Exploring a Master of Public Health Degree and Concentrations

MPH student taking environmental samples in creek.

Public health experts with advanced training comprise a diverse range of practitioners and officials who govern and implement policy, research findings, and administrative leadership and education in this population-focused field.

From forward-thinking environmental public health considerations to epidemiological preventative and responsive policy, an MPH degree prepares students to take on a demanding, disciplined, and insightful role that protects the public. Because students entering study toward an MPH are often already working professionals with a bachelor’s degree, many accredited schools offer programs that can be completed online, or with schedule flexibility.

Areas of Specialization in Public Health

Master’s students in public health have the opportunity to choose an area of concentration that will drive their career after graduation. MPH specialties are highly focused on medicine and science, while others emphasize policymaking and leadership. All are built on a foundation of the principles and practices of public health. Within the larger umbrella of an MPH, there are six common concentrations:

Health Services Administration:

If you choose to specialize in the administrative side of public health, you’ll provide leadership, guidance, and expertise. MPH administrators may work on areas from a local to international scale. In this type of role, your areas of oversight will likely include:

  • Organizational structure
  • Financing and cost
  • Delivery of healthcare
  • Accessibility solutions
  • Quality assurance
  • Personnel development (HR)
  • Management of data and digital infrastructure
  • Planning and marketing
  • Policy

In addition to the public sector, many healthcare administrators work or consult for nonprofits. Your career will necessitate continuing education to stay abreast of technology and clinical advancements. You may also choose to take a recognized certification exam to boost your credentials.


This area of specialization focuses on the research and testing sides of public health. Mathematics and biology remain core to this discipline, as applied to public health needs and the development of practices and policies. Work in this arena may include:1

  • Statistical analysis
  • Clinical trials
  • Environmental epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Applied regression analysis

Biostatisticians in public health may go on to become educators, leaders, and researchers in the healthcare industry, or become government officials focused on public health and governmental policy. 

Behavioral Science

A focus on behavioral health and science is an essential complement to public health needs that address physical and environmental health. This type of public health degree requires expertise in psychology to assess public health needs and affect outcomes. MPH professionals in behavioral health are needed in many venues, including:2

  • Schools
  • Research facilities
  • Policy institutes
  • Health departments
  • Mental health facilities
  • Corrections
  • Local health centers

These experts are integral to both awareness and practice with regard to the behavioral implications of public health. They strive to effect positive change through recommendations and implementation of protocols and resources in order to benefit individuals and populations.

Environmental Health

An MPH with an emphasis on environmental health prepares you to deal with different types of environmental considerations related to a population’s wellbeing. This can stretch from ecological preservation to workplace hygiene to emergency response to natural or manmade disasters. Study in this discipline might include:3

  • Exposure science
  • Biostatistics
  • Occupational hygiene
  • Epidemiology
  • Toxicology
  • Risk assessment
  • Hazardous and water waste

An MPH concentrated in environmental health creates an in-depth understanding of factors as they affect human health. It falls into what some call a “green occupation” that focuses on ecological considerations and fosters a beneficial symbiosis between a population and its environment.

Health Education

This concentration is as it sounds: A career focused on educating the public to promote health and disease prevention. An MPH degree with instructive emphasis covers the necessary topics for health education, awareness, and intervention, including:4

  • Assessment and planning
  • Implementation
  • Administration and management
  • Resourcing
  • Advocacy

An education in preparation for an MPH in health education will also cover essential and foundational public health topics like epidemiology, biostatistics, policy, and environmental health. Health educators work at all levels, from community-based and nonprofit support to governmental agencies.4


This highly scientific specialty applies expertise in epidemiology to public health, through a quantitative and systematic approach. You’ll help create predictive and preventative research and trials to inform public policy and benefit long- and short-term population health outcomes. In addition to a foundation in public health, an MPH concentration in epidemiology will in part cover:5

  • Study framework and review
  • Analysis methodologies
  • Biostatistics
  • Risk assessment

MPH graduates with a concentration in epidemiology are equipped to center their practice on specific populations, demographics, and geographies. These professionals play a critical and high-stakes role in disease control and response, research, and hindsight analysis.

Pursuing a Master of Public Health

Pursuing a Master of Public Health is the gateway to an impactful career in healthcare, and it opens the door to a wide array of practice opportunities, from hands-on to educational to policy-building to oversight. It’s an advanced degree that builds on an undergraduate education to benefit the public at large.

To learn more helpful information about MPHs degrees, check out our article “MPH vs. MHA: Key Differences.”

1 https://www.mphprogram.com/program/biostatistics/

2 https://www.mphprogram.com/program/behavioral-health-sciences/

3 https://www.publichealthdegrees.org/specializations/environmental-health/

4 https://www.publichealthcareeredu.org/public-health-education/

5 https://www.publichealthdegrees.org/specializations/epidemiology/

WCU provides career guidance and assistance but cannot guarantee employment. The views and opinions expressed are those of the individuals and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs or position of the school or of any instructor or student.