An Essential Guide to Master's in Public Health Nursing Programs

Published on: Jul 1, 2024

Healthcare keeps evolving, and so do the professions that fall underneath it. It can be noted from the origination of Doctor in Pharmacy degrees where pharmacy and medicine intersect to the intersection of nursing and public health, which is gaining prominence. Nurses, traditionally known for their direct patient care roles, are rightly recognized as essential players in addressing broader healthcare challenges. So, a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) with a specialization in Nursing equips nurses with the knowledge and skills to navigate complex public health issues, advocate for population health (as in population health nursing), and effect positive change in communities worldwide.

This is especially important now that healthcare as a whole is shifting its priorities towards preventive care, health promotion, and addressing health disparities. Thus, the integration of public health principles with advanced nursing practices is necessary to improve community and global health outcomes.

So what is Public Health Nursing? The American Public Health Association (APHA) defines public health nursing as “the practice of promoting and protecting the health of populations using knowledge from nursing, social, and public health sciences” 1. With projections indicating a shortage of over 200,000 public health professionals by 2025 , the demand for skilled public health nurses is escalating2, underscoring the urgency of advancing education in this field.

What is a Master’s in Public Health in Nursing?

A Master’s in Public Health (MPH) in Nursing is a specialized graduate degree that merges the principles of nursing practice with public health policy, education, and leadership. This interdisciplinary program equips nurses with advanced knowledge and skills to address complex health challenges at both individual and population levels.

Nurses pursuing this degree gain proficiency in designing and implementing interventions that: 

  • promote health,

  • prevent disease, and

  • improve healthcare delivery systems.

The key coursework in a Masters of Public Health Nursing program includes comprehensive studies in population health, focusing on understanding health trends and disparities among different demographic groups. Courses go deeper into environmental health, exploring the impact of environmental factors on public health and strategies to mitigate risks. Additionally, students learn about preventive care strategies, emphasizing the importance of early intervention and health promotion in reducing healthcare costs and improving overall well-being.

The MPH in Nursing curriculum also addresses policy development and analysis within the context of public health, preparing nurses to influence healthcare policy decisions that affect community health outcomes3. Leadership skills are honed through courses that emphasize management, communication, and ethical decision-making in healthcare settings. By combining nursing practice with public health principles, graduates of MPH in Nursing programs are poised to assume leadership roles in diverse healthcare settings. 

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Career Pathways and Opportunities

The demand for public health professionals is projected to grow significantly in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates a 12% growth in employment for health educators and community health workers from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations4. This growth is driven by an increased focus on preventive care and a growing need for healthcare services in rural and underserved areas. 

Pursuing a Master’s in Public Health in Nursing opens doors to impactful and rewarding careers as a family nurse practitioner, or in public health administration. By blending advanced nursing practice with public health expertise, you can become a leader in transforming healthcare systems and improving health outcomes on both local and global scales.

Luckily, graduates of a Master's in Public Health in Nursing have a wealth of career opportunities at their disposal, each playing a crucial role in enhancing public health outcomes. Here are some prominent career paths and their potential impact:

Public Health Nurse:

Public health nurses work at the intersection of healthcare and community health, focusing on disease prevention and health promotion within populations5. They conduct health education programs, administer vaccines, application of behavioral science principles and manage community health clinics. Their work often involves direct interaction with underserved populations, making a tangible difference in community health. The median annual salary for public health nurses ranges from $60,000 to $80,000, depending on location and experience6.

Community Health Coordinator:

This role involves designing and implementing health initiatives, coordinating with local health departments, and evaluating program effectiveness. By fostering partnerships and engaging with community stakeholders, you can help address health disparities and improve access to care. Salaries for community health coordinators typically range from $50,000 to $80,000 annually.

Health Policy Advisor:

This career path offers the opportunity to influence health legislation and ensure that public health nursing considerations are integrated into policy decisions. Health policy advisors can earn between $70,000 and $100,000 per year.

Clinical Nurse Leader:

This role not only requires clinical expertise but also strong leadership skills to mentor and guide nursing staff. The median salary for clinical nurse leaders is around $85,000 to $100,000 annually.

Global Health Specialist:

This role is especially suited for those passionate about making a global impact. Salaries for global health specialists can vary widely but generally fall between $65,000 and $95,000 per year. Global health is a growing field with many exciting opportunities beyond public health nursing. 

MPH in Nursing Curriculum

The curriculum is designed to equip you with the skills and knowledge needed to tackle complex health issues. The core subjects in these programs, as listed below, lay the foundation for a deep understanding of public health principles and their application in nursing;

Other Specialized Tracks and Electives include Courses on Global Health, Health Education, and Mental Health.

These courses are designed to prepare you for the various challenges you will face in public health and nursing. By merging your theoretical knowledge with practical skills, the curriculum equips you to:

  • Develop and lead public health initiatives aimed at improving community health.

  • Analyze and interpret health data to inform policy and practice.

  • Address health disparities and promote equity in healthcare access and outcomes.

  • Collaborate with diverse stakeholders to implement effective health interventions.

  • Adapt to emerging health threats and changing healthcare landscapes.

By the time you graduate, you will be well-prepared to make a significant impact in the field, driving improvements in both community and global health.

All You Need to Know About The Admission Requirements and Application Process

This is the most important part of getting an MPH in Nursing, especially in any American Public University, and the following are the typical prerequisites and information on the application process to help you get started on your own sample plan.

Prerequisites for Admission6

  • Bachelor's Degree: Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN) or in a related field. Some programs may accept degrees in other health sciences, but a BSN is often preferred.

  • Work Experience: Many programs prefer or require applicants to have relevant work experience in nursing or public health.

  • Licensure: A current registered nurse (RN) license is typically required.

A Step-by-Step Application Process:

Step 1: Research Programs

Consider factors such as curriculum, faculty expertise, and program format (online, on-campus, hybrid).

Step 2: Prepare Required Documents

  • Transcripts from all post-secondary institutions, 

  • 2-3 Letters of Recommendation from professionals who can speak to your academic and professional abilities.

  • Personal Statement.

  • Updated Resume/CV.

Step 3: Complete the Application

Fill out the application forms for the programs you are interested in. Pay attention to specific instructions and provide all required information.

Step 4: Submit Application Fees

Most programs require an application fee, which typically ranges from $50 to $100. Check each program’s requirements and submit the fees accordingly.

Step 5: Schedule Interviews (if required):

Some programs may require an interview as part of the admission process. You can prepare by reviewing your application materials and being ready to discuss your goals and qualifications.

Timing and Deadlines:

Pay close attention to application deadlines, which vary by program. Many top programs, such as those at George Washington University or Johns Hopkins University, have deadlines in the fall or early spring for fall admission.

You can also consider applying early if the program offers rolling admissions or priority deadlines to improve your chances of acceptance and access to scholarships.

3 Tips for a Successful Application:

  • Customize your personal statement and application materials for each program, showing why you're a good fit.

  • Carefully follow all application instructions to avoid delays or issues.

  • Ask mentors or colleagues to review your application to make sure it looks great.

Evaluating Accreditation and Choosing the Right Program For You

Choosing the right Master’s in Public Health in Nursing program is crucial for your professional development and future career opportunities. One thing you cannot compromise is the program's accreditation, which ensures that the education you receive meets standardized requirements.

You should be on the lookout for accreditation from recognized bodies such as the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

So once you have confirmed accreditation status, other things can come into play like the qualifications and backgrounds of the active faculty members, the resources available to students, student support services, and program formats. You want to choose a place that suits all your needs from those perspectives.

For example, with Program formats, you can consider a traditional on-campus program or an online/hybrid format. It all comes down to your preferred lifestyle. However, here are some pros and cons:

On-Campus Programs:

Pros: Direct interaction with faculty and peers, access to campus facilities, and a structured learning environment.

Cons: Requires relocation or commuting, fixed schedules, and potentially higher costs associated with living expenses.

Online/Hybrid Programs:

Pros: Flexibility to study from anywhere, often allows you to continue working while studying, and can be more cost-effective.

Cons: Requires strong self-discipline, may have limited face-to-face interaction, and access to campus resources may be restricted or require travel.

Making the Most of Your Degree

Getting yourself a Master's in Public Health in Nursing is just the beginning of a rewarding career. The best way to make the most out of it is to ensure you:

  • Leverage internship opportunities—could be in community health clinics, governmental agencies, or non-profit organizations—to enhance practical skills and expand your professional network.

  • Join professional organizations—you can become a member of organizations such as the American Public Health Association (APHA), the Association of Public Health Nurses (APHN), and other relevant bodies can provide access to conferences, seminars, and networking events.

  • Engage in networking events—like public health conferences, webinars, and local health department meetings.

  • Stay updated—by subscribing to relevant journals and following influential public health organizations on social media.

  • Pursue further certifications—you can get other certifications in specialized areas such as infection control, health education, or epidemiology to give you an edge over the competition.

  • Enroll in courses that address new public health threats, advanced nursing techniques, or emerging health technologies.

  • Engage in research.

  • Join alumni bodies—to benefit from support, resources, and opportunities for collaboration.

By proactively engaging in internships, networking, and continuing education, you can ensure that your MPH in Nursing remains highly valuable.

Why Should You Consider A Masters in Public Health in Nursing?

Well, a Master's in Public Health in Nursing represents the best combo of tactfulness and knowledge in advancing your career within the health sector.  While this degree uniquely combines the principles of public health with advanced nursing practices, like anything in life, it is not easy.

You will engage in rigorous coursework, and work hard for a hands-on experience through practicums and internships, but there really is light at the end of the tunnel. The opportunities this degree makes available to graduates, from public health nursing and health policy advising to community health coordination, illustrate its versatility and relevance.

As you consider pursuing this degree, reflect on how it aligns with your personal and professional aspirations. Do you aspire to drive healthcare policy, lead public health initiatives, or improve health outcomes for underserved populations? A Master’s in Public Health in Nursing provides the knowledge, skills, and credentials needed to make a significant impact in these areas.

In making this commitment, you are not only advancing your career but also contributing to the broader goal of enhancing public health and well-being. Evaluate accredited programs, seek out opportunities for practical experience, and stay engaged with the public health community to maximize the benefits of your degree. This path offers a fulfilling and dynamic career dedicated to making a positive difference in the world.

Now You Know, What Next?

Take the next step towards advancing your career in public health nursing today. Reach out to admissions offices for more information about their Master’s in Public Health in Nursing programs. Speak with current students and alumni to gain insights into their experiences and outcomes. Your journey towards making a significant impact in public health starts now. Explore your options, ask questions, and find the program that best aligns with your professional goals and aspirations. We can help you plan your application timeline. Don’t wait—begin your path to a transformative career today.

MPH Making an Impact

Profiles of Selected Master's in Public Health Nutrition Programs

If you’re wondering, where can I get this MPH in Nursing? Well, we have news for you, below are the major schools that offer this program.

University of Pennsylvania:

The University of Pennsylvania’s Master of Public Health in Nursing program offers a unique focus on healthcare leadership and policy, with courses taught by renowned faculty from the top-ranked Wharton School and School of Nursing.

Johns Hopkins University:

Johns Hopkins University’s MPH program equips students to tackle global health issues with evidence-based methods. Offering 12 concentrations and flexible pacing, the program requires 80 credits, including core courses, electives, a practicum, and a capstone project. Students benefit from the renowned Bloomberg School of Public Health and interdisciplinary collaboration.

University of California, Berkeley:

The University of California, Berkeley’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a focus on Health Equity and Social Justice offers a unique concentration on addressing health disparities and promoting health equity, with a strong emphasis on community-based research and partnership, especially around San Francisco.

Columbia University:

Columbia University’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a focus on Nursing offers a global perspective on public health, with opportunities to study abroad and engage in international research projects, as well as access to the university’s extensive global network.

University of Michigan:

The University of Michigan’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a focus on Nursing offers a strong emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration, with opportunities to work with faculty from multiple schools and colleges, including the School of Public Health, School of Nursing, and Medical School.

University of Illinois at Chicago:

The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with a focus on Public Health Nursing offers a unique concentration on urban health and health equity, with opportunities to engage in community-based research and partnership in Chicago’s diverse neighborhoods.

University of Washington:

The University of Washington’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a focus on Nursing offers a strong emphasis on environmental health and sustainability, with opportunities to work with faculty from the renowned School of Environmental and Forest Sciences.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill:

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program with a focus on Nursing offers a strong emphasis on health policy and advocacy, with opportunities to work with faculty from the renowned Gillings School of Global Public Health.

Chamberlain University:

Chamberlain University offers an online Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program with a 48-credit curriculum that includes a practicum and capstone project. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Walden University:

Walden University offers an online Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program with various concentrations. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Worcester State University:

Worcester State University offers an in-person Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program with concentrations in Public Health Practice and Healthcare Management. Accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and the CEPH.

About the Authors

Written by:

Becky Olamide, MS Psychology, BSN

Becky Olamide is a Registered Nurse, Instructional Designer, and medical content writer. As a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, she has a strong nursing-focused education background as part of her MSN. She is skilled in developing clinical summaries, continuing education modules, and proficiency exam questions, such as those for the NCLEX. Becky holds a Master's in Psychology and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).

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 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