Public Health Career Education in Arkansas

Arkansas has established itself as a leader in U.S. public health, in part due to the efforts of just one man. PhD Namvar Zohoori, the director of Chronic Disease Prevention and Control and the associate director for science of the Arkansas Department of Health. As a committed public health reformer, Dr. Zohoori has become nationally recognized as one of the most respected public health advocates and organizers in the world.

Dr. Zohoori serves as a board member of the National Association of Chronic Disease and as a member of the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. Along with this, he has helped to develop chronic disease prevention programs in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee as the director of the Delta States Stroke Network. In these roles, Zohoori brought together 20 different organizations to establish the Chronic Disease Coordinating Council (CDCC), an organization committed to reducing the instances of preventable chronic diseases in Arkansas.

The CDCC, coupled with the Arkansas Cardiovascular Health Examination Survey developed by Dr. Zohoori, is responsible for most of the state-level data and information used to design and deliver related public health programs across the state. All of this illustrates not just the success and quality of the Arkansas public health system, but also the impact that a single highly educated public health expert can make on the lives of millions of people across a whole region.

Working in the same field as a public health hero like Dr. Zohoori starts with an education at the graduate level. The Master of Public Health (MPH) can open doors to careers that involve bringing life changing public health programs to communities throughout Arkansas and the world.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Arkansas

With fast-track and part-time options and a variety of specializations, the Master of Public Health can easily be tailored to the unique needs and experiences of almost any student. This degree program is uniquely designed to prepare students from various backgrounds for a career in the incredibly diverse field of public health policy development and program administration.

Professionals with a background in business, nutrition, statistics, health administration or teaching commonly pursue MPH degrees and find their experience useful to a career in public health policy development and program administration, both locally and globally.

Academic Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) sets the standards for accredited MPH programs. Since 2004, CEPH accredited programs have been based on the MPH Core Competency Model developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). These five 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 program to program. However, the items below represents a standard set of enrollment requirements for master’s programs in public health:

  • Submission of GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
  • 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, which can cover a vast array of subjects outside of the core competencies. Most of these specializations will consist of between 10 and 15 additional credits alongside core courses.

Health Communication

The Arkansas Department of Health’s communication division maintains over 50 campaigns every year, addressing everything from hand washing tips and heat stroke, to scorpion stings and radiation safety. These campaigns are designed to keep the public and government agencies alike informed about safety tips and current policy related to health issues of all kinds.

Experts in health communication lead staff members at the communication division of the Arkansas Department of Health. Students specializing in health communication will find themselves examining marketing techniques and finding unique ways to communicate the often complex facets of health policy and safety. All of this helps to contribute to public health by keeping people continuously educated and informed about the best ways to stay healthy, happy, and whole.

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

The Arkansas center for Health Improvement (ACHI) was established in 1998 to influence the health of Arkansas residents through research into population health policy, access to quality care, and health care system transformation. This is done not just through quality research into infrastructure and health data but also by keeping abreast of current legislation and discussion of health related issues.

Health policy specialists will find themselves learning about how to analyze complex data sets and make recommendations related to legislation and ethics. Graduates become crucial liaisons between politicians and committees responsible for establishing health policy and the boots-on-the-ground workers keeping the people of Arkansas healthy.

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 Health Statistics branch of the Arkansas department of Health is responsible for collecting and managing data related to health issues of every kind. They publish the Vital Statistics report on a regular basis detailing this information, but that is not their only responsibility. They also have to have the skill and expertise to analyze that data and make recommendations based on the effectiveness of current health programs. This means not just having the skills to gather data but also the ability to project what that data could mean in the future and react to it.

Program planning and evaluation specialists build this skillset while they learn about the intricacies of data collection and the application of that data in the public setting. Students who envision themselves designing effective, data driven, and long lasting programs would do well to consider focusing their academic efforts towards this specialization.

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

Local governments do not often find themselves engaged in discussions about global politics. However, the Syrian refugee crisis has states like Arkansas discussing the intricacies of international politics.

Recently, Arkansas governor rejected Syrian refugees entering the state. While news reports discuss concerns related to terrorism, global health officials are considering potential health risks to the people of Arkansas and to the refugees themselves. Diseases from both populations can potentially lead to epidemics in communities lacking natural resistances, and the potential psychological impact of leaving a war torn country and settling in a new one could put serious strain on mental health services.

Global health experts are uniquely trained to consider these factors and to make decisions around potential global impacts caused by local policy.

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

Most master’s programs offer flexible options for credit loads that allow students to graduate at their own pace. MPH programs are no exception.

Part-time options allow busy students to complete their program in as much as four years. For students working full time or pursuing other professional and academic goals, this may be the best option for earning an MPH.

MPH programs also often offer an accelerated one-year option that takes the opposite approach to part time. Students take on a heavier course load and are able to graduate in as little as 12 months. The curriculum is no different than a standard online or campus based MPH program, but is designed around a much more time-intensive schedule.

Job Growth for Master’s Educated Public Health Professionals in Arkansas

MPH graduates may find themselves combing through complex health data one day and designing a public health awareness week the next, all while preparing a scientifically sound research project to fuel their future programs.

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 growth in employment and mean hourly wage since 2014. The following are job growth projections for public health professionals in Arkansas from 2012 to 2022:

  • Social and Community Service Managers-23%
  • Statistician-26%
  • Microbiologists-9%
  • Biological Scientists-9%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors-25%

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

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

  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $24,490 to 62,740
  • Social Scientists: $31,790 to $75,370
  • Epidemiologists: $45,00 to $89,230
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $29,820 to $79,570
  • Microbiologists: $35,440 to $115,890
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Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals with Master’s Degrees in Arkansas

An MPH prepares students for a vast array of professional opportunities in public health settings. Below are a couple of job postings that represent just some of the options available to students with an MPH. (The following samples are examples only and are not representative of a job offer or an assurance of employment):

Mathematical Statistician, US FDA National Center for Toxicological Research

  • Responsibilities
      • Conduct independent research into biostatistics
      • Manage risk assessment in toxicology, microbiology, and genetic research
  • Requirements
    • Knowledge and experience of precision medicine and omics technologies

Utilization Management Case Manager, Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Responsibilities
    • Ensure patients meet appropriate admission and compliance requirements
    • Provide case management support for an identified team from admission to discharge
    • Use data analysis to track trends
    • Evaluate the practice of professional standards in colleagues and the maintenance of regulations
  • Requirements
    • Selective Service Registration
    • 2-3 years of nursing experience and related master’s degree
    • Recent experience in Utilization Management

Evidence of self direction and ability to work with various disciplines across a broad range of staff