March 31, 2023

5 Key Courses in an MPH (Master of Public Health) Degree Program

5 Key Courses in an MPH (Master of Public Health) Degree Program

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health
  • Healthcare Administration and Policy
  • Health Promotion and Communications
  • Epidemiology

Earning a master of public health degree requires taking five key courses in essential competencies. Each of these core competencies sets the foundation for a solid understanding of public health practice. These are five of the key courses that public health students will take in their master’s degree program at most universities.

Related: Top 25 Online MPH Programs (Master’s in Public Health)

1. Biostatistics

Biostatistics is a class that explores the statistics of public health. It examines data from case-control studies, cohort studies, hospital visits and more in order to determine the risk factors for a disease, condition or treatment. The classes use complicated statistical processes such as logistic regression in order to elucidate results from large data sets. Biostatistics coursework also includes survey design and advanced statistics that can be applied to population-based data. Some biostatistics classes include training and use of specialty statistics software, while others have these as separate courses.

2. Environmental Health

One of the five key classes in an MPH program is environmental health. This type, of course, explores the interaction between people and their environment. The classes usually have case studies that go in-depth about an environmental problem that caused specific human health consequences. For example, the Love Canal story is one often studied in environmental health. This class may also include occupational health. Some occupations have specific risk factors that cause harm. One example is being a musician, which can lead to hearing loss from loud noise exposure.

3. Healthcare Administration and Policy

Working in public health requires some knowledge of public health laws, policies, and administration. Anyone who plans to work in a health department or other governmental agency will benefit from taking this class. The coursework typically includes information about overarching policies such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also includes information about efficiency, budgeting, resource allocation and the use of technology in the practice of public health. This class may also explore some of the settings in which public health services are provided, including clinics, hospitals, communities, and refugee centers.

4. Health Promotion and Communication

Health promotion and communication is a class designed for people who will work directly with the public or who will create public health messages for the public to receive. Health promotion and health education is usually a concentration, and there is a certification for it that many individuals earn after getting their MPH. Some of the topics explored in health promotion and communication classes include how to formulate messages for different populations and how to evaluate the effectiveness of those public health messages.

5. Epidemiology

According to the Harvard University T. H. Chan School of Public Health, epidemiology is also one of the five key courses in an MPH program. Students focusing on epidemiology may take multiple courses in the subject. Epidemiology is the study of acute and chronic diseases that affect people. Some specialty courses in epidemiology include infectious disease and cancer epidemiology. Biostatistics and epidemiology often cross paths, and most epidemiologists work with or have similar skills to those of biostatisticians.

All public health students will take these five key courses for their MPH. Most MPH programs require that students choose a concentration, and they will take more classes in that area. Having a broad overview of all public health competencies is the result of taking these five key courses in an MPH degree program.