Public health focuses on protecting the well-being of communities by preventing disease and promoting health. Earning a master’s degree in this field can help place you into a number of careers where you can manage, administrate, conduct research, or even teach at a higher salary than you could expect with a bachelor’s degree. There are many career options available, depending on your background and interests; from education to business and many areas in between, you are sure to find a rewarding position that you enjoy.
The level of this position can vary with your experience, as well as with the size and location of the organization where you plan to work. When you are deciding on a degree and a career path, it is important to research the various factors that can affect your salary and position. It is also important to understand the trends in the industry as well as the hierarchy of the field in order to help you gauge your earning potential. If you are considering an MPH, review our helpful salary guide to help determine your potential future in public health.
Public Health Careers and Salaries
Graduates of a master’s degree program in public health can teach at a higher level, earn positions as managers and administrators, and work in roles where public health policy is determined. This field also demands research, where graduates can uncover groundbreaking news that could alter how people live. Salaries for these positions are dependent on a number of factors.
- Health Care Managers/Administrators: A median salary for a healthcare manager can range from $71,190 to $87,040 per year, depending where you work. In 2007, the median salary for administrators was $119,000 in practices with 26 or more physicians; therefore, the size of the facility and your level of responsibility can also affect your salary.
- Health Educators: A master’s degree can help boost your teaching level from high school to college, but you also have the ability to teach in hospitals, government assignments, outpatient care centers, and through individual and family services. Median salaries range from $36,050 to $56,390 per year.
- Epidemiologists: Most applied epidemiologists are required to have a master’s degree from a school of public health, and they often work for government agencies. The median annual salary for epidemiologists in 2008 was $61,360.
- Environmental Scientists: Most employers prefer a master’s degree in this field, although you can advance further if you obtain a doctoral degree. The median annual salary for environmental scientists and specialists was $59,750 in 2008.
- Biostatisticians: A master’s degree in statistics or mathematics is the minimum educational requirement for this career, and research and academic jobs generally require a PhD; however, federal government jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree. The median annual salary for all statisticians was $72,610 in 2008.
- Social Worker: While a bachelor’s degree in public health is a minimum requirement, some positions now require an advanced degree. Depending upon where you work, median salaries can range from $31,890 to $55,940.
- Occupation Health and Safety Specialists: Most jobs require a bachelor’s degree in occupational health, safety, or a related field; some require advanced degrees. Depending upon the work facility, median salaries ranged from $55,600 to $73,180 in 2008.
- Dieticians and Nutritionists: You need a bachelor’s degree to enter this field, but a graduate degree could introduce you to more advanced positions and higher salaries. Median wages in 2008 ranged from $45,410 to $52,120.
- Biological Scientists: While most jobs require a PhD in biology or one of its subfields to work in independent research or development positions, other positions are available to those with a master’s or bachelor’s degree in the field. Median annual wages of biochemists and biophysicists were $82,840 in 2008. Medical scientists, a closely-related field, earned a median annual salary of $72,590 in 2008.
Factors that Influence Salary
Your experience, educational background, and skill level all influence your salary, but another common factor is location. Take, for instance, jobs within the occupation health and safety specialist field. If you want the highest salary within this field, you would choose to work in the Federal Executive Branch with an average salary of $77,120 per year.
Your residence can also influence your salary. The following states show the highest average salaries per year within the occupation health and safety specialist field:
- District of Columbia: $87,280
- Alaska: $78,800
- Rhode Island: $76,470
- California: $75,630
- Maryland: $74,580
The highest employment levels for health educators, however, are found in the following states, along with their average salary per year:
- California: $49,570
- New York: $46,330
- Texas: $49,160
- Georgia: $70,280
- Pennsylvania: $47,500
Be aware that, although Georgia maintains the highest pay for health educators, you can learn from the map below that Georgia also has one of the highest quotients of health educators. This means that the competition for those positions could be tough, and jobs may be harder to come by.
You don’t have to settle for a meager salary just because you want to teach public health topics; if you want to become a well-paid health educator, the best place to find a job is within the Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation), with an average salary of $96,040 per year.
If you already have your bachelor’s degree and you plan to obtain a master’s degree in two years, what are your prospects for employment when you graduate? The healthcare industry will generate 3.2 million new jobs between 2008 and 2018, more than any other industry. This increase in employment prospects is largely in response to rapid growth in the elderly population.
The healthcare field is also changing, so different skills are needed
- Health care managers with strong business management skills can expect to walk into an employment market that will grow by 16 percent by 2018.
- For epidemiologists, knowledge of bioterrorism and rare but infectious diseases should spur demand for this field.
- Nutritionists with specialized training, an advanced degree, or certifications beyond the particular state’s minimum requirement should enjoy the best job opportunities. Those specializing in renal and diabetic nutrition or gerontological nutrition will benefit from the growing number of diabetics and the aging of the population.
A master’s degree can put you in the position where you are earning a healthy salary upon graduation, but knowledge that is specific to this country’s growing health needs can give you the upper hand when it comes to employment opportunities.
Leverage Your Education
- Public health careers are booming, and you have access to support structures outside of the classroom. The U.S. National Library of Medicine’s National Institutes of Health (NIH) provides health services research and public health information programs that you can use to learn more about where you want to specialize in your master’s degree program. They even provide lists of colleges that offer public health programs.
- If you join associations and organizations that focus on public health, such as the American Public Health Association (APHA) or the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene, you can leverage your membership with networking and job searches. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of public health organizations, including the National Association of County & City Health Officials (NACCHO). NACCHO is an excellent resource that can help you learn about public health in your location, or in the place you’d like to live after you graduate.
- You can always go on to earn a doctoral degree in your field, a terminal degree that could provide you with opportunities to teach, work or research at the highest levels, but a master’s degree can be achievable now, given that you already have your bachelor’s degree. Two years of study can increase your salary and could provide you with the ability to be in a leadership position in the public health sector when you graduate.