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