On the Fast Track to a Master of Public Health


Master of Public Health student Nicole Sanz shares how the bachelor’s to accelerated master’s program has supported her goal of becoming an epidemiologist.

Image of Nicole Sanz

The bachelor’s to accelerated master’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program is a great opportunity for undergraduates that are committed to pursuing an advanced degree in public health. As an MPH student in the accelerated master’s program, Nicole Sanz is already ahead of the curve on her career path at a time when there is growing demand for public health professionals.

“I have felt challenged and motivated by the program, my professors, and my peers,” said Sanz on her experience studying public health at Mason. “While we have different concentrations and career goals, my peers and I all aspire to improve the health and well-being of the public. The public health field is growing and needs dedicated individuals to contribute to the most pressing public health problems.”

The accelerated master’s program allows highly motivated students to complete 12 credits (four courses) of advanced courses that “double-count” in both their undergraduate and graduate degree program. As a result, students in the program can earn their MPH degree in a shorter time. Sanz is in her first year of her master’s program and is set to graduate in December 2022.

Sanz dreams of being an epidemiologist and investigating infectious diseases in communities. So, when she expressed interest in a master’s degree to her academic advisor, he told her about the accelerated master’s program. “I was drawn to apply because of its financial benefits and the opportunity to experience graduate-level courses,” said Sanz. Students who pursue an accelerated pathway can reduce the overall cost of obtaining a master’s degree.

Experiential Learning Opportunities

In her program, Sanz has gained hands-on experience in academic research. Previously, she worked on a research project with former Assistant Professor Suzie Carmack where she helped research how micro-breaks in movement and mindfulness could reduce suicide risk. In a different pilot study, Sanz helped Carmack code and analyze data on a wellness training intervention. In the future, Sanz is interested in researching infectious diseases and global health solutions.

Off-campus, Sanz has continued to make an impact in her community. In September, she started an internship with Fairfax County Government. In this role, she’s had the opportunity to coordinate COVID-19 surveillance testing in addition to other health and wellness events for the county.

“Courses emphasizing social determinants of health, program implementation strategies, and epidemiological concepts helped prepare me for my internship,” said Sanz about how her degree program made her a great fit for the position.

The accelerated master's program is a unique experience that has given Sanz a variety of learning opportunities beyond the classroom. From conducting research alongside faculty to working directly in the community, the accelerated master's program is equipping her with the necessary skills to achieve a successful career as an epidemiologist.

For undergraduate students considering the accelerated master's program, Sanz suggests that students talk to their academic advisor first to see if the accelerated pathway is a good fit and to compare the benefits of the program and the non-accelerated pathway. She encourages them to speak with current accelerated master's students too.

Learn more about the fastest growing health care careers, including epidemiology.