February 25, 2021

What is the Difference Between a MPH and MSPH?

Deciding whether to pursue a Master of Public Health or a Master of Science in Public Health degree depends largely upon a candidate’s specific career focus.

Master of Public Health

The Master of Public Health is a professional master’s degree allowing students to gain competencies in broad-based areas of public health practice. Generally, it takes two years to complete an MPH program and a bachelor’s degree is required prior to acceptance into a master’s program. Some of the more common areas of bachelor’s degrees prior to acceptance into an MPH program are education, biology, sociology, and business. Coursework for an MPH program has less focus on research and the curriculum generally includes a study of the five basic areas of public health:

  1. Epidemiology
  2. Public health administration and policy
  3. Biostatistics
  4. Environmental Health
  5. Behavioral/Social Science

MPH graduates have the skills and knowledge to solve public health problems by the ability to:

  • Design public health studies
  • Collect, analyze and interpret data
  • Interpret and report the results of studies

MPH programs are designed for students who desire a relatively broad-based education in public health. Those graduating from an MPH program are prepared for careers in public policy, administration, education, or community practice as health scientists, lecturers, community health educators, and coordinators and healthcare analysts. Students who are looking to practice public health might best be suited to pursue a Master of Public Health because it is a broader field of study. An MPH program focuses on improving human health in populations to prevent illness and disease. Additional requirements for MPH programs include the completion of a field-based practicum and presentation of a capstone project. Coursework can be completed in two to five years (depending on whether full time or part-time curriculum).

Master of Science in Public Health

The Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree is an academic public health degree (rather than a professional public health degree) and is more research-oriented. The MSPH prepares graduates for careers in academia or research settings as educators, researchers or publishers with the career goals including examination of existing standards in public health service, correlating and incorporating data to generate new solutions to public health problems, and suggesting ways to improve public health services and their administration within the community.

Most MSPH programs take an average of two years to complete and may require students to write and defend a thesis to fulfill degree requirements. Required MSPH coursework includes most of the same classes needed for the MPH degree, but additionally, the MSPH degree requires additional coursework in research methods, epidemiology, biostatistics, and similar public health studies. MSPH students are also required to complete a research thesis. Most MSPH programs do not have concentrations of study like community health, health education, and health communication or health policy. Research-oriented MSPH degrees require up to 48 credits and are completed in three to five years. Coursework covers foundational public health classes, specialization studies, approved electives and completion of a research thesis in public health.

Although the basic foundational aspects of the MPH and MSPH programs are similar, the focus of each determines areas of specialization and final degree requirements.