Major: Public Health

What colleges offer a Major in Public Health?

As medicine continues to advance, so do disease and poverty. In recent years we’ve seen the devastating effects worldwide of infectious diseases like AIDS and tuberculosis. 

If you study public health, you’ll learn how government actions; access (and lack of access) to health care; communication and education; and funding all factor into the spread, treatment, and prevention of disease. Your course work will cover epidemiology (the science concerned with the spread and control of disease), preventive medicine, health economics, and health ethics.

Students of public health prepare for careers evaluating and managing programs that address widespread health threats.

Did You Know?

Public health majors are rare for undergraduates, but a major in health science including classes in public health is good preparation for graduate programs.

Are You Ready To...?

  • Research and write a thesis or dissertation on anything from family planning to mad cow disease
  • Work closely with a faculty adviser
  • Intern at a public health organization in the United States or in another country
  • Specialize in biostatistics, environmental health, health education, or another area

It Helps To Be...

Compassionate, globally aware, and good with numbers. Because public health offers so many opportunities for work and study, students enter the field with varying strengths and interests. However, they all share a determination to improve health worldwide.

College Checklist

  • Is the school of public health accredited by the Association of Schools of Public Health?
  • Does the program offer concentrations in your area of interest?
  • Does the program welcome recent undergraduates or is it geared more toward professionals with work experience in a related field?
  • What prerequisite course work must you complete before being admitted?
  • Are labs equipped with the latest?
  • What research and other projects are professors involved in?

I wrote a proposal on how to improve access to and safety of sites for physical activity for people living in low-SES [socioeconomic status] communities … we often distribute information about making behavioral changes to improve health without thinking about the barriers people might face in making those changes.” -- Morgan, M.S. candidate, public health, Harvard University

Course Spotlight

In a class on biostatistics, you’ll learn how to use numbers to answer questions about health. This is no easy task -- simple math doesn’t always lead to the right answer. 

Consider lung cancer. As you know, smoking is a risk factor. So is arsenic. How much more likely to get lung cancer is a smoker whose tap water contains arsenic than a smoker whose water is arsenic-free?

It turns out that you can't just add up the risk associated with each factor as you would four plus four. Instead, each action increases the potential harm of the other. If you study biostatistics, you’ll learn how to approach complex problems like this.