Growth of the Undergraduate Public Health Major

Grant Amount: Direct Charitable Activity
Recipient: de Beaumont Foundation Initiative

In a recent article published by Public Health Reports, authors examined previously unused administrative data from the National Center for Education Statistics to examine the trends in public health undergraduate training over the past two decades.  The data show that public health is now one of the fastest growing undergraduate majors in the United States. The number of schools that offer this degree has also grown substantially over the last 20 years.

A few noteworthy stats:

  • Women had greater representation in public health programs compared to the overall undergraduate student body. Over the course of a decade, the proportion of women earning undergraduate public health degrees increased 29 percent.
  • Undergraduates receiving degrees in public health are more diverse than undergraduates overall.
  • Fewer than 1 in 10 of those who receive an undergraduate public health degree later apply to medical school or an advanced degree in public health.

This paper confirms the commonly held assumption that the number of students completing undergraduate public health degrees is increasing, but a few key questions remain: What can account for the increased interest in the field of public health? If these alumni are not continuing on to medical school or a graduate degree in public health, where exactly are they going? How many end up in health-related fields, governmental or nongovernmental? More research is needed to find out where these alumni are ultimately employed.

To read the full paper, please click here.

To explore the data further, please click here.

To learn more about schools and programs of public health, please visit

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