How to Get into a Top-Ranked Online Masters in Public Health Program

BY Peter Olsen PhillipsApril 25, 2022, 1:22 p.m.

A general view of Johns Hopkins University as seen in March 2020 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Masters in Public Health programs have seen a boom in interest in recent years. From 1992 to 2016, the number of applications to graduate programs in public health increased by more than quadruple. And this explosion of interest shows no signs of slowing down, thanks to a confluence of factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As media coverage increasingly puts public health officials in the spotlight, many universities are simultaneously increasing their online course offerings and drop previous standardized test requirements. All of these factors have contributed to increasing the size of the candidate pool. From March 2020 to March 2021, the number of applicants to graduate public health programs increased 40%from 17,353 to 24,176.

The changing admissions landscape means that applicants for online Masters in Public Health (MPH) programs must present a comprehensive CV and a visionary personal statement to stand out from the crowd.

“We look at applicants in a very holistic way, which means that not only do we look at their academic background, but we also look at their work experience,” says Moose Alperin, director of the Rollins School’s MPH Executive Program. Emory University. of Public Health. “We are looking for a personal statement and their ability to tell a compelling story of what brought them to this moment when they want to pursue a degree in public health, and what do they hope to do with this degree in public health?

Online master’s programs in public health offer students the opportunity to learn from leading practitioners in their field, network with other students, and participate in substantive research opportunities in a challenging academic environment. Here are three tips that experts say will help you maximize your chances of being accepted into the best programs.

1. Demonstrate applicable experience in your application

Many top MPH programs require relevant academic or professional experience. These requirements vary by institution and specific degree. Prospective applicants should therefore do their due diligence in advance to ensure that their background matches the specific program prerequisites.

At Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, students in the part-time program – which can be taken online, in person, or a mix of the two – must have at least two years of post-baccalaureate experience in a related field. to health. field, as well as courses in biology, mathematics and a health-related science (or a second course in biology).

However, don’t assume this means only doctors and nurses should apply. Students accepted into the program come from a variety of backgrounds, explains Marie Diener-West, president of the MPH program “It could be someone who [been] working in a lab for two years that is health related. This could be a returned Peace Corps volunteer who was in a country working as a health educator, which could include preschool education. This could include sex education for teenagers.

Because relevant health experience is “broadly defined,” this requirement is less onerous than it might seem, Diener-West says. “It’s just that they had a tangible experience that is consistent with health.”

As for the courses required for the Johns Hopkins program, accepted students must complete prerequisite courses prior to enrollment, but this does not mean that students who did not take biology or math courses during their undergraduate years are unlucky.

“Someone might pass their undergrad without an introductory biology class,” Diener-West said. Fortune. “And we just require that if they apply and haven’t had it, that they take an introductory bio course before applying.”

Similarly, the Executive MPH at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health requires students to have relevant work experience — at least three years in this case — but also with some leniency in the definition. The school’s hybrid online and in-person program is designed for working professionals, and the experience can take many forms.

As long as there’s an overlap with the skills needed to be a successful public health student and a compelling story connecting those experiences to your future goals in the field, there are a variety of positions that would qualify, according to Zelda Ray, the director. Academic Program Associate of Emory’s MPH Executive Program.

She shares a recent example: “We currently have a student majoring in business and he works for a large automotive company,” Ray explains. “He spoke to the track manager and they talked about how that experience could be brought in and eventually he decided to apply.”

As part of the application process, the student was “able to explain to us why MPH was a perfect fit for him” — and it ultimately won him a place in the program, Ray notes. “He’s one of our best students and he comes from a finance background.”

2. Stand out from the crowd

An ability to relate your past experiences to future goals in public health and to your chosen specialization is among the key points that Marie Diener-West looks for in an application.

In addition to a compelling personal statement that demonstrates an understanding of the degree and connects your background to your career goals, candidates who stand out are able to demonstrate “that they in fact have a history of initiative and leadership” , she says.

“Often our candidates are those who have done something unusual in their career. They founded a non-governmental organization, or they have a job, but at the same time, they created a kind of voluntary activity,” she explains. “Those taking the lead are those who we truly believe will become public health leaders in the future.”

Additionally, top candidates include strong letters of recommendation from former professors or employers who know them well and can attest to their strengths and goals, Diener-West says. “We want to see those letters of recommendation that say, you know, this is one of the best 5%, best 1% that I’ve ever seen and they’re able to justify why they’re saying that.”

3. Decide whether or not to include GRE scores

When completing your application, it may be tempting to include as much information as possible, including GRE test scores. However, since many schools have waived requirements for submitting these grades, you generally only need to include them if they are exceptionally high or if they demonstrate aptitude in a subject important to your major and you do not have a another way to demonstrate these skills.

The danger of including scores is that they can hurt your chances if they’re not up to scratch.

“I would say there are probably times when we wish we didn’t see the GRE,” says Alperin. “Because he’s someone who has quantitative abilities, but on this standardized test he didn’t perform well.”

With questions about standardized testing, determining the relevance of your work experience, writing your personal statement, and more, it’s important to remember that your prospective institution’s admissions team can be a helpful resource for prepare a full application.

“We’ve been there to help them from the start,” adds Ray. “And we also offer webinars, helping prospects [students] create a solid application. So, I would definitely recommend that if they are interested in our program, never hesitate to contact us.

Find out how the schools you’re considering landed in Fortune’s rankings of the best master’s programs in public health, business analytics programs, data science programs, and part-time, executive, full-time, and online MBA programs. .

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