Online Master’s Degree in Public Health

Public health is a field of study which focuses on health analysis, disease prevention, and health services. This field draws from a variety of disciplines including biostatistics, epidemiology, economics, public policy, and community health, to name a handful. Graduates of an online masters degree in public health will be equipped with the knowledge base and analytical skills needed to design and implement plans for the prevention and treatment of disease as well as general wellness programs. Many public health majors will find work with public and private hospitals. Others may pursue opportunities with government agencies or nonprofit organizations.

The typical time to completion for most online masters programs in public health can range from one to three years. This is influenced by a number of factors including any transfer credits brought in, whether the student elects to enroll full or part time, and the specific degree requirements. Some online colleges will allow students to apply a portion of their professional experience to their degree track, decreasing the amount of time it will take to earn their master’s. However, not all institutions have these type of options, so it is important to contact the school directly about their specific policies.

Classes for an Online Masters Degree in Public Health

The best online masters degree programs in public health will include a combination of survey, seminar, and applied research courses. Common core topics include statistics, epidemiology, research methods, and health practices. Other more specialized courses may touch on social justice, health disparities, the economics of healthcare, and health law. A few examples of specific courses that may be required for this type of masters degree are listed below:

  • Introduction to Health Politics and Policy
  • Health Program Planning
  • Data Management and Statistical Computation
  • Legal and Ethical Issues in Public Health Informatics
  • Cultural Diversity in Public Health

Individuals enrolled in an online masters degree program in public health should also anticipate a culminating research project, thesis, or practicum requirement. This capstone, typically completed during the last term of study, will demonstrate the student’s ability to utilize the theoretical concepts learned throughout their time in the program in real-world health applications. Periodic virtual meetings with a faculty advisor and/or a group of peers may be required, but this capstone course work will mostly depend on independent work.

A Career as a Graduate with an Online Masters Degree in Public Health

Graduates with a masters degree in public health are qualified to fill management positions with private hospital systems, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations. According to reports from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for medical and health services managers is expected to increase by 22% over the projection period of 2010 to 2020. This is faster than the average of 14% growth expected for jobs overall. The majority of medical and health services managers are employed by general medical and surgical hospitals and physicians’ offices. The average salary for individuals working in this capacity was $96,030 in 2011. Those who worked for insurance and employee benefit companies earned the highest salaries at a mean wage of $139,400 that same year. Keep in mind, however, that actual job openings and salaries can vary depending on the applicant’s past work experience, education, location, and the specific type of employer.

Entry and mid-level positions in public health are open to individuals who only have a bachelor’s degree. However, upper-level management and administrative positions are likely to go to those who hold master’s degrees. In addition, an online masters degree in public health is a great option for those looking to transition into this field from an unrelated industry.


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