Public Health

What Is an MPH in Community Health Education?

What Is an MPH in Community Health Education?
Community health education students focus on identifying social biases that create imbalances in a community's access to healthcare. Graduates leave the program with the skills to address tangible inequities in a population. Image from Unsplash
Ginny Bartolone profile
Ginny Bartolone June 28, 2021

As a community health worker, you have your pick of educational pathways. But earning an MPH in Community Health Education allows you to guide the profession in new directions.

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Think back to your childhood. Remember all those lessons about the importance of proper nutrition, exercise, and how to address everyday health issues? Those are just a few examples of community health educators in action.

Public health initiatives made that instruction possible for both our communities and others around the world. Behind the scenes, decades of advocacy, research, and health policy work pushed these crucial health education programs to the public.

The history of community health education goes back to 1950s China, where trusted local doctors acted as peer leaders to their towns. The tradition flourished all over the world, including the US. The job of the public health educator has only flourished since then.

More recently, the Affordable Care Act opened doors to federal and local funding for community healthcare workers and educators. The increased support for more initiatives has encouraged more determined students to pursue an MPH degree in community health education.

So, what is an MPH in Community Health Education? In this guide, we’ll cover a few common questions and topics about MPH community health graduate programs, such as:

  • What is community health education?
  • What is a Master’s in Public Health?
  • MPH in community health education curriculum
  • MPH in community health education jobs
  • MPH in Community health education admissions
  • Should I get an MPH in Community Health Education?
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What is community health education?

Trained health educators have a unique combination of skills. Not only do they understand common health issues, but they also communicate how social context plays a role.

Over just the past year, we learned that the COVID-19 pandemic affected particular ethnic and racial groups more than others. Community health educators stepped in to understand the social disparities, local policies, and access to health services for these groups to address the cause behind the imbalance.

The community health educator fulfills many roles. They:

  • Act as a go-to resource for local health access questions
  • Communicate important health promotion initiatives to the community
  • Connect the healthcare community with local residents
  • Identify health disparities
  • Raise funds and write grant proposals for local health needs
  • Reduce the need for emergency care
  • Train local community health advocates
  • Work to increase access to family health

The world needs these leaders in various settings to educate the community directly and strengthen the political structures that keep us safe. Community health workers may assist in:

  • Addiction centers
  • Community centers
  • Health clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Local and state government
  • Non-profits
  • Schools
  • Shelters
  • Mental health agencies

In addition to graduate-level training, professional community health educators traditionally earn certification in the field. A Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES/MCHES) passes an exam to receive a nationally recognized credential.

For this reason, it’s essential to find a graduate program that prepares students specifically for the CHES exam upon graduation.

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“I’m Interested in Public Health!”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that there are more than 170 public health job categories, and a Master of Public Health prepares students for employment in all of them. This degree can open doors to excellent career opportunities in the private and public sectors. (source)

An MPH in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Health Services Administration, or Health Policy and Management will provide a much more marketable set of skills and help you qualify for some of the highest-paying public health jobs. One of the best things you can do to maximize your earning potential after graduating with an MPH is to enroll in a program that has strong post-graduation job placement rates and high alumni salaries. If you don’t see either of these metrics on a school’s website, reach out to the admissions office directly to ask for more information. (source)

University and Program Name Learn More

What is a Master’s in Public Health?

You’ll find a range of related fields and specialties covered in Master of Public Health programs. This societal-minded career path aims to identify and address common health issues caused or encouraged by social structures. Public health workers address the spread of disease, natural disasters, and food insecurity by looking at community health behaviors.

Among the many benefits of an MPH is the opportunity to concentrate in a specific area. A university’s school of public health will typically combine the general MPH program coursework with the electives tailored to students’ career ambitions.

Specializations include:

MPH in community health education curriculum

MPH programs with a community health focus typically take as little as 12 months at an accelerated pace or up to four years for those enrolled part-time. Many universities offer graduate programs both in-person and online, depending on your specialization. Program requirements for graduation range between 42 and 48 credit hours with a final practicum or internship.

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville offers a comprehensive curriculum with a specific pathway toward community health education. Students develop the skills and tools necessary to identify, measure, and address health and healthcare disparities among different communities. By focusing on research methods, graduates leave the program with the skills to address tangible inequities in a population.

Core courses

When pairing an MPH with community health education, expect a mix of the following course titles and topics:

  • Biostatistics
  • Community health planning and sustainability
  • Epidemiology
  • Environmental health
  • Grant proposal writing
  • Health and society
  • Public health advocacy
  • Public health research methods
  • Social justice

Practicum

The majority of both on-campus and online master of public health programs require students to demonstrate their knowledge out in the field. University of Tennessee – Knoxville, for example, calls this program its Applied Practice Experience. The practicum requires students to complete a minimum of 240 hours with an organization or agency of the student’s choice. (Note that about one-third of University of Tennessee – Knoxville students go on to work full-time with their Applied Practice Experience employer.)

MPH in community health education jobs

An MPH program promotes competencies to perform in-depth research, assess population health policies, and take on major governance roles in your community. An MPH puts you in the running for health administration and leadership roles that tend to offer higher pay.

The CUNY Graduate School and University Center showcases where recent graduates went on to work after a community health concentration. The main areas include:

  • Academia
  • Government
  • Healthcare
  • Non-profits
  • Private companies

Within these settings, CUNY reports these students worked in job titles such as:

  • Clinical Research Project Manager
  • Contracts and Grants Manager
  • Director of Compliance and Quality Assurance
  • Nutrition Educator
  • Public Health Program Coordinator

You’ll notice that students all work within public health practice, but the positions vary widely. While some focus on program planning and administration, others educate the community directly on health equity.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual income for a community health educator is around $46,000 a year. However, if you look further into the positions locked in by the CUNY graduates, you’ll find more promising results. For example, Glassdoor reports that a contracts and grants manager makes an average of around $72,000 a year. A clinical research project manager can even earn into the six figures for a job in New York City.

MPH in community health education admissions

Let’s look back at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville program to project what you can expect from the standard admissions and enrollment process. This school is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), a designation you should look for in any program you consider. You’ll find a list of additional approved MPH programs on the organization’s website.

MPH in community health bachelor’s degrees

The University of Tennessee – Knoxville website specifies that its students come from diverse educational backgrounds. Popular bachelor’s degrees include:

  • Behavioral sciences
  • Biology
  • Communication
  • Human services
  • Marketing
  • Nutrition
  • Psychology

Application requirements

The UTK program works similarly to other MPH departments, requiring the following prerequisites for admission:

  • 3.0 GPA in undergraduate and any graduate courses
  • Completion of the GRE (though this was waived during COVID-19)
  • Resume or CV with work experience
  • Supplemental MPH application
  • Statement of educational and career purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation from the past 12 months

Tuition for MPH programs can range anywhere from $30,000 to $75,000 annually. Many programs offer ample tuition assistance or graduate assistantships both on and off-campus.

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Should I get an MPH in community health education?

A life in community health education can be enriching. Public health professionals either work directly with their local population or see the effects of their policies and initiatives in the world around them.

Earning a master’s at any point in your career is a huge decision, both logistically and financially. However, flexible online programs can make the process a bit more practical.

If you’re on the fence about going back to school for an MPH, keep these virtual programs at the forefront of your mind. Remember, even online students complete an in-person practicum out in the field.

An MPH in community health education could also be the key to finding higher pay rates in rewarding leadership roles. If you’ve spent your career—or are hoping to redirect your career—toward this gratifying field, consider an MPH. You’ll be empowered to make an even larger impact on the future of health.

Questions or feedback? Email editor@noodle.com

About the Editor

Tom Meltzer spent over 20 years writing and teaching for The Princeton Review, where he was lead author of the company's popular guide to colleges, before joining Noodle.

To learn more about our editorial standards, you can click here.


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