Tips to Increase Skills for Future and Current MPH Students

By: Erin Riley, MPH

In graduate school students acquire skills in order to become marketable for employment, and to prepare for a job. Students gain valuable skills during and after completing a Master’s Degree of Public Health, but often supplemental skills are important in order to prepare yourself for the future job market.

According to the University of Illinois, over 80% of students graduating with a Master’s of Public Health from an accredited university will obtain employment within a year of graduation. However, the job market is competitive and recent MPH students who wish to differentiate and further themselves can follow these tips to better ensure their success in public health.

1. Learn data analysis

Data analysis is a needed and highly marketable skill that is essential when applying for a job in public health. The most basic form of data analysis is taught through biostatistics courses using statistical software such as SPSS, SAS, Stata, and R. Having a basic understanding of biostatistics is a practical skill and knowing how to use statistical software is even better. Many well-known universities like Johns Hopkins and the University of Amsterdam offer free classes through Coursera that teach data analysis and biostatistics.

Many online guides also teach statistical software. Companies like DataStep and universities like UCLA have websites dedicated to helping an individual learn how to use SPSS. SAS offers free training to learn how to use this software, as well as a certificate once a specific number of classes are completed. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill offers a small database of links to SAS courses. DataCamp offers free courses and step by step instruction on how to use R.

2. Find your niche

Public health is a vast world with people from many backgrounds. The five main areas of public health consist of biostatistics, behavior health and health education, environmental health, epidemiology, and health services administration/management. Instead of not knowing where to begin, find an area of public health that interests you and that you would like to build a career in. From there, begin honing the essential and necessary skills for employment in that area.

Take online classes through Coursera and edX to learn more about specific areas of public health and earn a specialization or certification. Email or speak with professors who have careers that interest you. Ask them how they got to where they are and the steps they took. Take time to get to know your classmates and build relationships with them because they could be important allies when it is time to look for a job.

3. Build your resume

There is no such thing as too much experience. While the Master of Public Health at Creighton University requires a practicum, having more than one internship can be beneficial for skill building and experiences for a future job. Internships can be found through asking professors, a career advisor, and asking local organizations like the health department, government agency, or non-governmental organizations.

Networking is also an essential skill in order to find a job after graduation or to increase prospects for a new job. Networking can be done through professors, coworkers, fellow students, student organizations, and professional organizations. This allows you to get to know other people who may have skills or connections that will get you to the career you desire.

These three tips will help strengthen your skill set, as well as provide you with resources and guides to develop practical skills as you finish your master’s degree program.