So you think you want to be a leader, in charge of implementing new policies and managing teams. But let’s say you’re also passionate about heart disease. (Preventing it, that is). Or maybe cancer. Or maybe you really, really loved The Stand by Stephen King. Should you get your Master of Public Health (MPH)  or a Master of Public Administration (MPA)? Master of Public Health The Master of Public Health degree is a top academic credential for public health leaders. Public health is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on the health of populations, including the prevention of disease and injury and the promotion of healthy habits. It prepares graduates for health-centered careers with local, state and federal government agencies, and with international organizations. A variety of private companies also require the expertise of public health experts. If you want to have a comprehensive understanding of the science behind public health policy decisions and get your hands dirty when it comes to research or drafting legislation, an MPH might be for you.


Top-Ranked MPA Designed to Prepare Tomorrow’s Public Service Leaders.
Multidisciplinary Curriculum with Real-World Experience; GRE Waivers Available.

Delivered by Syracuse University’s #1-Ranked Maxwell School.
Action-Oriented Curriculum Completed in as Little as 15 Months; No GRE.

MPA Online from USC Price
Earn your MPA online from USC Price, ranked #3 for public affairs.
The program can be completed in as few as 24 months. A bachelor’s degree is required to apply.


Master of Public Administration

The Master of Public Administration degree is the most widely accepted credential for public service careers. The analytic and management skills acquired with an MPA degree prepare graduates to become leaders in government agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies that provide public services. In the past few decades, the MPA degree has become increasingly important for policy makers and leaders in the public and nonprofit sectors. That means, if you have your eye on an administrative role at The American Heart Association, and MPA might be your best bet–and it’s got a built-in back up plan if it turns out you’re not so interested in heart disease after all.

MPA Coursework vs. MPH Coursework

MPA Coursework

Coursework for an MPA degree will be geared towards managing an organization, whether it’s in a health related industry or not. You’ll likely take classes on topics in:

  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Human resource management
  • Organizational behavior
  • Analytical methods

The faculty in most MPA programs represent a variety of disciplines; their academic training and research areas may include law, political science, economics, business, sociology and organizational theory. Likewise, MPA programs also include electives that allow students to pursue an area of concentration, such as:

  • Local government
  • Community development
  • Criminal justice
  • Public policy and urban planning
  • And of course: health administration

If you want to manage a hospital but don’t really want to know the nitty gritty of the medical procedures performed there, the coursework of an MPA might be more for you.

MPH Coursework

The typical MPH curriculum covers several core discipline areas, including:

  • Epidemiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Emergency preparedness
  • Environmental health
  • Health policy
  • Global health

MPH faculty typically includes medical doctors, social workers, research scientists and statisticians. Student who enroll in MPH degree programs often have a background in science or medicine and are interested in developing management, communication and analytical competencies.

MPA Jobs vs. MPH Jobs

MPA Jobs

Common career paths for MPA degrees include a range of careers including, but not limited to university administrator, benefits administrator, healthcare administrator and nonprofit administrator. MPA graduates are also qualified to hold political positions at the local, state or national government level.

MPH Jobs

A growing focus on public health issues throughout the world is creating new career opportunities in public health. MPH degree holders are qualified to work as epidemiologists, emergency preparedness planners, health service administrators, health education and public health environmentalists.

Where an MPA and MPH Overlap MPA and MPH degrees both prepare individuals for careers in public service administration, policy formation and program management. Both degrees provide management skills related to problem solving, decision making and policy formulation. The primary difference between the degrees is in the focus. Although many MPA program specializations include a public health option, the MPH degree is usually the best choice for prospective students who are interested in public service in the healthcare field. For individuals who have a more general interest in public service, the MPA is a more versatile choice since it can lead to a wider range of career options.