5 Key Courses in a Master’s in Public Health Program

You can earn your Master's degree in Public Health in as little as 18 months with full-time study. While every college offers different types of courses in their Public Health programs, you will most likely have some version of these five key courses to earn your degree.

Resource: Top 10 Best Online MPH Programs 2015

1. Behavioral Science and Health Education

In this course, you will study about the risk behaviors in America that lead to poor health and even death. For instance, poor nutrition, inactivity, tobacco and alcohol use are all health behaviors that can be changed and prevented through health education. You will learn about the psychological theories behind behavioral change and how to apply these in different educational settings. The course will also look at how public health policy is formed, how to assess and create health education programs as well as how to conduct intervention programs.

2. Epidemiology

In Epidemiology, you will learn about different human diseases, how they occur and spread, and how to potentially control outbreaks in the USA and worldwide. This course also teaches epidemiological terminology, outcome measures and study tactics. You will need to use critical thinking and analytical skills to interpret epidemiological literature and clinical studies. Through class participation, research papers and final exams, you will learn how to apply epidemiological methods to today's public health issues. However, be aware that many colleges require you to take a course in statistics before enrolling in Epidemiology.

3. Environmental and Occupational Health

This course will introduce you to the chemical, physical and biological hazards usually found in the environment and in workplaces. You will evaluate potential occupational risks and other environmental hazards. In addition, you will learn how to recognize and understand the health-related issues that can result from exposure to these hazards. Some real world applications for this course include studying air and water pollution, food handling and restaurant safety requirements, workplace air quality and the environment's impact on infectious diseases. You may also be required to take a lab class in conjunction with this course to learn how to take environmental samples for further study.

4. Public Health Ethics

A course in Public Health Ethics will take a look at the ethical problems that are inherent to the healthcare system. From lectures to classroom discussion, you will learn about ethical principles and theories and as well as moral decision-making as it applies to absolutism, pluralism and relativism. Some specific topics that will be discussed include abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide as well as the ethics involved in medical research, genetics and biomedical technology. At the end of this class, you should be able to articulate your ethical viewpoint in your writing and verbally.

5. Public Health Practice

To fulfill the practice requirement for your Master's degree, you need to take a course in Public Health Practice. While you will attend some classes for discussion, most of your coursework will take place in a public health setting. Depending on your degree's emphasis, you will be assigned to a local or state health department, a community health facility or other public health organization. This important field placement offers students hand-on learning and exposure to the professional world of public health. Best of all, this real-world experience will strengthen your learning beyond the classroom and help you network with potential employers.

If you are interested in pursuing your Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, you are about to embark on a rewarding educational experience. For more information on nationally accredited colleges with an MPH program, visit the Council of Education for Public Health's website.

Additional Resource: 50 Most Affordable Online MPH Programs 2015

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