Exploring Virginia’s MPH Landscape: A Guide for Prospective Students

Published on: May 22, 2024

Public health has long been an important facet of society1. Public health practitioners engage in work to improve the health of the population2, focusing on the incidence and prevalence of health conditions amongst entire groups of people rather than individuals as they seek to alleviate poor health outcomes. As the world continues to modernize and our understanding of health sciences continues to grow, the field is evolving to include evermore educational and career opportunities. This is a phenomenon occurring across the United States, but programs within Virginia are among those driving the public health educational expansion. 

In this article, readers will gain knowledge about the reasons for pursuing an MPH in Virginia, methods for deciphering which program to choose (including online or traditional options), delineation of significant programs in Virginia, insights into the admissions and application process, and career outlooks after graduating from a Virginia MPH program.

Why Virginia for your MPH?

One reason for pursuing an MPH degree in Virginia is the abundance of leading universities in the field of public health, such as Virginia Tech3 and George Mason University4. Additionally, Virginia consistently ranks high in terms of returns on investment and graduation rates in higher education. In a 2017 study, the state ranked as the top state to attain higher education.

The specifics of these programs and others will be outlined later in this article5. Virginia’s location, just south of Washington, D.C., is another reason to choose Virginia for your MPH studies. While it is the host of the federal government, making it ripe with opportunities in health policy and government-related public health work, D.C. also boasts the headquarters of many businesses and non-profits focused on public health initiatives and innovative hospital systems.

Virginia is also acclaimed for its work in bettering public health with many initiatives in place through the Virginia Department of Public Health6.

The Department particularly focuses on alleviating health inequities, as 28% of the state’s population identifies as belonging to a racial or ethnic minority group7. Thus, Virginia has contributed meaningfully to such public health research and policy management. It also led the movement toward telehealth8, making healthcare accessible to many. Groups, such as the Virginia Health Care Foundation, are also dedicated to helping the uninsured and underinsured obtain adequate healthcare access in Virginia9.

Lastly, Virginia is a state filled with history and rich in a diverse array of beautiful landscapes, making it an idyllic place to live10.

Choosing the Right MPH Program in Virginia

There are many factors to consider when choosing the best MPH program for you11. All applicants should assess the accreditation of any program in public health they are considering attending. Accreditation is awarded by the Council for Education for Public Health (CEPH). CEPH accreditation ensures that the education you receive from that institution will meet established quality standards. The programmatic offerings, in the form of concentrations and certificates, and the expertise of the faculty are also important elements of any MPH program to consider. 

It’s necessary to assess your own topic areas of professional interest and then confirm that the public health programs of interest will be able to properly support you in your pursuit of those areas of study. Additionally, the program's location within the state is of note, as some campuses may have more learning opportunities or align better with one’s professional and/or personal goals. Some programs may be offered remotely and, thus, provide greater accessibility to some applicants.

Traditional vs. Online MPH Programs in Virginia

There are many factors to consider when deciding if online or traditional education is best for you12. The flexibility of online MPH programs13 appeals to many, particularly parents and working professionals. Eliminating a commute can provide a more economical school experience in terms of time and finances, making such education more accessible. Some cite increased networking opportunities because people can be based in many different locations, but others argue in-person courses offer higher networking potential with time spent together in-person. 

Whether the latter or the former is the case for you can be assessed based on class size and geographic distribution in peer backgrounds. This ability to collaborate more directly with peers is often cited as a benefit of traditional programs on campuses. In-person learning can also provide a more distraction-free setting and education that carries fewer elaborate technical requirements at home.

10 Noteworthy MPH Programs in Virginia

A variety of MPH program offerings exist in Virginia. In this section, readers will gain a deeper understanding of the intricacies of 10 noteworthy MPH programs in the state, including program strengths, faculty accomplishments, and learning formats.

Traditional On-Campus Programs

1) The University of Virginia School of Medicine

Offers an MPH program on-campus14. Students in this program can choose from 2 concentrations: Research in Practice; Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. Notably, students can graduate from this MPH program in 2, 3, or 4 semesters (1-2 years of coursework) depending on the intensity level of the course load they so choose. Students are encouraged to engage in service initiatives and are given the opportunity to present work at conferences and collaborate with public officials on policy issues. Matthew Gurka, Ph.D. serves as the chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences and as a professor; his work is renowned in child health research15.

2) Virginia Tech University

Offers an MPH program on-campus3. Students in this program can choose from 2 concentrations: Infectious Disease; Community Health Promotion and Equity. The faculty of this program supports students to make the most of their time in the program by enrolling in relevant courses at other Virginia Tech graduate programs and seeking skill-building opportunities such as engaging in research projects. The program also offers several format options to fit the career and personal interests of all students, including dual enrollment and accelerated course loads. Nicole Holt, MPH, DrPH, serves as the director of the Master of Public Health Program and as a professor in epidemiology; her work is renowned in childhood obesity and oral health16.

3) George Mason University

Offers an MPH program on-campus and established the first College of Public Health in Virginia4. Students in this program can choose from 7 concentrations: Community Health Promotion; Epidemiology; Food Security and Nutrition; Global Health: Health Equity and Social Justice; Health Policy; Public Health Practice. This wide range of possible concentrations and, thus, the expertise of the program is notable for prospective students. The program website also transparently discusses the career outcomes of their graduates and allows website visitors to learn more about the unique pursuits of current students. Melissa Perry, ScD, MHS, serves as the dean of the College of Public Health; her work is renowned in occupational and environmental epidemiology17.

4) Eastern Virginia Medical School

Offers an MPH program on-campus18. Students in this program can choose from 3 concentrations (tracks): Applied Data Science; Epidemiology; Health Management and Policy. They notably offer flexibility to in-person students by having evening course options and an allotment of 5 semesters to complete your degree. The program also partners with the following three schools to offer undergraduate students in their junior year assurance of admission as part of their Early Assurance Program: Hampton University, Regent University, and Virginia Wesleyan University. Brian Martin, PhD, MBA, serves as the program director for the Master of Public Health and as a professor; his work is renowned in healthcare workforce development and financing healthcare services19.

5) Virginia Commonwealth University

Offers an MPH program on-campus20. Students in this program can choose from 3 concentrations: Applied Public Health; Epidemiology; Cancer Health Equity Science. The program offers several dual degree opportunities for students interested in pursuing degrees such as an MD, PharmD, or MSW. The program website also transparently reports on the career outcomes of recent graduates, the expectations surrounding the capstone requirement, and the average time to degree conferral of enrolled students. The MPH program falls within the School of Population Health which was founded in July 2023. Vanessa Sheppard, PhD, serves as the interim and founding dean of the School of Population Health; her work is renowned in health equity and cancer disparities21.

Online/Hybrid Programs

1) The University of Lynchburg

Offers an MPH program online26. While specific concentrations are not provided, the program focuses on public health broadly. Students can expect to engage in both project and community-based learning and to graduate with grant-writing experience. The program boasts itself to be the most affordable MPH program offered in the state of Virginia, and it’s designed to be completed in just one year. June Sullivan, DMSc, PA-C, serves as one of the directors of the Master of Public Health Program; her work is renowned in emergency medicine and global health27.

2) George Mason University

Discussed previously, also offers its MPH program online. See above for details. However, the school only offers the Public Health Practice concentration in the online format.

3) Eastern Virginia Medical School

Discussed previously, also offers its MPH program online18. See above for details.

4) Liberty University

Offers an MPH program online24. Students in this program can choose from 4 concentrations: Community Health Promotion; Environmental Health; Global Health; Nutrition. Liberty University is a leader in online learning with 35+ years of experience assisting “distance learners” and over a decade researching the specific needs of online students. Courses in this program are taught with the over-arching values of Liberty University in mind, meaning coursework and teaching take on a Christian perspective. Notably, the school allows online students to graduate in person and attend campus events such as Convocation. Gineska Castillo, MD, MPH, CHES, CPH serves as the director of the Master of Public Health Program Online and as a professor; her work is renowned in pediatrics and rural medicine25.

5) Old Dominion University

Offers an MPH program online22. While specific concentrations are not provided, the program does offer a wide range of courses, including ones examining occupational health risks and global health considerations. The program notably offers mentoring from public health leaders, allowing for valuable professional growth. The program website provides lots of transparency regarding the program’s cost depending on state residency, possible careers, and corresponding salaries. Bonnie Van Lunen, PhD serves as the interim dean for the School of Public Health Initiative and as a professor; her work is renowned in athletic training and musculoskeletal injury23.

Admission Requirements and Application Insights

Admissions requirements vary slightly between MPH programs28. Application cycles for all MPH programs, including those in Virginia, typically begin in August for programs beginning the following fall. Thus, applicants should begin researching specific programs and preparing their applications in the months before to ensure proper completion of the application process. A bachelor’s degree is required for application to all programs, but most do not require specific undergraduate coursework or set a minimum undergraduate GPA requirement. On average, Virginia schools no longer need to submit GRE or GMAT test scores. The requirements around letters of recommendation vary; typically, 2-3 letters are necessitated for a complete application. 

Choose the writers of your letters carefully, as this is a significant chance to showcase why you would add value to the school’s MPH program. Experiences included on your application and your personal statement are important opportunities to highlight your passion for and dedication to the field of public health and make up for any other areas of the application that may be lacking, such as a low GPA.

Career Outlook with an MPH from a Program in Virginia

A career in public health does not have a one-size-fits-all formula. Public health careers can vary widely, with people holding MPH degrees engaging in many professional realms29. Many of these careers are expected to grow exponentially in years to come30. As previously mentioned, several Virginia MPH programs connect students with alumni and other community mentors to help grow their professional networks. This offering can immensely support a student’s career outlook. With Washington, D.C. nearby and a highly active Virginia Department of Health31, opportunities in government and health policy are abundant when graduating from a Virginia MPH program. 

Some MPH programs in Virginia emphasize global health in their curricula and faculty leadership, making them particularly significant to students seeking international opportunities. Beyond global health, the vast number of course offerings, community opportunities, and faculty excellence at Virginia MPH programs provide graduates with solid career outlooks in many areas.

Closing Thoughts

In conclusion, MPH programs in Virginia offer enrollees fantastic opportunities to engage further with the health sphere and grow as public health professionals. With diverse program formats, offerings, and credentials, these Virginia programs boast opportunities for people with many backgrounds and goals. 

Consider applying today to an MPH program in Virginia to contribute meaningfully to improving people’s health.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK218224/

  2. https://masterspublichealth.com/public-health-careers/

  3. https://publichealth.vt.edu/curriculum/graduateprogram/master-of-public-health--mph--degree.html

  4. https://publichealth.gmu.edu/program/public-health-mph

  5. https://potomac.edu/northern-virginia-higher-education-benefits/

  6. https://iampublichealthva.org/

  7. https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/health-equity/unnatural-causes-is-inequality-making-us-sick/what-is-health-inequity/

  8. https://www.virginiabusiness.com/article/survey-finds-virginia-to-be-leader-in-health-it/

  9. https://www.vhcf.org/about/

  10. https://www.unitedvanlines.com/moving-tips/blog/move-to-virginia

  11. https://masterspublichealth.com/best-mph-programs/

  12. https://www.nu.edu/blog/weighing-the-pros-and-cons-of-online-vs-in-person-learning/

  13. https://masterspublichealth.com/online-mph-programs/

  14. https://med.virginia.edu/phs/education-programs-in-public-health-sciences/the-master-of-public-health-program-at-the-university-of-virginia/

  15. https://med.virginia.edu/phs/2024/03/15/gurka-matthew-j-ph-d/

  16. https://vetmed.vt.edu/people/faculty/holt-nicole.html

  17. https://publichealth.gmu.edu/profiles/mperry27

  18. https://www.evms.edu/education/masters_programs/graduate_program_in_public_health/

  19. https://www.evms.edu/directory/profiles/brian-c-martin.php

  20. https://sph.vcu.edu/education/mph/

  21. https://medschool.vcu.edu/about/portfolio/details/vlbsheppard/

  22. https://www.odu.edu/academics/programs/masters/public-health

  23. https://www.odu.edu/directory/bonnie-van-lunen

  24. https://www.liberty.edu/online-at-liberty/master-of-public-health-health-promotion/

  25. https://www.liberty.edu/health-sciences/public-community-health/faculty/gineska-castillo/

  26. https://explore.lynchburg.edu/master-of-public-health-3/?explore.lynchburg.edu

  27. https://www.lynchburg.edu/academics/faculty/june-sullivan/

  28. https://masterspublichealth.com/masters-in-public-health-requirements/

  29. https://masterspublichealth.com/public-health-careers/

  30. https://www.uvm.edu/publichealth/public-health-job-outlook/

  31. https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/

About the Authors

Written by:

Julia Sturtz, MPH

Julia Sturtz is a graduate student currently pursuing her Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in epidemiology with a certificate in health policy and practice at the Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. At Columbia, she engages deeply in the community by serving as a peer advocate in the Sexual Violence Response program, a teaching assistant for multiple courses, a leader in the Student Well-Being Collective for Mental Health Literacy, and a mentor to first-year students in her certificate program. Academically, she is currently working toward completion of her thesis which focuses on psychiatric-physical comorbidities amongst the children of 9/11 first responders. 

Prior to starting her program at Columbia, Ms. Sturtz attained her Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, with a major in biology and a minor in English. After completion of her undergraduate studies, she worked at Jhpiego where she was seconded to the Baltimore City Health Department. In this role, she helped bring vaccines, other medical resources, and health information to underserved communities within Baltimore city as part of the pandemic response. 

Opinions and information published by the author on MastersPublicHealth.com are her own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of her employer.

Julia Sturtz

Julia Sturtz, MPH


Education: Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health

Knowledge: Epidemiology and Community Health

Reviewed by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on MastersPublicHealth.com are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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