Frequently Asked Questions

Read answers to frequently asked questions about the Master of Public Health and Graduate Certificate in Public Health programs.

 What is public health?

Public health is defined differently by various individuals and organizations. Following are a few common definitions of public health.

  • The promotion of health and prevention of disease through the organized efforts of society.
  • The science and practice of protecting and improving the health of a community, as by preventive medicine, health education, control of communicable diseases, application of sanitary measures, and monitoring of environmental hazards.  (American Heritage Dictionary)
  • Public health is what we, as a society, do collectively to assure the conditions for people to be healthy. This requires that continuing and emerging threats to the health of the public be successfully countered. These threats include immediate crises, such as the AIDS epidemic; enduring problems, such as injuries and chronic illness; and growing challenges, such as the aging of our population and the toxic by-products of a modern economy, transmitted through air, water, soil, or food. These and many other problems raise in common the need to protect the nation's health through effective, organized, and sustained efforts led by the public sector.  (U.S. Institutes of Medicine)

No matter how you define public health, the former U.S. Surgeon General C. Everett Koop summed up the importance of public health.

  • Health care is vital to all of us some of the time, but public health is vital to all of us all of the time.


Other Resources

Various websites provide further information about the field of public health and will help you learn more about the role of public health in our lives and how you can contribute to the field as a public health professional.

Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH)

American Public Health Association (APHA)

APHA Healthiest Nation in One Generation

 How is public health different than clinical medicine?

Public health and clinical medicine both try to improve the health of people, but they use different methods.

Public Health Clinical Medicine
Primary focus on population Primary focus on individual
Public service ethic tempered by concerns for the individual Personal service ethic, conditioned awareness of social responsibilities
Emphasis on prevention, health promotion for the whole community Emphasis on diagnosis and treatment, care for the whole patient

 

Summarized from Harvard School of Public Health

 Is the MPH Program accredited?

Yes, both the MCW Graduate School and the MPH Program are accredited.  

The Graduate School is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The MPH Program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). To learn more about our status, visit the Accreditation webpage.

 What can I do with an MPH after graduation?

Many students use the MPH program to break into the field of public health while others want to enhance their current employment in public health with more background knowledge. A few students mentioned wanting to switch careers away from bench research. Additionally, a couple of graduates have used the MPH program as a stepping stone toward medical school. One thought it made him a better medical school applicant by helping him think at a population level.

 What are the employment prospects for someone with an MPH but without a clinical background, such as someone who is not a physician or a nurse?

Previously, many public health departments operated on a nursing model; however, they seem to be switching away from that model. When a program coordinator asked a few county health officers this very question, they mentioned a lot of opportunities for graduates with an MPH but no RN. In general, the employment prospects for public health professionals look quite good. Experts say the field will grow through 2020, and many public health professionals are expected to retire in the coming years. The Affordable Care Act has also opened opportunities with hospitals, large cooperations, wellness sites, insurance companies etc.

 How will an MPH or Graduate Certificate in Public Health advance my career?

Graduate-level coursework in public health will help you build competencies and improve valuable skills, such as administration, communication, evaluation, cultural competency, ethics, planning, and research. Some students enroll in the program to get started in the field of public health; whereas, others have worked in the field for years and are looking for knowledge and information to help them work more effectively. Many physicians enroll in coursework to meet board-certification requirements and then continue in the program because the knowledge provides them with another method to analyze the factors influencing their patients’ health.

 I don't know whether to enroll in the MPH or Certificate program. How do the programs differ? Can you transfer from one program to the other?

The following chart compares and contrasts the two programs. The core courses are the same for both the MPH and the Certificate programs, meaning the students from each of the programs are enrolled in class together.

  MPH Certificate
Credits 42 credits 15 credits
Required Courses • 5 Core Courses
• 1 Ethics Course
• 3 Community Health Courses
• Elective Courses
• Field Placement
• Capstone Project
• 5 Core Courses
   - Biostatistics
   - Epidemiology
   - Environmental Health
   - Public Health Administration
   - Behavioral Science
Application Materials • Application Form
• Personal Statement
• Transcripts
• TOEFL Score (international students)
• 3 Recommendations
• GRE Score
• Application Form
• Personal Statement
• Transcripts
• TOEFL Score (international students)
• 3 Recommendations


You may transfer from the Certificate program to the MPH program; however, you may not transfer from the MPH program to the Certificate program. If you are enrolled in the Certificate program and then decide you would like to enroll in the MPH program, you must apply to the MPH program. (In this case, the GRE requirement may be waived.) If accepted, the courses you’ve completed towards your Certificate would be applied towards the MPH. (Although only 14 credits may be transferred into the MPH program, an exception is made so that all 15 credits of the Certificate may be transferred into the MPH program.)

 I have a full-time job and responsibilities at home. Will I still be able to complete the MPH program in the required 5 year time frame?

The MPH program is geared towards working professionals, and most of our students have full-time positions as well as other responsibilities. Our program is flexible, which helps students succeed, but it’s a matter of whether you, individually, have the time to devote to coursework. Courses usually require 6 to 10 hours per week, and you will have to complete at least one or two courses each semester in order to complete the program within the required five year time frame. Most students who enroll in the program have the time and motivation to complete coursework, so they succeed and excel.

 Do I need to be online at a specific day or time to access course material, such as watching a live lecture or participating in a discussion room?

You do not need to be online at any specific day or time (except under very special circumstances, which would be arranged by your instructor at the beginning of a course). Desire to Learn (D2L) is available 24 hours per day and 7 days per week, so you can access course material, complete quizzes, upload assignments, and participate in discussion boards at any time of the day or night. However, there are specific deadlines for assignments, quizzes, and exams. For example, many courses have assignments and discussion board comments due each week. You may upload your assignment and participate in the discussion board anytime during that week, but you must do so by the deadline.

 Could you tell me more about the certification in public health?

After completing at least 21 credits (including the five core course), you will be eligible to sit for the exam to become Certified in Public Health (CPH). (Completing the Graduate Certificate in Public Health program does not confer eligibility to sit for the exam because you must have a graduate-level degree, such as the MPH.) The exam consists of 200 questions that test your knowledge of the five core areas of public health and seven cross-cutting competencies in public health. To find out more information about scheduled exams, eligibility requirements, or to register for the exam online, visit www.nbphe.org.

 Do I need to go to campus for any reason (such as orientation, summer intensives, graduation)?

No, our courses and programs are offered completely online. There is no mandatory on-campus orientation or summer intensives. A few courses are available on campus, but all courses which are needed for program completion are offered online. As for graduation, we would like all of our students to attend, but that is a request, not a requirement.

 Can I transfer credits in to the MPH program from other schools?

The MPH program will accept up to 14 credits of approved courses from other schools or programs. The Program Director decides whether a course will be approved after reviewing the course’s syllabus. (The Program Director will only review syllabi from enrolled students.) No transfer credits will be accepted for the Certificate program.

 How do I apply to the MPH program? What is the application deadline?

The Graduate School coordinates admissions and registration, and they use an online inquiry and application system. For further information about admission requirements, including application deadlines, please see the Prospective Students Application Information webpage.

 The public health courses utilize the online learning platform D2L. What is D2L?

D2L is an acronym for Desire to Learn, which is the Medical College-wide learning management system that allows students and faculty to connect online. With D2L, you can take surveys, quizzes and tests; send and receive course mail; post to threaded discussions and chat rooms; upload assignments using drop-boxes; and more. You can check your progress in a course by viewing your grades at any time during the course, and you can also create groups and teams for project or committee work.

 What kind of Internet connection and software do I need to utilize Desire to Learn (D2L) and access coursework?

At a minimum, you should have access to the Web with a cable modem connection, or a DSL (digital subscriber line) connection. Generally speaking, cable modems and DSL connections allow you to both fully and quickly stream audio and video files that will be required by course instructors.

While D2L products generally function well in many browsers, the following are formally supported and tested:

  • With PCs running Windows OS: Chrome or Firefox. Internet Explorer is not recommended.
  • With Macs running OS X: Firefox
  • With Linux or Unix systems: Firefox

Other requirements: An office suite such as Microsoft Office or Open Office, and Adobe Reader or other compatible PDF readers, are also required. In addition, a current version of the Adobe Flash player is required to play some of the lectures.

Biostatistics Couse Software Requirements:

  • SAS is the preferred software for this class.  If students choose to use other software, no support can be guaranteed.  Please note that SAS on Demand will not run on a Mac computer.
 Which courses require site visits and/or interviews?

•18202 Toxicology
•18203 Public Health Administration
•18215 Infectious Diseases
•18218 Racial and Ethnic Inequalities in Health
•18254 Challenges in Maternal and Child Health

Many students find the site visits and required interviews very useful. One student felt very awkward because she thought she would be bothering people, but the people she visited were very excited to speak with her about their work.

Site visits and interviews are also a great way to network. One student interviewed a local public health officer for Public Health Administration, and that led to her working with the health officer for her Field Placement.

 Where can I get my textbooks?

Textbooks are available at the MCW bookstore or from various websites (Barnes & Noble.com, Amazon.com, etc.) Several students recommend using Half.com. On this website, you can buy books at various conditions (new, used, etc.), and you can pay with a credit card. You don’t need a PayPal account. The site will provide a tracking number for shipping.

Half.com also offers the option to sell books back. However, students warned you may not want to sell your books back. Two courses use the same textbook, and students often use textbooks as references for future courses. For instance, one student found the epidemiology textbook so useful that she used it in two subsequent courses.

One other warning: don’t buy your textbooks too far in advance. Instructors sometimes choose to use different books, and new editions are often published.

 Which courses are offered on campus as well as online?

Currently, the following courses are offered online as well as onsite.  Contact the MPH Program for current information.

  • 18201 Principles of Epidemiology
  • 18204 Introduction to Biostatistics
  • 18258 Advanced Epidemiological Methods
  • Various electives
 How do instructors teach online?

The MPH program utilizes the online learning system, Desire 2 Learn (D2L). Students state D2L is quite intuitive, and you shouldn’t be afraid of the program. Each instructor teaches, and utilizes D2L, differently. Some utilize PowerPoint presentations with audio to lecture; whereas, other instructors just use Word documents.

Some instructors interact more with students. One instructor loaded all of the lectures at the beginning of the course and did not participate in the discussion board at all. Other instructors participate in discussion boards all the time and provide a lot of feedback on assignments. The students noted how much more they learned when the instructors provided feedback, and several said they learned the most from discussion boards.

Readings were another source of learning, and some courses have more required reading than others. Some instructors just assign readings from the textbook; whereas, others incorporate articles from medical or public health journals, which can be downloaded. Additionally, some instructors require students to use specific websites. For instance, students mentioned you get to use the CDC website often.

Many instructors utilize quizzes – either graded or ungraded. The students thought ungraded weekly quizzes were really helpful in keeping them on task and figuring out what they knew (and what they didn’t know). Another nice feature mentioned was the grade book.

 How do you work in groups online? What methods do you use to communicate?

Students stated it’s a little awkward to work in groups online, but it works out. The instructor’s ideal plan is for everyone to collaborate and for each student to work on each section. However, students usually divvy up the various sections and get experience on each of the sections by working with each other. For instance, one or two people might conduct the interview, and others write sections of the paper using the interview notes and course information. Then all group members revise the final document.

One student noted how nice it is to have one person take charge of the group and how helpful mini deadlines are. The group can split the project into various sections and then assign deadlines for each section (i.e. when the interview should be conducted, when the rough draft should be completed, etc.)

To communicate, students stated they primarily used email. They said they used the track changes feature on Microsoft Word and emailed the documents as attachments. Students also mentioned they had heard you could set up user accounts on Wiki or share a document on Gmail; however, none of those present had used any of these options.

 On average, how many classes do you take a semester?

Different students take different numbers of courses each semester, depending on their schedule and other responsibilities. Researchers state online courses usually require 6-10 hours of work each week although some courses will take longer than others.

One graduate who was a full time student and working part time (24 hours per week) enrolled in four courses each semester.

Other students worked full time, so they didn't take as many courses each semester. One student took two courses each semester, and two students stated they usually took three courses each fall and spring semester as well as one course each summer. Those two students said taking three courses each semester was very manageable. One student said the readings were the most time-consuming aspect of the courses, so she read every night (seven days per week). Another student mentioned having a very difficult time concentrating on coursework during the summer, so she didn't enroll in as many classes during that semester.

Another student worked full-time as a physician and was very involved in his three children’s lives (coaching their sports teams, etc). Because of these commitments, he only enrolled in one course at a time. By enrolling in one course each semester – fall, spring, and summer – he will be able to complete the program in the required five year limit.

 Do MCW faculty and staff have to pay tuition for the MPH program?

Yes, MCW faculty and staff must pay the same tuition as other students in the MPH and Certificate programs (or even if they take individual courses as a Special Student). Because many public health courses are taught by faculty members whose primary affiliation is outside of MCW, there is no tuition waiver for MCW faculty members.

 What are the Field Placement and Capstone Project courses? How are they related to each other?

The Field Placement and Capstone Project courses are the culminating experiences of the MPH program. The Field Placement is similar to an internship or practicum, and you are required to work with a public health organization. The Capstone Project consists of writing a Master’s Paper, and you are not required to work with an organization.

The Field Placement and Capstone Project are two separate courses. The coordinator of these courses recommends that you link the two courses to each other (so that you can use the same background information/research for both); however, you don’t have to relate them.

 What can I do for my Field Placement? How does the course work?

A graduate completed his Field Placement at the Wauwatosa Health Department by evaluating the city’s two year olds’ immunization rates. At first, he wondered whether he had sufficient knowledge and skills to complete such a project. His recommendation is to relax into your Field Placement. The health department will be appreciative of anything you can offer, and you’ll be surprised how much you can do.

A current student is working with the West Allis Health Department on their community health improvement process using the Mobilizing for Action through Planning and Partnership (MAPP) process. She’s helping to gather data and write sections of their 5-year community health plan. West Allis is used to hosting nursing students, so everything is going quite smoothly.

 How long do I work on my Field Placement project?

The Field Placement can be spread out over multiple semesters – up to three consecutive semesters, meaning one calendar year. Most students enroll in the Field Placement over two semesters, and they often include the summer as one of those semesters; therefore, they work on their Field Placement for approximately six months. However, the Field Placement can be completed much quicker than that.

You have the option of how many credits you enroll in Field Placement – 2 or 5. These correspond to the minimum number of hours you must work on your project. If you enroll in two credits, you must complete at least 80 hours on your project. For five credits, the requirement is 200 hours. These hours do not all have to be completed on-site; you can work on your project from home and submit written materials either via email or in person.

Contact Us

Master of Public Health (MPH) Program
Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226

(414) 955-4510 | Fax: (414) 955-6529
mph@mcw.edu

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Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 955-8296
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Page Updated 11/25/2014
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