Master of Public Health Salary and Career Outlook

Doctors, nurses and other medical personnel are there when people get sick, but public health workers try to prevent sickness in the first place. Public health careers are varied, ranging from field work as nutritionists and community workers to lab and office jobs like epidemiologists and biostatisticians. Read on to find more information about public health jobs, salaries and projected job growth in the varied fields of public health.

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Online MPH from Tufts

  • Ranked a top-25 public health school in 2019 by U.S. News & World Report1
  • No GRE required to apply
  • Built-in concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics
1Ranked for Best Public Health Schools by U.S. News & World Report for 2019, https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/public-health-rankings
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UNC’s Online Master of Public Health Program

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  • The UNC Gillings School is ranked the No. 1 public school of public health by U.S. News & World Report2
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2Best Public Health Schools. (2019). U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved May 20, 2020 from https://www.usnews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-health-schools/public-health-rankings
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Public Health Degree Careers Description

The public health field is wide, with public health professionals involved in everything from disease identification to creation of public policy. According to the American Public Health Association, workers in public health careers promote and protect the health of people and their communities. They also promote wellness by encouraging healthy behaviors.

Public health professionals tend to focus on one of three broad activities, according to the Association of Schools of Public Health:

  • Assessing and monitoring community health to find potential health problems and set health priorities.
  • Working with governments and leaders to develop health policies and priorities.
  • Ensuring that all people can access quality, cost-effective health care, and monitoring that care's effectiveness.

A public health professional with a master’s in public health degree from an institution accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health can be expected to demonstrate a firm grasp of core content as well as, in most cases, expertise in a selected specialization area.

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health has compiled the core competencies for a master’s in public health (PDF, 406 KB), which include:

Evidence-Based Approaches to Public Health

  • Apply epidemiological methods to the breadth of settings and situations in public health practice.
  • Select quantitative and qualitative data collection methods appropriate for a given public health context.
  • Analyze quantitative and qualitative data using biostatistics, informatics, computer-based programming and software, as appropriate.
  • Interpret results of data analysis for public health research, policy or practice.

Public Health and Health Care Systems

  • Compare the organization, structure and function of health care, public health and regulatory systems across national and international settings.
  • Discuss the means by which structural bias, social inequities and racism undermine health and create challenges to achieving health equity at organizational, community and societal levels.

Planning and Management to Promote Health

  • Assess population needs, assets and capacities that affect communities’ health.
  • Apply awareness of cultural values and practices to the design or implementation of public health policies or programs.
  • Design a population-based policy, program, project or intervention.
  • Explain basic principles and tools of budget and resource management.
  • Select methods to evaluate public health programs.

Policy in Public Health

  • Discuss multiple dimensions of the policy-making process, including the roles of ethics and evidence.
  • Propose strategies to identify stakeholders and build coalitions and partnerships for influencing public health outcomes.
  • Advocate for political, social or economic policies and programs that will improve health in diverse populations.
  • Evaluate policies for their impact on public health and health equity.

Leadership

  • Apply principles of leadership, governance and management, which include creating a vision, empowering others, fostering collaboration and guiding decision making.
  • Apply negotiation and mediation skills to address organizational or community challenges.

Communication

  • Select communication strategies for different audiences and sectors.
  • Communicate audience-appropriate public health content, both in writing and through oral presentation.
  • Describe the importance of cultural competence in communicating public health content.

Interprofessional Practice

  • Perform effectively on interprofessional teams.

Systems Thinking

  • Apply systems thinking tools to a public health issue.

There is a growing need for public health professionals. But studies say there is a lack of career path transparency in the public health field, with students needing knowledge of career options and strategies to help them secure desired positions, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Read on to find out about some of desirable jobs in public health, their salary opportunities, best places for those jobs and overall employment outlooks.

5 Key Jobs in Public Health

Let’s focus on five of key jobs in public health: biostatistics, community health, epidemiology, nutrition and public health leadership. We’ll look at the jobs, their pay, their prospects and where you might find your best chance at employment.

Biostatistics jobs

Biostatisticians develop or apply accepted theories and methods to collect, organize, interpret and summarize data, according to BLS data on statisticians. This biological data is fashioned into usable information usable by health authorities, policymakers and others who need it.

Community health jobs

Those in the community health field help individuals and communities to adopt healthy behaviors, according to BLS data on community health workers. They conduct outreach to implement programs that promote, maintain and improve individual and community health. Professionals also may advocate for individuals and community health needs, provide information on available resources, provide social support and informal counseling, and provide services such as blood pressure screening and first aid.

Epidemiology Jobs

Epidemiologists conduct investigations into disease, disability, or health outcomes, according to BLS data on epidemiologists. They may develop the means for prevention and control of these health challenges.

Nutrition Jobs

Nutritionists and dietitians plan and conduct food service or nutritional programs to help promote health and disease control, according to BLS data on dietitians and nutritionists. They may supervise activities of an agency or facility that provides public food services, may counsel individuals, or even conduct nutritional research.

Public Health Leadership Jobs

Leaders are needed in public health to oversee medical and health services, according to BLS data on medical and health services managers. These health managers oversee hospitals, clinics, managed care organizations, public health agencies or similar organizations.

Public Health Job Outlook

The employment outlook for public health jobs overall is positive. The BLS says health care employment is projected to grow 14% from 2018 to 2028, faster than the average for all jobs, adding about 1.9 million new jobs. Health care is primed to add more jobs than any of the other groups. This is primarily due to a growing older population, leading to greater demand for health services.

Biostatistician Job Growth

For biostatisticians—and statisticians in general—the job field is projected to grow 30% from 2018 to 2028, which is a bigger leap than the average for all occupations, according to BLS statistics. Health care will need biostatisticians to analyze the increasing volume of digital and electronic data.

Community Health Worker Job Growth

Community health is another field projected to grow. The BLS says the overall employment of community health workers is projected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028, also outpacing total averages. Growth is expected because of the growing need for better health outcomes and to reduce health care costs by teaching healthy practices and how to use health care services.

Dietitian and Nutritionist Job Growth

Dietitians and nutritionists can expect their field to grow by 11% from 2018 to 2028, also a positive projection by the BLS. The expectation is that more dietitians and nutritionists will be needed to provide care for patients with various medical conditions and to advise people who want to improve their overall health.

Epidemiologist Job Growth

Employment of epidemiologists is projected to grow 5% from 2018 to 2028, which is the average pace of all occupations. This is still a good projection for epidemiologists as they are likely to have good job prospects overall, the BLS says.

Public Health Leadership Job Growth

Health care needs qualified leaders, and employment of medical and health services managers is projected to grow 18% from 2018 to 2028. That’s a larger expected growth than the average for all occupations. There is likely to be more demand for health care services as baby boomers age and stay active later in life.

Median Public Health Salary

Salaries for public health practitioners reflect the growing need for their services. From undertaking scientific research to educating about health, people in the field of public health work provide value to the community. Here is a breakdown of the median public health salaries that can be expected in our five public health concentration specialties.

  • Biostatistician Salary: These professionals have a highly technical specialty. This specialization drives up their salary expectations. According to BLS data on statisticians, biostatisticians earn a median salary of $80,902 per year.
  • Community Health Worker Salary: These generalists are on the lower end of pay for public health specialties, despite their vital work in the community. BLS data on community health workers says they can expect a median salary of $40,360 yearly.
  • Dietitians and Nutritionist Salary: Both of these specialties remain in high demand. They can expect a median yearly salary of $61,270, according to BLS data on dietitians and nutritionists.
  • Epidemiologist Salary: This specialty, especially with regard to infectious diseases, is in demand and brings with it a salary reflecting that. BLS data on epidemiologists says they should have a median salary expectation of $70,990 per year.
  • Public Health Leadership Salary: Health services managers and administrators are paid at the higher edge of the scale. As leaders, they can be expected to earn a median salary of $98,350, according to the BLS data on medical and health services managers.

5 Best Paying Cities for Public Health Careers

Professionals in public health have a variety of locations to consider when weighing career options. A survey of the BLS record of average pay for the five specialties listed above shows these five metropolitan areas are the top paying for public health careers. Population data in the following list is from the U.S. Census City and Town Population totals.

  • Bridgeport, Connecticut: Bridgeport is the largest city in Connecticut. As of 2018, Bridgeport had an estimated population of 144,900, according to the U.S. Census. The Bridgeport area includes Stamford and Norwalk, Connecticut. The median salary for the five health care specialties is $137,090 per year.
  • Boston, Massachusetts: Historic Boston’s population totaled 694,583 as of 2018. The greater metropolitan area includes Cambridge, Massachusetts and Nashua, New Hampshire. The median yearly salary for the five specialties is $132,365.
  • New York, New York: New York is the largest city in the nation, with a 2018 population of 8,398,748. The area includes Newark, and Jersey City, New Jersey. The median salary for the five health care specialties per year is $122,565.
  • Seattle, Washington: Seattle is the largest city in the Pacific Northwest, with a 2018 population of 744,955. Other major cities in the area include Tacoma and Bellevue. The estimated median salary for the five specialties is $114,215 per year.
  • Washington, D.C.: The nation’s capital has a population of 702,455. The area also includes Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. The median salary for the health care specialties is $111,900.

10 Top States for Public Health Jobs

Some states average higher pay for the five public health specialties highlighted in this article. The top-paying jobs include biostatistics, health leadership and epidemiology. The highest pay is centered on the East Coast, with the rest on the West Coast.

This list of top states for public health jobs is also based on information from the BLS.

  • New York: $136,770
  • New Jersey: $129,320
  • Connecticut: $132,770
  • Delaware: 129,070
  • Massachusetts: $128,730
  • California: $122,500
  • Delaware: $112,500
  • Washington: $111,160
  • Connecticut: $109,060
  • Maine: $102,940

Is a Career in Public Health Right for You?

Public health workers with a master’s degree, and those who have experience working with a specific population, may be able to compete for entry-level as well as more senior-level public health job opportunities. Additional opportunities for public health jobs are often open to candidates who speak a second language or come from the culture or the community that they intend to serve. If you are interested in helping others, reflect on whether a public health career is right for you.

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Last Updated May 2020