5+ Year Member
Nov 24, 2010

I recently came across this forum. I received my B.S. in Biology this past May from the University of Maryland with a 3.7 GPA. I had two internships related to public health -- the first with a private consulting and research company that does secondary research on different projects involving food safety, bioterrorism, and health policy, and the second with AHRQ (a subagency of HHS) helping out with the CHIPRA project, which involved children's healthcare quality measures in different states across the U.S. I am now teaching high school biology in Los Angeles through the nonprofit organization Teach For America, and have decided that education is not for me, so I'm planning on enrolling in a Master's program in public health for the fall of 2012.

I've read about the different degrees offered in public health both on different websites of Schools of Public Health and in some threads on here. My understanding is that an MPH is a more applied degree that can be used out in the field doing different types of work in the public and private sector, and that an MS is more so for research. I'm a little iffy as to which degree, if either of them, would be appropriate for me.

I know I'm interested in epidemiology, and would probably like to focus on that because I enjoy its interdisciplinary nature (I like biology, statistics, and public policy). I'm just not sure where to go from there. Yes, I'm interested in epidemiology but what do I need to decide now? I'm not really sure what long term goals I have. I enjoy doing research and writing, but I also enjoy public speaking and working with others.

I'd appreciate any suggestions anyone has for possible areas of consideration or possible degrees/careers given my experience and interests. Feel free to message me or reply to this. Thanks!

(Also, I told my old boss that I may want to apply for an MPH and she replied that she didn't think an MPH would be the best use of my skills and interests).
Nov 25, 2010
I think an MPH is really what you make of it. I loved the classes because I enjoy the interdisciplinary nature of public health too, but I haven't found that the MPH is a very marketable asset, even in public health fields.

My advice for you if you go the MPH route is to look for a program that will really train you in a skill. If you can point to a strong experience in data management, or use of SAS/SPSS/EpiInfo, as two examples, you'll get a lot more out of the program.

Programs that are independent schools of public health are generally stronger than MPH programs run as graduate programs in a medical school.

More than anything, networking is key. Check out the faculty (and their interests) at schools you're considering and see if there are research projects that you will be able to participate in.

Good luck!
Aug 19, 2010
Other Health Professions Student
I just wanted to add you should avoid health promotion as a major if you do not enjoy teaching it will be a similar experience. I would suggest in addition to epi if you like statistics you consider majoring in biostatistics. Especially if you aren't sure public health is right for you this degree can be used in the IT field also. Grads in this at my school have gone on to work for Google and other non health related jobs.