What Is An MD/MPH Degree? And Reasons To Consider One

July 5, 2022

Thinking about pursuing a dual degree but you’re wondering, “what does MD/MPH mean?” And what does MPH mean after MD? Read on to learn the MD/MPH meaning, why you should consider one, and tips to stand out and get into top MD/MPH programs.

While a signature followed by MD, Doctor of Medicine, or MPH, Master in Public Health was regarded as a symbol of prestige and ambition prior to Covid-19, it has now become an asset of global importance.

A study showed that the number of students pursuing MD/MPH programs rose by 434% between 2010 and 2018. Medical degrees with public health components have always been important. Now, when confronted with a medical crisis, we value them even more.

The pandemic has shown the importance of MPH degrees and changed the way we acquire it. Both the University of Illinois and Wayne State University shortened their respective five-year MD/MPH programs to four years, citing the pandemic as the reason for the change.

We will explain the value of an MD/MPH degree, discuss its career benefits, and rank the best MD/MPH programs. Finally, we will provide you tips on getting accepted.

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What Is an MD/MPH Degree?

You might know what an MD is, but what does MPH mean after MD? A medical doctor with an MPH serves the public with an extensive background and understanding of public health.

The MD/MPH dual degree trains medical students in patient and population health. Theoretical, clinical, and fieldwork teaches students a full spectrum of care: from understanding the social, political, economic, and global issues surrounding admitted patients to the clinical procedures and treatments addressing their symptoms.

Students may sometimes apply to MD and MPH degrees in the same application cycle. Schools allowing simultaneous applications include Johns Hopkins, Tufts, and NYU.

Other schools, such as Harvard and Vanderbilt, require students to be in their second or third year of medical school before applying to an MPH program. This list breaks down application timelines at top U.S. med schools with MD/MPH programs:

It is possible for students accepted to the two programs to graduate from both degrees during a four-year MD/MPH program timeline. At Tufts, the curriculum for public health “is integrated into the regular MD track so that combined degree students complete their MD requirements in the same sequence as their traditional MD colleagues.”

This is possible because students can take MPH courses on “Tuesday afternoons during their first two years.” Northwestern makes room for MPH courses through evening classes. At the University of Illinois, students can complete their MD and MPH degrees in four years.

Most schools still require students to spend five years finishing the program. Some schools still create a blended-learning environment, alternating between MD and MPH components. The Perelman School of Medicine (UPenn) has summarized its MD/MPH scheduling approach:

“Completion of the two degrees separately would require six years, but the MD/MPH can be completed in five years with careful planning. Students are enrolled in the MD program full time for the first three years and in MPH course work full time during year 4. Then in year 5, students will do a semester of Medical School in Fall and a semester in the MPH Program in Spring.”  

Though many schools follow UPenn’s mixed learning approach, other schools prefer to keep curricula separate. For example, Harvard students are welcome to take a leave of absence from the MD program to complete an MPH.

Likewise, the University of Wisconsin only offers two chances for students to complete their MPH program: “either the year prior to starting medical school or between Phase Two and Phase Three of medical school.”

Career Outlook, Education, and Salary

Doctors with MPH degrees are an asset in various settings. We’ll break down what you can expect for your career outlook, education, and possible salaries.

Career Outlook

An MD/MPH degree opens a larger career horizon for students. The NYU School of Medicine has made clear the bright career outlook for graduates:

“Career options for MD/MPH students are wide-ranging and limited only by a student’s own interests, backgrounds, and ambitions. Students might go on to such positions as commissioner of a health department, director/president of an NGO, senior executive at a healthcare institution, clinician in a developing country, or working with immigrant populations in the U.S. Students who pursue clinical medicine may continue to be involved in advocacy or policy development on local or global issues.”

A review of current MD/MPH holders confirms NYU’s projection. The founder and CEO of Health Begins, a strategic consulting firm, holds an MD/MPH from Tufts. Likewise, Adaptive Phage Therapeutics, a clinical-stage biotechnology company, recently appointed Robert Hopkins, MD, MPH, as Medical Chief Officer.

Additionally, Joe Biden appointed Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, as director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Graduates also pursued leadership positions. The following people hold MD/MPH degrees:

  • Warren Newton, President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Board of Family Medicine
  • George M. Abraham, President of the American College of Physicians
  • Adam Kassam, President of the Ontario Medical Association


The length of most MD/MPH programs is five years. According to the AAMC, you can typically start MPH coursework after your first or second year of medical school. Some possible concentrations include:

  • Child and Family Health
  • Environmental Health
  • Global Health Leadership
  • Health Education and Promotion
  • Public Health Policy

Application processes depend on the program. Some MDs may pursue an MPH after they finish medical school. But why get an MPH after an MD? The most common reason is physicians may want to “transition from pure clinical to research, policy and/or management work.”


Salaries for MD/MPH graduates can vary depending on job function and experience. Here is a breakdown of some potential career paths with salaries:

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

MD/MPH Degree: Benefits and Considerations

For students indecisive about whether an MD/MPH degree is worth it, we have summarized the benefits and considerations applicants should be pondering. 

So, what do MD/MPHs mean for graduates? Read on if you’re wondering whether an MD/MPH degree is worth it.

A Well-Rounded Education

Students receive training in a disciplinary curriculum, meaning they get the tools they need to be a well-rounded doctor with MPH education.

The University of Wisconsin offers courses such as Evidence-Based Decision-Making and Communicating Public Health Effectively. These courses help students develop business, data, and media skills. These course types aren’t usually part of a traditional medical school experience.

The Keck School of Medicine notes its MD/MPH program is “designed for individuals who wish to acquire not only medical practice competencies, but also an understanding of the history, organization, goals and philosophy of public health.”

A Booster for Residency Applications

Another benefit is a stronger application for residency programs. Northwestern notes how their MD/MPH program “is designed for students who wish to complete the MD and MPH degrees within four years, making them highly competitive for residencies, fellowships and research opportunities."

There are career-advancing benefits to the demography-oriented courses included in MPH curriculums. Stanford Medicine, for example, offers Ethnicity and Medicine and Caring for Individuals with Disabilities. Hospitals located in multicultural cities are more likely to accept graduates that understand how socioeconomic contexts impact patients.

Financial Considerations

One disadvantage of an MD/MPH degree is its cost. Many dual programs require students to stay in school longer. More time in school means potential financial challenges in the absence of scholarships. However, landing scholarships can help mitigate the cost.

Students may want to apply to four-year dual degrees to keep costs down. If you want to do medical school first and earn another degree later, you should consider these programs. Vanderbilt University School of Medicine notes the economic rationale of its program:

“The MD/MPH dual degree program provides a cost-effective option for those interested in earning both degrees. Students are charged three full years of MD Program tuition and one year of MPH Program tuition. For their fifth year, they are charged half a year of MD Program tuition and half a year of MPH Program tuition.”

Becoming Trusted Doctors 

MD/MPH doctors’ titles can signal trust to patients. MD/MPH holders are more attractive in some communities. Dr. Susan Buchanan, MD, MPH, an alumnus of the University of Illinois’s dual degree, summed up the benefits she found in her training:

“My courses in public health helped me see the big picture more clearly and understand the effects of social determinants of health on individual outcomes.”

Top 10 MD/MPH Programs

We have ranked the best MD/MPH programs. We based our ranking on three factors:

  • The combined ranking of both MD and MPH programs (US News)
  • The research output of its faculty members
  • The diversity and flexibility in course offerings

Tips to Get into MD/MPH Programs

Demonstrate Your Quantitative Skills 

A takeaway from the pandemic for prospective MD/MPH students is the central role numbers and rates play in public health. Biostatistics is a common course in MD/MPH programs.

Quantitative methods are central to MD/MPH programs: Rutgers University even requires a “quantitative skill assessment screening test to help identify students who may have a weak math background or lack quantitative preparation.” A decision-making process drawn from data is crucial in patient care, and analyzing populations.

Showcase Relevant Extracurricular Activities

Admissions essays are a great place to demonstrate commitment to public good. Courses such as Social Justice and Public Health: Tools and Models at University of Wisconsinand Public Health or Health & Human Rights at Johns Hopkins University shows admissions committees are interested in student contributions.

Students should show their desire to make the world a better place. Demonstrating a clear understanding of how and where social change happens helps. Emphasize your practical experiences outside typical institutions like academic hubs or hospitals.

The Tufts University School of Medicine requires MD/MPH students to “complete a 200-hour field experience in the summer between their first and second year.”

Similarly, the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine has a required two-course sequence called the Applied Practice Experience (APEx), which includes “160 hours of practice work at a site with a faculty supervisor.”

Showcasing your extracurricular activities can make your application competitive. It also shows admissions committees how you would contribute to the school.

Show a Balanced Candidate Profile

A dual degree requires students to tap into different strengths not included in just one degree’s curriculum.

It is important for applicants to convince admissions committees they are curious about multiple approaches to health sciences. Showing curiosity about the MD/MPH intersectionality is more likely to attract attention.

Balance is key to MD/MPH applications – or what social scientists call a life course approach. You should explain how you will adopt a life course approach to medical school, seeing the need for continuity, dialogue, and critical intersections between seemingly-disparate disciplines and degrees.

MD/MPH Degree FAQs

Are you still wondering if pursuing an MD/MPH degree is right for you? These FAQs will bring you more clarity.

1. Can I Defer Medical School and Finish My MPH Degree First?

Some schools permit deferrals to get an MD after an MPH. Schools like Harvard University, and New York Medical College permit deferrals.

2. Will I Be Able to Choose an MD/MPH Concentration?

Typically, yes, but concentrations vary between schools. Emory University offers concentrations in Behavioral Sciences and Health or Health Policy and Management but not Women’s & Reproductive Health like Johns Hopkins. Schools like Tufts do not offer concentrations, opting for a generalist program.

3. How Do I Make My Education More Affordable at a Top MD/MPH Program?

First, you can pursue scholarships to cut tuition costs. You can also find a four-year MD/MPH program to cut the cost of an extra year. Additionally, students in difficult financial situations may want to consider the NYU Grossman School of Medicine: recipients get full scholarships.

4. If I’m Accepted Into an MD/MPH Program, Can I Choose Just One Degree If I Change My Mind?

Usually, choosing one degree over the other isn’t a problem when you accept offers. That said, students will sometimes be unable to change their minds after accepting admission into an MD/MPH program. Tufts, for example, is strict: “You should accept our MD/MPH offer only if you are committed to enrolling in the program.”

5. What Are the Differences Between an MPH and MD Program?

MPH vs. MD: what’s better for you if you want to pursue only one degree? Evaluating MD vs. MPH differences and what’s better for you depends on your goals. MDs go to medical school to practice medicine and work with patients.

An MPH prepares you for a public health career. You can become a biostatistician, epidemiologist, work in health administration, and more. MPH vs. MD pathways can lead your careers in different directions under the health umbrella. Is an MPH worth it for you? When combined with an MD, it can propel your career in different directions.

6. Can I get an MPH before an MD?  

If you want an added unique perspective to medicine, you can definitely consider getting an MPH before medical school, says Pat Remington, MD, MPH. Whether you get an MPH before med school or concurrently through a dual program, ensure it aligns with your personal timeline and career goals.

7. Can I Get an MPH After Med School?

Many med school graduates may pursue an MPH after an MD. But why obtain an MPH after an MD? Dr. Remington says that completing your MPH after med school can help students “align their public health training with their clinical perspectives.”

Is an MD/MPH Degree in Your Future?

An MD/MPH dual degree is a great pathway for students eager to tap into different strengths and disciplines. In a globalized world, we are learning more about the importance of doctors beyond borders, geographical and disciplinary.

The use of an MD/MPH is not merely attractive for future physicians who want more career options. It can also help you become a better clinician. Remember to demonstrate your quantitative skills and perfect your application. We wish you luck in your MD/MPH journey!

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