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Medical College of Wisconsin MPH Program Frequently Asked Questions

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 & Programs of Public Health

What is Public Health?

American Public Health Association

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

  • Primary focus on population
  • Public service ethic tempered by concerns for the individual
  • Emphasis on prevention, health, promotion for the whole community

Clinical Medicine

  • Primary focus on individual
  • Personal service ethic, conditioned awareness of social responsibilities
  • 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 (HLC) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). The MPH Program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
What are the employment prospects for someone with a MPH?
Once you obtain a master’s degree in public health, there are a wide array of employment opportunities to explore. The current job outlook for public health careers is very promising. Graduates may find positions in places such as health departments, non-profit organizations, hospitals, academic institutions, and insurance companies. There are also opportunities at the federal level with organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health, and at the international level as well.
How will a MPH or Graduate Certificate 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.
Can you transfer from one program to the other?
You may transfer from a Certificate program to the MPH program; however, you may not transfer from the MPH program to a Certificate program. If you are enrolled in a Certificate program and then decide you would like to enroll in the MPH program, you must apply to the MPH program. If you have successfully completed the MPH Program, the GRE requirement may be waived. If you have successfully completed the majority of the certificate courses, contact the MPH Program Director to inquire about the potential to waive the GRE. If accepted, the courses you’ve completed toward your Certificate would be applied toward 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.
If I have a full time job, will I still be able to complete the MPH program in the required 5 years?
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.
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 the National Board of Public Health Examiners website.
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. Attendance at graduation is required.
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 Brightspace. What is Brightspace?
Brightspace is the Medical College of Wisconsin-wide learning management system that allows students and faculty to connect online. With Brightspace, 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 Brightspace and access coursework?
A PC running MS Windows OS or a Mac running OS X. Firefox, Safari, or Chrome are recommended. Internet Explorer 11 and Edge are supported, but Internet Explorer 10 and earlier are not supported and may cause content to load incorrectly. Microsoft Office 2007 or newer and Adobe Acrobat Reader may be required. In addition, Adobe Flash Player may be necessary to view some content within Brightspace.
Where can I get my textbooks?
Textbooks are available from various websites (Matthews MCW Bookstore, Barnes &,, etc.)

Warning: don’t buy your textbooks too far in advance. Instructors sometimes choose to use different books, and new editions are often published.
On average, how many classes should you take a semester?
Different students take a different number 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 may take longer than others. Students have a maximum of five years to complete the degree program.
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.
Does your MPH Program have a concentration?

Our program has a single concentration in public health practice. It focuses on Community Health Assessment, Improvement & Planning, and Evaluation. We train students to:

  • Assess the health status of various populations.
  • Develop plans to improve that population.
  • Evaluate if they made a difference.