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13 Pros and Cons of a Master's in Public Health Program


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Public health is an up-and-coming field where you can really explore all the options that obtaining a master's in public health will afford you. Still, this degree is not suitable for everyone; is it right for you? Before you decide to dive headfirst into a master's in public health program, you should consider the pros and cons of this degree. Speaking of that, what are the pros and cons of a master's in public health program? Below you will find the top 13 pros and cons of a master's in public health program to help make your decision about pursuing this degree a bit easier.


What Is The Goal Of A Master’s in Public Health Program?


A Master’s of public health degree (MPH) is a post-graduate multi-disciplinary professional degree associated with public health. When you earn a master's degree in public health, your main goal will be to protect and improve the health of entire populations through education regarding preventing disease, prolonging life, and improving quality of life. You will educate communities of people about what are best health care practices. You will also find that once you have earned a master’s in public health, there is a variety of settings that you could work in such as government public health departments, community clinics, hospitals, non-profit organizations, research organizations, consulting companies, and universities.


TOP CONS OF A MASTER'S IN PUBLIC HEALTH PROGRAM

(The following are the top 13 disadvantages of an MPH program.)

1. You will need to put in some time.

The first thing is before you can even go and put the work into your Master's in public health degree, you will need to earn a bachelor's degree. It is recommended that you obtain your undergraduate degree in the health care field. Determining if you have the right Bachelor’s degree to start an MPH program is the best place to start if you are considering this journey.

2. You should be prepared for the long haul.

So, earning your Master's in public health degree will not be a quick endeavor. You are looking at dedicating months of your life to earning this degree. The amount of time that you need to dedicate to your education is one of the pros and cons of a master's in public health program you must weigh. For example, if you attend Baylor University, you will be looking at 18 months of school with choosing part-time study and 24 months of full-time study. At Tufts University, you will be able to earn this degree in 20 months. Not everyone will be able to dedicate this amount of time to their studies.

3. Does your GPA make the cut?

Many programs have a set standard that will require you to have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher to even be considered for their Master’s in public health degree program. For example, the University of Arizona requires students to have a 3.0 GPA in their undergraduate work to even apply for their program.

4. I hope you do not think this degree will be cheap.

It would be nice to think that earning your Master's in public health would be free, wouldn’t it? I’m sorry to burst your bubble; that idea is a pipe dream. The average cost for a master’s in public health program can range anywhere from $13,000 to $87,000. The University of Idaho will run you around $17,435.96 for an Idaho resident and $34,057.96 for a non-resident per year. At Concordia University, your total cost per year will be somewhere around $34,000. This is all starting to feel pretty pricey and the cost of a master's in health public health program is definitely one of the top disadvantages of a master's in public health program.

5. Is the program you intend to attend accredited?

Not every Master's in public health program that you will come across will be accredited. There is, however, a push by the Institute of Medicine for those who plan to work in the field of public health to attend a program that has been accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Once you have attended a CEPH accredited program, you will have the ability to sit for the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) exam. Finding a program with this accreditation will take up much of your time. You will have to spend your probably already minimum free time researching accredited masters in public health programs.

6. You will need to gain hands-on experience.

Not only will your education entail coursework that must be successfully completed, but many programs will also require that you complete some type of internship or capstone project in order to be eligible to graduate. Many times, you will be responsible for finding internships or capstones yourself. This is not only stressful, but it can also be tedious. In the long run, where you complete your hands-on experience can make or break where you could get a job. Oh, and I should mention that these internships and capstones are most likely unpaid.

7. You might have to wave goodbye to your free time.

When you decide to pursue the advancement of your education, you also choose to occupy your free time. Earning a master's in health public health means that a majority of your free time will be filled with coursework. You may find that you will be missing fun activities with family and friends from time to time.

8.Taking out a loan could really put you in debt.

So, we have already established that a master's in public health is going to be expensive, but have you thought about how you are going to pay for it plus fund your cost of living? You could just take out a loan, right? Sure, you can, but you will also be increasing your debt which makes taking out a loan one of the biggest disadvantages of a master's in public health program. Loans may sound like a great way to pay for school, and they definitely can be, but you must keep in mind you will need to pay all that money back with interest. This can mean you can rapidly financially get yourself into some trouble.

9.You may find the competition for entry-level jobs high.

When you decide to venture into the world of public health, you will find yourself competing for employment with those who have earned their degree in public health and those who have majored in other fully qualified disciplines. You will be competing with biology majors, pre-med majors, and those who hold a Ph.D. in public health, to name a few. The competition is sounding a bit stiff to me.

10. Some of the work you may do can expose you to hazards.

If you choose a concentration within the Master's in public health program such as epidemiology, you may come in contact with infectious agents. Yes, precautions are taken to protect you but remember that nothing is absolute. Another example of where you may face the potential for exposure to hazards after earning your Master's in public health is that you may find yourself working in toxicology, exposing you to uninvited hazards.

11. You will always be hoping there is enough funding.

Unfortunately, working in public health will mean that depending on your employer, the state of your job will rest on whether there is enough funding to drive your work. This can lead to uncertainty making this one of the disadvantages of an MPH program. Your funding will be driven by the government, so it could mean feast or famine for you. This could mean you will have a very hard time planning for your future.

12. You may find confusion surrounding your role.

There are so many different career paths that you can take when entering into the world of public health. All of these different pathways can lead to role confusion about what your job really is, about your qualifications, and what your job description should be. This can also lead to you not feeling confident and satisfied in your work environment. You honestly may not be qualified for the tasks you have been given.

13. How well do you handle stress?

In earning a master's in public health degree, you will definitely gain some unwanted stress. Assessing if this stress is worth it or not is one aspect of weighing the pros and cons of a master's in public health program. Stress can stem from the coursework itself to juggling all that life is throwing at you. You may experience stress when trying to obtain a job in this field. Depending on your job, you may have stress in your career once you start working. Remember, in the world of public health, emergencies can surely arise at any time. These emergencies can be highly stressful themselves.


TOP PROS OF A MASTER'S IN PUBLIC HEALTH PROGRAM

(The following are the top 13 advantages of an MPH program.)

1. There is an option for a 1-year program.

If you are somebody who can genuinely buckle down and dedicate a majority of your time to your education, then a 1 year Master's in public health program may be for you. Having the option of applying to a 1-year program can indeed have many advantages for you and, ultimately your family, such as never missing a family get-together, spending time with your children if you have them, or spending time with friends. You will also be able to get out there and start using your graduate degree in the workplace which may boost your salary sooner. This aspect of an MPH program can be a big seller when weighing the pros and cons of a master's in public health program.

2. You can choose how you want to learn.

You will have the ability to choose whether you want to complete your Masters in public health program either on-campus or online. This choice in how you learn is one of the advantages of an MPH program. Many institutions offer their students the flexibility of an online program in order to earn their degree. If you are somebody who feels that the structure of an online program is not suitable for you, then there are still options for an on-campus learning experience.

3. You can choose to study full-time or part-time.

Many programs that offer a master's in public health program will allow you to choose if you want to pursue the degree on a full-time or part-time basis. Sure, the part-time option will take you longer to complete, but it may be more conducive to your life.

4. You can specialize in a particular field.

Although many of the classes that you will take will be general in nature, you will have the opportunity to specialize in a particular field if you find something that interests you. Public health pretty much has something for everyone, making being able to specialize one of the top pros of a master's in public health program.

5. Not all programs will require the GRE.

The Graduate Record Examination or GRE is used to compare applicants' qualifications and preparedness for graduate-level academic work. Some colleges are starting to move away from the practice of requiring the GRE for this degree. This is good news for you if you have yet to take this exam or if you did poorly on it in the past. You will still have the opportunity to pursue a master's in public health degree.

6. You will be making a pretty good living.

Since the world of public health has so many different subfields that you can specialize in, you have the potential to make a good amount of money which is also one of the biggest advantages of a master's in public health program. The amount of money that you can make will also vary from state to state. The average salary in the United States in the field of public health is around $111,410 per year.

7. You will be in demand.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for epidemiologists is expected to grow by 5 percent over the next ten years. The need for health educators by 11 percent and the demand for public health managers is expected to grow by 18 percent in the next decade. Keep in mind there are so many other in-demand positions that will be available to you once you have completed your Master's in public health program. In a nutshell, what this means for you is that you will always have a job.

8. You can set yourself up for life.

Certain positions like a government position will really set you up for life and are one of the pros of an MPH program. Government positions are one area that tends to regularly hire those who have completed the Masters in public health program. Now, obtaining one of these positions will unlock many perks such as a pension, family health coverage, long-term care insurance, and flexible spending accounts. This sounds like a good deal to me.

9. You will have the ability to help others.

When you earn your Master's in public health degree, you will have the ability to help others. You will predominantly serve underserved populations. You will have the ability to positively impact their lives. Helping others can make you feel proud of the work you are doing.

10. You have the potential to secure a leadership position.

Earning a master's degree in public health will enable you to move up the career ladder. Having the ability to make a positive career move is one of the pros of a master's in public health program. You will now qualify for positions that require you to have a master's degree. These types of positions can help land you a leadership role. These leadership roles will most likely come with a salary increase.

11. You could see the world.

Depending on which field of public health you end up working in, you may be able to take in quite a bit of travel. If you work in global health, you will get to travel the world and help those in other countries. You will learn about so many different types of people and their cultures. Having the ability to travel and work is one of the advantages of a master's in public health program. You will have the opportunity to see and encounter things, people, and places that many people will never get the chance to.

12. You will become more marketable.

Completing a master's in public health program can make you even more marketable in your current career. For example, adding on a master's in public health degree to a profession such as nursing will surely increase your job prospects. You will have some tricks up your sleeves when it comes to the competitive job market.

13. You should be proud of yourself

Earning a graduate degree is definitely something to be proud of and this sense of pride is one of the advantages of an MPH program. It takes hard work and dedication and is a pretty big accomplishment to complete a master's in public health program. Remember, not everyone can successfully navigate their way through a graduate program, so you should be proud of yourself.


The Bottom Line


Well, what are the pros and cons of a master's in public health program? I know I have given you a lot to consider with the top 13 pros and cons of a master's in public health program that I outlined for you. I also hope that I answered any questions that may have been lurking in the back of your mind. Now, for the hard part, you have the job of weighing if the pros and cons of starting a program in this field in the right decision for you.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.