Lack of Direct Public Health Experience?

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2+ Year Member
Feb 19, 2017
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Hi everyone,

I'm considering applying for MPH programs for the Fall 2018 cycle and have a few questions as someone brand new to the field of public health. After reading through countless pages of the "Accepted/Rejected" threads, I'm extremely concerned my lack of volunteer/research directly related to Public Health is going to handicap me to the point it might be worth taking another year (Fall 2019) to somehow gain more experience. I'm interested in specializing in Environmental Health.

I currently have 2.5 years as an Environmental Geologist. My work broadly involves protecting human health, but I am not directly involved in the health aspect (risk exposure/toxicology) of my projects. I work primarily in geologic investigations to evaluate soil/water for contamination and how to prevent potential contamination or remediate existing contamination. Much of my work focuses on projects under State/Fed regulations for environmental quality. Working on these projects and seeing the impact on human health has been my motivation for going back to school in order to shift my focus.

My undergrad (B.S., Earth and Environmental Science, University of Michigan) cumulative GPA is 3.79, Major GPA is 3.98.

I was extremely interested in medicine and human biology at the outset of college, but just didn't want to pursue medicine and didn't know what other options were available to me at the time. As such, I do have 1 year of biomedical research with a second author publication in a biochemistry journal. Research poster was also showcased at an undergrad research symposium. I've continued research in my professional life, with second authorship at a recent professional hydrogeology symposium.

I've just been elected as an executive board member for a fairly well known environmental protection organization.

I was recently accepted to a 1 year grad certificate for Public Health (essentially the core courses) starting in Fall 2017 that I am considering to strengthen my application for a full MPH in Fall 2018. I think I can do fairly well on the coursework. It is unfortunately unlikely that there are research opportunities for certificate students. Is this certificate a good idea for someone like me?

I just took a GRE diagnostic test last week without any prior study prep and scored a 159V and 151Q. I'm REALLY hoping to get both scores above 160 by the time I take the real exam.

Can anyone comment on whether it is worth applying for Fall 2018 MPH? What can I do in the next 6-8 months to strengthen an application? Is this public health certificate a good idea to get graduate coursework in public health? Which schools should I consider with my background? Is there any potential I'd be considered for any funding?



If I were you, I wouldn't do the certificate. A lot of the information you learn in MPH school will likely duplicate it and you've had wasted money.

I got into the majority of my MPH programs with no true "public health" experience. Unless you're applying for extremely competitive programs, I think your experience looks fine.


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Oct 3, 2016
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Hi! Honestly I was in the same position as you were. I was working at an environmental toxicology lab when I decided to apply to a MPH program this last cycle. My stats are also similar. Personally, I got in touch with my local health department and started volunteering--basically doing whatever I could to connect my environmental experience to real world public health. This seemed to help given that I got into every MPH program I applied to, all in which were top tier schools. If you want to go into environmental health, or global health with an environmental focus than I think your experience alone would be good. In your essay just be sure to explicitly state why your current path connects to your future as a public health professional. Hope this help! Good luck!