The Georgia Department of Public Health (GDPH) manages over 100 public health programs, and includes 159 county health departments and 18 health districts. GDPH health initiatives include a diverse collection of different programs, ranging from STD awareness and treatment to an Alzheimer’s Disease State Registry.
One of Georgia’ major health initiatives is improving access to food allergy information, decreasing the risk of food borne illnesses from cut leafy greens (such as salmonella), and providing a safe and sanitary way for patrons to dine with their non-service canine companions.
While public health programs abound, Georgia still faces an uphill battle against many health problems, including adult and child obesity and associated co-morbidities, such as diabetes and hypertension. Sustaining and increasing overall public health depends on the presence of well-educated and equipped public health experts. Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) from a school fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is the best way to acquire and develop the interdisciplinary skills necessary for a career in public health policy development and program management.
In this guide we look at what studying towards a Master’s in Public Health in Georgia entails. We look at career growth projections, estimated salaries, the steps you should take if you’re considering a career in public health and what MPH programs the state has to offer.
What is CEPH accreditation?
CEPH is the Council for Education in Public Health. They’re an independent organization that works with the United States Department of Education to oversee the MPH courses offered and make sure that they meet health education standards. Employers will often look for CEPH-accreditation on your certificate, so if you’re serious about getting into a public health career, then it’s worth spending a little extra to make sure that your course has CEPH-accreditation.
Earning a Master of Public Health in Georgia
With 75 programs on offer in Georgia, it simply isn’t possible to cover every program and what each one entails. We’ll highlight some of the standout programs, but looking into the coursework, schools, and programs is an important step to the application process and one that you’ll need to look into in detail based on your own skills and preferences.
Step One: Know the Basics
The MPH in Public Health doesn’t require a Bachelor’s in Public Heath, so if you’re worried that you might not have the right qualification to enter the program, then you can breathe easily as the first hurdle is already behind you. You do, however, need a Bachelor’s Degree in any other discipline. The MPH often attracts individuals from nursing, nutrition, environmental health, business administration, or education backgrounds.
You also need to look at the tuition cost of various programs. Depending on the depth of the program and the school, tuition costs can vary greatly. Although your salary will be competitive and you won’t have to worry about finances while you graduate and find a job, you don’t want to be in a position where you’ve taken on a program that’s too far above your financial capacity.
Lastly, for step one, you need look at the academic overview of MPH programs. Although most schools and programs will make their own adjustments and no two programs are exactly the same, there are guidelines set out by CEPH that schools need to follow. Have a look below to see what CEPH is and why it matters, what areas of study have been approved by the CEPH, and what other competencies are covered.
All CEPH-accredited programs must consist of study in the areas of public health identified by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health’s (ASPPH) MPH Core Competency Model. The MPH Core Competency Model consists of five, traditional core areas of public health, as well as seven interdisciplinary/cross-cutting areas of public health:
- Environmental Health Sciences
- Health Policy Management
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
Within these five competencies, there are also seven interdisciplinary areas of focus. The seven areas narrow the focus of a degree that is quite broad. With these narrower focuses, students are better prepared for the practical work.
- Communication and Informatics
- Diversity and Culture
- Program Planning
- Public Health Biology
- Systems Thinking
Although admission requirements to a MPH program will differ slightly by school, most schools require submission of some common items:
- Official, current GRE scores
- GMAT, LSAT, or MCAT scores may be submitted instead
- Official transcripts from all academic institutions attended, including community colleges
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university
- Statement of purpose essay (500-1,500 words)
- Current resume or CV
- At least two letters of recommendation
Step Two: Choosing a State Public Health School
The University of Georgia, Emory University, Augusta University, and Mercer University offer some of the top MPH programs in Georgia. UGA offers a CEPH-accredited program with seven majors including Disaster Management, Gerontology, Health Behavior, Biostatistics, Environmental Science, Health Policy/Management, and Epidemiology. Emory University, and a few others, also offer distance learning courses with concentrations in Epidemiology, Applied Public Health Informatics, and Prevention Science. The good thing about having over 70 programs is that you have freedom of choice when it comes to picking a school that best suits your needs.
Getting Your MPH Online in Georgia
Several universities in Georgia offer online MPH courses. Online courses are beneficial in that it can be taken from the comfort of your home, you can choose a schedule that fits into your everyday life, and you can opt for hybrid or fully online courses.
Even with a fully online course, you’ll still receive an education that is engaging and utilizes the latest technology to deliver interesting, interactive lectures and coursework. You’ll also have access to discussion rooms where you can communicate with your fellow classmates and lecturers.
As mentioned above, Emory University offers a great online course. Augusta University offers hybrid online and on-campus courses or a 100% online course.
Focus areas are not universal and may differ by school. However, the options listed below embody the kind of specialized education that helps students meet the challenges of the rapidly changing world of public health.
This focus area prepares students to effectively communicate and cooperatively work with other public health professionals. Students learn how to cooperatively design, implement, supervise, and market health initiatives. As an example, in November 2015, the GDPH HIV Prevention Program joined forces with the organization, Greater Than AIDS, to launch a campaign to end the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in Georgia. Through coordinated work and multi-media marketing, the campaign encourages those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS to reach out to friends and family for support. It also seeks to encourage individuals to get tested for HIV, since an estimated 20,000 residents live with undiagnosed HIV/AIDS.
Courses may include:
- Leadership Seminar
- Global Health Communication Interventions
- Preventing Health Disparities
- Social marketing
- Market and Research for Public Health
- Total of 10-15 credits
Health policy aims to improve public health and health services by advancing innovative and effective health: This focus area teaches students how to analyze, influence, and improve health policy in the US and internationally. In July 2014, Georgia modified their vaccination policies to require all children in seventh through twelfth grade to receive one dose of the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) vaccine and one dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccine. This policy change helps control the spread of bacterial diseases and the most common forms of meningococcal disease.
Courses may include
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
Law, Medicine and Ethics
Total of 10-15 credits
Program Planning and Evaluation
This focus area trains students to assess, improve, and critique public health programs. It also teaches students to design and implement effective and useful programs at the individual, community, and state levels. The GDPH has many programs designed to make changes at the individual and community level, such as the diet-tracking and weight-loss app Lose It and the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program to bring healthy foods to entire communities.
Courses may include:
- 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
- Total of 10-15 credits
This focus area prepares students to analyze and determine health problems in low- or middle-income populations, as well as to evaluate relevant health policies, in the US and on a global level. National public health programs include the CDC’s National Healthy Worksite Program designed to provide employers with efficient health and wellness practices. President Obama launched the United States Global Health Initiative to improve public health programs in other countries.
Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options
An accredited MPH program provides an interdisciplinary education designed to teach students to formulate public health policy, to design and construct public health initiatives, and to effectively implement programs customized to the communities they will serve upon graduating.
Part-time and/or online MPH programs allow working professionals to conveniently continue their education while still investing in their career. An accelerated one-year option enables students to rapidly complete their MPH in about half the time a conventional MPH requires.
Q: What’s the Difference Between Bachelor Degree & Master Degree for Public Health?
As with any Bachelor’s Degree, the coursework is more of an overview of a range of different topics, with little specialization. The idea is to give you an opportunity to decide if there’s anything that piques your interest and if you’d like to study in a more specific direction. Although the salary isn’t as competitive as a Master’s degree, it opens the door to gain more experience and to honing your skills.
This guide focuses more on the Master’s degree as the Bachelor’s in Public Health programs are relatively new and not as widely offered as the Master’s. With an MPH, you have the opportunity to apply for more competitive positions that give you a greater degree of power to make significant changes and of course, a more stable, competitive income. You also have greater job security and a chance to specialize in anything from epidemiology and microbiology to social work and program planning and implementation. The opportunities with an MPH are incredibly vast.
Q: Where do Public Health Professionals Work in Georgia?
Public health professionals can work in several spaces. Although a lot of depends on your chosen specialization, there are opportunities to move across work spaces as your job will often entail a crossover of several disciplines. You can work in laboratories, traditional offices, public or state companies, out in the field collecting samples, with the community conducting research and interviews, or even flying across the country to work with other states to improve the country’s overall state of health.
Overview: Public Health Careers in Georgia
In 2019, the American Health Ranking’s Report listed Georgia as number 40 in its annual list of state health rankings. It’s a grim place to be, and its reminiscent of a state battling an ongoing, long-term health crisis.
The challenges the state faces aren’t ones that can be easily overcome. It will take work from dedicated, educated individuals who are willing to push officials and the public to understand the consequences on their inaction. A large percentage of the population is uninsured, straining personal and state financial pockets when illnesses hit. Obesity and diabetes is among the highest in the country, as is the rate of low birth-weight babies. Racial and economic disparities abound, pushing an already divided state further down the line.
We don’t say this to deter to you, we’re giving you the information to motivate you. When you follow a career in public health, it comes with the knowledge that you won’t always be following the money, the latest trends, or working in the easiest environments in the healthiest states. Those aren’t the places that need people like you. The places that need you most are rife with economic disparities and a large part of a public health official’s job is highlighting how these disparities affect the health of the entire community, and then finding ways to introduce health initiatives that bypass these disparities and provide adequate, equal healthcare to everyone.
Opportunities of a Public Health Degree in Georgia
The current state of public health isn’t great. You’ll be going into an environment that needs a focused and detailed overhaul. It will mean starting projects that most states have already implemented. It will mean working with political officials who might push back, or reviewing legislation that seems unfair and outdated. While this takes a lot of work, it also means that you’ll be a part of significant change and restructuring, which is incredibly rewarding.
At least the number of MPH programs on offer show that there are several people who understand the importance of a strong public health system. Universities throughout Georgia currently offer a total of 72 Master of Public Health programs, giving you a variety of choices.
Living in Georgia is also a unique experience – affordable housing, world-class festivals, hiking trails, restaurants, lakes, and city life will fill your time there with memorable adventures and fun night outs. And of course, the farmer’s markets have to be mentioned too – fresh produce and meat are readily available at markets throughout the state.
Job Growth Projections – Master’s-Educated Public Health Professionals in Georgia
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Georgia will see strong job growth in the public health sector during the ten-year period between 2018 and 2028:
- Social and Community Service Managers +17.8%
- Statisticians +37.8%
- Microbiologists +11.1%
- Biological Scientists 9%
- Rehabilitation Counselors +20.7%
Salary Range – Public Health Professions in Georgia that Require a Master’s Degree
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics provided the following figures for public health jobs in Georgia in 2018. The salaries below range from the bottom tenth percentile to the 90th percentile:
- Social and Community Services Managers: $45,760 – $101,880
- Statisticians: $41,010 – $121,860
- Microbiologists: $42,620 – $115,450
- Biological Scientists: $44,640 – $108,300
- Epidemiologists- $47,000 – $102,010
- Social Scientists- $45,20 – $114,250
- Rehabilitation Counselors- $21,600 – $64,350
The Jobs & Careers You Can Get with a Public Health Degree in Georgia
The career opportunities for professionals with a master’s in public health are diverse and exciting. (The following job descriptions are examples of different career opportunities in the public health sector and don’t represent job offers or the assurance of employment.)
Child Health Director-North Central Health District
- Lead district health team to improve child health outcomes and school readiness
- Advise district leadership on issues, policy changes, and issues related program implementation
- Develop short-term and long-term team goals
- Maintain awareness of advances in child health, technology, governmental regulations, insurance practices, and financing options
- Ensure coordination and collaboration between child health programs
- Represent district child health programs to community partners
- Bachelor’s degree in related field and two years of supervisory experience in a health care services environment
- OR Master’s degree in related field and one year of supervisory experience in a health care services environment
- OR Doctorate degree in related field
Health Education Specialist-ORAU (Non-profit organization)
Long-term deployment to Africa or other developing countries to work with CDC and host country local health partners to conduct public health activities for Ebola virus and other infectious diseases
Develop and provide health information to the public, health organizations, and stakeholders
Perform problem assessments and develop project plans
Design, develop, and deliver health education and public health awareness programs for West African provinces and districts
Develop evaluation tools to evaluate health education, communication, and preparedness programs, outreach and dissemination activities, training courses, and act as a technical reviewer for materials and products
Serve as a project task lead on training or public health preparedness projects as assigned
Master’s Degree in Health Education, Public Health, Biological Sciences, or related field and one year of related job experience
OR Bachelor’s degree in related field and three years of related job experience
Knowledge of public health principles, social marketing, best practices, research/literature reviews, chronic disease, health preparedness and response events
Excellent writing and communication skills
Executive Director-Georgia Trauma Commission (GTC)
Georgia Department of Public Health
- Provide GTC administration, operations management and strategic planning and evaluation
- Provide budgetary oversight and financial reporting
- Ensure trauma system provider and community stakeholder participation and collaboration
- Oversee GTC directed programs development with contractors
- Liaison with OEMS/T, Attorney General’s Office, and other state agencies
- Supervise GTC Staff
Experience in regional systems development, oversight, and performance improvement programs
Experience in grant writing
Experience in research-based initiatives
Excellent writing and communication skills
- Master’s degree in health care, Business, Finance, or related field
- Experience with EMS, trauma system, health emergency preparedness, crisis management, or injury prevention systems.
Resources for Students and Professionals
Georgia Department of Public Health
The Georgia Department of Public Health website aims to provide the public with reliable information to prevent diseases, promote health and well-being, and prepare for disasters. It’s also a useful site to head to if you’re wanting to get an idea of the health initiatives currently in place and to see if and where the gaps are in the state’s health policies.
Georgia Department of Education
Anyone looking for information on the various higher educational institutions in Georgia, the courses on offer, and the admission requirements would find the website for the Georgia Department of Education informative and helpful.
Georgia Government: Official Website
If the information you’re looking for isn’t on the health or education websites, then you can refer to the state’s official site. This is more suited to information on living in the state and includes information on state services, tax filing, and voting.