What Can You Do with a Master’s Degree in Public Health?
What is ‘public health?’ The simple answer is that public health maintains the quality of the air, soil, water, and general well being of the community. The more lengthy response is that public health is a multifaceted branch of the federal government, specifically the Department of Health and Human Services, where individuals are responsible for preventing disease, promoting health, responding to emergencies, and participating in roughly a dozen other areas that typically go unnoticed in daily life. Public health is the cornerstone of health care throughout the world, so an individual pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is demonstrating to themselves and those in the discipline that population health is of critical importance to them.
Given the broad range of careers that are possible with an MPH, it is difficult to narrow the list to just a few. However, for those interested in working in traditional health care settings (hospital, clinic, government office, etc.), typical jobs following an MPH degree include health consultant, and program manager (mental health, wellness, clinical, etc.)
For those who are more interested in working in local public health offices or in a not-for-profit organization, typical jobs are health and social services manager, social and community services manager (also known as a community health program coordinator), and public health educator (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).
Here is a closer look at two of the more popular occupations associated with an MPH, the responsibilities involved, and the projected outlook in the coming years. These occupations either require an MPH degree or are dramatically enhanced by having one.
Public/Community Health Educator
A health educator is a title that often is confused with health education teacher in a K-12 system, but the work of these two individuals is very different. Where a K-12 health education teacher is a teacher by trade for children and young adults, a public/community health educator works with complete populations across all age ranges. The goal of a health educator is to inform people about the practices and behaviors that promote good health and wellness. To do this, many health educators are called upon in hospitals, companies, and communities to design wellness plans and strategies that can be used to improve the health of those involved. Finally, what may be most exciting about this field is the projected growth of 16%, which places it among the fastest growing occupations in health care (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).
Social and Community Services Manager
A social and community services manager or community health program coordinator is a very important job within any town. These individuals ensure that the social services programs that operate within the community are working efficiently and correctly for the public. These activities can range from managing the food health inspectors to making certain that the mental health needs of the community are being met. Essentially, any activity that is geared toward a population’s health and wellness is supervised and coordinated by this position. This career has a much faster than average growth rate of 18% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018).
The Future of Public Health
While this sampling of jobs that are possible with an MPH degree is very small, the future is very bright for those who hold this degree, both in the U.S. and throughout the world. As the U.S. begins to take a greater interest in population health and the concept of preventing illness before it occurs, more and more funding and jobs are being created to meet this cultural shift. An MPH degree demonstrates to the world that you not only understand individual health needs, but that you are able to create programs and initiatives that can be utilized by an entire population.
Written by Dr. Charles P. Holmes, associate professor and acting program chair for the Master of Arts in Health Care Administration program in the College of Health, Human Services, and Science, and chair of the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at Ashford University.
Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Community and Social Service Occupations. From https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/home.htm