A Master of Public Health degree can open up new job opportunities for those hoping to make a difference in the health care sector. Whether you are seeking an MPH to prepare for a specific job or as a stepping stone to a position that would require further education, the degree can open a variety of doors.
Broadly speaking, the health care industry is among the fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. when it comes to job growth. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 1.9 million health care jobs will be created from 2018 to 2028. This represents a 14% rate of expansion, much faster than the national average.
Public health professionals play a key role in the sector, providing expertise that applies to a wide range of management and research roles in the industry. A few examples of MPH degree jobs that you could pursue include:
Working on health care industry policy development, particularly in government settings, is a prime opportunity for public health professionals. MPH degree programs focus on such student outcomes as performing research using population health data, gaining a deep understanding of the systemic elements of the health care sector, and navigating the ethical issues that underpin health policies.
These skills can contribute to efforts to analyze existing health care policies and develop new ideas. In some cases, this work takes place in government agencies, providing subject matter expertise and key advice in partnership with politicians and community leaders who are developing community health strategies or even new legislation. In other instances, public health experts working on policy development may work in hospital systems to devise best practices in light of pain points the organization may be facing.
In government settings, policy management roles can take a variety of forms. For example, a public health professional may work on a team assessing the quality and cost of care for low-income, elderly individuals. The work may involve analyzing existing policies around Medicare coverage, trends in specific conditions impacting the population, and data pertaining to different types of services and their adoption rates. From there, the public health worker would identify correlation between trends ― such as a high rate of missed physician appointments in patients who end up in the emergency room for preventable conditions ― and recommend policy changes that could resolve the issue.
A policy director in a hospital setting may regularly analyze data pertaining to patient experiences, interview staff members, and work with administrators to create new policies. For example, the hospital may find that a high percentage of patients are experiencing secondary illnesses or infections while in the facility for care. The policy director would work with clinical staff to analyze current treatment and care management strategies, identify areas that create unnecessary risk, and develop new strategies to alleviate the problem.
This kind of policy and practice analysis is fundamental to many aspects of public health work, making it a key part of many MPH degree jobs.
The research skills developed as part of a degree in public health makes working in roles focused on population health a prime job option for those with an MPH degree. In many cases, this work is completed for government agencies and involves analyzing health data from various demographic groups to assess underlying trends and develop strategies to promote healthier practices.
This work can take the form of tasks like:
- Studying eating habits and developing materials to promote healthier nutrition and educate consumers on the health ramifications of different foods.
- Analyzing patterns in disease and illness ― such as the details of past flu seasons and how historic patterns may impact upcoming conditions ― to help promote positive population care strategies.
- Identifying overarching health trends, such as a rise in deaths from certain illnesses, and take steps to identify the conditions beneath the trend and strategies to take in response.
MPH degree jobs in population health are heavily research focused, but also can involve supervising teams in an agency and collaborating with clinical professionals.
The population health-focused job is not just about looking at big-picture issues across large demographic groups. It can also involve working in small, local government agencies or hospital networks. In these instances, the role tends to focus more on highly specific, localized health issues and what can be done to help the population combat them. For example, a population health professional in a local government that supports a mining community may be heavily involved in researching specific conditions relating to exposure to the materials, machinery, and work conditions in those mines. From there, the individual could serve as an educator, advocate, and policy consultant.
Social and community service manager is one possible title for public health professionals in these types of population health roles. In this case, the individual would be managing a team or department within an agency that is performing research and delivering services based on the community’s needs. According to the BLS, job growth for social and community service managers will occur at a 13% rate from 2018-2028, which is much faster than average. The median annual salary for this role was $65,320.
Besides government agencies and hospitals, population health experts may also work in:
- Nonprofit organizations that focus on health-related issues.
- Private, for-profit businesses that work in fields that intersect with health care.
- Mental health facilities and services.
Job roles that incorporate elements of population health are a major area of work for those with an MPH degree, and as such are representative of skills sets that apply to a wide range of specific job roles.
Disease Prevention and Disaster Response
This category of job roles is primarily related to epidemiology, which is the study of patterns in the causes of disease and injury. In some cases, epidemiologists are involved in population health initiatives, particularly in research-heavy roles, as opposed to management/policy-focused positions.
According to the BLS, job growth for epidemiologists is average (5%) for the 2018 to 2028 period. The median salary is nearly $70,000. This is a much more hands-on role, and as such, common work environments include laboratories and hospitals. While epidemiologists aren’t generally providing direct patient care, they are heavily involved in analyzing patient symptoms to research a disease or injury and develop big-picture treatment strategies.
The teams that work to halt the spread of epidemics or respond to the health implications of a natural disaster are prime examples of the kind of jobs epidemiologists perform. These professionals are typically responsible for:
- Studying diseases affecting the public health to inform strategies for treatment, containment, and potential emergency response.
- Analyzing historic data about epidemics and similar large-scale health disasters, such as large numbers of individuals with similar injuries after a natural disaster. This work is often completed as a way to better evaluate the implications of future events and establish stronger policies and procedures to minimize health risk and respond in optimal ways.
- Assessing the underlying biophysical elements of diseases and injuries to identify attributes of the medical condition and support clinical teams in developing response strategies.
- Developing plans and taking action to communicate the results of their findings.
Unlike many of the policy-focused roles associated with public health, epidemiologists often perform field work, such as getting involved in environmental health research through hands-on observation. Some common tasks highlighted by the BLS include:
- Collecting observational data and analyzing samples of blood or bodily fluids.
- Managing the execution of public health programs, including getting into the field to monitor progress and develop plans to improve program outcomes.
- Supervise team members.
Much of the work described by the BLS involves management skills, which is part of the reason why an MPH degree is so important. Besides exploring the clinical/technical elements of epidemiology, an MPH program will also incorporate coursework that can help students prepare for leadership roles in the public health sector, making it essential for those trying to advance their careers, even in specialist fields like disease prevention or disaster response.
Many of the skills discussed around policy creation and population health research apply to work in hospital administration and similar leadership roles in the health care industry. Whether the job involves administering programs within a large care network, leading a division, or becoming a team manager, administrative roles are a great option for those with an MPH degree.
A potential role in this segment is a medical and health services manager, a job that the BLS has optimistic projections for. Between 2018 and 2028, job growth for medical and health services managers is expected to occur at an 18% rate, which is nearly three times the average across all job types. Furthermore, median annual salaries were nearly $100,000 in 2018. Some common work responsibilities highlighted by the BLS include:
- Improving service efficiency.
- Creating team goals.
- Recruiting and training new workers.
- Managing finances.
- Creating schedules.
- Handling communications and records management.
Many of the skills and competencies associated with public health work are about driving positive change in health systems. Administrators are well positioned to do this because they interact with care on multiple levels. They provide direct support for the teams they work with, many of which either provide patient care or perform field work. At the same time, they also engage with executives and other leaders to consult in policy development or represent the needs of their teams in strategic conversations. This blend of responsibilities gives individuals in a public health career many opportunities to have a positive impact on others.
Education and Research Public health educators and researchers tend to work in two segments ― general health services and academia. In terms of general health services, public health professionals may be employed by government agencies, community groups, nonprofits, and similar organizations that work to promote health through education. For example, a public health program may include training at-risk groups of the population in identifying warning signs of a condition.
While an MPH degree may not always be necessary for these types of health services role, the skills obtained when getting the degree are highly applicable in such settings. This is especially true in roles that expect individuals to conduct research while educating the public.
Working in academia is another option for public health professionals, but will typically require going beyond the MPH degree and pursuing further education. However, an MPH degree can be a stepping stone to teaching work and research in academia.
Taking Steps Toward an MPH Degree
Pursuing an online master’s degree in public health can position individuals to move beyond entry level jobs and advance into specialty positions in a variety of health care segments. Getting a degree online can be advantageous for those seeking to advance their careers because online programs provide:
- Accessibility to pursue a program that aligns with your educational and financial needs without having to worry about relocating to take courses on a campus.
- Opportunities to design your class schedule around your availability. In many online programs, students have deadlines they need to comply with for completing work, but are free to determine when they consume course materials in a way that aligns with their needs.
- The ability to network with other students and professors via forums, video chats, and similar digital tools.
The online MPH program at Regis College can help students work toward their public health career goals. Contact us today to learn more about our curriculum and connect with an enrollment counselor.