Public health deals with protecting the well being of large populations, ranging from monitoring flu epidemics to reducing substance abuse. A two-year master of public health degree program often focuses on one of four core subspecialties: epidemiology, community health education, environmental public health or international public health. The job titles, tasks, workplaces and salaries for MPH degree holders vary depending on their subspecialty.
MPH epidemiology programs lead to jobs monitoring the spread of diseases for state health departments, universities and laboratories. A 2010 survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that epidemiologists were paid an average salary of $63,010 per year. The Association of Schools of Public Health estimated that salaries for epidemiologists ranged from $38,175 to $136,237 for students who had just completed a public health graduate degree. BLS anticipates that jobs for epidemiologists will increase by 24 percent between 2010 and 2020, an increase that is faster than average.
Community Health Education
Community health educators trained by MPH programs work for federal, state and local agencies, health departments, clinics, hospitals, managed care organizations, research institutions and universities. They create and carry out disease prevention and health promotion programs for individuals, organizations and communities. ASPH found that salaries for health educators who had finished a graduate public health degree in the previous 12 months ranged from $33,000 to $86,625 annually. BLS expects jobs for all health educators – not just those working in public health – to grow by 37 percent between 2010 and 2020, a growth rate that is much faster than average.
Environmental Public Health
Students choosing an environmental health concentration within their MPH programs look for jobs where they can prevent or diminish the general population's exposure to environmental hazards. They may seek an MPH degree to supplement their other credentials as scientists and physicians. They may work as directors of environmental health for cities, program managers for state or federal health agencies or as physicians for occupational or environmental clinics. ASPH suggested that salaries for public health professionals specializing in environmental issues who had found a job within one year after finishing a graduate public health degree ranged from $44,550 to $143,700 annually. Career opportunities depend on whether the student is predominantly a scientist, a physician or part of another profession.
International Public Health
International public health, also known as global public health, attracts MPH degree holders who want to work on resolving the health care problems of developing countries, which may involve famines and population displacement due to war. Graduates of these programs may work for disaster relief organizations, lending agencies and academic institutions. ASPH estimated that salaries for international public health professionals varied between $31,500 to $86,625 annually within one year of finishing a graduate public health degree. Job openings depend on the career niche that the student enters within the international public health community.
2018 Salary Information for Epidemiologists
Epidemiologists earned a median annual salary of $69,660 in May 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, epidemiologists earned a 10th percentile salary of $56,780, meaning 90 percent earned more than this amount. The 90th percentile salary is $89,840, meaning 10 percent earn more. In 2018, 7,600 people were employed in the U.S. as epidemiologists.
- University of North Carolina at Greensboro: Master's Program of Public Health in Community Health Education
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Epidemiologists
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation: What Is Public Health?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Health Educators
- UMassOnline: Master of Public Health in Nutrition
- Boston University School of Public Health: Masters of Public Health, Concentration in Environmental Health
- Oregon State University: International Health
- ExploreHealthCareers.org: Global Health
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Epidemiologists
- Career Trend: Epidemiologists
- Occupational Outlook Quarterly: Health Care Jobs You Might Not Know About
- Council on Education for Public Health: History
- Harvard School of Public Health: Distinctions Between Medicine and Public Health
- The Future of Public Health; The National Academies Press
- Boston University School of Public Health: Master of Public Health, Concentration in Epidemiology
- Imperial College London: Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
- Council on Education for Public Health: Accredited Schools and Programs
- New York University: Public Health Nutrition Concentration Description and Goals
- University of Alabama at Birmingham: Careers in Public Health
- Global Institute of Public Health: Global Health Leadership
Robin Elizabeth Margolis is a freelance writer in the Washington, D.C., area. She has been writing about health care, science, nutrition, fitness and law since 1988, and served as the editor of a health law newsletter. Margolis holds a bachelor of arts degree in biology, a master's degree in counseling and a paralegal certificate.