Is an MPH Worth It?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) could open up a range of health-related career opportunities. Learn more about whether an MPH could fit your career goals.

[Featured image] A Master of Public Health (MPH) student walks through a college campus with her cellphone and a stack of notebooks.

If your career goal is to work in health care and help your community, you could find opportunities to advance your career and increase your earning potential with a Master of Public Health (MPH). Many programs allow you to choose a concentration that relates to the field where you want to work, so you can equip yourself with the knowledge and skill you need.

What is an MPH degree?

The Master of Public Health is a graduate-level degree program that prepares students for careers in the public health sector. It’s designed for those who want to work with a specific population within a community.

You can earn an MPH degree online or in person and complete it within two years if you attend full-time. Some programs can take two and a half years of full-time study.  You may qualify for an accelerated program that can be completed in 14 to 16 months.  Should you choose a part-time program, you can usually complete it within four to five years.

Admission requirements vary from school to school; however, most will require candidates to hold a bachelor’s degree, and some will require work experience. Before applying, you may be required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Some applicants can receive a waiver if they meet the school’s qualifications. 

As a student, you may have the opportunity to choose an area of concentration. Not all schools offer the same disciplines, so if you’re considering applying to an MPH program, research the options for availability.  Some of the more common tracks are environmental health, health care administration, and social and behavioral science.

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How much does it cost to earn an MPH degree?

The cost of your MPH degree program will depend on several factors. The number of credit hours required to complete the program affects the cost of tuition, as does residency.

In-state tuition can vary between $16,000 and $33,000, while out-of-state tuition can cost between $25,000 and $60,000. These figures represent tuition and fees for a two-year program. Should you decide to study online, costs are generally lower at an average of $26,000 to $33,000 [1]. 

You may be able to find scholarships and assistantships to help cover the cost of attending a master’s program. Learn more about availability by contacting the admission office or financial aid office of the schools you’re interested in attending.

Return on your investment: MPH salaries

An MPH program can be expensive, but the salary potential that comes with your degree can, eventually, help pay for your education. Additionally, working with the public and helping disadvantaged populations can be a rewarding experience, and knowing you can make a difference may make the cost of the MPH degree worth the investment. Some of the careers you can pursue with an MPH degree and their average salaries include:

*All salary data represents median annual salaries in the United States. Job outlook is projected growth from 2020 to 2030. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021)

Health education specialist

Salary: $60,600

Job outlook: 17% (Much faster than average)

If you enjoy working with diverse populations in community settings, a position as a health education specialist can be a rewarding career. You’ll work to improve the health and well-being of at-risk individuals and community populations by educating them about wellness.  

Community health worker

Salary: $48,860

Job outlook: 17% (Much faster than average)

As a community health worker, you’ll identify the needs of at-risk populations and advocate on their behalf. Community health workers often collaborate with health education specialists for community outreach. 

Public health nurse 

Salary: $77,600

Job outlook: 9% (As fast as average)

As a public health nurse, you will work in disadvantaged communities to identify health issues and work to resolve them. A public health nurse is a registered nurse who works outside a typical patient-to-patient setting and instead works in the community, at schools, senior centers, or public health clinics.

Environmental health scientist

Salary: $76,530

Job outlook: 8% (As fast as average)

An environmental health scientist works to address potential environmental health risks. The position can also entail educating the public about community health risks. Many job opportunities are in government. 

Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselor

Salary: $48,520

Job outlook: 23% (Much faster than average)

In this role, you'll serve populations with substance abuse and behavior disorders. You may work with individuals or in a group setting to help those suffering from substance abuse or behavior disorders recover. 

Epidemiologist

Salary: $78,830

Job outlook: 30% (Much faster than average)

With an MPH degree, you could qualify for a career as an epidemiologist. Epidemiology is the investigation of disease and injury, and as an epidemiologist, you’ll work to treat and prevent health issues. 

Public health director

Salary: $101,340 

Job outlook: 32% (Much faster than average)

The role of a public health director is to manage a public health department, oversee employees, and work to keep the public safe. This leadership position is responsible for collaborating with other public health professionals and government employees.

Read more: What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health (MPH)?

Other benefits of an MPH degree

By pursuing an MPH degree, you can expand not only your career options but also your knowledge and skills to better prepare for leadership roles. Government jobs, which sometimes offer benefits like pension plans, may require an MPH. 

Careers in public health typically offer job security, and even in economic downtimes, careers in health tend to remain in demand. If you enjoy working with the public and positively impacting communities and neighborhoods, it's worth considering how an MPH could fit your goals.

Explore the MPH

Study options for an MPH degree are varied, with part-time and full-time programs and various concentrations to choose from. Study from anywhere with an internet connection at your own pace with the Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan or a Global Master of Public Health from the Imperial College London on Coursera.

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Article sources

1. CostHelper. “How Much Does a Master’s Degree in Public Health Cost? https://education.costhelper.com/mph.html.” Accessed July 15, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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