Master of Public Health
The Master of Public Health Program prepares students committed to public health careers in either the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. The MPH program provides a rigorous curriculum to help students develop the analytic and critical reasoning skills to improve population health. Students gain the skills needed for employment in a broad range of positions in local, state and national public health agencies as well as private and academic research, depending on the student’s selected degree concentration and interests.
Fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the VCU MPH program is closely linked with local, state and national public health agencies, organizations, and professionals in order to enhance the student's appreciation and understanding of the application of public health principles to practice and research.
About the MPH Program
The MPH program trains students to become well-grounded in the essential knowledge, skills and attitudes of public health and demonstrate their ability to apply these essentials through course work, applied experience, and the MPH capstone project. This program is designed to provide students with the skills required to advance to a broad spectrum of positions as public health practitioners who can perform the following:
- Administer public health programs
- Collect, analyze and evaluate public health data
- Plan, implement and evaluate public health interventions
- Apply results of evaluations and data analyses to policy development as necessary
- Promote public health through educational campaigns
More than 90% of MPH graduates in the last five years either were employed or pursuing further study within six months of graduation. Typically, more than half of our students find positions in a university or government setting. Usually around one-fifth pursue further education. The remainder find jobs in nonprofit organizations, health systems, or private companies.
Job placements include:
- State or local health department offices (e.g. Virginia, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, New York City) in positions such as district epidemiologist, drug overdose communications coordinator, or city research scientist
- University or healthcare systems, as members of research teams, including Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Virginia
- Non-profit organizations—ranging from national organizations such as the American Heart Association to local ones such as Early Impact Virginia, Virginia Healthcare Foundation, and Virginia Health Catalyst
- Other governmental organizations such as the Richmond Behavioral Health Authority
- Private companies such as Booz Allen Hamilton, The EI Group, or the Lewin group
- Fellowships with the Oak Ridge Institute of Science and Education/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, or the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists
Some alumni pursue doctoral degrees in epidemiology, psychology, nursing, and more, while others pursue clinical study in medicine, nursing, therapy, or social work.
Each candidate shall complete a minimum of 45 credit hours towards the degree. This includes core courses in biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, health policy, interprofessional collaboration, and social and behavioral health. All students complete an internship at a community-based public health agency or organization and an integrated learning experience, the MPH capstone project.
The program offers concentrations in:
In addition to core degree course requirements, each concentration requires a minimum of 9 credits of concentration-specific courses and a minimum of 11 credits of elective courses.
The public health internship requires students to work 180 hours in a non-university, professional public health setting such as the Virginia Department of Health or the Institute for Public Health Innovation. Students must have completed at least 18 credit hours of coursework in the program before enrolling in the public health internship.
In addition, all students are required to complete 20 hours of community-based service-learning.
The capstone experience is an integrated learning experience designed to synthesize knowledge gained through the classroom and practical processes and is the degree’s culminating work. Students typically complete the capstone project during the last one to two semesters of study. Students address multiple MPH program competencies through the work as they synthesize the literature, apply theory, and integrate knowledge gained in situations that approximate some aspect of professional practice. This mentored experience allows students to both broaden their skills and hone their proficiency in a specific area of public health.
Examples of typical capstone projects include:
- Manuscript suitable for publication in a peer-reviewed journal
- Comprehensive disease-related report
- Policy analysis report
- Health promotion materials (e.g. brochures/posters/fliers, educational video games, website content, etc.), on a specific disease area
- Needs assessment for a specific population
- Development, implementation, and analysis of target population surveys
- Program evaluation
In fulfilling the capstone requirement, each candidate must:
- Submit a formal written paper of sufficient depth and rigor; and
- Satisfactorily complete an oral presentation of the project chosen as the basis for the written paper at an appropriate venue (e.g. stakeholder meeting, departmental seminar, research forum, etc.) approved by program administration.
For full-time students, average time to degree completion is two academic years. For part-time students, average time to completion varies depending on the number of credits completed per semester but ranges from three to five years. VCU requires a master's level degree to be completed within six academic years. Full-time enrollment is defined as registration for 9 or more credits per semester; part-time enrollment is defined as fewer than 9 credits per semester. The program emphasizes completion of core coursework followed by elective coursework.
Please see the VCU Bulletin for detailed information on the M.P.H. program's plan of study: