MPH vs Other Healthcare Masters Degrees- MHA, MPA, MPP and MSN
If you’re interested in advanced education in the healthcare field, you might be confused and overwhelmed by the options out there. While you might originally be looking at Masters in Public Health (MPH) options, you have probably also come across other master’s degree programs – MHA, MPA, and more! Is the MPH really your best option? Let’s take a look at how it compares to other healthcare master’s degree choices.
Master of Public Health
An MPH prepares you for, as the name implies, a career in public health. Public health is an interdisciplinary field that works to promote health, prevent disease and injury, and prolong the life of a population. As part of your MPH program, you’ll cover topics such as epidemiology, health services, behavior health, biostatistics, infectious disease, sociology, and more. Working in public health, you could do anything from teach teens about STD prevention to research the effects of obesity on the health of a country’s population to help create workplace policy to reduce injuries. It’s an extremely comprehensive field with tons of career options when you graduate.
Examples of specific courses you might take in a Master of Public Health program include:
- Epidemiology: The study of how diseases are contracted, spread, and controlled at the community or population level.
- Biostatistics: Sometimes called biometrics, this subject deals with the collection and analysis of data about biological organisms and their behavior.
- Health Policy and Administration: Management of the financial and human resources of organizations in the public health field.
Other Healthcare Master’s Degrees
So what are your other degree options if you’re interested in working in the healthcare field? Here are some of the most popular and relevant degrees:
- Master of Healthcare Administration (MHA): An MHA is perfect for students who want to learn about the business of healthcare. In this field, depending on your specialty, you could work in roles such as finance, human resources, informatics/IT, public relations, and more. There’s some overlap with an MPH program here, but your education will have more of a business spin.
- Master of Public Administration (MPA): MPA degrees aren’t specific to the healthcare world, but many offer a healthcare specialization to prepare you for working at non-profit healthcare facilities. This kind of degree prepares you for a job in personnel management, public policy creation and implementation, emergency management, and other related fields. MPA in healthcare degrees are like a cross between an MPH and an MPA.
- Master of Public Policy (MPP): MPP degree programs are extremely similar to MPA programs, but with an emphasis in policy analysis. Like an MPA degree, the focus here isn’t specific to the healthcare field, but many programs offer a healthcare track.
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): MSN programs are specifically for students who are already nurses. If you earn an MSN as a nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist, you can specialize in public health, public policy, or administration. The benefit to these programs is that you’ll graduate as an advanced practice nurse (APN), so you have tons of career opportunities, even outside of the public health field.
There are actually even more master’s degree programs you can consider. For example, in many fields you can earn a simple Master of Science, or MS, if you want to take more of an academic approach, getting into research or teaching eventually. You can also get a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a specialization in healthcare administration or public health, which gives you an even stronger business education than an MHA.
Advantages to MPH Programs
As you’re considering different master’s degree programs in the healthcare field, keep in mind that there are some clear advantages to choosing an MPH program rather than one of the other types of programs.
First, with an MPH program, you get to explore all the areas of public health, including some extremely specialized areas like environmental health. With other programs, where the focus is on other topics, you might touch on public health, but you won’t delve very deep into the sub-categories in this field. A good MPH program includes classes on the ten core areas of public health: biostatistics, epidemiology, health services administration, health education, behavioral science, environmental health, maternal and child health, public health nutrition, public health practice, and public health administration/policy. Other programs cover some, but not all of these topics.
An MPH program also solely focuses on public health, rather than other topics that might not interest you or be relevant to your job. For example, MHA programs often spend a lot of time on finance and accounting information – something that may not be super relevant to you with a career in public health. With the MPH degree, you can’t transition as easily to other fields within the healthcare industry, but if you have a passion for public health, that might not be a problem.
Finally, with such a focused education, you’ll be a more attractive job candidate to many employers. Someone who goes through an MSN or MPA program, for example, will probably not have as much focused public health education. Thus, you are the better candidate for the public health job. Of course, it depends on your other attributes and the job itself, but again, if you have a passion for public health, it typically makes the most sense to earn an MPH rather than another type of degree.
Doctorate Degrees in Public Health
After you earn an MPH, you can also go on to get a doctorate degree in this field, which is not as easy of you attend school in one of the other public health-related programs. There are two main types of doctorate degrees in this field. The first, the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health is for those interested in going on to do public health research or become a public health professor at a college or university. The second type, the Doctor of Public Health is more of a professional degree, which lends itself to practicing in this field. Both are great options if you already have an MPH and want even more education in this field.
If becoming a professor at a college or university and teaching about public health is part of your long term plans, getting a PhD in the subject should probably be on your to-do list. Educators are a key part of the crusade to improve global public health policy and practice. Health educators are in plenty of demand, too, and their earnings are well above the national median for all occupations. The graph below shows the median wages of public health educators in the top five settings in which they are employed.
Which Program to Choose
At the end of the day, there is a lot of overlap between MPH programs and other healthcare master’s degree programs. It might seem confusing right now, but take time to examine lots of different programs to see what they have to offer and talk to college counselors about your career goals to find the best program for you.
The program that you choose should largely be influenced by a few factors: what you want to do as a career, how much you can afford to pay for your education, and how you want to get it done. If you want to mix online courses and offline, or go all online, your choice of school might be influence by your desired set of circumstances. While becoming a nurse or other health worker always requires at least a little clinical experience that can’t be completed online, it may be possible to finish an entire public health degree online, because of the more academic nature of some of the work. Some public health professions do require regular client interaction, though, so if you know whether you want to pursue a more research oriented career, or if you want to be rooted more in serving clients personally, you should seek a program that seems to cater to your preferences.
Ultimately, talking to someone who has already earned their public health degree and is working in the field, especially if they graduated from your college of choice, is the best way to get a feel for what it will be like. Finding a mentor or at least someone to have a conversation with who has already gone through the process you are about to begin can give you insight and help you make the transition into and out of school, and into a public health career, more seamless and smooth.
Finding the Program for You
Getting in touch with schools that offer programs you are interested in is easy! They want you to find them. The links below can get you into contact with some of the top accredited online public health degree programs, and from there you should be able to get in touch with former students or professors from the college so you can develop a more complete idea of what school will be like. Once you’ve decided for sure where to go, you can contact the school again for application information and forms, and you’ll be on your way!
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).|
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
MPA: Health Policy
|Walden University – The Walden University MPH degree teaches the development of healthy individuals, organizations, and communities. The program provides core study in the public health field, using real-world teaching methodology, industry leading professors, and a capstone fieldwork practicum. Those interested in policymaking may find Walden's MPA in health policy to be of interest.|
Master of Public Health
||Grand Canyon University – The Grand Canyon University Master of Public Health program is recognized as a leader in training the next generation of public health advocates. Featuring a curriculum that is developed around a multidisciplinary methodology, courses include Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, and Social, Behavioral, and Cultural Factors in Public Health.|
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