Hone the Skills with an MSPH

career development college education graduate degree msph Jan 04, 2024

Happy New Year Hired Community!  

Public Health Hired CEO, Zoila Reyna, wrote a blog where she delved into the differences between an MPH, MPA, or MHA degree and how they play out in the job market. Another popular degree that wasn't mentioned was the Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH). 

The MSPH and MPH degrees have very similar foundations and will likely take the same amount of time to complete, average of two years. Additionally, both degrees will allow students to elect a concentration while further customizing their experience through a vast variety of electives. For my MPH, I concentrated in Health Management and Policy but customized some of my courses to focus on global health to align with my career goals.

You’re probably thinking, “so Adam, if they take the same amount of time, and both allow for concentrations, what’re the distinct differences?” Some forums highlight the main differences between MPH and MSPH are:

  • Admission requirements
    • MPH programs may prefer applicants to have full-time work experience in public health.
    • Applicants to MSPH programs may have preference if they have strong quantitative and qualitative skills in addition to research experience.
  • Broad skillset/applied practitioner focus (MPH) vs refined, focused skillset/academic (MSPH)
    • An MPH program prepares students to operate practically in work settings through having internship experience as a part of their curriculum.
    • An MSPH program allows students to hone-in and focus on research to deepen specific skillsets, like data analysis and collection for example.

While much of this information in gleaned from several sources and forums, I interviewed a colleague who’s in my DrPH program. Her name is Tebitha Mawokomatanda and is a Statistician at the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and MSPH graduate with several years of work experience. Some of her insights from our conversation around the MSPH are below:

  1. Why did you choose an MSPH instead of an MPH?

“I am a math person and I love numbers. I felt like the MPH, itself, involved more reading than I preferred, so I went with the math. My concentration is in biostatistics and my BS is in Mathematics so I thought, what can I do with math? I didn't want to go into teaching, since it didn't feel like the fit for me. A senior colleague of mine had come back to North Carolina from Harvard. She was in the MSPH program and was a math major – so we started talking about the possibilities. She said you could look into public health and analyze health data, a win-win. So, I started looking into schools that had the MSPH program.”

  1.  Do you think that your MSPH has opened certain doors for you? Or maybe hindered you from a specific career path? 

“For me, it was a game changer. I realized that in public health how you tell the story is imbedded in the numbers. Some people cannot interpret what they’re seeing in the numbers, so I bring that forth for the client and make sure that they can interpret their data while someone else can write the story. For me, I love writing the data methods and results sections of manuscripts, that’s what I like to work on; organizing the data and bringing the insights to help tell the story. The MSPH was great and a gamechanger. Nowadays the jobs that I’m seeing, are not just looking for someone with epi experience but also with data science. The client expects you to know beyond epi, maybe some statistics, and how to analyze certain data with various methods. It’s put me in a sweet spot.”

  1.  Did you have sentiments that the MSPH was a terminal degree? Or did you feel the need to get a higher degree, especially since the MSPH tends to be more research, skillset, academic focused? While an MPH or DrPH is more applied?

“I did not feel the need to have another degree above the MSPH. I felt it was the terminal degree. When I was applying, many employers were looking for the skillset that I have, so I felt that I fit in quite well with what was being asked. In terms of experience, I was getting that on the job. Ultimately what made me more marketable was moving around different programs and divisions at CDC, which allowed me to apply my skills to different public health programs. In terms of getting a DrPH, I realized that to move up, within CDC at least, they’re looking for people with a higher degree than just a masters. So personally, career wise, I wanted something higher than a masters. I’ve felt that the MSPH was a good fit for me, and I even took other certificates and classes, in Informatics for example, to help add on to the skillset that I was gaining from the MSPH.”


Wow, having the opportunity to chat with someone with lived experience really brings a different perspective!

I learned a lot about the MSPH degree from our discussion and hope this is helpful to you too. While it might sometimes be overlooked, an MSPH is the way to go for those who are interested in developing specific skillsets in public health. An MSPH degree will help interested individuals hone-in on specific skillsets while launching them into positions of research design and methods, data collection, and analytical studies.

At the end of the day, it’s not necessarily always about the degree but more so about the toolset that you’re developing. If you’re curious on how all of other degrees like the MPH, MPA, and MHA land with employers and their specific preferences, check out Zoila’s blog from December 12, 2023, on our website. For more information on how to maximize your MSPH or any other public health degree, become a mentee with Zoila or follow her on LinkedIn for guidance and insights!


Public Health Hired Contributor: Adam is our new Senior Community Engagement Specialist at Public Health Hired and a Doctor of Public Health candidate at Georgia State University.

He has a background in health policy and work experience in global health. Throughout his career, he has collaborated with Ministries of Health, National Institutes of Health, and other public health agencies in over 20 countries across Latin America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and insular areas in the Pacific on public health program delivery and capacity building. He is currently working as a contract Public Health Analyst at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention focused on policy analysis and partnerships to improve our nation's heart health and increase health equity. Connect with Adam on LinkedIn

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