Students will learn about the scope of public health in the bachelor's program and focus on gaining environmental and occupational health expertise in the master's program. The combined degree will allow students to carefully choose electives that prepare them for the advanced courses and will allow them to graduate with a bachelor's and master's degree in five years instead of the six years that it would take to complete the degrees separately.
The decision to create the accelerated degree program was based on demand.
"When a number of highly talented students expressed an interest in pursuing our MPH (master of public health) degree, we created the three-plus-two program, which allows us to provide more guidance to students interested in an advanced degree," said Mary Kay O'Rourke, associate professor of public health and section chair of environmental health sciences.
Environmental and occupational health specialists focus on the exposure of people to physical, biological and chemical hazards in the environment or workplace and how those hazards impact health. Undergraduate students have the option to focus on either industrial hygiene – exposures in a workplace setting – or broader environmental exposure.
"This program eliminates one year from training and saves students a full year's worth of tuition while providing high quality education and preparation to enter the workforce," said Douglas Taren, professor and associate dean of academic affairs in the College of Public Health.
O'Rourke said that students who have an interest in the environment and its relationship to health, or an interest in protecting the health of the public and workers, make ideal candidates for the program.
"Many people have an interest in the environment. It is important to realize that environmental or occupational exposures can impact our health and we can alter our behaviors or the environment to prevent disease and improve personal and population health. There are many environmental programs. This program helps people understand and protect themselves and others from environmental assaults," O'Rourke said.