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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
When pairing an MPH with community health education, expect a mix of the following course titles and topics:
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.)
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:
Within these settings, CUNY reports these students worked in job titles such as:
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.
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.
The University of Tennessee - Knoxville website specifies that its students come from diverse educational backgrounds. Popular bachelor's degrees include:
The UTK program works similarly to other MPH departments, requiring the following prerequisites for admission:
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.
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.
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