Understanding MPH Program Rankings

Published on: Mar 19, 2024


Every year, US News and World Report publishes rankings for a variety of categories, including news and travel, health, and education. Many use this list of rankings to decide where to live, which health care provider to choose, and where to attend university. These rankings include a list of Best Public Health Schools in the country. If you are considering getting your Master in Public Health degree and wondering how legitimate these ranking systems are, you have come to the right place. While these rankings can be beneficial, there are various other factors to consider when choosing a graduate program. 

This article aims to provide context to these rankings and insights to help you during your search for a public health degree program.

Making Sense of MPH Program Rankings

There are endless ways to rank something. When considering a public health program, you can rank it by the percentage of students that are employed post-graduation, happiness of students, the number of students that publish research during graduate school, graduation rate, and the list goes on. US News and World Report publish the most well-known ranking list in the country, but they even have multiple ways to rank graduate schools. Their methodology is explained in more depth here. Still, essentially, they send out assessments to deans, administrators, and faculty in these public health degree programs to assess ‘quality’ of the academic programs. For people interested in a specific specialty in public health (i.e., health policy, environmental health sciences, health promotion, and social and behavioral sciences), there are additional rankings to include these topic areas. 

In addition to US News and World Report, there are countless other media publishers and websites that publish Master of Public Health program ranking lists. Fortune Education published a best online MPH ranking list, Money.com published a ‘Best MPH Program for your Money’ list, and websites like Reddit and Quora also have pages where people can rank their programs.2,3 Some of these ranking criteria include faculty expertise, research output, student satisfaction, retention rate, acceptance rate, cost per credit, number of credits needed to graduate, etc. Because there isn’t one uniform way to quantify how ‘good’ a program is, rankings can be subjective and published with limited transparency into the methodology. The internet is a largely unregulated arena,so this is why rankings can be helpful when picking a public health degree program, but also why MPH rankings should be taken with a sizable grain of salt.

Pros of MPH Program Rankings

When looking at future public health programs, it’s important to ensure they are accredited and reputable. Does the program website look legitimate? If you google the school, what comes up? Do some quick searches to gauge how reputable a program is. Indicators of a good reputation include positive alumni and faculty experience, ethical practices, and consistent and trustworthy messaging. For example, you can look at how a program has responded to big events in society, like the COVID-19 pandemic, and if their values align with yours. Additionally, you can look on the program’s website to see if faculty and alumni are listed. Read these bios to see what work they have done in public health, what organizations they have spent time in, any research publications, what their public health specialty is, and what their life looks like outside of work. Reach out to someone who knows the program well and pick their brain about their experience. It can be challenging to tell a program’s reputation from its website alone, so do some additional digging on the reputation, faculty, and alumni to ensure you are entering a highly regarded program. Some MPH programs with excellent reputations are Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, Brown University School of Public Health and University of California Berkeley Public Health. But don’t just take our word for it - do your own research to dig into these program’s reputations yourself. 

In addition to doing research, make sure you are making informed decisions based on your wants and needs. Make a list of what you need and want from attending graduate school. Your list could include factors such as location, class size, specialty or concentration, ratio of students to professors, global health opportunities, online vs in-person, etc., and find public health schools that meet your needs. Just because a program may be ranked #1 doesn’t mean it is the best fit for you. If you don’t like the hustle and bustle of the northeast, going to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health doesn’t make much sense for you, even if it may be ranked #1 on lists you are seeing. In this case, Texas A&M MPH program may be a better fit, with hiking and biking trails a quick drive from campus. If you want to travel abroad for a global health opportunity, or explore other health services or health professions while getting your MPH degree, ensure your program fosters those learning environments. Duke University offers a Master of Science program in Global Health, with a 10-week field-based project to allow for deeper understanding and assimilation into global health issues. 

In summary, you want to create your own basis for program evaluation using metrics that are important to you, and utilize these online rankings and lists as accessories to help you make the best informed decision you can.

Cons of MPH Program Rankings

While MPH program rankings can be helpful, there are also some significant limitations to consider. Ranking Master of Public Health education programs is not like completing rigorous research studies. There is no review board to ensure rankers follow ethical standards, so there will inevitably be subjectivity and bias in ranking criteria. If the article authors attended UC Berkeley Public Health for grad school, and had a great experience, they may rank it higher than someone who had no relation to the school. Conversely, suppose someone attended Oregon State University’s MPH program and had a poor experience. In that case, they may rank it lower or avoid putting it on their ‘Top Ten Public Health Program’ list. 

Additionally, there is variation in data collection and analysis. As we learned, programs include different criteria in their ranking methodologies. One ranking publication may rank purely on cost and students satisfaction, while another may rank on faculty publication rates. There is no requirement to publish the ranking criteria, so you may need to learn what metrics are making up the backend ranking system. We live in a world with high emphasis on research output and faculty reputation, so make sure you are clear about what factors are important to you when choosing a graduate program. Consider program fit and your individual goals, and read the fine print on data collection and analysis methodologies to ensure you are digesting these lists with as open of a mind as possible.

Factors to Consider Beyond Rankings

While program rankings are helpful, there are many factors to consider beyond them. 

Accreditation and Program Quality

The Council on Education for Public Health, an independent accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, is charged with accrediting public health programs in the United States. Students can search prospective public health practice programs to learn basic information about the program history, curriculum, concentration areas (such as community health, global public health, health policy, environmental health, health education, and health promotion), and links to the official program website. 


There are endless specializations available for MPH students. These can include community health, global health, public health policy, environmental health, health promotion, population health, health administration, and health care management. Look at the curriculum for schools that you are interested in. They should list core required MPH courses and opportunities for electives, and choose one that aligns with your interests. Some schools of public health have an overarching focus area, like St. Louis University’s College for Public Health and Social Justice public health practice focuses on social justice. 

Additionally, if you think you may be interested in picking up a second Master degree, look into schools with dual degree options. University of North Carolina Gillings School of Public Health offers various dual degree programs

Resources and Facilities

Your graduate school professors will likely be established and renowned individuals in the field.  Utilize them for advice, networking opportunities, and mentorship. Take a look at their bios or LinkedIn profiles. These faculty will be your advisors and resources while you are in the public health program; take advantage of their knowledge and networks, and choose a program with professors with common interests, research publications, or experiences that appeal to you. 

Additionally, look at the student support services offered for your program. Most schools will offer academic counseling, internships and externship placements, and various professional development workshops. You will likely be assigned to an academic counselor to help you navigate graduate school and the job hunt experience. Some schools may offer career coaching, resume building workshops, interview practice sessions, etc. Additionally, most graduate programs will require students to complete some sort of externship. Inquire about the school’s previous externship placements - are these organizations interesting to you? Being in school enables you to form relationships with organizations on the premise of being a student at your university. Do some research to ensure your university fosters relationships with the type of places you are interested in and would explore post graduation. 

Lastly, look into your prospective school’s facilities and cost. If you attend an in-person graduate program, you will likely spend a lot of time around your school. Are there specific amenities you want your program to have? A private vs public university may offer different housing options; some schools provide more hands-on public health practice experience; and others offer more comprehensive health care. Do you want your school to have a gym, pickleball courts, a golf course? Similar to program facilities, it’s important to consider the annual tuition of prospective MPH programs. Public schools will be less expensive, private schools will be more expensive. Most schools will list the cost of credits on their website, so you can project the total cost of tuition. These are all things to consider when looking into Master of Public Health education programs. 

Location and Networking Opportunities


With a surplus of MPH degree programs in various geographic environments, it’s important to consider location in your search. Some questions to consider:

  • Where do you want to live during your graduate studies experience?

    There are Master of Public Health education programs located in urban, suburban, and rural parts of the country. If you want to live in a big city, consider Boston University, University of Southern California, or Columbia University. If you want to live in a smaller city, consider Yale University School of Public Health in New Haven, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine at Tulane University in New Orleans, or the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina in Charleston.

  • What type of job do you want to have after graduating?

    If you're going to work for the government, consider a program in DC like the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. If you want to work for a large academic medical institution, consider a school like UCLA Fielding School. If you're going to work for the CDC, consider a school like the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, located near the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. If you want to work for community health, consider a school with deep ties to their community and fieldwork opportunities in the school district or local health center.

  • Do you want to pursue an online MPH degree?

     If you are working full time, balancing multiple priorities, or live far from a university, you may consider pursuing an online (or hybrid) MPH degree. For online or hybrid programs, it’s important to consider the schedule of classes, how much support the faculty can offer students (i.e., do they offer office hours?), if the program feels like a community (are there networking and team building opportunities outside of the formal class setting), and what alumni of the program are doing now. San Jose State University offers a fully online MPH program for students to complete over 24 months, with classes meeting synchronously once per week. Online and hybrid MPH programs are great for increased flexibility, but make sure you are still getting what you need out of the program.


We know that networking is an integral part of professional life nowadays. Being in graduate school cultivates countless networking opportunities, both with your program faculty and industry connections they may have. Many schools have student affairs offices to promote student engagement both within the university and outside the neighboring community. Schools have relationships with neighboring organizations, health systems, nongovernmental organizations, and government officials. 

Most graduate public health students have some type of internship or practicum incorporated into their curriculum. Look into your prospective school's partnerships and choose a program with partnering organizations that interest you. Additionally, universities will sponsor career fairs, and mentorship programs, and often have at least one administrator dedicated to student employment and community outreach. 

With MPH degrees becoming increasingly common and sought after, the question is not can I get a job,but which job will best fit me?


In conclusion, there are pros and cons of MPH program rankings. While they can be a helpful place to start your search, or something to take into consideration, they are subjective and have an array of testing methodologies, so rankings should not be the sole or deciding factor. Make a list of things that are most important to you in your future public health program, and then use these rankings as one tool among many in the decision-making process. Best of luck in your search!

About the Authors

Written by:

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML, is a program manager at one of the largest academic medical centers in the country. In her current role, she aligns and expands programming with needs identified in the federally mandated community health needs assessment, and deploys organizational resources to support community health improvement. Prior to this role, she was a community health educator for an advocacy nonprofit organization in Philadelphia. She has co-authored multiple research papers on criminal justice and substance abuse, and will be presenting on law enforcement assisted diversion at the 2023 American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Ms. Henkin holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master in Law (ML) from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences from Ithaca College.

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

Kerra Henkin headshot

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML

Program Manager

Education: University of Pennsylvania

Knowledge: Community health education

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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