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UC Berkeley Public Health School Launches Online MPH

Online Masters Degree Program UC Berkeley School of Public Health OnlineThe University of California Berkeley announced last week it will launch its first online degree—an online master’s in public health (MPH)—in the spring 2012 semester.

Responding to a growing need for professionals in the public health sector, UC Berkeley says it is opening an online master’s in public health that will require 85 percent of coursework to be completed online. The program will bolster learning with three on-campus sessions totaling 15 days.



The UC Berkeley School of Public Health says it hopes the expansion to online learning will help with the estimated national shortage of 250,000 trained public health professionals. Next semester the class will pilot with 10 professionals, though they hope to expand the program to a capacity of 220.

“It’s a diverse mix of clinicians, administrators, researchers, health educators and one journalist,” said Dr. Nap Hosang, director of UC Berkeley School of Public Health MPH program and online degree program.{{ad85}}

According to Berkeley’s campus newspaper, the Daily Californianschool officials determined that while they wish to meet educational demands, they also had a space problem as university’s physical structures are unable to accommodate any more students.  

That’s when administrators started considering the web. 


The faculty also recognized the “accessibility and innovation” of an online master’s program.  

“It’s an exciting opportunity for faculty to compare differences in student receptivity and knowledge acquisition,” Hosang told the paper. 

“I think we are the guinea pigs, and other professional schools may be watching closely to see what we are doing.”

UC Berkeley executive vice chancellor and provost George W. Breslauer added in a press release, “This innovative, well-designed program reflects our principles of access and excellence.”

While university officials laud the new effort, some students and alumni regard the move—which is not unique for a state university in this day and age—as having negative impact on the “value” of the highly-regarded program.

Bahar Navab, president of Graduate Assembly—effectively the student union—responded to the student newspaper only in an email, but wrote, “I think online degree programs have the potential to diminish the value of a UC Berkeley education.” 

She said the assembly hadn’t voted on a stance, but was concerned about offering online classes. “Can we honestly say that an online course is the equivalent of hands-on training and face-to-face group discussion?”

Commenters on the newspaper’s site echoed the bias against the online master’s degree in public health. “As someone who actually worked to get my MPH from Cal, I find this to be incredibly sad. So much for the value of my Cal MPH. Sigh,” wrote “Cycler.”

Another commented, “The day molecular bio becomes online I will cry and never again donate to this public DeVry!”

Get Educated lists 34 schools offering an online master’s in public health—among them are the highly regarded Boston University, George Washington University and the frequently top-ranked health program at Johns Hopkins University.

This new UC Berkeley online public health master’s requires 14 courses and 42 semester units. Students must maintain at least a 3.0 grade point average.  

The school’s site estimates it will cost $52,000 to $59,000 to complete the online degree program. Yet, the average cost of an online MPH was $28,265, according to data from early 2010 on

On their site, UC Berkeley’s online master’s degree in public health program notes that, “Curriculum consists of the same core requirements as the on-campus MPH programs, as well as eight additional courses that provide a broad-based interdisciplinary background in public health.” 

It is unclear whether that means the additional classes replace what would be electives on campus, or if it means online students have a longer enrollment period. At the time of this publication, no university personnel had returned an inquiry regarding the courses.

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Jess Wisloski

Jess Wisloski is a journalist and videographer based in Vermont, and former editor of Yahoo NYC. Since 2001, she has written for various publications, including the Village Voice, the New York Times, the Villager, the Brooklyn Papers and various metro weeklies. She is a journalism graduate of NYU.