Public Health Career Education in Arizona


In 2010, after reviewing a decade’s worth of data, the state of Arizona found itself in the midst of a health crisis with death rates were rising in most categories. Morbid obesity related deaths had more than doubled, with similarly troubling numbers in elderly suicide, firearm related deaths, and cardiovascular disease according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS).

Faced with health risks across the board, the ADHS convened a group of Public Health professionals to review Arizona’s public health policies and set new goals for the state. Out of that came the 2020 Objectives model, a plan that would spend the next decade monitoring and reorganizing the state’s public health efforts in the hopes of combating the state’s numerous health risks.

While it is still in progress, the 2020 goals have led to improvement in almost every category. In particular, infant death rates have already been reduced to 5.3 per 1,000, below the 2020 target goal and well below the national average of 6.7.

However, 75 percent of the 2020 goals have yet to be met, with some metrics fluctuating widely from year to year as the state implements new health policies. The complexity of Arizona’s public health issues requires the attention of highly educated public health professionals to begin unraveling deeply entrenched societal issues and implementing effective change across the board.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Arizona

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is designed to advance the careers of public health professionals by honing their skills and focusing them towards the core issues of the field.

Online and part time MPH programs help to provide a degree of flexibility that would allow even the busiest professionals to earn a graduate degree in public health.

Most MPH programs generally accept most any bachelor’s degree from an accredited 4-year university. Part of this is due to the sheer diversity of career options available to public health professionals. Diverse students in the same class could find themselves drawing on their past experiences in political science, public administration, healthcare administration, teaching business and more while studying public health policy development and program administration.

Academic Overview

Since 2004, Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)-accredited programs have been based on the MPH Core Competency Model developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). These competencies are:

  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Health Policy Management
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences

While the five core competencies form the basis of MPH programs, the ASPH also identified seven interdisciplinary areas of focus that they believe are necessary for a graduate to function in a contemporary public health setting. These are:

  • Communication and Informatics
  • Diversity and Culture
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Program Planning
  • Public Health Biology
  • Systems Thinking

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for master’s programs will differ from school to school, but the standard set of requirements for graduate MPH programs include:

  • Submission of GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school
  • Submission of official transcripts from all other undergraduate and graduate institutions
  • Submission of a 500-1000 word purpose essay
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation


MPH programs will regularly offer unique programs designed to challenge students with additional areas of focus outside of the core competencies. Most of these specializations will constitute between 10 and 15 additional credits alongside core courses:

Health Communication

In Arizona, the CDC partners with the Gateway to Health Communications and Social Marketing Practice to launch health campaigns across the state in conjunction with national efforts. In particular, the CDC has developed a variety of different campaigns like Act Against AIDS, Let’s Stop HIV Together, and Razones, all of which are specifically targeted towards the gay and bisexual Latino communities in Arizona. The CDC and Gateway identified these communities as high-risk and developed specific programming intended to promote AIDS awareness effectively in Arizona.

Programs like these require the influence of a health communication specialist. Students studying in this specialist develop skills focused around connecting with at-risk populations and communicating campaign goals to administrative and management teams.

Courses within this specialization may include (total of 10-15 credits):

  • Leadership Seminar
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing and Research for Public Health

Health Policy

Legislators often have to make complex rulings related to healthcare and public health policy without necessarily having the knowledge necessary to understand the subject at hand. In times like these, they rely on the help of organizations like the Arizona Public Health Association to make recommendations and present reports that can accurately assess potential outcomes of health legislation.

Public health policy experts review proposed state and local laws and ordinances and provide recommendations for action that can heavily influence legislative outcomes. These experts can also play a part in the development of health policy for private corporations. Students in this specialization will find themselves grappling with the intricacies of health policy and legislation and engaged in developing policy that addresses health issues, new and old.

Courses within this specialization may include (total of 10-15 credits):

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Public Health and Law
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Law, Medicine and Ethics
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Program Planning and Evaluation

The 2020 goals system was designed by experts from the Arizona Bureau of Health Systems Development (HSD) and would not have been possible without Program Planning and Evaluation experts focused on improving healthcare policy across the state. The HSD has made improving access to primary health care through workforce recruitment and retention its primary goal, and it constantly checks its campaigns and programs against statistical data to evaluate how impactful they are to the state’s public health.

That kind of effort requires a specific focus on long-term goals and the ability to analyze complex data to determine the efficacy of a program. Program planning and evaluation specialists will find that their courses develop that skillset through an intensive review of current health policy and research methods, and will soon find themselves developing and evaluating programs to address public health issues of all kinds.

Courses within this specialization may include (total of 10-15 credits):

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing Research for Public Health

Global Health

While public health policy is often handled through local government and small private efforts, some health concerns require attention on a global scale. After the earthquake several years ago in Haiti, aid efforts were coordinated by organizations from around the world who put volunteers on the ground to help get the local population back on their feet. After those volunteers left, global health experts arrived to help reestablish basic infrastructure and ensure that the survivors could get the care that they needed.

Courses within this specialization may include (total of 10-15 credits):

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Climate Change and Social Change

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

Part-time options allow busy students to complete their program in as many as four years. For students working full time or pursuing other professional and academic goals, this may be the best option for earning a master’s in public health.

MPH programs also offer an accelerated one-year option that allows students take on a heavier course load and graduate in as little as one year. The curriculum is no different than a standard online or campus based MPH program, but is designed around a more intensive schedule.

Job Growth for Master’s-Educated Public Health Professionals in Arizona

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a wide variety of the career paths attached to the core competencies of most MPH programs have experienced a growth in employment and mean hourly wage since 2014 in Arizona. The following are growth projections for Arizona in 2015 and 2016:

  • Social and Community Service Managers: 26%
  • Statisticians: 29%
  • Microbiologists: 14%
  • Biological Scientists: 7%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 34%

Salaries for Public Health Professions in Arizona that Require a Master’s Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provided the following figures for public health jobs in Arizona in 2014. The salaries below range from the bottom tenth percentile to the 90th percentile:

  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $21,650 to $45,690
  • Social Scientists: $52,230 to $104,670
  • Biological Scientists: $34,710 to 79,600
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $40,280 to $104,690
  • Microbiologists: $41,330 to $81,670
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Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals with Master’s Degrees in Arizona

The job postings shown here were taken from a survey of job vacancy announcements performed in December 2015 and represent just some of the options available to professionals in Arizona with an MPH. (The following job descriptions are examples only and are not representative of a job offer or an assurance of employment.):

Senior Research Scientist, State of Arizona

  • Responsibilities
    • Plan and perform statistical analyses for the Accountability and Assessment Division
    • Provide guidance to less experienced statisticians and research associates on technical aspects of work and ensure quality control
    • Represent the division on technical issues to various stakeholders and contribute to the team functions and responsibilities to disseminate data results to constituents
  • Requirements
    • Extensive knowledge of the principles and practices of empirical research and assessment
    • Intensive experience in working with large datasets and assessment data
    • Proficient in SAS, R, SPSS, multilevel modeling software, IRT software, and other key psychometric packages. Knowledge and experience with advanced spreadsheet and database software, structured query language, and query reporting

Return on Investment Epidemiologist, Maricopa County

  • Responsibilities
    • Conduct cost effectiveness analyses to estimate cost of health related programs
    • Produce models that illustrate impacts on programs, policies, and interventions
    • Assist in drafting of grant proposals
    • Design and implement programming related to disease surveillance and the management of biohazards
  • Requirements
    • Emergency response training
    • Familiarity with Windows and Microsoft Office
    • Experience working with complex data sets
    • Knowledge of cost effectiveness and investment returns
    • Must be able to present work comfortably to audiences

Clinical Director, U.S. VETS

  • Responsibilities
    • Oversees and manages clinical department
    • Supervises Program coordinators in residential programs, clinical interns, and other specialized program staff
    • Monitors caseloads
    • Oversees client screening
    • Ensures adherence to protocol
    • Provides monthly all-staff training
  • Requirements
    • Two years of experience managing clinical staff
    • Experience working with homeless populations
    • Experience working with veterans
    • Preferred Veteran status