Tips on Choosing The Best Public Health Graduate School

There are so many Master’s and Doctoral programs in public health to choose from; you want to make sure you are applying to schools that fit your interests and will best prepare you for future employment. With graduate school being such a substantial time and financial commitment, here are tips for choosing which public health graduate school programs to apply to.

Reflect on Your Work Experience

Public health is such a big field, and different graduate school programs cater to different disciplines. As you choose which graduate programs to apply to, reflect on your past job and/or internship experience in public health. Here are a few questions to think about:

  • What did you love most about this internship or job?
  • What did you like the least?
  • What skills do you want to further develop in graduate school?
  • What would be my ideal job after graduate school?

Reflecting on your work experience will give you a better understanding of what type of work you want to do long-term and a sense of direction as to what graduate school programs will best serve you. Of course, going to any graduate school in public health will expose you to different career paths, so it is important to stay flexible. But not having a sense of where you want to go in graduate school may create problems down the line. If you do not have any work experience in the health field, please consider gaining a couple of years of work experience before applying in order to improve your chances of admittance and success once you’re in graduate school. Check out this helpful article: The Importance of Work Experience Before Graduate School

Seek Advice From Someone Already Working in Public Health

Talk with someone working in the field you are interested in can help you decide on what schools to aim for. Ask them how their experiences in graduate school were like and the programs they were enrolled in. Also ask them what they look for when hiring recent graduates.

Talk to Students In Graduate School:

Asking students about what their experience is like in a particular graduate school program is a great way to gauge the school culture and the pros and cons of attending the school. You can often introduce yourself to students during graduate school open houses and diversity panels. Check out this list of upcoming open houses and information sessions.

Figure Out How Much You Want to Pay for Graduate School

As we all know, graduate school is a substantial financial commitment that will most likely involve taking out loans. If paying for graduate school is a major concern for you, then you might want to pinpoint schools that are generous with offering need-based financial aid packages.

Decide What Specific Program You Are Interested In:

Again, public health is a big field! As you get a better understanding of what you want your future career in public health to look like, you want to apply to schools that offer specific tracks/programs that best align with your interests. If you are interested in epidemiology, choose a school that offers a top-ranked program. If you are passionate about working in public health policy in Asia, then apply to graduate schools that are renowned for their international tracks. Do your research!

Do You Want a Dual Degree?

More and more schools are offering dual degree programs; enrolling in such programs can be a great way to save money and strengthen your graduate school experience. Whether you’re interested in pursuing a J.D., an M.D. or an R.D in addition to a degree in public health, be mindful of the different deadlines and application requirements.

Pick Schools In Your Preferred Location

Most public health schools are either on the east or west coast. If you have a preference for one over the other, then choose to apply to schools that reflect that. If you are interested in working in a specific city such as New York or Los Angeles, then going to a graduate school in or near the city can give you a boost in networking opportunities and understanding what employers are looking for.

Think about Your GPA and Test Scores, But Don’t Stress

When compiling a list of graduate schools to apply to, looking at the average GPA and GRE score of admitted students for each school can give a sense of what graduate schools are looking for in applicants. But, remember that graduate schools look at applicants holistically; colleges look at your personal statement, letters of recommendation and work experience as well as your GPA and test scores. Don’t let your GPA or GRE score keep you from applying. If you are worried about a lackluster GRE score, read this article:

Look at What Recent Graduates Are Doing At Each School

On the website of graduate school programs you are considering, you can see what alumni of these schools are doing after they graduate. Pay attention to the percentage of graduates who found employment within the first year. Look at the number of graduates who found work in your desired career path. These statistics will give you a sense of which graduate schools will prepare you for the career you want to have.


At the end of the day, graduate school is what you make of it. Going into graduate school with a vision of where you want to go and a plan to get you there can make all the difference.



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