Public Health

Please note: Pomona College does not offer a Public Health program. This information is merely for the purpose of providing an overview of a career in Public Health and academic requirements to our undergraduate students.

Public health protects and improves the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations, locally and globally. It is an interdisciplinary career that focuses on diverse and challenging healthcare issues such as increased access to healthcare for underrepresented and vulnerable populations, controlling infectious disease, and reducing substance abuse, violence, injury, and environmental hazards.

Within public health, there are many career opportunities and fields of study through which people can make a measurable difference. Careers include epidemiology and research, global health, health policy, medical practice, nutrition, communication, environmental health, and public health education.

Public health degree options include a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), Master of Health Administration (MHA), a Ph.D. in Public Health, or a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH).

Play the CDC’s online game: Solve the Outbreak! to better understand the importance of public health.

Training for a Public Health career

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is the most common graduate-level degree. It can take from one to three years to complete. There are many schools that now offer online degrees.

A master's degree in public health typically costs $16,000-$33,000 for in-state tuition and fees or $25,000-$60,000 for out-of-state tuition and fees. This cost represents tuition and fees only for a two-year graduate program, which is the most common length of time. Online degree programs and private school programs in public health typically cost $26,000-$33,000.

Undergraduate Preparation

Academic Preparation

A liberal arts education is excellent preparation for the interdisciplinary nature of public health. In general, if you are interested in epidemiology or biostatistics, a math or science major may provide a strong foundation off which to build. For behavioral sciences or health education, consider sociology, anthropology, or psychology as majors or the interdisciplinary public policy analysis program. Other public health fields lend themselves to business and social science.


Each college or university has specific requirements to apply for their program. However, almost all MPH degrees will require students to have completed college level statistics, biology and computer science classes. Schools also require competence in effective written and verbal communication.

Personal Preparation

Students are encouraged to gain experience in public health before applying. There are many options on campus, locally, and beyond:

Application Process

Admissions Testing

Most graduate and doctorate programs in public health require the GRE Exam. The GRE measures verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking and analytical writing skills.

The 2021 cost of the GRE Exam is $205. There is a GRE Fee Reduction Program for individuals who can demonstrate financial need, for those who are unemployed and receiving unemployment compensation, and for national programs that work with underrepresented groups. A GRE Fee Reduction Voucher may be used for one GRE® General Test and/or one GRE® Subject Test. Voucher users pay 50% of the regular test fee.


Most public health graduate programs use a centralized application system called Schools of Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS), which opens in mid-August each year. SOPHAS charges $140 for the first program you apply to and $50 for each additional program. A limited number of fee waivers are provided to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis.

Timeline: Graduate and doctoral programs in public health have rolling admissions and vary widely from school to school. Schools operate on a semester, trimester, and quarterly basis so check with the individual schools. See SOPHAS FAQs for more information and deadlines.

Letters of Recommendation: Public health schools do not require a committee letter of recommendation. Program requirements vary but expect to have at least three letters of recommendation that will be sent electronically through SOPHAS.

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