School of Public Health
MPH Competencies

Core Competencies for the MPH degree  (2014)

The School of Public Health incorporates core competencies for the MPH degree developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health, as described in JG Calhoun et al. (2008), Development of a Core Competency Model for the Master of Public Health Degree, American Journal of Public Health, 98, 1597-1607. 

We have identified two sets of competencies: one set (core) that all MPH students should master, and a second set (discipline-specific) that also should be mastered by students who choose to concentrate in a specific discipline. Moreover, there are core competencies that pertain to cross-disciplinary domains of Leadership and Professionalism.

The MPH competencies are among the following domains and competencies:


Biostatistics is the development and application of statistical reasoning and methods in addressing, analyzing and solving problems in public health; health care; and biomedical, clinical and population-based research.

Upon graduation a student with an MPH should be able to:

  • Describe basic concepts of probability, random variation and commonly used statistical probability distributions.
  • Apply descriptive techniques commonly used to summarize public health data.
  • Interpret results of statistical analyses found in public health studies.

Additional competencies for Biostatistics concentrators:

  • Describe preferred methodological alternatives to commonly used statistical methods when assumptions are not met.
  • Distinguish among the different measurement scales and the implications for selection of statistical methods to be used based on these distinctions.
  • Apply common statistical methods for inference.

Environmental Health Sciences

Environmental health sciences represent the study of environmental factors including biological, physical and chemical factors that affect the health of a community.

Upon graduation a student with an MPH should be able to:

  • Describe the direct and indirect human, ecological and safety effects of major environmental and occupational agents.
  • Describe federal and state regulatory programs, guidelines and authorities that control environmental health issues.

Additional competencies for Environmental Health concentrators:

  • Describe genetic, physiologic and psychosocial factors that affect susceptibility to adverse health outcomes following exposure to environmental hazards.
  • Specify current environmental risk assessment methods.
  • Specify approaches for assessing, preventing and controlling environmental hazards that pose risks to human health and safety.
  • Explain the general mechanisms of toxicity in eliciting a toxic response to various environmental exposures.
  • Discuss various risk management and risk communication approaches in relation to issues of environmental justice and equity.


Epidemiology is the study of patterns of disease and injury in human populations and the application of this study to the control of health problems.

Upon graduation a student with an MPH should be able to:

  • Describe a public health problem in terms of magnitude, person, time and place.
  • Apply the basic terminology and definitions of epidemiology.    
  • Calculate basic epidemiology measures.

Additional competencies for Epidemiology concentrators:

  • Explain the importance of epidemiology for informing scientific, ethical, economic and political discussion of health issues.
  • Draw appropriate inferences from epidemiologic data. 
  • Evaluate the strengths and limitations of epidemiologic reports.

Health Policy and Management

Health policy and management is a multidisciplinary field of inquiry and practice concerned with the delivery, quality and costs of health care for individuals and populations. This definition assumes both a managerial and a policy concern with the structure, process and outcomes of health services including the costs, financing, organization, outcomes and accessibility of care.

Upon graduation a student with an MPH should be able to…

  • Identify the main components and issues of the organization, financing and delivery of health services and public health systems in the US.
  • Discuss the policy process for improving the health status of populations.
  • Apply "systems thinking" for resolving organizational problems.

Additional competencies for Health Policy and Management concentrators:

  • Apply the principles of program planning, development, budgeting, management and evaluation in organizational and community initiatives.
  • Apply principles of strategic planning and marketing to public health.
  • Apply quality and performance improvement concepts to address organizational performance issues.
  • Demonstrate leadership skills for building partnerships.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

The social and behavioral sciences in public health address the behavioral, social and cultural factors related to individual and population health and health disparities over the life course. Research and practice in this area contributes to the development, administration and evaluation of programs and policies in public health and health services to promote and sustain healthy environments and healthy lives for individuals and populations.

Upon graduation a student with an MPH should be able to…

  • Identify basic theories, concepts and models from a range of social and behavioral disciplines that are used in public health research and practice.
  • Identify the causes of social and behavioral factors that affect health of individuals and populations.

Additional competencies for Social and Behavioral Sciences concentrators:

  • Describe steps and procedures for the planning, implementation and evaluation of public health programs, policies and interventions.
  • Describe the role of social and community factors in both the onset and solution of public health problems.
  • Apply evidence-based approaches in the development and evaluation of social and behavioral science interventions.

Cross-Cutting  Competencies (pertaining to all MPH students)


The ability to create and communicate a shared vision for a changing future; champion solutions to organizational and community challenges; and energize commitment to goals.

Upon graduation, it is increasingly important that a student with an MPH be able to:

  • Describe the attributes of leadership in public health.


The ability to demonstrate ethical choices, values and professional practices implicit in public health decisions; consider the effect of choices on community stewardship, equity, social justice and accountability; and to commit to personal and institutional development.

Upon graduation, it is increasingly important that a student with an MPH be able to:

  • Apply the core functions of assessment, policy development, and assurance in the analysis of public health problems and their solutions.
  • Embrace a definition of public health that captures the unique characteristics of the field (e.g., population-focused, community-oriented, prevention-motivated and rooted in social justice) and how these contribute to professional practice.
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Last Updated: 6/30/14