Public health is the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research, and promotion of healthy lifestyles. In public health, the focus is on health promotion and disease/injury prevention; this is in contrast to the medical model of care,which focuses more heavily upon diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions after they occur. Because of their "big picture" perspective, public health experts play a key role in emergency preparedness and response. This may be why public health has become such a growing field in recent years.
You can earn over fifteen degrees from an accredited school of public health, including undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees. The most common are:
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Health Administration (MHA)
- Master of Science (MS)
- Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH)
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
- Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
- Doctor of Science (ScD)
There are over 20 major fields of study. The five core disciplines are:
- Behavioral Science/Health Education
- Environmental Health
- Health Services Administration
Applications for most public health programs are processed through the Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS), but a number of programs require you to directly apply to their program.
Because of the wide variety of degrees and emphases in the field of public health, it is nearly impossible to generalize about the course curriculum students interested in the field should follow, but a balance between the natural and social sciences should be struck. Consulting with your advisor and the requirements of programs in which you are interested is highly recommended.
Entrance Exam Requirements
The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is one exam that may be required by public health programs, though they may require the GRE, GMAT, or even the LSAT.
Letters of Evaluation/Recommendation
Your adviser from the Health Professions Advising Committee may compose a composite letter from the letters of recommendation you solicit from professors, supervisors, research mentors, and others who know you in professional or service contexts; that letter will also contain a rating of you on behalf of the committee based on your academic record, service, experience, and other factors. Students should consult early and closely with their adviser to determine whom to solicit for letters of recommendation and determine exactly what kinds of letters are required by the programs to which they are applying.
Schools usually require personal, on-campus interviews, though how many applicants are interviewed and at what point in the application timeline those interviews take place varies widely. Members of the Health Professions Advising Committee conduct at least one mock interview with applicants the spring before they apply; subsequent mock interviews are readily available and heartily encouraged.