Earning a Master's in Public Health can boost almost any career through the acquisition of enhanced credibility and more advanced knowledge. Public health degrees can be pursued by individuals involved in a wide range of fields, including government, business, hospitality management, and more. Many Master's degrees require only two years to complete, and many programs allow some or all of the required coursework to be completed online. In some cases, employers may even be willing to pay for tuition. Individuals working in a field related to public health should, therefore, consider what coursework is involved in a Master's degree and how it might help strengthen their career.
1. Fundamentals of Health and Society
While Master's degrees focus on taking a student's understanding to a higher level, most public health programs begin with a fundamentals course to ensure that all incoming students are on the same page. Schools want students to take a fundamentals course at the beginning of their program to ensure that they are capable of keeping up with future coursework. Although the precise name of a fundamentals course may vary, students can expect to see at least one of these classes on their schedule upon beginning their degree.
2. Public Health Policy
Many students go into government after graduating with a public health degree. Universities, therefore, often incorporate a public health policy course into the curricula of all students so that they graduate with a thorough understanding of regulatory considerations. Even if students do not plan to work in government, they will still need to understand the principles of public policy in order to communicate with public health officials effectively. For these reasons, completing a public health policy course can add value to individuals employed in both the public and private sectors.
3. Principles of Epidemiology
A thorough understanding of epidemiology is important for health practitioners because viruses and infections are unavoidable everywhere in the world. In fact, the prevalence of infectious diseases would be much higher than it is in modern society without the help of public health professionals. For Master's degrees in public health, university administrators tend to emphasize epidemiology in curricula to ensure that graduates understand how to avoid and manage epidemics.
4. Environmental Health
Environmental health is an increasingly important consideration in a world where chemicals and pollution can ruin entire habitats and communities. Students can expect to take at least one environmental health course to learn how to develop a disaster response plan, manage response teams, and prevent reoccurance. Students will also learn how to prevent environmental disasters at the strategic level.
5. Occupational Safety Management
With thousands of workers suffering workplace injuries on a monthly basis, public health officials capable of systemically reducing the prevalence of these injuries are in more demand than ever before. Likewise, students can expect to take occupational safety courses while pursuing their Master's degree. Most schools emphasize the legal and managerial aspects of occupational safety so that graduates enter the workforce with the skills and knowledge necessary for decision-making related to occupational safety.
The prestige and challenge associated with earning a Master's degree often discourages students from considering an advanced public health program because of a personal perception of inferiority. In contrast, the reality is that students who even consider the idea of a Master's degree tend to be the highest performers. Moreover, universities often go out of their way to help students understand and acquire the prerequisites they are missing for admission. Students considering options for career advancement should, therefore, have the confidence to investigate whether a Master's degree in Public Health might be right for them.