University of Sourthern California


MPH Concentrations: What You Need to Know

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Public health professionals study and work to improve the health and well-being of populations — from small communities to entire nation states. Public health is a vast field with many different avenues for research, policy analysis, administration and advocacy. The need for quality education and specialized training continues to grow as health trends become more complex. Likewise, the need for increased access to advanced education — such as the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree — as health issues become more widespread and region-specific.

Learn more about MPH concentrations and which public health path may be right for you.

5 Public Health Concentrations

The Keck School of Medicine is dedicated to addressing the growing need for increased access to professional education and the study of public health development. The Online Master of Public Health program allows students and working professionals to complete intensive coursework while being attentive to the needs of their communities. The curriculum is designed to prepare individuals for what to expect when they enter the field as professionals and create opportunities for them to work among world leaders in public health. Students will learn to think critically in a challenging health environment and apply their knowledge to their future work in nonprofits, hospitals and government agencies.

One of the unique qualities of the Master of Public Health program is the selection of a public health concentration. Students choose from six focus areas to add specificity and personalized instruction to their studies as they earn their MPH degree online. These concentrations are:

  • Biostatistics and Epidemiology
  • Community Health Promotion
  • Global Health
  • Health Services and Policy
  • Generalist

Each MPH concentration offers specialized coursework that informs students of the varying approaches to public health. Biostatistics and Epidemiology, for example, emphasizes the use of statistics and statistical data in the study of global health trends. Below are descriptions of the characteristics of each of the six public health concentrations to ensure that prospective students pursue the path that best aligns with their personal interests and potential.

Biostatistics and Epidemiology

The Biostatistics and Epidemiology concentration highlights quantitative aspects of public health. Students will learn to analyze past and current health trends and use evidence-based statistical methodologies to predict future ones. These patterns and predictions will be used to brainstorm and evaluate disease prevention and treatment measures. Addressing the public’s interest in the effectiveness of immunizations, for example, would involve studying disease origins and following past treatment outcomes to determine the formulas needed to increase the utilization of vaccination services.

Students with a strong quantitative background and interest in health trend surveillance and assessment will appreciate the concentration-specific coursework included in the Biostatistics and Epidemiology curriculum. They can learn to analyze data and follow acute and chronic disease lifetimes.

Upon satisfying the requirements of the Biostatistics and Epidemiology concentration, graduates may find work as professional analysts, researchers or epidemiologists in any of a number of organizations that range from collegiate health departments to government health agencies. The National Institutes of Health, for example, has an entire departmental staff that makes up its Biostatistics and Clinical Epidemiology Service (BCES).

Community Health Promotion

Another public health area of study is the Community Health Promotion concentration, where public health and public relations intersect. Students can learn how to empower and inform communities about health-related topics through the development of effective delivery strategies and communication modalities. This could range from designing effective sex-ed programs to bridging the gap between quality health services and low-income families. Health education is at the core of this concentration, as students will learn to recognize and address gaps in a community’s public health knowledge.

Community Health Promotion coursework is heavily based on communication, evaluation and intervention, preparing students to work in capacities with high public exposure. These include medical, educational and public service settings in need of health educators. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion sponsors educational and community-based programs, such as HealthyPeople, to promote public well-being.

Graduates may work as professional health directors, trainers, program managers or coordinators upon satisfying the requirements of the Community Health Promotion concentration.

Global Health

Through the Global Health MPH concentration, students can learn about the interplay between public health and political and socioeconomic issues and understand the important role of culture in promoting health and preventing diseases at a global level.

Students in Global Health study ways that communities risk local outbreaks turning into global pandemics. Global health leaders monitor and address the risks of outbreaks occurring and spreading rapidly around the globe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This may be the ideal concentration for students who enjoy travel and new experiences, as it is common for Global Health leaders to closely study cultural differences in public health.

The Global Health coursework places special emphasis on law and ethics, global health trends and culture. It can equip students to observe cultural differences in public health and empower state, national and global communities with health-related knowledge aimed to improve their overall quality of life. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a prime example of how public health can have a positive global impact.

Graduates may work as health care consultants, managers or analysts at one of many world-renowned health organizations upon satisfying the requirements of the Global Health concentration.

Health Services and Policy

The Health Services and Policy concentration highlights the legal aspects of public health. Students learn about former and current health policy trends to assess the public need for new or improved policies. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services publishes thousands of pages of regulations each year, placing an undue burden on health care providers who need to navigate these rules and make sure their offices, staff and patients are compliant.

This MPH concentration could be a good fit for students who are passionate about law and policymaking in the context of public health. The Health Services and Policy curriculum studies the politics and economics of public health.

The Health Services and Policy concentration educates students about how health care policies are proposed and established and how they contribute to a functioning society. This requires staying up-to-date on changes in national health care policies and being aware of how public needs influence their development. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services raises awareness for several health service programs devoted to the public dissemination of health information.

Graduates may pursue policymaking or advocacy roles in a government or medical setting upon satisfying the requirements of the Health Services and Policy concentration.


For some students, choosing specific courses from multiple MPH concentrations might be most appealing. The Generalist concentration is a customizable concentration for students with advanced graduate or professional degrees or those currently enrolled in an accredited U.S.-based medical degree program.

Coursework is designed to incorporate the Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Community Health Promotion, Global Health, GeoHealth and Health Services and Policy specializations into one framework.

The Generalist concentration furthers students’ knowledge of the concentrations offered through the MPH program and prepares students to work in specialized areas and management positions in the public health profession.

Considerations for Choosing a Public Health Area of Study

With so many options, it may be difficult to choose a public health areas of study. Students may want to consider the various careers available to MPH graduates.

For example, to work as an epidemiologist, a public health professional who studies the causes and patterns of disease, students should choose the Biostatistics and Epidemiology MPH concentration. On the other hand, students more interested in working on the legal side of public health may find the Health Services and Policy concentration is a better educational foundation for a career as a policy analyst.

Which MPH Concentration Is Best for You?

Students and professionals who are passionate about public health understand the value of a dedicated public health education. A strong MPH program can prepare you for a long, meaningful career making our communities safer and healthier.

USC’s Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program offers six concentrations to choose from, giving students the opportunity to earn a customizable education that applies to their area of interest in public health. As the only top-ranked medical school to offer a fully-online MPH, USC provides also students with a top-rated education without having to travel to campuses to complete their practicum. Explore USC’s available MPH concentrations and start making a positive impact on public health.

Recommended Readings:

What Can You Do with a Master’s Degree in Public Health?

Important Vaccines in History


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Global Health

National Institutes of Health, Biostatistics and Clinical Epidemiology Service (BCES)

Rural Health Information Hub, Defining Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, GeoHealth Platform

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People 2030

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Programs and Services