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Keck School launches online master of public health program

Online students will take a set of core courses and choose one of three tracks of study.

The Keck School of Medicine of USC is now accepting applications for a new online Master of Public Health (MPH) program that launches in the spring of 2013.

The fully accredited program, which combines online coursework and a practicum, can be completed in as few as two years and awards the same degree that is granted to graduates of the on-campus program.

Online students will take a set of core courses and choose one of three tracks of study: biostatistics and epidemiology, health education and promotion or global health leadership. In addition, there are plans for a health policy track to be offered in the future.

“The MPH online program at USC was developed to address the growing need for educated public health professionals in the U.S. and worldwide,” said Louise Rohrbach, associate professor and director of USC’s MPH program.

The Association of Schools of Public Health described the shortfall of the public health workforce facing the United States as a “crisis.” According to the association, there may be as many as 250,000 unfilled public health jobs by 2020 as demand for such expertise is on the rise.

The new platform will allow the Keck School to admit, and ultimately graduate, more students. It also opens the field of prospective students to working professionals, many of whom want the opportunity to pursue further education while keeping their jobs, as well as to people who live out of state or even overseas.

“We have developed a program with a flexible format that offers a rigorous learning experience, state-of-the-art educational technology and instructional techniques, and personalized mentorship,” said Shubha Kumar, director of the online program and assistant professor of clinical preventive medicine at the Keck School.

The online classes, Kumar said, will integrate the best practices in distance education, including a mix of video lectures and narrated slide presentations from Keck School faculty. In addition, there will be interactive discussion boards, case studies, simulations and blogs, and students will have the chance to join live video conferences with professors and other students.

“While it’s a different experience than the traditional classroom setting, we still want to ensure a high level of student-faculty and student-student interaction,” Kumar said.

According to Kiplinger, a Washington, D.C.-based publisher of business forecasts and personal finance advice, an MPH degree is among the top graduate degrees worth pursuing when comparing the cost of education to future job prospects and average salaries. In its 2011 report, Kiplinger noted that public health administrators earn, on average, salaries higher than $90,000.

The MPH program at USC is accredited by the Council on Education in Public Health, the national body responsible for accrediting public health degree programs across the nation.

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