Public health is a multi-disciplinary field of study that promotes wellness and the prevention of disease among communities, targeted groups, and societies as a whole. Students enrolled in an online public health masters program should expect to take classes in epidemiology, community health, cultural diversity and health, biostatistics, health care management, health education, and research methods, among others. After graduation, students may fill positions as health educators, health care administrators, social and community service managers, or other related jobs. These openings may be found with schools, hospitals, clinics, non-profit organizations, or even government agencies.
Why a Master’s Degree?
Positions may be available for graduates with only a bachelor’s degree, but for those interested in pursuing careers in management, policy, of administration, a master’s degree can certainly improve your chances of getting there. At the graduate level, students will usually choose an area of specialization to focus their research on. This could be in areas such as health care in under-served populations, global health, or health policy, among others. Those who are interested in teaching at the college or university level may also use a master’s program as a stepping stone towards a doctoral degree.
Getting Into a Master’s Degree Program
Given the demands of upper level course work and research, prospective students can expect a more selective admissions process. While it is important to check with the individual school for requirements, below are a few common criteria:
- Completion of an accredited bachelor’s degree program
- Minimum GPA (as outlined by the school)
- GRE or GMAT test scores (if required)
- Professional experience (if required)
- Resume or curriculum vitae
- Application form and fee
- Personal statement(if required)
- Letters of recommendation (if required)
Inside a Public Health Master’s Degree Program
Online public health masters programs usually require two to three years of full-time study. This, of course, will differ based on each individual’s level of enrollment throughout the program and any transfer credits that may be brought in. The curriculum will likely include a combination of advanced survey, seminar, and research courses. These often cover topics in biostatistics, sociology, epidemiology, health education, cultural influences in health, health promotion, and research methods, to name a few. In addition, students may be required to complete field work as part of their graduate research. As a distance learner, this can be arranged in your local area.
Most online programs are designed to meet the needs of working adults. With this in mind, students are free to access the virtual classroom at any time and from any location. They are not limited by scheduled course times or their ability to travel to campus regularly. However, despite the lack of face-to-face instruction, technology such as chat, virtual meeting software, and streaming video help to keep students engaged and easily connected to their peers and professors.
What’s Next for Public Health Master’s Degree Holders?
Students who earn online public health masters degrees are prepared to fill positions in the growing field of health care. This can include jobs as health educators, health care administrators, social and community service managers, and other related careers. Employers may include schools, hospitals, clinics, government agencies, and non-profit organizations. Some teaching positions may also be available at colleges, depending on the specific requirements for instructors.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports strong job growth for all of these potential occupations. For example, the demand for health educators is expected to increase by 37% from 2010 to 2020. This statistic was 27% for social and community service managers. In 2012, the mean annual wage for health educators was $53,100. This was $64,460 for social and community service managers.