Common Career Paths for Master of Public Health Graduates

Public Health - Graduate

Completing your postgraduate studies is a major achievement, but still leaves you with some questions. One of the most common questions asked is about your future career options.

Some job titles that you might see mentioned when talking to other graduates or looking at job postings might be unclear without some background knowledge on what makes them relevant for people who studied Public Health (PH). Below is a list of different roles and their typical education requirements for PH students. Some will also require experience in addition to education, while others are possible only with prior experience in the field.

Health Promotion and Education (HPE) and Health Services Administration (HSA)

HPE and HSA are integral components of the public health sector. After earning a Master of Public Health online or through traditional academic programs, many graduates will find their professional career pursuits in either one of these paths. Public health is an umbrella term that comprises many different practices and people; for this reason, various job opportunities exist within the sector. Public health professionals work to monitor, reduce, and prevent disease within communities by overseeing environmental factors such as sanitation, food safety, tobacco use prevention/cessation, access to healthcare services and immunizations, school policies related to physical activity and nutrition. 

The field draws on experts, including policymakers in government agencies, who develop legislation or policy designed to protect the population’s health. Researchers study populations and develop and test theories in population health. Practitioners focus on improving individual and community health through research and action, either independently or alongside policy-makers.

A number of undergraduate programs offer students interested in public service the chance to study a specific aspect of public health such as environmental science, nutrition sciences, nursing, social work, and many others. Masters of Public Health programs provide advanced training for professionals working in any area of public health that wants to expand their knowledge base. The main purpose of an MPH is to prepare students with skills that they can use when advancing public health practice in their communities, states, or countries. 

Community and Behavioral Health

One common area of work that MPH graduates often pursue is the community and behavioral health field. The area focuses on helping residents improve their mental well-being through counseling programs, group sessions, and other activities. Some workers may specialize in serving specific populations, such as people who identify as LGBT or veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In addition to treatment programs, workers who focus on community and behavioral health may also develop policies to help people improve their mental health through preventive measures.

Health Promotion

Health promotion is another attractive career path option for MPH graduates. This includes physical activity promotion, nutritional education programs, and other initiatives aimed at increasing the knowledge of individuals about how they can keep themselves healthy. Health promoters often work with specific populations such as elders or ethnic groups by setting up programs within different organizations including schools, public housing facilities, or workplaces.

Non-infectious Disease Epidemiology

Epidemics and other widespread health conditions in communities are sometimes non-infectious and caused by pollution and other environmental factors. Workers in this area monitor various diseases that are not caused by bacteria (such as COPD, asthma). They research the causes of these conditions (such as air pollution) and ways to prevent them from harming communities. Occasionally, epidemiologists will collaborate with other fields like environmental science statistics to conduct specific research.

Health Policy

Workers who focus on health policy develop policies and laws at a local, state, or federal level which protect the population’s health. They may also help create economic incentives that encourage citizens to live healthier lifestyles – for example by developing a tobacco tax – within their community. Research is one of the most important aspects of this field; epidemiologists constantly analyze policies and newly researched studies to determine if they are effective in promoting public health practices. 

Some common settings for Master of Public Health graduates include (but are not limited to):

  • Non-profit organization/research institute
  • Hospitals/public schools/universities/colleges
  • State or local government agencies 
  • A federal government agency (e.g. CDC)
  • Healthcare organization (e.g. a local community health center or a private practice)
  • Foundation/charities 

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Though it is possible to get an entry-level job with just an undergraduate degree, many public health graduates go on to earn their Master of Public Health before finding employment in the field. Some students enroll in MHA programs while working full-time at another job; others decide to pursue MPH degrees after retiring from the workforce or transitioning into new careers. It is not uncommon for some non-profit organizations that work closely with communities to offer part-time positions that allow graduates who want more flexible schedules opportunities to gain experience without committing to regular hours. However, a lot of professionals decide to work in MPH-related fields after completing the degree. MHA and MPH graduates often see increased job opportunities – especially those who have chosen leadership or management – by earning their advanced degrees.

Military Careers

The US Military can be a good place for graduates with an MPH to utilize their skills and training. Some common responsibilities of those working with the military include:

  • Specialized healthcare – providing medical care to soldiers, veterans, families of service members, etc. 
  • Education – teaching at all levels within the military organization
  • Management/administration – ensuring policies are being followed, communicating with superiors about various topics, managing budgets related to health initiatives or programs, etc.

You should note that following graduation, you will typically have to commit to a specific number of years of service before you’re able to move into more specialized roles (if you’re interested in them). 

Career

There are several options available for those who graduate with a Master of Public Health, and the above list is far from exhaustive. It’s important to remember it will take some time to determine which types of opportunities best suit your interests and skills – try not to become discouraged if you focus on one area but aren’t getting as many results as you would like or expect. In some cases, it may be necessary to start at a lower level position until you have relevant experience – just ensure it isn’t going to take more than a few years before there is potential for upward movement.

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