Masters of Public Health (MPH) Degree in Illinois


Illinois is one of the nation’s most heavily populated states, ranking fifth in the nation with about 12.8 million residents. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) knows that public health education campaigns and inoculation programs meant to address the spread of infectious diseases in the state’s densely populated urban centers must be one step ahead of emerging threats in order to be effective in serving such a large populace. The state’s public health professional community consists of epidemiologists who work closely with policy advisors, public health program directors and health campaign marketers and communication specialists to ensure the IDPH and it’s dozens of satellite organizations at the county and local levels are in a position to respond to emerging threats on a moment’s notice.


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The state of Illinois allocated just over $308 million to fund public health efforts in 2014 alone. It received an additional $246 million in federal funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and another $309 million from the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). Combined state and federal per capita spending in 2013-2014 was $67.11.


Illinois invests heavily in chronic disease prevention and health promotion, prevention of HIV/AIDS and STIs, and immunization. In fact, Illinois addresses immunization and respiratory diseases with year-round efforts to raise awareness about influenza and the benefits of the flu shot. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) provides a flu vaccine finder on its influenza information web page that allows users to enter their zip code and receive information about the closest locations providing flu shots.            


Illinois faces other public health challenges besides influenza outbreaks. In fact, Illinois ranks in the top ten among states for cumulative AIDS cases and also has high rates of other STIs, such as syphilis. To respond to HIV/AIDS, IDPH created the HIV Care Connect, a sizeable organization that provides information and resources to residents living with HIV/AIDS.


Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Illinois


A Master of Public Health (MPH) can be customized to support a wide range of professional goals. By selecting an area of focus related to health policy, program design and evaluation, global health, epidemiology, and health communication, among others, professionals from virtually any background can begin positively influencing the health, safety and well-being of residents throughout Illinois, as well as people around the world.


Part-time and/or online MPH programs allow working professionals to earn a graduate degree on their own time without sacrificing work and personal obligations.


MPH Program Overview


The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), the sole accrediting body for public health graduate programs in the United States, sets the standard for MPH programs in accordance with the MPH Core Competency model developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). The five core competencies of an MPH program are expected to be:


  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health sciences
  • Epidemiology
  • Health policy and management
  • Social and behavior sciences


Illinois is a demographically diverse state, with a wide socioeconomic distribution. This means public health policy makers and program administrators must understand and be able to relate to and communicate with diverse groups and different cultures. As such, the ASPH also recommends that MPH programs incorporate some or all of these seven crosscutting domains:


  • Communication and informatics
  • Diversity and culture
  • Public health biology
  • Leadership
  • Professionalism
  • Program planning


Focus Areas and Specialization


The MPH is designed to be highly customizable in order to support careers in such diverse areas as health communication, global health and epidemiology. The focus areas listed below show the kind of specialized tracks commonly available in an MPH program:


Health Communication: In 2015, IDPH created a grant to fund the implementation of the 2014 Tobacco Control Training Policy by a designated organization. The selected organization was responsible for providing planning, coordination, and program management to carry out the policies designated the previous year. A program like this depended on well-equipped leadership and management, as well as clear and efficient communication between different health organizations.


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: This focus area teaches students how to analyze, influence, and improve health policy in the US and internationally. In 2014, IDPH created a five-year strategy to inform and develop the Department’s policies and directives through 2018. The program involved subgroups that managed various public health issues, such as data collection and research methods, health disparities, regulatory compliance, and partner development. This large-scale project brought together dozens of public health officials to develop the policies that will affect Illinois residents in coming years.


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
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Law, Medicine and Ethics
  • Total of 10-15 credits


Program Planning and Evaluation: This focus area prepares 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.


For example, Illinois designated January as Cervical Health Awareness Month. This targeted project aims to increase awareness of HPV, cervical cancer, and the benefits of the HPV vaccine and regular cancer screening. This public health project has large impact potential because cervical cancer is a largely preventable disease with regular screening and many women do not receive the routine care they need. This program is a follow-up to a very successful 2014 public health campaign that raised the rates of both male and female teens who received the HPV vaccine. The sustained success of this public health program is due in part to public health professionals who collected research about the sexual and reproductive health of the public and designed and implemented effective marketing.


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


Global Health: 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.


An important aspect of both national and global health is the management of internal travel. Many infectious diseases are spread from traveler to traveler. During the most recent Ebola virus outbreak, identification of at-risk travelers and careful monitoring by public health officials helped to prevent virus transfer to new areas. Illinois public health officials coordinate with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to address infectious disease control.


Preparing for Admission


MPH programs may have different admission standards based on school policy. Still, most graduate programs would require applicants to provide:


  • Statement of purpose essay (500-1,500 words)
  • 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
  • Current resume or CV
  • At least two letters of recommendation


Job Growth Projections for Public Health Professions in Illinois that Require a Master’s Degree


Illinois faces diverse public health challenges, such as improving sexual and reproductive health, decreasing the rates of HIV/AIDS, dealing with an aging population, and addressing health disparities across different socioeconomic groups. Opportunities for public health experts exist across a variety of fields.


Data from the US Department of Labor and the Illinois Department of Labor (IDL) on job growth projections for public health professions between 2012 and 2022 revealed the following growth rates:


  • Social and community services managers: 12%
  • Statisticians: 17%
  • Microbiologists: 4%
  • Biological Scientists All Other: 3%
  • Epidemiologists: 1%
  • Scientists: 7%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 11%


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


Data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and Illinois Occupational Wages shows salary ranges reported for public health professions in 2014. The following salary ranges show the tenth percentile salary and the 90th percentile salary for select public health professions typically associated with a master’s level education.


  • Social and community services managers: $35,400-105,700
  • Statisticians: $48,400-117,700
  • Microbiologists: $40,500-137,800
  • Biological Scientists All Other: $50,000-99,000
  • Epidemiologists: $51,800-96,200
  • Scientists: $42,500-117,800
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $19,000-78,500


Career Opportunities for Illinois Master’s Prepared Public Health Professionals


The career opportunities for professionals with a Master of Public Health are vast thanks to the fact that the degree can be customized through specialty tracks designed to prepare graduate students for careers in everything from epidemiology to program planning and evaluation. (The following job descriptions were taken from a survey of job vacancy announcements in Illinois’ public health sector in January 2016 and don’t represent job offers or assurance of employment.):


Research Associate, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Park Ridge, IL


  • Responsibilities
    • Analyze large data sets
    • Implement and facilitate healthcare related research
    • Synthesize and exhibit research findings via graphs, charts, and presentations
    • Maintain document organization and project documentation
    • Network with other research organizations, public policy organizations, and outside health organizations
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree in public health, biostatistics, health services research, or related field
    • Survey research or measurement experience
    • At least three years of working with complex data sets and analysis
    • Possess excellent written and oral communication skills
    • Advanced knowledge and experience with Microsoft Office Suite and SharePoint
    • Experience with bibliographic management software, such as EndNote


Health Education Coordinator, University of Illinois, Chicago IL


  • Responsibilities
    • Develop and implement programs and services that support the retention, development, and success of students
    • Coordinate health education and health promotion programs and large campus events with Wellness Center
    • Research, design, implement, and evaluate health and wellness programs, as well as develop and distribute teaching materials
      • Risk reduction
      • Alcohol and drug abuse
      • Smoking
      • Title IX
      • Safe sex
      • Responsible drinking
      • Other health related topics
    • Provide leadership in a wide range of health topics
    • Develop and teach credit-bearing health and wellness courses in conjunction with corresponding college
    • Assist with planning and implementation of research activities
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree in public health, health education, nutrition, biology, or other related field
    • Minimum of one year of experience in professional health communication or other health education programs
    • Experience conducting and developing educational workshops preferred


System Director for Infection Prevention and Control, Mount Sinai Hospital, Chicago IL


  • Responsibilities
    • Oversee Infection Prevention and Control (ICP) programs
    • Assure and coordinate proactive infection prevention assessments
    • Manage data collection
    • Provide executive summaries and detailed reports of ICP programs
    • Supervise ICP program personnel, including training, recruitment, retention, and advancement
    • Lead and facilitate performance improvement teams
    • Serve as representative to other committees and organizations
  • Requirements
    • Master’s degree in public health, with a focus in epidemiology preferred
    • Five or more years of experience in infection control and/or epidemiological research in an acute care setting of a university
    • Demonstrated experience with data management and analysis, report development and management, project management, and monitoring activities
    • Able to work independently
    • Critical thinking and reasoning skills