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MPH vs. MSPH - Which Public Health Degree is Right for You?


Written By: Darby Faubion BSN, RN

Are you considering a career in public health? There are several options for prospective students who wish to pursue a master’s degree within the public health industry. For example, a Master's in Public Health (MPH) is a degree that equips individuals to work with a broad base of public health practice. Those with MPH degrees help communities to improve their overall health through education, awareness, and research. A Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree is an alternative option for people who wish to work in public health. It is more academic and/or research-oriented than an MPH. In this article, we will compare MPH vs MSPH and discuss the differences between MPH and MSPH, including expected salaries, cost of degrees, and the outlook for future job opportunities.


MPH vs. MSPH: Program Outcome


Most universities align their desired program outcomes with the Council on Education for Public Health.

Graduates of a Master of Public Health program should possess the knowledge and skills to:

• Determine the effect of policies on population and individual health
• Analyze crucial services that are offered by public health programs
• Assess the need for changes that will improve public health outcomes by planning, implementing and evaluating health programs that offer services to individuals and populations
• Develop a network of professional relationships to help address social determinants related to health and health disparities

After successful completion of a Master of Science in Public Health degree, graduates are expected to have skills that allow them to:

• Motivate and lead health care teams
• Analyze and propose new policies
• Evaluate the medical and cost-effectiveness of health care treatments
• Research electronic healthcare documents


Program Length


The length of time it takes someone to complete an MSPH vs MPH degree mostly depends on whether you choose to enroll as a part-time or full-time student.

After achieving a bachelor's degree, you can enroll in a Master of Public Health program and expect to complete it in two years' time. A Master of Science in Public Health degree also takes about two years to complete.


MPH vs. MSPH: Program Cost


The exact cost of a Master of Public Health or Master of Science in Public Health varies and may be influenced by a few factors. For example, students who choose to attend school out of their home state may be required to pay out-of-state tuition and fees. Additionally, attending school on-campus rather than online may result in higher expenses related to travel, lodging, and the need to purchase hard copy books instead of digital copies.

Overall, a Master of Public Health or Master of Science in Public Health degree may cost from $16,000 to $30,000 for students who attend in-state schools. Out-of-state students may see tuition and fees costs anywhere from $25,000 to $60,000.


Curriculum


Typically, a Master of Public Health degree requires students to complete between 48 and 80 credits. These credits are spread across a range of core and elective courses, analysis, practicum experience, and MPH field experience.

Master of Public Health programs focus on improving human health within various populations and preventing illness and disease. In addition to coursework, MPH programs also require participation in a field-based practicum and/or capstone project. Core courses include information focused on foundational public health knowledge, including public health and science knowledge and factors related to human health. These courses generally include epidemiology, social and behavioral aspects of public health, public health problem-solving, demography, computer applications, environmental health, biostatistics, biological sciences, and public health policies.

The MSPH coursework involves many of the same classes that the MPH degree requires. Additionally, students pursuing a Master of Science in Public Health degree will be asked to complete additional coursework in epidemiology, biostatistics, public health studies, and research models.

The foundational course requirements of both the Master of Public Health and Master of Science in Public Health degrees are similar. However, the programs' focus determines what areas of specialization you can pursue and any additional degree requirements.


MPH vs. MSPH: Admission Requirements


Admissions policies vary from one school to another. Typically, the first thing that universities consider when reviewing an applicant’s eligibility is previous academic performance. Admission into an MPH or MSPH program requires students to have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field from an accredited institution of learning.

Admission requirements to either the Master of Science in Public Health or Master of Public Health program are the same. Prospective students in either program will be expected to submit:

• Official transcripts from any post-secondary school attended that reflect an undergraduate cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.0 or higher is usually required.
• While some universities require GRE/GMAT scores, others may not. Since the emergence of COVID-19, many schools have suspended this requirement, at least temporarily.
• Submit a personal history statement and a statement of purpose to reflect personal intent.

Further, individuals who wish to enroll in the MSPH program are often required to have completed at least one semester of college-level statistics, mathematics including algebra or calculus.


Can you Pursue it Online or Part-Time?


You can pursue a Master of Science in Public Health or Master of Public Health (MSPH or MPH) degree online, in-person, and part-time or full-time.


MPH vs. MSPH: Career Options for Graduates


Individuals who complete a Master of Public Health degree have the option of choosing specialty areas of concentration when choosing a career path. Some career options for those with an MPH include the following:

• Community and Social Service Manager: In this position, you may oversee community outreach programs or organizations such as homeless shelters, mental health care facilities, or substance abuse and addiction recovery centers. Social and community service managers may write grant or funding proposals, train volunteers, and plan efforts to help increase awareness and support of programs they oversee.
• Biosecurity Specialist: A biosecurity specialist's role includes educating and protecting the public from potential threats related to biological attacks and dangers.
• Disaster Preparedness Coordinator: Help to develop and coordinate disaster plans and emergency responses

After completion of a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) degree, graduates usually find employment as health practitioners who offer assistance to public health managers and researchers.

MSPH career options include, but are not limited to, the following.

• Research Coordinator: May conduct research and evaluation studies to verify the effectiveness of the education provided by health programs; work with social workers, researchers, and physicians
• Emergency Response Coordinator: In this position, you can work to help reduce the health impact of humanitarian emergencies and disasters while working in partnership with government and non-governmental organizations.
• Epidemiologist: With an MSPH with a specialty concentration in epidemiology, you can study the patterns of illness and disease and try to improve the outcomes of public health. Responsibilities include establishing programs for community education, developing health policies, and conducting and publishing research. Epidemiologists collect, analyze, and relay information about data to policymakers and health practitioners to help prevent outbreaks of illness or disease.


Work Hours


If you have a Master of Science in Public Health or Master of Public Health degree, you can typically expect to work what many call "office hours." This means working from Monday through Friday and generally day-time hours. Of course, there may be times when you must work on a project related to work or community outreach that requires weekend or evening involvement. However, this is not the typical work schedule for someone with either of these degrees.


Work-Related Stress


Any healthcare-related career comes with some level of stress. If you hold an MPH or an MSPH degree, you will be responsible for conducting research and practicing measures to help promote the safety and well-being of the public as well as specific populations. According to Glassdoor.com, there appears to be little difference between MPH vs MSPH, when it comes to the amount of stress you may experience in this role.


Job Satisfaction


The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows little evidence of a difference between MPH and MSPH degree holders' job satisfaction ratings. The BLS reports that approximately ninety-one percent of people with these degrees state that they are satisfied with their career choice.


MPH vs. MSPH: Job Outlook for Graduates


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job openings for people with MPH or MSPH degrees are projected to increase by at least five percent from 2018 to 2028. With this number in mind, it is safe to say that the chances of finding gainful employment in the public health industry are promising.

With an expected growth rate of available jobs of at least five percent, the high rate of job satisfaction, and the various positions available with an MPH or MSPH degree, the outlook for graduates from both programs is favorable.


Starting Salary


The difference between MSPH and MPH entry-level salary is less than ten cents per hour and less than $200 per year. Because the wages are almost identical, there is little incentive salary-wise for choosing one degree over the other.

Degree Hourly Monthly Annual
MPH$22.54 $3,910 $46,880
MSPH $22.43 $3,890 $46,660


Average Hourly Pay


Even with some experience, the average hourly pay for someone with a Master of Public Health or Master of Science in Public Health degree only differs by a few cents. With experience, it is customary to see increases in income. Still, even with several years' experience, the difference between MPH and MSPH degree-holder's income is almost nonexistent.

DegreeHourly Pay
MPH$30.96
MSPH$30.82
(Source: payscale.com)


MPH vs. MSPH: Average Annual Salary


The average annual MPH vs MSPH salary has little variance. Per Payscale.com, individuals with a Master of Public Health degree typically earn a yearly salary of $64,398. Those with a Master of Science in Public Health experience a difference of fewer than two hundred dollars each year, with a salary of $64,105.

DegreeAnnual Salary
MPH$64,398
MSPH$64,105
(Source: payscale.com)



Salary by Level of Experience


The amount of experience a person has often has a positive influence on earning potential. As evidenced by the chart below, individuals with an MPH or an MSPH can expect to see increases in income as they gain work experience.

For example, with a Master of Public Health degree, you can expect an entry-level salary of close to $47,000. With ten years' experience, an increase of almost $30,000 is standard. With twenty years, a person with an MHA can practically double their entry-level salary.

The same holds true for people who possess an MSPH. Entry-level personnel earn a little less than $47,000. In ten years, they may earn around $72,000 annually and an additional $10,000 each year with twenty or more years of experience.

Degree Level of Experience Hourly Monthly Annual
MPH Starting (Entry-Level) $22.54 $3,910 $46,880
1-4 Years of Experience $25.69 $4,450 $53,430
5-9 Years of Experience $30.40 $5,270 $63,230
10-19 Years of Experience $35.16 $6,100 $73,140
20 Years or More Experience $42.12 $7,300 $87,610
MSPH Starting (Entry-Level) $22.43 $3,890 $46,660
1-4 Years of Experience $25.57 $4,430 $53,190
5-9 Years of Experience $30.26 $5,250 $62,950
10-19 Years of Experience $35.00 $6,070 $72,810
20 Years or More Experience $41.93 $7,270 $87,220


The Bottom Line


When considering MSPH vs MPH degree options, perhaps the most important thing to consider is whether you want to work in an academic or research setting, or if you see yourself better suited for a career in practicing public health as an administrator, community health educator, or coordinator in a healthcare setting.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


Is it possible to work full-time while completing an online or part-time MPH or MSPH degree?


Yes, it is possible to work full-time and complete either the MPH or MSPH online with a part-time schedule. The flexibility that students enjoy by attending school online makes scheduling time to work more manageable. However, it is essential to make sure you balance your time at work with the amount of time you need to study so that you are prepared for examinations.

What type of undergraduate degree should an applicant have before applying to an MPH or MSPH program?


Applicants who wish to enroll in an MPH or MSPH program come from diverse backgrounds. Public health is a multi-disciplinary field. Some applicants to these programs come from backgrounds of medical, social, or physical science, or business sciences. Nevertheless, an applicant with any undergraduate degree may be accepted to these programs. It is important to speak with an admissions advisor of the school(s) you are considering attending to make sure you meet their admissions criteria.


Darby Faubion BSN, RN
Darby Faubion is a nurse and Allied Health educator with over twenty years' experience. She has assisted in developing curriculum for nursing programs and has instructed students at both community college and university levels.