Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree in California

Get to Know Public Health in California


Welcome to the California public health education page. California is a unique state for the need of public health professionals. With a range of land and coastline with many small towns next to bigger cities from Sacramento to San Francisco, San Jose, Los Angeles and San Diego; California is the most populous state in the nation. With a large population there will always be a need for public health professionals in CA. That being said there are many options of what path you may want to take to find a fitting placement in public health. As we have entered the era of COVID, it has never been more apparent of the importance for professionals in public health roles. You will find recommended CEPH accredited programs that can be accessed 100% online. The interesting part about online programs is you may find a fitting college that is out of state, yet engage in a courses from the comfort of home or workspace of choice in the beautiful State of California.

Earning Your Master of Public Health (MPH) in California

California has tried to make getting your Master’s in Public Health relatively easy and affordable. 17 universities are offering a diverse range of programs. Your degree can be obtained at a public or private university and some of the best programs in the country are offered by UC Berkley California and the University of California.

For working professionals who are busy, but still desire to hone their skills and get their degree, there numerous online programs designed to be flexible, accommodating, and efficient.

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

Most master’s programs offer flexible options for credit loads that allow students to graduate at their own pace. MPH programs are no exception.

Part-time options allow busy students to complete their program in as long as four years. For students working full time or pursuing other professional and academic goals, this may be the best option for earning an MPH.

However, most MPH programs also offer an accelerated one-year option that takes the opposite approach. Students take on a heavier course load and can graduate in as little as 12 months. The curriculum is no different than a standard online or campus-based MPH program but is designed around a much more intensive schedule.

What is CEPH Accreditation?

CEPH accreditation simply means that the Council on Education for Public Health has looked at the program offered to ensure that it aligns with the overall health education standards. The agency is independent but recognized by the United States Department of Education. Recruiters will often only take graduates who have studied CEPH accredited programs, so it’s worth investing in one.


Q: What’s the Difference Between Bachelor Degree & Master’s Degree in Public Health? :

It’s important to note that you don’t need a bachelor’s degree in public health to do your masters. As a result, the majority of people go into related fields initially, these include nutrition, health administration, nursing, and environmental health. If your heart is set on getting your bachelor’s in public health, then you have a few options in California.

The Bachelor’s in Public Health is an undergraduate degree that focuses on the 4 Ps of public health: Prevention, Promotion, Protection, and Population-based care. It can be obtained through a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. The former attracts individuals interested in the cultural and economic aspects of public health while the latter is more focused on natural sciences with coursework in math, statistics, and chemistry-related work.

A Master’s in Public Health is far more common as the program accepts students from almost any previous bachelor’s background. California has 127 CEPH accredited public health programs, more than any other state in the country. The Master’s program is far more in-depth and focuses on five core specializations, which we delve into a little later in this guide.

Many MPH programs require students to engage in practical components, which can take the form of internships or on-the-job training while under supervision. Some programs also have semester-long research projects and grant proposals as part of the coursework. The goal behind the MPH is to prepare students for theoretical, research-heavy aspects and the practical, socially reliant requirements of working in public health.

Students with an MPH will have a wider variety of career options, can command a more competitive income, have added benefits, and have the opportunity to work with like-minded professionals who have a common core goal.

Q: Where do Public Health Professionals Work in California?

Public health professionals have a choice of a variety of work locations and it often depends on your chosen field. If you’re more inclined to working with data and research, then public and private laboratories would be where most of your work is done. Office work and state health departments also offer jobs to MPH graduates. For those who prefer human interaction, there are jobs available at colleges, universities, and out in the community.

Step One: Know the Basics

To quality for an MPH program, you need to have an undergraduate degree in any field. Undergraduate degrees in health administration, business, nutrition, and healthcare, and education will help as these fields fall into the MPG coursework in some respect. Work experience in these fields will also be beneficial, although it’s not required.

Academic Overview

The standards for MPH programs are set by the Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH). When applying for programs it’s important to look out for CEPH accreditation as most jobs will require degree holders who have studied a program accredited by the CEPH. These CEPH programs are based on the MPH Core Competency Model, which was developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). These competencies are:

While the five core competencies form the basis of MPH programs, the ASPH also identified seven interdisciplinary areas of focus that it is believed to be necessary for a graduate to function in a contemporary public health setting. These are:

  • Communication and Informatics
  • Diversity and Culture
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Program Planning
  • Public Health Biology
  • Systems Thinking

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for master’s programs will differ from program to program and universities will usually list their specific requirements. However, generally speaking, the list below is a standard set of requirements for graduate-level MPH programs:

  • Submission of GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
  • Submission of official transcripts from all other undergraduate and graduate institutions
  • Submission of a 500-1000 word purpose essay
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation
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Step Two: Choosing a California Public Health School

You’ll be met with an abundance of options when you start your search for a good MPH program in California. When choosing your school, the first thing to keep in mind is CEPH accreditation. Note down some of the aspects of public health that you would like to learn more about and see if there are programs that specifically look at this in your coursework. Also, keep location and tuition fees in mind. California has many coastal and inland universities and you’d want to choose somewhere close to where you live; the traffic is notoriously crazy and a private university’s tuition fees can be far higher than a public university. If avoiding the traffic and cutting costs are at the top of your priority list, then you can look at any one of the many online programs offered.

Getting Your MPH Online in California

Balancing family, work, and studying sounds daunting. Without online programs, it would be nearly impossible, but because of technology we now have the resources to study from home.

California State University offers one of the best online MPH programs in California. The 41-credit degree is completed in two years by most students. To keep the program flexible, but engaging, there are no campus visits, but students do meet online one evening per week.

The curriculum covers course in health education and environmental health. Included in the course is an all-inclusive exam and a 300-hour supervised, field-training expedition that is conducted in a local nonprofit, health organization, or hospital. This is just one example of an online MPH course. California has hundreds, so there will certainly be one that suits your schedule and time.

Step Three: Choosing a Public Health Specialization:

Most MPH programs offer specialty tracks as well as the option to further customize the program with courses in various areas of focus. These specialty tracks are not available at all schools, but provide a good example of how the MPH can be customized to suit individual career goals:

Health Communication

Health Communication: The California Department of Public Health regularly updates the public about the current state of health in California through online educational campaigns. These campaigns cover topics ranging from vaccination shortages to holiday health warnings. Published in English and Spanish, the goal of these postings is to keep the public as informed as possible about potential risks. Identifying information that needs to reach the public and ensuring that it is marketed appropriately is the responsibility of health communication experts. These specialists are educated in marketing methods for reaching the public, as well as communicating effectively within the public health professional community. They are uniquely trained to identify and address health risks through educational programming and information sharing, and their presence is felt in every public health awareness month, newsletter, and educational campaigns that the state’s public health agencies provide.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Leadership Seminar
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing and Research for Public Health

Health Policy

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) now provides care for millions of Californians through Medi-Cal and Covered California. However, the program is not perfect and needs to be continually updated to ensure those with limited means and access to healthcare get the care that they need at a price they can afford.

Organizations like the California Healthcare Foundation are responsible for keeping policymakers and industry leaders informed about issues like the ACA and helping to ensure that policy is effective. Health policy specialists focus their efforts on understanding the impact of specific policies as well as the legislative process.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Public Health and Law
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Law, Medicine, and Ethics

Program Planning and Evaluation

California is home to nearly 10 percent of all roadway fatalities in the U.S. according to the Department of Transportation. However, road safety is such a huge state is a complex issue. Evaluating the impact of terrain, construction policies, driver education, and law enforcement, is a highly involved process.

However, a tool developed by program planning and evaluation experts at Caltrans aims to make this process easier. Partnering with UCLA Berkeley, scientists have developed a data-driven tool that can make reliable projections based on data coming from a variety of different places at once. This has helped to bring a level of consistency to the state’s unreliable road safety data, which was previously not thought possible. The skills needed to apply the data to real-world applications and evaluate its effects falls within the purview of program planning and evaluation specialists.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing Research for Public Health

Global Health

Organizations like the Red Cross are responsible for organizing aid efforts all over the world through local chapters. They coordinate everything from blood drives to disaster relief and play a vital role in keeping regions safe and healthy regardless of whether or not that region has the infrastructure in place to do so.

Understanding how a region can be best helped and coordinating international health efforts is exactly the kind of task that would fall to experts in global health. Global health specialists are experts in the many factors that influence health on a global scale and are dedicated to educating and aiding people from all over the world about appropriate interventions.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Climate Change and Social Change

Job Growth Projections – Master’s-Educated Public Health Professionals in California:

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California will see strong job growth in the public health sector during the ten years between 2016 and 2026:

  • Social and Community Service Managers +17.8%
  • Statisticians +34.9%
  • Microbiologists +9.6%
  • Biological Scientists +11.7%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors +12.1%

Salary Range – Public Health Professions in California that Require a Master’s Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics provided the following figures for public health jobs in California in 2019. The salaries below range from the bottom tenth percentile to the 90th percentile:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $38,530 – $119,050
  • Statisticians: $61,880 – $162,480
  • Microbiologists: $59,930 – $146,920
  • Biological Scientists: $55,600 – $147,750
  • Epidemiologists- $55,780 – $127,430
  • Social Scientists- $48,480 – $119,400
  • Rehabilitation Counselors- $24,690 – $60,190

Overview: Public Health Careers in California

Putting together a taskforce as driven as Let’s Get Healthy California and Health in All Policies takes a lot of work. Both public and private health care professionals continue to step up and contribute to the research, data, and subsequent programs to ensure that all Californians have access to suitable healthcare.

A career in public health in California will see professionals working with three core aims; prevention measures, patient-centered care, and a reduction in healthcare costs. To combat the socio-economic disparities, health-workers look at complex challenges and use the resources of a range of different partners, both public and private, to work towards a common goal.

Health care professionals looked at some of the biggest threats to public health – such as obesity, diabetes, and asthma – concerning education, age, sex, geographical location, race and ethnicity, and income. The results show an interesting shift in health awareness in terms of age and socio-economic conditions, with older adults suffering from a greater obesity rate regardless of education levels, while asthma levels are higher in young adults, particularly those from underserved areas.

In addition to tackling tobacco-related illnesses, which saw a 28% reduction in lung cancer rates, California also has one of the best mental health programs in the US. There’s a lot of work going into improving the health of its residents and it’s primarily due to the clear goals outlined by public health care professionals.

Career Opportunities With a Public Health Degree in California

As the population and pollution in California grow, there’s an increasing urgency for effective and fair public health initiatives to be studied and implemented. The chance to improve one person’s life and assist with their health goals is extremely rewarding, and doing this on a collective scale can have a huge impact on millions of people’s lives.

Universities in California offer students the unique opportunity to work with the people who need it most – diverse, but underserved communities located near the Mexican border. If you choose to study your Masters in Public Health in California, you’ll have a wide range of programs to choose from. There are currently 19 accredited schools covering 96 programs.

The degree delves into the research, theory, and practice elements of public health to prepare graduates to be experts in their selective fields. Armed with this knowledge and the research-intensive coursework, individuals have a plethora of jobs to choose from across government, public, and private healthcare professions. California’s previous and current programs show the impact that people who work in the public health sector can have on an entire state. At the core of it, this is a career with purpose.

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The Master of Public Health is an interdisciplinary degree that allows professionals to augment existing education and experience in diverse areas like biostatistics and healthcare management, preparing graduates to work in nearly any area of public health. (The following examples were found by surveying job vacancy announcements in California in January 2016 and are not representative of a job offer or assurance of employment.):

Public Health Professionals drive the changes and initiatives implemented by the state. These changes helped Let’s Get Healthy California to identify one of the primary causes of health problems in the state: disparity based on social-economic conditions, demographics, and geography. By reducing eliminate disparities, then California will be able to close the gaps in the health system and lead the way on public health initiatives.

Eight years down the line and California has leaped from number 21 to number 12 in the nation’s healthiest states rankings. By holding conferences with members of the public health community, appointing an additional taskforce, Health in All Policies (HiAP), to review the state’s health improvements, and discussing ways to continue lowering health care costs, public health professionals have managed to redesign the system and create healthier Californian communities.

With so much happening in the public health sector in California, there are several highly-accredited programs and jobs available. It’s a chance to be a part of a massive change in the system and to drive healthcare initiatives from the ground up. In this guide, we are going to go over the basic information needed to decide if a California public health degree is the right direction for you, as well as the average expectations regarding the position, salary, licensing, and more.

Public Health Resources for Students & Professionals

California Department of Public Health

The website for the California Department of Public Health has a user-friendly interface designed for interested individuals to find out more about California’s health initiatives, the progress on diseases and chronic conditions, the health and safety policies, and information on licensing, certificates, registrations, and healthcare professionals.

State of California: Official Website

For any travel, living, health, or state-related information, the official website for the state of California is a great resource. If you’re thinking of relocating to California this is a great way to get an idea of where to live and what California has to be offered in terms of lifestyle and standard of living.