A Guide To MPH Online Programs
Dealing with disease, nutrition, and general physiological welfare of people on a community or even population scale is the purview of a public health official. Working to head off disease epidemics, gathering health statistics, and trying to understand why groups of people are affected by certain health concerns are some of the issues students confront when pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. For students who already have a career or a family, and just can’t go back to college full time, there are online universities that offer MPH degrees that can be earned on a flexible schedule. Master of Public Health online degree programs are designed for people with busy lives who still wish to further their education in the field of public health
Online Programs Compared to Traditional Colleges
The explosion of online programs in recent years demonstrates just how many people in today’s society want to pursue an education but feel that the traditional format and scheduling of such an education is, for them, just not feasible. Suddenly, people with busy lives have access to Master of Public Health programs that can be completed around their schedules. This means that their full time jobs, their families, and their lives can all be maintained even as they work toward this advanced degree. Traditional schooling is a wonderful option. It just doesn’t work for everyone.
Master of Public Health degree programs are largely academic and research oriented, so much of the work can be done electronically, but some of the projects may require students to do more than sit and work on the computer. Doing research often involves data-gathering and conducting interviews, and reading books or journal articles that might not be too easy to find online. Don’t go into online education thinking that it will be easy. The work is just as rigorous as it would be at a regular college, but the classroom time and accountability systems have been transferred online.
Master of Public Health Course Subjects
If you take a Master of Public Health degree online, there are some courses you’ll be able to do entirely online, and some for which a practical element will require you to step out and interact with people in person.
Theoretical Classes That Can Be Completed Entirely Online
- Introduction to Biostatistical Methods: This course will teach you how to gather or find preexisting large bodies of data and analyze them to glean facts about the state of public health in a community or demographic. Analysis will be conducted using a computer, and for the purposes of the introductory course, you’ll likely use pre-gathered data from governmental or other sources.
- Sexuality, Gender, and Public Health: This class will mostly involve reading academic research and discussing or drawing conclusions from the established body of literature in the subject.
- Public Health Program Planning and Evaluation: Learning how to do the work of establishing public health programming and executing research projects, then analyzing the results and using that information to make the next program better, is a huge part of the regular duties of any public health official. This course will be based on best practices and industry standards, but the information can all be transmitted electronically, so this course probably won’t require any practical element, and will mostly be bookwork. This shouldn’t lead you to underestimate its importance though.
- Topics in Public Health Ethics: This course will cover the laws and ethical standards pertaining to public health. This is information that can be transmitted electronically.
MPH Courses That May Require Practical Research
- Community Based Preparatory Research in Public Health: This is an advanced course that will likely require you to pound the pavement in your community, doing research and gathering data for an academic paper.
- Measurement in Epidemiology and Outcomes Research: This course is similar to biostatistics courses, except it focuses specifically on epidemiology, or the spread of disease and other health trends through populations.
Costs of Online Master of Public Health Programs
If you studied public health or a related field as an undergraduate, you may not have to take as many courses to finish out a master’s degree. However, if your undergraduate degree was in a totally different subject, you might have to take a few prerequisites, and it may be harder to find scholarships to help you through an MPH. The following is a breakdown of the estimated costs for various portions of your MPH degree, presuming that you have no prior experience and plan to take all of your courses online.
- Tuition: For a two-year master’s degree you will likely have to pay for about 60 credit hours, which will probably cost between $500-$750 each, leaving you with a tuition bill of $30,000-$45,000. This can be dramatically diminished if you take advantage of financial aid opportunities such as government grants and loans and merit based scholarships from the school you choose to enroll at.
- Computer/Class Materials: You can get a computer that exceeds the minimum system requirements for online college for $500 or less these days, but you’ll also need regular access to high-speed internet, which can cost $40-$50 per month, and you may need to download other software that costs money to complete assignments, or purchase electronic versions of textbooks. $1,000-$2,000 per year is a safe estimate for equipment and materials cost in higher education.
- Living Expenses: Since you aren’t living on campus and paying a bundled price for meals, housing, tuition, and other costs, you’ll have to find your own housing and pay for your own food and utilities. You likely already do this if you’re looking at online colleges, but it is still a factor to consider when looking at schools. If you can move into a less expensive housing situation, or save money in other parts of your life while you’re paying for college, it may be a good investment. These costs vary widely, so we won’t include a dollar-value estimate here.
- Application Fees: Most online colleges will waive these fees, but many institutions of higher education charge a fee to even apply. This fee is usually less than $100, but that depends on the institution, and it is worth finding out about this cost before you apply to more schools than you really need to.
Financial Aid for Online Master of Public Health Degrees
Seeking financial aid is a must for anyone considering going to college, whether for the first time or for a second or third degree. The logical first step in this process is to fill out the Free Application for Financial Aid (FAFSA), which simultaneously applies you for most of the government’s loan and grant offerings, including Perkins loans, Stafford loans and Pell Grants. After that, applying for the Lifelong Learning Tax credit via the Internal Revenue Service is a good place to look for extra funds, and talking to the financial aid office at your chosen university can yield some nice subject or merit based scholarships. Around half of applicants to online schools think that their education will be paid for entirely by financial aid, and this unfortunately isn’t usually the case, but almost any student can get at least a few thousand dollars, and possibly much more, to offset the amount of money that comes out of their pocket. The balance of the bill can usually be covered by low interest, fixed-rate loans from the government, which have long, flexible repayment schedules that are manageable for most budgets.
Public health is a field that combines politics, science, sociology, and logistics to achieve goals that affect communities and populations. Combining interpersonal skills with a head for numbers and the ability to incorporate fine details into a big picture understanding of the behavior, habits, health, and needs of a community are important skills that you’ll learn in a public health degree program. You must practice these skills and continue to study after school to keep up with rapid changes in the way information is gathered and analyzed. Lifelong learning is becoming more of a necessity in every field, and is doubly important in disciplines that have broad reaching, even global, consequences.The graph below shows the percentage of total financial aid given out on various bases (i.e. federal grants, tax benefits, et cetera)
Learn More About Online Public Health Degrees
This article has provided a broad overview of how online public health programs work, and how to prepare for them, but one of the best ways to learn more about specific programs or degrees is to contact some schools you are interested in. The links below can help you get in touch with schools that offer accredited online public health programs, so you can find out more about their financial aid offerings, curriculum, and other useful info about their degrees.
Online Degrees in Public Health
Public health is the science of preventing disease and promoting health at the population level. Programs prepare students to become leading public health professionals capable of addressing current global public health problems. By clicking on the logos below, you can receive more information regarding your degree and school of choice.
Master of Public Health
||George Washington University – George Washington University's Master of Public Health program features a curriculum of public health core with a focus on the needs of today's healthcare industry. Courses feature a conceptual, factual, and skill base where students are given the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a professional setting. GWU is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA).|
MS: Public Health
||Southern New Hampshire University – Southern New Hampshire University offers an MS in Public Health that readies graduate students for the business, programming, planning, and policy aspects of public healthcare management. This degree is a 46-credit hour program that includes a compulsory healthcare practicum.|
Master of Public Health
MPH: Health Education
|Kaplan University – Graduates of the Kaplan University MPH program are ready to take their careers to the next stage at the government, nonprofit, or private level. The online program provides students with an education on how to analyze and apply scientific research, prepare public health policies, develop health education programs, and review the impact of occupational and environmental factors. Kaplan offers several specializations within their MPH program, including health education.|
Master of Public Health
||Indiana Wesleyan University – Indiana Wesleyan University offers an innovative and effective accredited online program. The Master of Public Health prepares students for high-level careers as healthcare managers, managed healthcare plan coordinators, hospital administrators, and much more. Courses cover a variety of subjects including Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, Health Services Administration, and Social and Behavioral Studies. IWU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.|
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