About Public Health

Public Health involves the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research, and promotion of healthy lifestyles. It focuses on the wellbeing of entire populations, rather than individuals. Public health encompasses a number of disciplines, but some of the core areas are: Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Behavioral Sciences/Health Education, and Health Services Administration. Public health professionals can work in a wide variety of settings in both the public and private sectors. Students can pursue public health on the master’s or doctoral levels.

Preparation and Applying
  • Undergraduate coursework is largely dependent on the areas of interest in public health (e.g., coursework in biology and mathematics is highly recommended for students who plan to concentrate in epidemiology or biostatistics)
  • Usually a broad background is useful including basic sciences like chemistry and biology, ethics, religion, social sciences (especially courses on international settings and on diversity), education and communications classes, political science and public policy, statistics, and psychology.
  • Oral and written communication skills are necessary and knowledge of a second language is valuable.
  • Observation hours with a public health professional is advisable though not required.
  • Volunteering is advisable. Study abroad or other work with diverse populations is useful for showing cultural competencies.
  • The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) aptitude test is required at many programs. The TOEFL may also be required for people who are not native speakers of English.
  • Application for many programs is through an application service called SOPHAS.
  • Direct application at individual schools may be necessary for programs that do not use SOPHAS.
  • Attendance at a CEPH (Council on Education of Public Health) accredited school is recommended for the most employment opportunities.
  • Early application is highly recommended. SOPHAS opens in mid-August. It is best to apply within a month of its opening.

Check out Drew’s dual degree public health program with Boston University!

Education and Licensure
  • Most people in Public Health have at least a master’s degree, usually Master of Public Health (MPH), but sometimes a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH).
  • Public Health degrees are interdisciplinary and incorporate a wide range of interests.
  • Many clinical programs offer dual degrees including MD/MPH, MPH/MBA, MPH/DDS.
  • Certain jobs in public health require education at a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited institution. Not all programs choose to become CEPH accredited because it is an expensive process. This should not be seen as a reflection on the quality of the program.

Additional Resources