MD/MPH is one of the most popular combined medical degree programs, along with , MD/MPP, MD/MBA etc. This degree provides a joint education in community health and clinical medical skills, equipping students for a future in the public health, health improvement, and preventative care sphere. Though this dual degree takes longer to complete than just an MD and requires an increased course load, it is still a popular choice among students who feel a calling towards public health service and policy making.
In this blog, you will learn everything you need to know about MD/MPH programs including the program structure, future career prospects, funding options, schools offering this degree, admission requirements, and top tips to get accepted.
An MD/MPH combines an MD degree with a Master of Public Health or MPH degree. The MPH degree focuses on public and community health while the MD degree provides a thorough training in clinical skills and medical science. Together, this education enables students to analyze medicine, health, and fitness for individual patients as well as entire communities. A combined MD/MPH degree is a logical choice for MD students seeking a broader medical education, since healthcare as a field always encompasses the public sphere as well as the individual and clinical ones. Typical topics of specialization include health leadership, disease prevention, public health policies, etc.
Along with the four years of medical school, the MPH degree typically takes an additional one year to complete, though individual programs may offer different timelines for their MD/MPH programs. So, in total, most MD/MPH programs take 5 years to complete. Some combined programs are run as a collaboration between the medical school and public health school of the university, while others are run entirely by the medical school. Usually, students need to be accepted into each program individually, which means MD/MPH applicants will need to complete all the typical to get admission into this joint degree.
Is this program right for me?
To know the answer to this question, you need to think about what you want from your professional program training and why you want to become a doctor. An MD degree equips you with the full range of clinical skills and medical knowledge required to practice medicine. A degree like MPH provides a deeper perspective, helping you gain a more thorough understanding of the larger social, economic, and cultural issues pertaining to healthcare.
In terms of medical practice or academic research, the MD/MPH degree doesn’t provide any special qualifications for a specific career or role. However, it does provide a broader context for the applications of medical knowledge that can enable you to take on health leadership challenges, work in community health, research medical solutions to large-scale public health issues, and more.
For most students who complete this degree, it is a matter of following their passion for solving public health issues and understanding the larger context of the clinical work they do. Even if they don’t end up using the degree as a qualification, the training in public health equips them with a variety of diverse skills and makes them more sensitive to the needs of patients and ultimately, makes them better doctors.
Before you decide if you should pursue the MD/MPH degree, think deeply about , what kind of doctor you want to be, and what are your long-term career goals. Evaluate your interest in the bigger questions of healthcare and if you would like to get involved with tackling these large-scale issues. If the answer is yes, then the MD/MPH degree is the right path for you.
The combined MD/MPH degree typically lasts 5 years, including 4 years of medical school and 1 extra year of coursework for the MPH degree, along with additional coursework or research that is completed concurrently in the third or fourth year of medical school.
How the degree is integrated varies from school to school. Some programs add one additional year of MPH coursework as a break from medical school between the 2nd and 3rd year or between the 3rd and 4th year. Other programs integrate the coursework across the years to allow students to better compare and understand the cross-influences of the two curricula. A few schools such as Tufts, , New York Medical College, Tulane University, and University of Texas Medical Branch offer the option of accelerated, integrated 4-year MD/MPH programs.
Which type of degree you choose depends on how you wish to study the two curricula. If your goal is to complete your education in an accelerated timeline, and to save the cost of an extra year of tuition, then the 4-year programs might be right for you. On the other hand, the one extra year focused purely on public health studies might be a welcome break from the high-pressure medical school curriculum.
The MD/MPH degree generally consists of a typical 4-year medical school curriculum, in which the first two years cover core medical science courses combining classroom instruction and lab training. The third year consist of a series of clinical clerkships or rotations. In the fourth and final year, students opt for elective clinical rotations so they can explore specific areas of medicine more deeply. This helps students they would like to pursue in residency.
The MPH coursework consists of various topics related to community health, epidemiology, public policy, environmental health, and sociomedical sciences. Students are also given the option to specialize in one or more of these topics. Students may also be required to complete a specific public health project, research paper, or some other assignment as part of their graduation requirements. Most MPH degrees ask their students to complete some amount of field work or gain hands-on experience in public health. For instance, there may be a mandatory practicum requirement involving field work in the public health arena.
Note that in order to complete the MPH degree course requirements, some combined programs may ask students to either complete projects/coursework over their summer holidays or to give up 2 or 3 clinical electives during their 3rd/4th year of med school to complete the required MPH projects. Keep this in mind when you are deciding whether you want to pursue this degree.
The MD/MPH degree opens up a whole avenue of career options that require an in-depth understanding of both medicine and public health concerns. It uniquely prepares students to work as physicians in a public health setting.
Here are some of the most common future career paths for students who complete an MD/MPH:
Keep in mind that many students who pursue an MD/MPH may also choose to pursue a purely medical career as a practicing physician while using their knowledge of public health to deliver better patient care and develop holistic medical solutions. Due to the grueling nature of the four-year medical degree, it’s not likely that MD/MPH graduates would want to give up the practice of medicine completely to work in public health fields. Rather, they are perfectly suited for roles where their medical knowledge is as essential as their public health expertise. After practicing medicine for a few years, they may eventually choose to transition to a leadership role in the public health arena.
Many students who opt for the MD/MPH degree someday hope to effect meaningful and evidence-based policy changes via high-ranking roles in public health agencies, community-based organizations, private healthcare organizations and so on.
An MD/MPH may also be an apt qualification for those seeking a place in the programs that focus on community and public health. While the MD/MPH degree isn’t a requirement for such programs, it does provide you with a competitive edge and proves your unique suitability for working in a public health setting. Many residency programs that work with public health initiatives, at-risk or remote populations, socio-economically disadvantaged communities, and so on, would give a preference to an MD/MPH applicant.
If you enroll in an MD/MPH degree, you’ll have to pay for the MPH degree along with your and related . The length of the program often determines the cost of the degree, which is why many students prefer to target the four-year MD/MHP programs which come with a lower tuition cost. Irrespective of the length, the total cost of the combined degree is much less costly than pursuing each degree individually, which is why many students opt for this program.
The funding options for the combined degree MD/MPH degree include all the usual MD funding options such as , federal or private loans, and so on, as well as any scholarships, grants, and loans intended for MPH students. In fact, you’re very likely to find numerous scholarships and grants for both these degrees because of their potential to benefit the public and bring about social change. There are even a few scholarships dedicated solely for students pursuing a combined MD/MPH degree. These are typically specific to each university so you should check the funding page for each program to determine if you’re eligible for any MD/MPH-specific scholarships. As an MPH student, you may also be eligible for research-based scholarships if your focus of studies is a research-intensive project.
You should check with the financial aid office of the schools you’re interested in so you can find out the full list of funding options for the MD/MPH programs you’re applying to.
Want some more tips on how to pay for medical school? Check out our video and infographic below:
Below we’ve created an up to date list of all schools offering the MD/MPH degrees in the US and Canada. In addition to this guide, the AAMC website is a great resource to find additional information and guidance for prospective MD/MPH students. You can also use to check the list of schools offering MD/MPH degrees.
The following tabs show the list of schools that offer the MD/MPH program in the US, organized state-wise and alphabetically. Please use the right and left arrow to navigate to more tabs.
Note: No Canadian medical schools offer the MD/MPH degree program.
Applying to MD/MPH Programs
In most cases, you apply for an MPH degree separately from the MD degree, after you have been admitted into the MD program. This could be at any point before you start medical school or during your first three years of medical school. Some programs also allow you to apply for the MPH degree along your MD degree; however, you will only be considered for the dual degree program after your admission into the MD program.
This means that first, you need to submit your medical school application through , AMCAS, or any other application process that your target school uses. You should check the “Combined Medical Degree/Graduate” option in the AMCAS application to indicate your interest in the dual MD/MPH degree. Some schools may use this option to send students specific secondary essays related to the MD/MPH degree while others may ignore this checkbox, and instead expect interested students to pursue separate, additional steps to indicate their interest in a dual degree during the secondary application stage. You should check the specific process on the admissions website of the schools you’re applying to.
The process of applying to the MPH degree varies from program to program. Some may expect dual degree applicants to use , which is the application portal for public health programs, while others may have their own specific internal process for dual degree applicants and current med school students seeking admission into an MPH program. This could involve simply submitting a few additional essays and letters of recommendations, or it could be a more intensive application process.
Requirements for MD/MPH Admission
A common misconception among students is that an MD/MPH program is easier to get into than an MD program. This is simply not true because to get into an MD/MPH program, you first have to get into medical school which means you need to complete all the and other application requirements to secure your admission. And then after getting through the grueling med school application process, you’ll also have to be accepted into the MPH degree. So whether you’re applying to via TMDSAS or using AMCAS to target , if you want a spot in an MD/MPH program, you’ll have to apply and secure your admission into the MPH degree separately – even if you are applying to the MPH program at the same time as you are applying to the MD program.
Let’s go over the important application requirements for MD/MPH programs:
MD programs require the completion of a four-year undergraduate degree and background in the following disciplines:
Besides these mandatory course requirements, many medical schools also look for recommended coursework in subjects such as organic or inorganic chemistry, anatomy, genetics, psychology, sociology, etc. Remember that some schools may not specify any prerequisite coursework at all, but focus more on your extracurricular activities, MCAT score, and other factors.
The coursework prerequisites for an MPH degree may vary from school to school, but they usually include biology, chemistry, and mathematics courses. The required coursework for med school usually overlaps with the requirements for the MPH degree.
It’s not enough to simply meet the coursework requirements for medical school. You also need to prove your academic proficiency with a great GPA record. The average GPA for MPH degree matriculants is 3.2, which is lower than the average expected GPA for med school, but that doesn’t mean you can get away with poor grades just because you’re applying for a dual degree. You always need to secure your med school admission first, which means you need to ensure you achieve and maintain a good GPA in your undergrad years. Remember, your GPA should at least match the GPA of last year’s matriculants of your chosen medical school.
If you’re wondering how to meet these , keep in mind that while it’s important to build good study habits and prioritize your academics in your undergrad, it’s equally important to balance your course load to ensure you haven’t taken on too much. A few strategic “easy” courses can help you actually get into medical school as opposed to the impressive but challenging courses that get you a consistent C and pull down your GPA.
If it’s too late for the above measures and you’re wondering , there are schools that may accept a below-average GPA if the applicant can demonstrate their prowess in other areas of their application such as their essays, personal statement, MCAT score, extracurricular activities, and so on. Do your research on some of the and pick the programs that will view you as a good candidate despite a low GPA.
Your MCAT score is an equally crucial part of your MD/MPH application. To ensure you get a start by creating an effective that gives you plenty of time to prepare for each of the MCAT sections. Make sure you take a practice test at the beginning and throughout your preparation period to track your areas of improvement and get familiar with the test format. Finally, take the MCAT only when you’re completely ready so you can avoid the stress of retaking the MCAT. Still wondering “” – just read our blog to get some tips.
Essays are a very important part of your MD/MPH application. You’ll have to write a , as well as the MPH personal statement. You’ll also most likely have to write a specific MD/MPH secondary essay, along with your .
The MD/MPH secondary essay prompts vary from program to program. They typically include questions related to your previous experience in public health, your ambition to combine a study of medicine with public health, your specific interest in public health, and so on. You should use this opportunity to convey why you have a special interest in the study of both medicine and public health, how your previous experiences have led you to this goal, and how you think an MD/MPH degree will help you achieve your career goals. While your other essays will be focused solely on medicine, the MD/MPH-specific essays are your chance to explain why you want to combine your study of these two fields and why you’re uniquely suited to this dual degree program.
Volunteer and Work Experience
MD/MPH applicants should have meaningful volunteer and work experience, especially in a public health organization, to make them stand out as applicants. For any med school applicant, volunteer experience in a public health setting is an excellent addition to their section. For MD/MPH applicants, this experience should be impactful enough to be included in the list and should tie in with the experiences discussed in the secondary essays that will be submitted later. That way, you create a strong narrative of commitment to practicing medicine in the broader context of public health and can demonstrate your unique suitability for the program. Additionally, many MPH programs require students to have some kind of first-hand field experience in a public health setting.
To fulfill this requirement, you can opt to commit some at a public health organization, work in a private healthcare or health insurance firm, work with community healthcare programs, and so on. The key is to find activities that help you gain first-hand experience of public health systems and to further define your interests in this area.
Would you like to better understand what kind of "hidden costs" can be involved in your medical school application? Take a look at this infographic:
Clinical Experience and Shadowing
Clinical experience is one of the most important and you can tailor your clinical experience to your public health interests to make your MD/MPH application stand out even more. For instance, you can opt to shadow doctors in a public health setting such as a free clinic, hospice, or mobile hospital. Or you can focus on gaining clinical experience in medical institutes that cater to vulnerable and disenfranchised populations such as retirement homes, emergency healthcare centers located in socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhoods, medical camps in developing nations, etc. This will give you first-hand insight into the issues that our public health systems face and expand your perspective of the large-scale problems facing the medical community.
It’s important to demonstrate your commitment to the arena of medicine in public health in your application and back it up with your actual, real-world experiences rather than just theoretical interests. Clinical experience or shadowing work in a public health setting will help you do just that.
While research isn’t the most important aspect of your MD/MPH degree, it’s still a recommended skill for any aspiring doctor so you shouldn’t neglect this area of your application. Many students who opt for an MD/MPH degree want to pursue their research interests in medicine and public health, in an attempt to find medical solutions and evidence-based strategies to tackle large-scale public health issues in areas such as biostatistics, disease prevention, and so on. Having a demonstrable and high-quality research background will show adcoms that you have the skills as well as the inclination to take on more intensive research projects as part of your dual degree.
To meet this requirement, you can choose to take on optional research work or projects with the help of your own undergrad school faculty. You can also look for research assistant positions on campus or at hospitals or research institutes around you. Ideally, your research experience should be in areas related to public health but even if it isn’t, you should be able to demonstrate what skills and research techniques you gained via the experience and how they will help you in your studies.
Letters of Recommendation
When applying for a dual MD/MPH degree, you’ll need to meet your requirement as well as the separate requirement for the MPH program. Most med schools ask for 3 letters of recommendation, though a few ask for 4 or 5. Usually, at least 2 of these letters need to be written by professors or teachers who can talk about your academic performance.
There are 3 types of med school letters of recommendation:
Check the specific requirements of the med schools you’re interested in to find out how many letters they need and which types of letters they accept.
The specific requirements for MPH letters of recommendation varies depending on the school and program. Typically, you’ll have to submit three individual letters of recommendation, with at least one from a professor or teacher speaking to your academic prowess. The system for submitting the letters will also depend on the program. If you’re using SOPHAS, you need to submit your letters via the portal. You should check the admissions website of the schools you’re applying to so you can understand the exact requirements and how to submit the final letters of recommendation.
If you’re applying for a dual MD/MPH degree as a current medical school student, a lot of schools ask for a letter from your department providing details of your academic performance during the last year of med school. This letter counts as one of the letters of recommendation for your application.
Finally, remember that although it’s perfectly acceptable to ask the same three referees to write both sets of letters of recommendation, you should ideally ask them to write two different letters for the MD program and MPH program respectively. Though the general content of the letters can be the same, some details might need to be altered to make them suitable for the program in question.
Getting into an MD degree program itself is no mean feat, so when you add another degree into the mix, the application process becomes that much more complicated and challenging. Keep the following tips in mind to ensure you get an acceptance into your dream MD/MPH program:
Do your research
When it comes MD/MPH admissions, the application process varies from program to program, and each school has their own , requirements, and admission prerequisites. So, it’s very important to do your research into the MD/MPH programs you want to apply to and find out all you can about the admissions process and application requirements in advance. This way, you don’t miss out on any important components, such as required coursework, recommended extracurricular activities, additional secondary essays, and so on.
Looking for more on the rolling admissions process? Check out this infographic!
Gain meaningful experience in a public health setting
Most MPH degrees prioritize hands-on field experience in a public health setting, so it’s very important that you gain meaningful experiences that you can discuss in your applications. There’s a lot of different ways for you to obtain this experience, whether that’s in a free clinic, working at a medical camp in remote areas, completing relevant public health research projects such as population-level data research, or volunteering for community outreach and engagement programs.
For your experience to be impactful and useful, it should last for a meaningful period of time and provide you with important learning and growth experiences that help you build skills and gain critical knowledge of the medical profession. For instance, if you’re volunteering for a medical community outreach program, try to go beyond your assigned duties to become as involved as you can with different projects, and diversify your experiences. If you’re gaining clinical experience working with vulnerable populations, try to stay at the same unit and location for at least a few weeks or even months, so you can form connections with the community and observe how populations shift and change over time in reaction to different policies.
Meaningful experiences such as these will not only demonstrate your suitability for the dual MD/MPH degree, but they will also help you build a compelling narrative in your essays about your passion for combining a study of medicine with public health.
Convey your passion for public health and medicine via your essays
Your essays are a critical component of your MD/MPH application. Whether it’s your personal statement or your MD/MPH specific secondary prompts, these essays are a great opportunity for you to talk about your special interest in medicine and public health, and demonstrate your suitability for the dual degree. A dual degree usually entails additional coursework and challenging projects so your essays should clearly demonstrate that you have the motivation and the skills to handle this challenge.
Admissions committees will be reviewing your essays to evaluate the depth of your passion for this field as well as the relevance of your experience to your future ambitions. It’s important that these written components should show them that your interest in public health is not superficial or incidental. Try to include details of past experiences as well as long-term career goals to show that you are truly dedicated to this degree and that you are ready to pursue this career path.
1. What are my future career prospects after an MD/MPH?
An MD/MPH opens up a lot of avenues for practicing medicine in a public health setting. As healthcare evolves, more and more people are becoming interested in finding evidence-based solutions to the larger healthcare and medical problems facing society. MD/MPH uniquely qualifies you to take on leadership roles in public and private healthcare organizations working towards providing such solutions. This degree also equips students to pursue a career in medical research focused on public health issues such as epidemiology, biostatistics, preventative healthcare, and so on. With this degree, you gain a unique understanding of the larger socio-economic context of medical care, which makes you an ideal candidate for residencies in public health settings and for practicing medicine in areas with vulnerable and disadvantaged populations around the world.
2. How can I finance my MD/MPH degree?
A dual MD/MPH degree costs less than completing each degree individually, but it still includes the cost of medical school along with the cost of the MPH degree. You can seek out all the usual avenues for funding a medical school education such as scholarships, grants, loans, and so on. However, some schools and organizations also offer scholarships and grants focused solely only MD/MPH candidates that could be a less competitive funding avenue for those pursuing this dual degree.
3. Is a combined MD/MPH worth it?
If you’re seeking an education in both public health and medical sciences, then a combined MD/MPH degree has a lot of attractions. It can help you save both time and tuition costs since a typical master’s degree followed by an MD degree would take at least six years to complete in total, whereas a typical combined MD/MPH degree takes 5 years to complete. Some programs even offer an accelerated 4-year option. However, the compressed timeline of this combined degree does mean a more intense workload which could be overwhelming. Additionally, combined degrees restrict your choice of schools, and you may end up compromising on either the MD or MPH program in order to pursue a combined degree. Ultimately, you need to evaluate if the benefits of a combined MD/MPH degree outweigh the cons for you and then make a decision.
4. Do I have to complete my MD/MPH degree from the same university?
The majority of the dual MD/MPH degrees are offered by a single school or different schools within the same university, though there are a few universities such as , , the University of Michigan, and the University of Minnesota that allow students to complete their MPH degrees while pursuing their MD degrees from another university. In this scenario, you would still complete your education in 5 years. However, it would not be strictly considered a “combined” program; rather, you would need to take a break from medical school for a year to complete the MPH degree and then return to med school.
5. How long does it take to complete a combined MD/MPH degree?
It generally takes 5 years to complete a dual MD/MPH degree, comprising of 4 years of medical school plus an extra year of studies for the MPH degree. However, some schools also offer an accelerated, integrated program that combines the MPH coursework with medical school training over a period of 4 years.
6. Does the MD/MPH degree include international experience?
Many MD/MPH programs do offer the option of completing international field experience as part of their coursework. One of the specializations available to MPH students is international public health and working with vulnerable populations from across the world, which is why many combined MD/MPH programs offer this type of international exposure. However, note that the funding for the international projects varies from year to year and is not guaranteed.
7. How do I apply for an MD/MPH program?
To get into an MD/MPH program, you first have to apply to medical school via AMCAS, TMDSAS, or any other relevant med school application process for the schools you’re applying to. The next steps vary by program. Typically, you need to indicate in your med school application form that you’re interested in the dual degree option, and you’ll receive subsequent communication, including specific secondary essay prompts, regarding your application from the school. However, you will only be considered for the dual degree AFTER you’ve been accepted into the MD program.
You also have the option to apply for a dual degree when you’re already enrolled in med school. In this case, the application process might be slightly different as most schools will have a separate internal application process for current med school students. Some components of your application may be different than applying for a regular MPH degree, for instance, you may be asked to submit your GPA records for the last year of med school in lieu of one letter of recommendation.
8. How do I get accepted into an MD/MPH program?
To get accepted into an MD/MPH program, you’ll need to complete all the required coursework for medical school as well as an MPH program, and have an excellent GPA, a good MCAT score, meaningful extracurricular experiences, and impressive letters of recommendation. In particular, MD/MPH applicants should have relevant and impactful volunteer or clinical experience in a public health setting, along with some research experience related to medicine and public health. Finally, make sure your essays, including the personal statements, dual degree essays, and secondary essays accurately and eloquently convey your passion for medicine and public health and explain how you intend to use this degree to further your long-term goals.