What you need to know about Masters of Public Health (MPH) Degree Programs in the USA

Masters of Public Health (MPH) concentrations

I will start with the various concentrations (area of specialization) in MPH and link it with the job prospects after graduation. You must choose one when applying to Masters of Public Health (MPH) programs. 

Most universities offer these concentrations:
- Biostatistics
- Epidemiology
- Health Policy & Management*
(or Health Service Administration)

 HPM is referred to as HSM by most programs 

Few universities also offer the following concentrations:
- Women's Health,
- Global Health,
- Community Health,
- Social & Behavioral Health,
- Environmental Health
- And others......

However, few universities offer general MPH without concentrations. 

So, what are the job prospects?

It all depends on your work permits. If you are a citizen or a permanent resident, it is easier to secure a job after graduating from any of these concentrations. The odds are still higher for biostats and epidem. 

If you do not have a working permit (citizen/P.resident), you would need a company to file for you. Although I have few friends that have been lucky enough to get after their MPH, but it is not common. 

I know what many of you feel about Health Service Administration (or Health Policy & Mgt). I know you believed that it would help you manage an hospital better. Yes, it is true but universities' curriculum are geared towards the American health system. 

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Besides, the competition is high in this concentration. First, it is usually the number one concentration for Americans. So, you have to compete with them. Second, you also have to compete with people with MBAs. 

So, biostatistics and epidemiologists are some of the areas abandoned by people because it involves lots of calculations and the ability to use one or more statistical softwares. The COVID-19 pandemic will also open up many opportunities in these 2. 

Without work permits, many people continue into Ph.D programs. Ph.D programs open up many opportunities than just MPH. It opens up the academic pathways (do a postdoctoral program and work in the university/ colleges), or be a researcher. 

Doctorate degree in the US elevates you to the few and therefore makes it easier for companies/institutions to file for you. Just 4.5% of the US population have Ph.D compared to 21% with masters. 

My advise: If you are not a medical graduate and want to go far in public health fields in the US or globally,
- choose any of the above concentration for your MPH
- focus on a particular research area
- Continue into the PhD
- Doors will eventually open 

Read also : 15 most generous scholarships in Canada.

For medical doctors going into MPH, I know the intent of thy heart😆. Residency is still possible after MPH but depends on a number of factors too, which I can't explain here. I will devote another section to that. 

N.B: I did not mention that job is not possible if you opted for any concentration. I have seen miracles happened. I will not use the fate of few to decide for everyone. I just explained the possibilities. Do not misunderstand my messages. 

Public health programs are not just meant for specific groups of people. Anyone can apply to these programs irrespective of their backgrounds. 

During my MPH program, I had colleagues who studied english (BSc). Some had philosophy, psychology, biology, geography, banking & finance. The most important factor during your application will be your PERSONAL STATEMENT. I will address that later. 

Although some specialties are a perfect fit for some concentrations. Mathematics/IT/data analyst for biostatistics; biology/microbiology/vet.med/medicine for epidemiology and so on. However, you can choose any concentration irrespective of your background. 

Read also : Funding for public health programs.

How to apply for Masters of Public Health (MPH) 

Most public health programs use the centralized application called SOPHAS sophas.org for their applications. Instead of sending your documents to each university directly, sophas will gather all your documents and send to them all. 

Which means you can apply to eight universities and send all your documents to sophas. Sophas will process and forward to the universities. Universities will receive and review your documents, they will inform you of their decisions (reject / accept) 

Once accepted, you can they start dealing with each university and provide them with other necessary document.
However, sophas is not free. You have to register first and see for yourself. Save money for applications. 

There are some universities that do not belong to these centralized application system. You have to send your application to them directly. it is costly too. This leads me to the next question... 

When to apply

I have described two set of applications above: SOPHAS or direct to the univ. This affects their timeline as well. SOPHAS schools receive applications once a year, usually opens in August for upcoming fall admission. 

Read also : How you can get admitted into a MS or PhD program in the USA with a Nigerian HND or its equivalent.

That is, application for the Fall 2021 will open in August 2020. Please note that nothing is 100 percent. Very few of the sophas universities can admit in January too. However, most of the non-sophas ones can admit in fall and January. Again, not all of them 

You need to check out the website of each school very well before applying. If they apply through sophas, it will be written boldly on the application/admission page. if sophas is written on their site, they would not deal with you directly until sophas has sent your applications to them. It takes a minimum of 4 weeks, after you have submitted every document, for sophas to process and forward to each school. 

I was banned from following people by twitter 3 days ago. i will follow back once the ban is over. 


The basic part of your application include:
1. Credentials
2. Resume
3. GRE
4. Personal statement
5. Letter of recommendations 

1. Credentials

You need to evaluate your degree and transcripts, preferably via WES. World Education Services: International Credential Evaluation.This process usually takes months, so start early. Go to the website, register and start now.

Read also : How to fund MSc or PhD Degree Programs in the USA.

The advantage of having your degree and transcript verified is that you will never have to do it again. WES will keep a copy for you. if anybody requested for your degree, even 7 years after, just log on to WES and make your order. It would be done. 

How does WES works ? It will contacts the registrar of your previous university, requesting for your official/stamped copy of your degree and transcripts. In a normal settings, the communication would be smooth and the university would send it right away. 

However, communication between WES and Nigerian universities do not go smoothly. It usually requires kolanut from you or else nothing will be done. My advice is to contact your school and be nice to them. Ask them what is needed to get things done. 

Some schools will tell you to pay for DHL/Fedex to get your package to them. Please endeavor to pay them and get it done. 

2. Resume or CV

Detail your activities during and after your undergraduate years that point towards public health. If you do not have any public health related experiences, no problem. You just have to do more writing in your personal statement on how the work you have done made you consider public health as a profession.

Include community services, volunteers, research, publications, NGO - church/mosques health outreaches.
if you still do not have any, you can still work on something before time. 

Read also : Tips on applying for BS/MS/PhD programs in USA colleges/universities.

How To Write A Good Resume.

3. GRE

For detailed info. gre.org This is an examination like IELTS but GRE has quantitative as well(mathematics). GRE is math and English exam. Total score is 340 (170 for math; 170 for English). 

What score is good enough for admission? Anything above 300 is good.
Is it compulsory for admission? For sophas schools, YES!
Please prepare well and get a great score. GRE score expires after 5 years. 

Which means that you will use it for MPH and for Ph. D admissions (if you decided to go for Ph.D) if you get like 290 and secure MPH admission, you might suffer for the low score during your Ph.D admission. So, prepare and do it well 

You can prepare on your own. I prepared during my housejob in Lagos and passed well. if you want, I can talk about resources that helped me score well in GRE. You should know that Americans write GRE for admission as well. 

Read also : How to become a permanent resident in Canada as a skilled immigrant.

GRE Materials

4. Personal Statement (PS)

Also called letter of purpose. Here, you have to discuss your background and how it fits into the MPH concentration of your choice. It is easier for your specialties like medicine, microbiology, and others 

However, if you studied english, psychology and other non-science related courses in your undergraduate, you have to frame your PS well enough to convince them of why you'll be better fit than others. Check google for help but don't plagiarize pls. 

5. Letter of recommendations (LOR)

You will need to provide 3 names of recommenders with their emails, on sophas or other software. The machine will contact each of them directly. Please follow up with your recommenders. 

if any of them delays, your sophas application delays. During my time, one of my recommenders did not want to do it for me but he couldn't tell me. Please avoid enemy of progress. You do not have to inform them that they should not bother. 

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Just add the name and email of the 4th recommender to sophas and let the new person complete theirs. 3 is the minimum.
That was what I did. My previous boss is yet to complete my sophas recommendation letter 6 years after. 

So, how do they decide your fate?
They use point system. For instance...
1. Credentials (CGPA) - 10 points
2. Resume/CV - 10 points
3. GRE - 10 points
4. Personal Statement - 10 points
5. Letter of recommendation - 10 points 

Then rank all applicants based on their points, then fund the first 5 or 6 students. They inform the other admitted students to either fund themselves or look for funding elsewhere. Can you decide to fund yourself, if you are a child of a politician, pls do 

Minimum tuition fee is about $8k per semester. its very cheap if we replace the dollar sign with the naira sign.😆
For non-sophas related schools. Most do not require GRE at all, meaning funding is not guaranteed. Most even accept documents directly. 

Where to apply

Public health schools can be grouped into two:
1. CEPH - accredited schools
2. Non-CEPH schools 

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1. CEPH - schools

Council on Education for Public Health(CEPH) is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health, and public health programs outside schools of public health. 

Next, it is important to understand the difference between CEPH accreditation and institutional accreditation. A university might have regional accreditation, which applies to the university as a whole, but not CEPH accreditation. 

Institutional accreditation focuses on macro-level issues that affect the entire university. It does not examine the specific curricula of public health
Specialized accreditation, such as CEPH accreditation, focuses on the training in a particular field eg PH 

Does it matter whether my degree is from CEPH accredited program? Some employment is only open to graduates of CEPH-accredited units. The US Public Health Service, some state and local government agencies require that MPH-level jobs be filled with graduates of CEPH-accredited schools and programs. Other employers may express a preference for graduates of CEPH-accredited units.

Some fellowships are only available to students attending CEPH-accredited schools and programs. 

Read also : How to start graduate school application.

In conclusion, 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. 

Where to find CEPH - accredited schools?

They all have a centralized application system called sophas. sophas.org

You can check the lists here: SOPHAS Participating Programs and Eligibility There are about 100 schools on this list 

As you know that quality of school is a huge factor in the US. Please look up the ranking of these schools here: Best Public Health Schools. You should understand that the first 15-20 public heath schools are usually competitive. Where you apply to depends on your profile. if you are applying to the first 1-15 in the ranking, ensure that you have a good profile.

Great resume - worked in public health,NGOs, publications,
Good GRE - >320 

Also write an awesome personal statement. Sometimes you might not have all that but you have a distinct accomplishment in your profile. If you have an average profile, and just want any CEPH schools, choose the lower ranked ones. 

2. Non CEPH accredited schools

They are also accredited programs by the university commission but not by Council of Education for Public Health(CEPH).

They are any universities that are not on the list above. They do not have a list. They are also good institutions but they do not want to belong to any union or body. You have to check them out on your own.
Application is individual - pay separate application fee, submit your credentials to each unlike sophas. 

Read also : Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in USA.

NOTE: Life is not just left and right. They are always uncertainties. I know friends that attended CEPH-accredited schools and couldn't find a job after MPH. I also know friends that attended non-CEPH schools and got a job post-graduation.