in areas such as emergency services management, planning, policy analysis or consulting.
A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is a research degree oriented toward conducting research and analysis in a narrow area of specialization. If you are interested in becoming a researcher or professor of public health, the PhD would be an advisable route.
A Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) is a professional degree focused on training public health professionals in creating, implementing and assessing public health programs and policy. This degree is advisable for experienced public health professionals seeking high-level positions in policy and administration.
A Doctor of Science (ScD) is a research degree that is equivalent to a PhD in the United States. It is offered by only a few schools of public health in the U.S.