Masters of Public Health (MPH) Degree in California


While many states compare the health of their residents against a single set of national data metrics when evaluating and developing public health initiatives, California has made interstate comparison the focus of its recent Let’s Get Healthy California task force. The task force’s 2012 report sits at the center of the state’s health initiatives, with the primary goal of making California the healthiest state in the nation by comprehensively examining successful public health efforts in other states alongside the state’s own programs.


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To do this, the nation’s most populous state has identified a total of 30 different priorities that it believes can be used as factors to measure how healthy California is overall. Alongside this, the report identified what it believes to be the primary cause of health problems in the state: disparity based on socio-economic conditions, demographic, and geography. The underlying belief within California’s public health community today is that by reducing and eliminating these disparities, the state will be able to close gaps in its health system and become the healthiest state in the U.S.


Let’s Get Healthy California holds conferences, with members of the public health community from every level attending. Their intent is to appoint another taskforce to review the state’s health improvements since the initial report and to discuss ways to continue lowering healthcare costs, redesigning the health system, and creating healthier communities.


The engagement of master’s-prepared public health professionals in health policy throughout every step of this process is evident, and will be crucial for continued health improvement if California really intends to be the healthiest state in the nation.


Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in California


The Master of Public Health (MPH) is an interdisciplinary and highly customizable degree that would prepare graduates for careers in public health program design and evaluation, policy development, public health marketing and communication, epidemiology and more. A wide variety of specializations and course options are available that allow students to tailor their program to their unique professional goals.


The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is ideal for public health professionals seeking career advancement, but also versatile enough to suit the needs of bachelor’s-educated professionals with a background in such areas as health administration, business administration, nursing, education, public administration, business and more.


MPH Program Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is responsible for approving and sponsoring MPH programs. Since 2004, CEPH accredited programs have been based on the MPH Core Competency Model developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). These five competencies are:


  • Health Policy Management
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Epidemiology


The ASPH also recommends that MPH programs focus on these 7 interdisciplinary areas designed to prepare graduates to become leaders in public health policy development, program administration and more:


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


Areas of 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 in 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 policy makers and industry leaders informed about issues like the ACA and helping to ensure that policy is effective. Health policy specialists focus their efforts towards 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 in 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 Caltran 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 their own 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 specialist 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


Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options


Most MPH programs offer students an online part-time option, allowing them the flexibility they need to pursue their graduate degree over the course of 3-4 years while maintaining employment.


Most MPH programs also offer an accelerated one-year option that allows full-time graduate students to earn their master’s degree in as little as 12 months.


Admission Requirements


Schools of public health that offer MPH programs maintain their own admission standards, but the following is representative of requirements typical of most institutions.


  • Submission of GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
  • Submission of official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended
  • Submission of a 500-1000 word purpose essay
  • Professional résumé
  • Two letters of recommendation


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


According to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), a number of key public health professions are slated for significant growth in the coming years. In 2014, the DOL released the following employment projections for a number of public health professions in California for the ten-year period from 2012 to 2022:


  • Social and Community Service Managers-17%
  • Statisticians-32%
  • Microbiologists-20%
  • Biological Scientists-12%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors- 19%


Salaries for Public Health Professions in California that Require a Master’s Degree


In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics provided the following salary figures for a number of public health professions in California. The salary ranges shown below represent the 10th percentile (entry-level) to the 90th percentile (highly experienced):


  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $20,020 to $56,840
  • Social Scientists: $46,700 to $113,910
  • Biological Scientists: $48,740 to $119,050
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $41,710 to $120,840
  • Microbiologists: $50,110 to $148,860


Career Opportunities for Master’s-Educated Public Health Professionals in California


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.):


Statistician, CEP America


  • Responsibilities
    • Isolate clinical and business issues
    • Design and execute analytics for studying business issues related to health
    • Brinch technical expertise to research including utilization, financial analysis, and deep data analysis
    • Vet findings and make formal recommendations
  • Requirements
    • Extensive health care, clinical, and operational experience
    • Five years of industry experience in data mining and statistical analysis
    • Familiarity with Stata, R, SAS, and SPSS
    • Experience in data aggregation, defining facts, dimensions, KPIS, and hierarchies
    • Excellent presentation and communication skills


Triage Care Manager, Magellan Health


  • Responsibilities
    • Work with community agencies as appropriate
    • Management of mental health and substance abuse resources and providers
    • Monitor inpatient and intermediate care
    • Interact with Physician Advisors to discuss Clinical and authorization questions
    • Participate in data collection, tracking, and analysis
  • Requirements
    • Three years experience post degree in psychiatric or substance abuse health care setting
    • Knowledge of and experience with management procedures related to mental health and substance abuse
    • Ability to analyze specific utilization problems and implement solutions that influence care
    • Computer Skills