Core Competencies in Public Health

The Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), established in 1953, represents schools that are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), which account for approximately 85% of public health graduates in the United States.

Governed by the principle that “you’re only as healthy as the world you live in,” ASPH has become a national resource for educators, students, and professionals, that advances professional education, research and service in public health, develops partnerships with organizations to strengthen public health education, facilitates cooperation among accredited schools, and encourages development of practical training opportunities for students and graduates.


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ASPH has developed an MPH Core Competency Model that represents the disciplines and skills in which public health professionals should be well-versed upon graduation from an MPH program. ASPH provides a detailed account of the development of the core competency model, but in general, the core competencies were developed in 2004 in response to:

“Challenges of 21st century public health practice; proliferation of competency-based training in the field of public health; increased emphasis on accountability in higher education; recommendations by important national organizations regarding competency domains in graduate public health education (GPHE); increasing incorporation of competencies into accreditation criteria; and, potential development of a voluntary credentialing exam for public health graduates.”

The final set of MPH core competencies includes five discipline-specific “competency domains,” that have been generally accepted since the 1970s, and seven “interdisciplinary/cross-cutting competencies,” which are newer, but have become necessary to respond to the needs of modern public health. Click on each core competency to learn about how they will help you become a master of public health:

Discipline-specific Competency Domains:

Interdisciplinary/Cross-cutting Competencies:

  • Communication and Informatics
  • Diversity and Culture
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Program Planning
  • Systems Thinking
  • Public Health Biology

The core competencies are not, by any means, a static blueprint for the development of curricula or the requirements of specific courses. Rather, they provide an overview of the numerous facets of public health: the skills, knowledge, and attributes necessary for professionals, and the areas to which their education will be applied. Faculty should look to the core competencies as a guide and students should use them to personally measure their mastery of public health.

According to ASPH, “The competencies are intended to serve as a resource and guide for those interested in improving the quality and accountability of public health education and training…with respect for the uniqueness and diversity of the schools of public health. They are not meant to prescribe the methods or processes for achievement, recognizing that implementation of the competencies may vary as a function of each school’s mission and goals.”

Nonetheless, the core competencies have proven to be so reflective of the nature of public health that most MPH programs incorporate them into their curricula–either centering their core classes around them, offering them as concentrations, or using them to guide the general structure of their classes.