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Public Health Overview


For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.

Public health is the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research and promotion of healthy lifestyles. In public health, the focus is on health promotion and disease/injury prevention, in contrast to the medical model of care, which focuses more heavily upon diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions after they occur.

Public health professionals analyze and develop programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad. The United States is placing a high priority on building up the nation's public health workforce.

A career in public health opens the door to diverse opportunities in a variety of sectors such as federal, private and non-governmental organizations. Because of their "big picture" perspective, public health experts play a key role in emergency preparedness and response. This may be why public health has become such a growing field in recent years.

You can earn over 15 degrees from a school or program of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), including undergraduate (2015), master's and doctoral degrees. The most common are:

  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Health Administration (MHA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Doctor of Science (ScD)

There are over 20 major fields of study. The five core disciplines are:

However, your degree may be in one of several other core public health areas. Examples are:

You can search for accredited schools of public health on the SOPHAS website. SOPHAS is the centralized application service for students applying to a CEPH-accredited school or program of public health. A list of accredited programs and schools can also be found on the CEPH website.

Learn More

Note: The Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health has reviewed this overview.


Save money and earn your bachelor's in health sciences or healthcare management more quickly with maximum credit transfer at Excelsior. Our low tuition makes it affordable for you to earn your degree from accredited college while you earn a living. Receive up to 32 credits for your health-related occupational license. Learn more about Excelsior College ...