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Public Health Careers: What Can You Do With a Master’s Degree?

Patients can now consult with doctors and refill medications without ever leaving the house. They can monitor their health through a sleek, fashion-forward watch, access their medical records, and more easily share pertinent information with their healthcare providers. They can download mobile apps that help monitor their food intake, measure their physical activity, and track their blood pressure. Individuals, now more than ever, can take control of their own health.

Both healthcare and public health are rapidly changing, and new tools and technologies have enabled us to tackle issues that were once thought to be insurmountable. For this reason, the field needs innovative leaders with a population health perspective who understand the realities facing today’s patients, practitioners, and policymakers, and can apply emerging technologies to solve health disparities facing communities locally and abroad. The need for these professionals has grown exponentially as recent events–such as the pandemic–have acted as the catalysts in sparking increased interest in the field.

If you’re interested in becoming one of those leaders, earning a master’s in public health could be the best way to achieve your goal.

What Is a Master of Public Health?

Master of Public Health (MPH) is a professional, non-thesis graduate degree designed to train students to effectively protect and improve the health of populations worldwide.

“The MPH is a skills-based degree that has wide applicability across a number of disciplines and professions,” says Alison Gillis, a graduate of the Northeastern University Master of Public Health program. “If you have an MPH, it shows your commitment to helping people live healthier lives.”

Public health extends far beyond the traditional view of healthcare. Practitioners in the field strive to improve the economic, social, and environmental health of communities, as well, by focusing on a broad range of public health issues, including (but not limited to):

  • Disparities in healthcare access and outcomes is a public health issue that has disastrous effects on our society, such as illnesses spreading quickly, rising mortality rates, increasing rates of disabilities, and more.
  • Social isolation is a recent public health issue affecting our society, with numerous negative effects on the health of individuals.
  • Violence and trauma is another public health issue as people in our society continue to become victims of homicides or psychologically and/or emotionally traumatizing crimes. 
  • Food security and lack of access to healthy and affordable nutrition is a public health issue as the inability to afford nutritious foods has made a substantial impact that correlates with people developing diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and more.

By earning an MPH, you’ll learn more about the issues impacting communities worldwide and how you can tackle those challenges through educational programming, new public health policies and services, research, or community partnerships. 

Is a Master of Public Health Degree Worth It?

Neil Maniar, PhD, director of Northeastern’s MPH program, has experienced firsthand the breadth of the public health field. Over his more than 20-year career, he’s created a youth violence prevention program, established partnerships and strategies to address disparities in infant mortality, and focused on improving outcomes related to cancer prevention and intervention.

“The skills and knowledge base I was using in one position, I was able to transfer to another,” Maniar says. “That gives you a powerful way to think about problems and solutions to those problems.”

Furthermore, Maniar highlights the ways Northeastern’s MPH allows students to learn from the experiences of those who are currently or have previously worked in the field. “We have a number of different faculty members who are actively engaged in addressing all of these different public health issues,” he says. 

As a result, students are able to become more well-rounded public health professionals by gaining the perspective of those who have real-world experience with such issues. 

Benefits of Studying Public Health

Generally, those interested in pursuing a public health degree are highly motivated. Many individuals who are fit for the field possess a genuine passion to help entire communities in an impactful way. By studying public health, students get to tackle some of the most pressing threats to human health and society as a whole. Public health degrees, in particular, open the door to possible solutions to these problems, giving graduates ample opportunities to work for various public health organizations and gain experience in the field (e.g., working toward a cure for infectious diseases by performing meticulous clinical trials).

Additionally, the public health field provides graduates with a purposeful mission toward helping their communities and supplies them with numerous career options to choose from.

Common Career Paths for Master of Public Health Graduates

If you’re interested in establishing your own public health career, there are a variety of paths you can pursue. The field of public health intersects with business, law, pharmaceuticals, technology, and science, which enables you to combine your passions and find the right fit.

Northeastern’s MPH graduates have gone on to work at federal, state, and local health agencies, hospitals, nonprofits, community-based agencies, private foundations, and health maintenance organizations. Want to know where an MPH could take you? Here are seven positions popular among Master of Public Health graduates.

1) Healthcare Administrators

Average Annual Salary$101,340 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 32 percent

Responsibilities: Healthcare administrators oversee the daily operations of a hospital, research lab, physician practice, or other healthcare facilities. They develop organizational goals, manage the facility’s budget and finances, and work to ensure patients are receiving quality, efficient care.

2) Registered Nurses

Average Annual Salary$77,600 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 9 percent

Responsibilities: Registered nurses (RNs) assess individuals’ health, provide patient care, record symptoms, analyze test results, and administer medicines and treatments. They also offer emotional support to patients and their loved ones, as well as consult with doctors and prepare patients to live at home once their treatment concludes.

3) Epidemiologists

Average Annual Salary$78,830 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 30 percent

Responsibilities: Epidemiologists study the patterns of disease and aim to improve public health outcomes by publishing research, establishing community education programs, or developing new health policies. They collect, analyze, and communicate data to health practitioners, policymakers, and the public, and work to prevent future outbreaks.

4) Social and Community Service Managers

Average Annual Salary$74,000 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 15 percent

Responsibilities: These managers supervise social service programs and community outreach organizations, such as substance abuse clinics, homeless shelters, and mental health facilities. They often oversee budgets, write grant and funding proposals, recruit and train volunteers, and plan initiatives to increase awareness and support of their programs.

5) Dieticians and Nutritionists

Average Annual Salary$61,650 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 11 percent

Responsibilities: Dieticians assess patients’ nutritional needs and counsel clients on healthy eating habits. They create personalized meal plans for patients and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to coordinate and improve patient care. They might also establish educational workshops or manage food programs in hospitals, schools, and long-term care facilities.

6) Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors

Average Annual Salary$48,520 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 23 percent

Responsibilities: These counselors advise patients who suffer from alcoholism, mental health issues, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They evaluate patients’ health, recommend treatment programs, and refer clients to other services, such as job placement organizations and support groups.

7) Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Average Annual Salary$45,240 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 9 percent

Responsibilities: Health information technicians organize, analyze, and report health information data. They review patient records to ensure all data is accurate and secure, track patient outcomes, and often code and categorize data for insurance reimbursement purposes.

Advance Your Public Health Career

As the field continues to evolve, there’s a growing need for public health practitioners with the skills and know-how necessary to solve the complex problems facing communities worldwide. 

If you’re interested in public health, now is an opportune time to earn your Master of Public Health (MPH). In fact, a Master of Public Experiential program serves as a fast-track alternative to accommodate those looking to pursue their master’s degree in a faster time frame. Earning your MPH will help you develop these skills, making it easier for you to break into the field and move into a position of leadership as you advance throughout your career. 

What’s more, students in Northeastern’s MPH program, for example, have the opportunity to participate in experiential learning opportunities that allow them to apply theory covered in class to real-world scenarios. Combined with instruction from industry-aligned faculty and various networking opportunities, graduates leave the program prepared to make a difference in the field.

“I really don’t think there has ever been a more exciting, more challenging, or more important time for individuals to enter the public health field,” Maniar says. “This is the opportunity to save many, many lives all at once.”

If you’re interested in earning your Master of Public Health, visit Northeastern’s public health program or the experiential alternative to learn more about how an MPH can advance your career.

About Lauren Landry

Lauren Landry is the former associate director of content marketing for Northeastern University’s Enrollment Management team.

“The MPH is a skills-based degree that has wide applicability across a number of disciplines and professions. If you have an MPH, it shows your commitment to helping people live healthier lives.”

Alison Gillis
Graduate of the Northeastern University Master of Public Health

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