The Role of a Public Health Manager

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Working in management or similar leadership roles is a frequent career goal for individuals pursuing a Master of Public Health degree. The public health industry is gaining momentum as stakeholders in the U.S. health care system explore key issues like community care programs and seek opportunities to offer more affordable, quality health services. An MPH degree can put you on a career path as a public health manager, but is that job right for you?

If you’ve been thinking about pursuing a master’s degree to work in public health, it can be helpful to more closely explore career outcomes to identify if it is a good fit for you. Here is a close look at what a public health manager does to help you in your decision-making process.


The Public Health Manager Big Picture

To a great extent, the work completed by a public health manager isn’t very different than that of other health services leaders. The big difference is that the public health manager focuses on communities or populations, not just a specific team or division. For example, a public health manager working in a hospital may look at underlying care conditions across the organization that contribute to positive or negative health outcomes and propose potential solutions. Other common operational goals include working toward disease prevention and promoting community health.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical and health services managers typically focus on primary responsibilities including improving efficiency in care delivery, managing staff, handling scheduling, overseeing budgets, performing records management and serving as a key communicator across various departmental lines.

These general health care management tasks are common parts of the public health manager job. However, public health managers often take on highly specific tasks that are unique to overseeing the kinds of large-scale, community or population health initiatives common in the sector. Let’s look at a few public health manager job descriptions to better understand these responsibilities.


A Closer Look at Public Health Management

Responsibilities for a public health manager can vary depending on the specific role, but two job advertisements highlight some of the key responsibilities associated with work in this field. Both jobs are for public sector agencies, highlighting that managers in this sector often end up working with government bodies to promote public health.

The first job ad, for a Public Health Nursing and Family Health Program Manager for the Orange County Health Care Agency, highlights some of the nuances of the role. Public health managers often work within divisions devoted to specific types of care – in this case nursing and family health. Key job responsibilities detailed in the ad include consulting on projects and guiding staff, developing program guidelines, working on policies and creating a culture of continuous improvement.

The position allows the manager to work with a variety of client types as the nursing and family health program engages with a wide range of care-related groups in the county. As a result, a public health manager can expect to serve diverse demographics, ranging from medically high-risk newborns to seniors involved in a health outreach program.

A second job ad, for a Disease Control and Prevention Program Manager in Santa Barbara, California, showcases a different side of the job. This position demands a clinical background in order to support disease control and prevention efforts. The primary responsibilities of the role involve leading a team designed to prevent and control the spread of communicable diseases and monitoring public health.

While these two jobs showcase responsibilities that are unique to specific types of public health work, they both highlight the importance of team management, leadership and decision-making for a public health manager.


Preparing for a Future as a Public Health Manager

Public health management roles often require an MPH degree. Working in health administration and leading public health programs require specialized skills, including a deep knowledge of the ethical, regulatory and policy factors that influence the health care sector today.

The role of public health manager could be a fit for you if you are interested in playing an instrumental role in dealing with large-scale community health issues. A management position also requires the kind of communication skills necessary to lead a team effectively.

A Master’s degree can unlock the attractive, upper-level jobs available in the public sector. If you’re interested in pursuing management roles in public health, reach out to Regis College today. We can help you learn more about our online MPH program and decide if it aligns with your career goals.


Recommended Readings:

A career after an MPH: What are your options?

Building Resilient Communities Before and After Terror Attacks with an MPH



What Medical and Health Services Managers Do by The Bureau of Labor Statistics

Public Health Nursing and Family Health Program Manager by Government Jobs

Disease Control and Prevention Program Manager by Government Jobs