Finding An Accessible Path to Impactful Health Work with Michigan’s Online MPH Degree

Finding An Accessible Path to Impactful Health Work with Michigan’s Online MPH Degree

University of Michigan’s School of Public Health is ranked in the top five public health research institutions in the US and is taught by leaders in the field. In the Population and Health Sciences Master of Public Health program you’ll get hands-on practical experience with community public health issues and gain expertise in the issue area of your choice including epidemiology, biostatistics, nutrition, and more.

In a recent webinar from the Population and Health Sciences and Admissions teams at Michigan Public Health, two current students join staff to share their experience working toward their MPH online while continuing their current jobs. Read our highlights and watch the full webinar below.

Michigan’s Population and Health Sciences MPH program is the School of Public Health’s first online master’s degree. It’s created an opportunity for learners from around the country to earn their Master of Public Health from the number one public university in the country regardless of where they are physically or what stage in their lives. Michigan Public Health’s program and admission staff explained the importance of a strong public health force implemented across all areas of society in a recent webinar, “public health work prevents disease, prolongs life, and promotes physical health”. 

Public health professionals are the people who work to make health services run more efficiently and equitably, and often work with whole communities or populations as opposed to individuals – public health is health care on a large scale, based on data, community interaction and partnership, and education promotion. An MPH degree can be part of almost anyone’s path to a practical and impactful career promoting a healthful and equitable society.

I’m too busy to go back to school.

The current class of students include a unique and dynamic group from across the United States. Students come from all different types of backgrounds, from recent graduates to physicians in the midst of a 30-year practice, nurses, researchers, fitness coaches, and medical scribes, to name a few, many of whom continue to work while pursuing their MPH online. The diverse student group that make up the Population and Health Sciences (PHS) program has created a valuable and dynamic online network of peers to study with, work with, and learn from.

Current online MPH student Bano Ahmed shared how she has been able to add her studies to her life with a full-time job, “I’m a pharmaceutical technician, my hours can be irregular. So, finding time to do my work can be difficult, but I get to choose when I do my work, so it’s been really nice. There are days that I have to fly, I’ve been in the airport doing school work or in a live session with my classmates.”

What are the classes like?

Students are completing their classes 100% online, which means they’re able to download lectures, complete readings, finish assignments, and chat with faculty and peers from their mobile phone. In the inaugural cohort, students have been traveling, changing jobs, moving homes, and having children – all while continuing to learn. Logging in from airports, Ubers, from home or work, they’ve been able to add their online degree study into their already full and busy lives.

The PHS program offers an accredited, University of Michigan degree that you can earn in less than 2 years from wherever you are in the United States. About 15 hours of work a week is all it takes. Can you fit that into your life?

Kathy Heselschwerdt is a current online Master student in the program and says its been easy to see the value her courses will have in her future career, “I think some of my favorite [courses] have been Social Determinants of Public Health and Nutrition and Public Health. But, one thing that I really value about all of the classes is that we’re learning new skills but we’re given the opportunity to apply those skills to research interests that we want to learn more about. So, it’s learning new skills but in a way that’s really useful for you now and in your future career interests as well.”

Bano agrees that she too has enjoyed the courses in the program, in large part because of the accessibility and openness of the PHS faculty, “My two favorite classes have been Principles of Epidemiology for Public Health and Nutrition and Public Health. Epidemiology – I knew I was going to like. But Nutrition? I was totally shocked that I liked that class. But the professors are also just so nice and so willing to help. They’re constantly telling us if we need anything just to contact them, so it’s a very friendly online environment.”

The program lets students tailor their degree to their specific interests through a variety of elective tracks. You pick one to two elective tracks and this is how you gain specialized expertise in the areas and issues that matter most to you. You can launch or boost your career in the work that you’re passionate about with these elective track specializations.

How do I know Michigan Public Health is right for me?

If you’re unsure if Michigan Public Health is going to meet your needs, our advisors and faculty are always willing to talk with you about finding the right fit. Faculty lead for the PHS program and Associate Dean of Education, Sharon Kardia, like most of the staff at the school, take a hands-on approach to helping students through the program as well as through the initial decision they make to attend the program. 

“I got a phone call from Dr. Kardia and talking to her is what made me choose Population and Health Sciences. I was actually accepted into the epidemiology residence program at Michigan and that was going to be what I was going to do. But, then, talking to Dr. Kardia, I just changed my mind, I was like ‘no, [epidemiology] is not what I want to do’. The online program is going to fit me more and is just more flexible,” says Bano. She is earning her MPH in the hopes of one day working at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) following in the footsteps of many other Michigan Public Health alumni.

When Kathy considered her graduate program options, she thought most about how it was going to fit into her real life and her real goals. “I had my bachelors degree in public health so going into graduate studies, I already knew that was my passion. It was really important to me that the program was reputable so that was one reason that I was interested in UofM specifically. I chose this program because I really wanted to keep working full-time while I was in school, but still have that opportunity to interact with campus when I wanted to and have the connection with this group of students and with the faculty. That’s been my experience so far, so I’m very happy with my choice.”

Who can I talk to if I’m interested in the online MPH from Michigan Public Health?

Program and Admissions staff like Lisa and MaryBeth are always willing to talk to interested students about the program, connect them with other current students, and walk them through the application requirements. Michigan Public Health prides itself on its unique holistic application review process: students are not dismissed because of one weak application component, staff look at the full package of a student and what they may bring to our school and community. The process honors our mission to offer quality public health education for a better community for all.

 Contact admissions staff at Learn more about the full application requirements here and hear more tips for preparing your application in the webinar video below.

Kathy’s advice to students preparing their applications is, “start your SOPHAS (the Common Application for Schools of Public Health) application as early as possible because there are a lot of pieces to put together. You want to make sure that you’re being really thoughtful about your statements and essays and who you’re asking for those referrals.” She adds, “It isn’t as intimidating as it might feel going into it. The School of Public Health was really helpful about answering questions and the SOPHAS application has a chat and email feature that I used quite a bit. They were really helpful as well. So, you’ll have all the help that you’ll need right away.”

Interested in hearing from more students from the School of Public Health? Check out the We Are Michigan Public Health series where you can find the stories of students, alumni, and faculty from across our community. 

Michigan Public Health’s Population and Health Sciences MPH program will have its priority deadline for applications on February 15th. After this date, and once the admissions committee has reviewed, they will start officially sending acceptance offers to applicants. The most important thing about this deadline is that applicants who apply by this deadline will have the best shot at potentially receiving merit scholarship funding. The final application deadline is May 1, 2020.

Featured in Webinar Video:

Mary Beth Carroll Assistant Director of Student Affairs

Lisa Garber Population and Health Sciences MPH Program Manager

Bano Ahmed current Population and Health Sciences MPH student

Kathy Heselschwerdt current Population and Health Sciences MPH student