Selecting a school of public health
Filed under: Blog Series, career, public health | Tags: applying, blogging, financial aid, Global Health, grad school, graduate degree, graduate school, Idealist blog project, idealist.org, master of public health, MPH |
How do you whittle down over 40 schools of public health to a reasonable list of schools to apply to? Everyone has a different approach. I am sort of a spreadsheet queen, so I keep everything in a single Excel workbook and each school has an individual worksheet. I considered about 25 factors when looking at schools; here are my top four most important things to look at for selecting a school in no particular order.
Focusing on location is more important than your tendency to be snow averse or a ski bunny. Certain cities such as Atlanta will offer numerous public health internship and practicum opportunities. Obviously, having greater work experience upon graduation is a good position to find yourself in. Internships can also increase your chances of finding fulltime work soon after graduation.
2. Let your passions be your guide.
First and foremost, you need to look at the degree offerings of the schools. The most common credential for graduate-level public health study is the master of public health (MPH). Some schools offer other master’s-level degrees such as the master of health science (MHS) or the master of science in public health (MSPH). Consider the career path that you hope to take when choosing the degree you would like to pursue as some may have a more academic focus with an emphasis on research while others may be more professional in nature, targeted to teach specialized skills. Other degree options include doctorate-level study and joint degrees.
The next consideration should be the area of study that you would like to focus on, if any. Some areas of study, such as epidemiology and health care management will be available at almost every school of public health. My particular area of interest, global or international health, is not available at all schools of public health. Even when global health is available, it may not be an academic department, but rather an interdepartmental specialization or certificate. The academic structure of your area of study has an impact on research and practicum opportunities.
3. Bills, bills, bills.
It has always been important to weigh how to pay for graduate school. It has taken on a new level of importance with the credit crunch as student loans are harder to obtain. Let’s be honest; being a full-time student is far from a lucrative profession. This does not mean that you have to eat bread and water for two years. Most schools offer some merit-based grants to prospective and current students. Often, students apply for these scholarships with submission of their application. Location does play a role in your finances as a graduate student. Attending school in an area with a relatively low cost of living can go a long way to keeping costs down. Applicants should also consider the availability of part-time work if desired or required. Larger universities tend to have more teaching and research assistant positions available for graduate students.
4. Inside and outside the ivory tower.
A school’s research centers and institutes mean more than extra classroom reading. For students interested in a more academic focus, the more research, the better. For students wanting to work in the field, research centers represent opportunities to apply theories and methodologies in the classroom to real-world situations. Some universities give back to their surrounding communities by using the expertise of faculty and enthusiasm of students to improve conditions and outcomes. Even for international health, research institutes such as Columbia’s Millennium Villages Project offer students privileged access to putting their academic lessons to the test through university-supported affiliates and organizations.
Check out these resources for more information for your select-a-school search:
US News and World Reports Best Graduate Schools in Public Health
Idealist.org Public Service Graduate Education Resource Center
Your friends and acquaintances (look at educational history through a social networking site such as Linked In)
photo courtesy of S.C. Asher