Studying Public Health in the United States
Public health professionals protect the health of people and the communities in which they live, learn, work and play. Careers in public health range from those in the quantitative sciences like assisting with medical and pharmaceutical research, managing large data sets, and using geographic information systems to map disease outbreaks to careers in community health education, program evaluation or managing international NGOs. Jobs for graduates from public health schools and programs are available at all degree levels – while the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is historically the most common, bachelor’s degrees in public health are among the fastest-growing majors in US higher education. Doctoral education is also abundant – while there are many PhD programs available, the DrPH degree is also popular. The DrPH is the advanced-practice degree in public health. Because the field of public health practice is broad, the education available in the field is broad, as well. The United States has a world-renown array of accredited public health schools and programs from which to choose.
One of the greatest benefits to an education in the United States is that the quality of the degree is assured by accreditation. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is the organization responsible in the United States for accreditation of public health programs. Students can be assured that if they are attending a public health programs accredited by CEPH, they are receiving an education that meets national and international standards for quality. While each degree has specific curriculum requirements, as an example, all students who pursue an MPH degree at an accredited public health program in the United States receive skills-based training in evidence-based approaches to public health (e.g., epidemiological and statistical methods), public health and health care systems, program planning and management, health policy, leadership, communication, systems thinking, and interprofessional practice. All students also study the profession and science of public health as well as the factors related to human health, including environment, biology, and behavior as well as social, political and economic factors that influence the world in which we live. Following this foundational public health education, students choose a focus area. These range from biostatistics to environmental health and from maternal and child health to global health. The MPH is typically a two-year program of study, with doctoral degrees ranging from three to six years.
Attending a CEPH-accredited unit means that you know that your degree program has completed a multi-level review and was found to meet the nationally-agreed-upon standards developed by public health academics and practitioners. Attendance at a CEPH-accredited unit also provides a pathway to eligibility to sit for the Certified in Public Health exam and obtain the CPH credential. The exam and credential are administered by the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE). Visit http://www.nbphe.org/ for additional information.
There are currently 204 CEPH-accredited schools and programs in the US and internationally in Canada, Grenada, Israel, Lebanon, Mexico, and Taiwan. The CEPH website includes a list of accredited schools and programs as well as a searchable database of accredited degrees. Here you can explore the many possible focus areas in public health.
Dr Laura Rasar King
Executive Director, Council on Education for Public Health