A graduate level degree is a degree earned after completing a baccalaureate program. Typically, the next level of graduate degree is the master’s degree and after that is the doctorate degree. Students can pursue a variety of master’s degree programs depending on their field of study.

For students interested in pursuing a career in public health, they may want to consider an MPH program. MPH stands for Master of Public Health, and this degree would be an ideal course of study. The MPH prepares students with knowledge and skills necessary to support community outreach and awareness about injury and violence prevention, diseases and other health related issues that affect a community at large.

MPH vs. MSPH

One important distinction that should be made is that when a student earns an MPH degree, the focus of study is on general public health and not medicine or medical research. The focus of study for the MPH is epidemiology, general public health and behavioral science. There is little focus on research.

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When a student earns an MPH degree they are prepared for the following types of careers:

  • Health policy administration
  • Direct studies on disease
  • Public health data analysis

In contrast, the Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) has a large focus on medicine and medical research. For students interested in pursuing careers in higher education, with an emphasis on publications of studies, earning the MSPH degree would be a good fit. Additionally, in order to earn a MSPH degree, there typically is a requirement to write a focused thesis on a specific area of public health.

Students who earn the MSPH may be interested in the following careers:

  • Evaluator of public health policy (possibly at the federal or state level)
  • Professor or instructor of public health
  • Public health researcher and publisher
  • Director of public health studies
  • Public health researcher (writing and administering studies)

MPH for Doctors

While most people attend medical school because they want to help people live healthy lives, the reality is health care is a business industry. For some seeking to become a doctor, they may also choose to earn an MPH degree as well.

Why earn an MPH degree as a doctor? With the health care industry becoming an ever-complex business, having both an M.D. and an MPH provides a broader foundation for doctors to better serve their community. By earning the MPH for doctors, they not only have the knowledge and skills to practice medicine, they also have the practical knowledge for more broad community care.

Doctors who have earned the M.D. and MPH degree have the added ability to understand health care as an industry. Additionally, with a focus on community outreach and public safety, an M.D., MPH can support both the community at large and the individual members of it.

Advantages of M.D., MPH

There are several advantages to earning an MPH along with an M.D. The predominant advantage is having the additional skills and practical knowledge. The M.D. and MPH degrees together will provide the doctor with the clinical skills necessary to treat individuals as well as the information needed to maintain a healthy community.

There are other, more practical advantages to earning the M.D. and MPH together:

  • Time: Students can earn both degrees within a five-year period. If earned separately, the MPH is an additional two to three years.
  • Streamlined Content: Earning the degrees together eliminates overlap or repetition of courses. Taken separately, students may have to retake courses or take courses that are similar and repetitive.
  • Dual Enrollment: Medical students may decide to add the MPH degree during their second year of medical school. The content for both degrees is highly compatible with one another, therefore making the coursework for both degrees highly interrelated.   

About the Author

Melanie Forstall has a doctorate in education and has worked in the field of education for over 20 years. She has been a teacher, grant writer, program director, and higher education instructor. She is a freelance writer specializing in education, and education related content. She writes for We Are Teachers, School Leaders Now, Classroom, Pocket Sense, local parenting magazines, and other professional academic outlets. Additionally, she has co-authored book chapters specializing in providing services for students with disabilities.