Monetary and Nonmonetary Costs and Benefits of a Public Health Master's Degree in the 21st Century

Angela J. Beck*, Jonathon P. Leider, Heather Krasna, Beth A. Resnick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalEditorialAcademicpeer-review


As postsecondary tuition and debt levels continue to rise, the value proposition of higher education has been increasingly called into question by the popular media and the general public. Recent data from the National Center for Education Statistics now show early career earnings and debt, by program, for thousands of institutions across the United States. This comes at an inflection point for public health education-master's degrees have seen 20 years of growth, but forecasts now call for, at best, stagnation.

Forces inside and outside the field of public health are shifting supply and demand for public health master's degrees. We discuss these forces and identify potential monetary and nonmonetary costs and benefits of these degrees.

Overall, we found a net benefit in career outcomes associated with a public health master's degree, although it is clear that some other master's degrees likely offer greater lifetime earning potentials or lower lifetime debt associated with degree attainment. We outline the issues academic public health must engage in to successfully attract and train the next generation of public health graduates. (Am J Public Health. 2020;110:978-985. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2020.305648)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)978-985
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020




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