Masters of Public Health (MPH) Degree in Pennsylvania


An accredited MPH program provides an interdisciplinary education designed to prepare graduates to formulate effective public health policy, to design and construct public health initiatives, and to effectively implement and evaluate programs customized to address specific public health threats, whether isolated to a small community or impacting people around the world. There is no better example of coordinated public health efforts in action than the steps the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) has taken to curtail the incidents of opioid drug overdose in recent years.


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A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released in 2015 showed that the previous year’s drug overdose rates had hit record highs. The death of more than 47,000 people nationwide in 2014 due to drug overdose shocked policy makers across the country, and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PDH) responded with a comprehensive plan. According to the PDH, nearly 2,500 Pennsylvanians died from an overdose in 2014. Specifically, a report from the PDH cited a quadrupling of opioid usage and has targeted opioids in their anti overdose initiative. This included making medications available to first responders that can reverse opioid overdose, developing new partnerships between emergency services and drug treatment providers, and providing outlets for the proper disposal of prescription drugs.


This large-scale coordinated effort is the result of the focused attention of public health policy developers, health communications specialists and program administrators; armed with the skills they developed earning a Master of Public Health (MPH).


Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Pennsylvania


The Master of Public Health is interdisciplinary and customizable in nature. It is designed to advance the careers of public health professionals, but is also perfect for bachelor’s-educated professionals from diverse fields. A background in health administration, business administration, social work, communications, teaching or psychology, can all play an important role in preparing a student for a future in public health policy, epidemiology, global health, health communication or program management and evaluation.


MPH Program Overview


Accredited MPH programs adhere to the recommendations of the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) by aligning with the MPH Core Competency Model. The five core competencies that students can expect all accredited MPH programs to cover are:


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


The ASPH also identified seven crosscutting disciplines specific to the skills necessary to develop effective public health policy and see it through to execution. MPH programs would include some combination of these seven disciplines.


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




MPH programs encourage students to choose a specialty track or otherwise customize their educational experience based on career goals by selecting relevant electives. A specialization is a focused track of 10-15 additional credit hours that will help to further focus a graduate student’s academic focus:


Health Communication: All the programming and initiatives in the world mean very little if the public does not know they exist or is not able to understand them. Health communication specialists combine the worlds of public health and marketing together, finding unique and interesting ways to ensure that the public is made aware of any potential health and safety risks while also ensuring that the language and avenues used to communicate that information are accessible to the general public.


In South Sterling, Pennsylvania, a dairy farm selling raw milk was contaminated with a Listeria infection. Communicating the risks associated with Listeria and warning consumers about the dangers of that farm in particular was the job of a health communication specialist. All of this was communicated through the Pennsylvania Pressroom, an outlet available through the PDH that makes health based communications clear and readily available to the public. Learning how to develop a tool like this is just one small part of a health communication focused MPH program.


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: Budgeting for an individual or a family is difficult enough. Putting together a budget meant to fund the healthcare of millions of people is a seemingly impossible task tackled by legislatures every single year. Government officials rely on the work of organizations like the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center (PBPC) to help ensure that the policy they develop is actually impactful.


In particular, the PBPC relied on health policy experts to inform recommendations they made related to mental health funding. The PBCP recently pushed to repeal funding cuts to mental health made in previous years that have hampered efforts in Pennsylvania to improve mental health across the board.


These health policy experts play a crucial role in the development of a wide array of health policies, and they developed the skills necessary to waltz between complex data analysis, dense policy development, and health risk assessment in a health policy focused MPH program.


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: In November of 2015, the PDH set aside $2 million in funding for research related to treating childhood seizures. Organizations across the state are currently bidding for access to the funds, developing a variety of proposals for research into the use of a variety of different methods for treating seizures.


Developing those proposals, engaging in research and data analysis, and then developing programs in response are all skills that can be honed in a program planning and evaluation focused MPH program. Statistical analysis and data based predictions are key components of this kind of work, and no specialization better prepares MPH students for a future as a statistician or epidemiologist.


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: In early 2015, Great Britain and Northern Ireland contributed $100 million towards pioneering new research into dementia. Dementia impacts aging populations across the world, and its pervasiveness is matched only by the potential it has to cripple those suffering from it.


Understanding how a condition like dementia impacts different populations and implementing methods for treating and mitigating its effects is the responsibility of global health professionals.


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


Part time MPH programs are often the best option for busy professionals trying to balance their personal, professional and academic obligations with minimal disruption to work and family life. Most MPH programs will have distinct tracks that allow students to complete studies over the course of as many as four years.


For students hoping to speed up their studies, accelerated one-year options are usually available. An MPH student on an accelerated track can expect to finish their degree in as little as 12 months.


Job Growth Projections for Public Health Professions in Pennsylvania that Require a Master’s Degree


According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the public health industry is continuing to thrive in the post recession world. Many public health careers are expected to growth based on projections of the next 10 years. The following are job growth projections for some of Pennsylvania’s key public health professions that require a graduate-level education for the ten-year period ending 2022:


  • Social and Community Service Managers-12%
  • Statisticians-26%
  • Microbiologists-8%
  • Biological Scientists-3%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors-21%


Salaries for Master’s Educated Public Health Professionals in Pennsylvania


The following salary data specific to public health jobs in Pennsylvania typically associated with a master’s-level education was originally published by the US Department of Labor in 2014. The ranges shown below represent the tenth percentile and the 90th percentile:


  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $23,010 to $53,780
  • Statisticians: $41,550 to $136,100
  • Biological Scientists: $57,800 to $110,670
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $36,770 to $95,510
  • Microbiologists: $40,760 to $120,990


Career Opportunities in Pennsylvania for Public Health Professionals with a Master’s Degree


Since the MPH can be tailored by choosing a specialty track or otherwise customized by selecting courses based on career-focused objectives, MPH programs are able to prepare graduate students for a diverse array of careers in public health. The job descriptions shown below were taken from a survey of vacancy announcements for public health professionals in Pennsylvania in January 2016. (Examples shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to imply a job offer or assurance of employment.):


Director of Advanced Analytics. AmeriHealth Caritas


  • Responsibilities
    • Oversee a small team of statisticians
    • Design and implement advanced predictive and descriptive modeling methodologies.
    • Design and execute disease predictive models
    • Search for patterns and trends in cost and utilization
    • Work with clinical experts to develop explanatory models related to Asthma, Diabetes, heart failure, mental health, and high risk pregnancies
  • Requirements
    • Ten or more years developing predictive models in a healthcare setting, preferably health plan analytics
    • Experience with SAS Enterprise Miner


Manager of Service Coordination, MSW


  • Responsibilities
    • Provide oversight and supervision for service coordinators
    • Stay up to date on applicable federal, state, and local health laws
    • Manage guided by principles of consumer control and independent living
  • Requirements
    • Two years of management experience
    • Willingness to obtain Case Manager Certification within one year of employment


Microbiologist, U.S. Navy


  • Responsibilities
    • Consult and conduct infectious disease research
    • Participate in operational deployments
    • Conduct defensive research, including vaccine development
    • Supervise clinical/public health microbiology laboratories
    • Serve as a liaison to executive and commanding officers.
  • Requirements
    • S. Citizenship
    • GPA of 3.0 or higher
    • Minimum of eight hours of laboratory based classwork
    • Willingness to serve a minimum of three years active duty
    • Pass a physical and medical examination