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.
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.
The health crises that Illinois faces is preventable. But it will take the mobilization of its residents, businesses, and education system to understand the gravity of what they’re facing. The people behind this mobilization are public health workers. They work in a wide range of capacities throughout the state, communicating with public and private organizations to analyze data, talking to community workers and residents, and researching the most disturbing health trends. Once they’ve got this information they start working on comprehensive health campaigns that are rolled out throughout the state.
Individuals with a Master’s in Public Health are often the ones spearheading these research and campaign initiatives. To do this, a wide range of skills is needed, and choosing specific focus areas helps you to hone these skills. A Master of Public Health (MPH) can be customized to support a variety 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 to positively influence the health, safety and well-being of residents throughout Illinois, as well as people around the world.
In this guide we look at the MPH programs and specializations on offer in Illinois, the job growth projections for careers in public health, the salaries and benefits, and the admission requirements and steps to take to get your degree. Our goal is to help you with the tools to decide if studying towards an MPH is the right direction for you.
Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Illinois
Illinois has several universities offering a total of 57 courses, which gives you a range of options to choose from. The state is in a unique position due to its large and diverse population, joint urban and agricultural hub, and its economic disparities. Because of this, some of the issues that Illinois faces, such as food sanitation, food inspection, cancer rates, obesity and HIV prevention need urgent and distinctive public health approaches.
Studying for your MPH at one of Illinoi’s universities means that you’ll be at the forefront of these issues. A few standout courses can be found at The University of Illinois, which has an accelerated five-year joint Bachelors and Master’s program, or the traditional two-year MPH.
Northwestern University also offers a comprehensive course that covers public health, clinical care, and health research. The emphasis on data and analytical skills gives graduates the tools to address complex public health issues on a national and global scale.
Several universities also offer part-time courses, which take about two-years. These are designed with working professionals in mind. For anyone not able to make it to on-campus classes, online certificates are also a good option. These certificates including courses in Health Disparities Research, Public Health Geographic Information Systems, and Health Communication.
Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options.
Most MPH programs offer flexible options that allow students to graduate at their own pace.
Part-time options allow busy students to take as long as four years to complete the program. 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.
Most MPH programs also offer an accelerated one-year option that involves a heavier course load, allowing students 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 consuming schedule.
What is CEPH accreditation?
CEPH accreditation will come up quite often in your MPH research. The Council on Education on Public Health is an independent agency that looks at the MPH’s on offer to ensure that it meets the standards of the United States Education Department. Most job offers will require CEPH accredited courses, so it’s worth investing in one.
Getting Your MPH Online in Illinois
Several universities now offer online MPH courses. These courses range from Community Health Sciences, which is a mix of online and in-person study, Health Administration and Policy, and Public Health Informatics, which is a 100% online program. Online MPH’s can be earned in two-years. At some point, the course will require internship work or on the job training with supervision.
The University of Illinois Springfield offers a unique online course that covers disease control and prevention, healthcare access, environmental protection, special populations, data analysis, and policy planning and administrations. Despite it being online, students still have the chance to work closely with some of the top health educators through the internship program.
Q: What’s the Difference Between Bachelor Degree & Master’s Degree in Public Health?
The Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health isn’t as widely available as the Master’s Degree, and its slightly less demanding. The four-year degree can be taken through a Bachelor of Arts degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. Both programs incorporate the 4Ps of Public Health: Prevention, Promotion, Protection, and Population-based care.
For the Bachelor of Arts route, coursework can typically entail critical thinking, scientific reasoning, effective communication, technical writing, leadership skills, and community engagement. The Bachelor of Science coursework focuses on health behavior, research and statistics, epidemiology, and environmental health.
The Master’s Degree in Public Health welcomes students from any previous bachelor background. You don’t need a Bachelor’s in public health to be considered for the Master’s program. The course often attracts individuals from the nursing, nutrition, health administration, education, and business industries.
The Master’s program also caters to working professionals, with 100% online courses, fast-track courses, and part-time courses available. These are designed to find it in with your work and daily life and you can tailor it to suit your schedule.
There are five key competencies in the MPH program, which we cover later in this guide. With an MPH under your belt, you’ll have a more career options, a better salary, more benefits, the opportunity to work with people who share your goals, and the ability to make a significant difference to the community.
Q: Where do Public Health Professionals Work in Illinois?
Public health Professionals have a few options when it comes to their working space. It depends on your chosen specialization, but workers often find themselves working in universities and colleges, public and private research institutions, clinics and hospitals, and even out in the field collecting data, talking to community engagement officers, and collecting information from residents.
Step One: Know the Basics
Your first step is familiarizing yourself with the admission requirements, which we cover below. Since the MPH accepts degree holders from any field, getting in to the program is relatively easy, and some work experience is beneficial. The MPH is multi-faceted and covers a range of disciplines. Understanding what’s covered in the course and which parts you’ll find challenging and which parts you’ll enjoy is an important step in making sure that you’re properly prepared. Below, we take a look at the academic overview, so that you have a better idea of what the course entails.
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:
- Environmental health sciences
- 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
- Program planning
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
Step Two: Public Health School in Illinois or Online
Once you understand the coursework and admission requirements, you can move on to choosing a school. With seven universities to choose from, you have a decent amount of options to find a school that suits you without being overwhelmed by all the choices.
When choosing your school, keep location and tuition fees in mind. Along with this, it’s imperative to ensure that the program you’re interested in has CEPH accreditation. Most public health employers will be looking for CEPH accreditation when considering job applicants.
For people who have an extremely busy schedule and don’t have time to travel to on-campus classes, you can also look at one of the several online options available, which can be studied as a hybrid course or completely online.
Step Three: Choosing a Public Health 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:
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
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
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.
Overview: Public Health Careers in Illinois
Illinois currently ranks 26th in the country for public health according to the latest American Health Rankings report. It’s not a good place to be, and the state of Illinois recognizes this.
The biggest health issues Illinois faces are excessive drinking, air pollution, chlamydia, and drug deaths. The data and anecdotal evidence has shown time and time again that these health issues most affect people from low-income households, due to a lack of resources and education.
The goal of public health workers in Illinois is to educate people in these areas and provide affordable, accessible healthcare to everyone. By implementing timely prevention techniques, millions can be saved on healthcare, which can then be pumped into further prevention and awareness campaigns.
To do this, the state introduce HB72, a comprehensive plan aimed at improving the health outcomes of residents from vulnerable, low-income areas and at increasing economic prosperity by mitigating the financial burden of care costs on uninsured residents and healthcare providers.
The Fair Tax Campaign is one of the most ambitious drives in the state. The aim is to evenly distribute tax payments so that wealthy individuals pay according to their net worth. These funds will then be pushed into the healthcare system to contribute to preventative health measures, which will decrease sick days, increase college attendance, relieve the financial burden from individuals and local governments, and result in higher mortality rates.
The current health issues won’t go away on its own and it won’t go away with policymakers signing papers. Comprehensive, fair, and inclusive studies are needed to identify problem areas, and then work between dedicated, educated individuals who have a wide range of skills, is needed to plan these policies and roll it out into the communities. A Masters in Public Health gives you the tools to hone the skills you need to work in the public health arena and make a measurable impact on the health of the people.
Opportunities of a Public Health Degree in Illinois
Making an impact on just one person’s health is an extremely rewarding feeling. Having a job that does this for potentially millions of people makes the hard work all worth it. It’s the first and most important benefit of pursuing a public health degree in Illinois.
When a state hovers in the bottom half of the overall health rankings, it’s clear that there’s a lot of work to be done. Policymakers in Illinois recognize this and have been advocating for additional funds to be put into the healthcare system. This, along with the positive job growth projection for public health careers in the state, shows that although they’re struggling, Illinois is willing to make sacrifices and put in the work to better the health of its people.
So we know there are plenty of jobs available for public health professionals, but what’s it like living in Illinois? For those who have grown up in the Land of Lincoln, you’ll be well aware of the freshwater beaches, 1950s architecture, national parks, and the massive support for sports teams. For those looking to move there, perhaps it’s the rich history, unique foods, museums, and the lively music scene that will attract you. Either way, Illinois has a lot to offer to anyone living there.
Throughout Illinois, there are 57 MPH programs available at seven different universities. These programs encompass a range of specialties, including General Public Health, Health Promotion, Epidemiology, and Policy and Management. With so many program options, your choice of schools, and a culturally rich and diverse life in Illinois, pursing a public health degree there will certainly aid professional and personal growth.
Job Growth Projections – Master’s-Educated Public Health Professionals in Illinois
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Illinois will see strong job growth in the public health sector during the ten years between 2016 and 2026:
- Social and Community Service Managers +7.8%.
- Statisticians +31.9%.
- Microbiologists +3.6%.
- Biological Scientists +5.4%.
- Rehabilitation Counselors +6.6%.
Salary Range – Public Health Professions in Illinois that Require a Master’s Degree
The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics provided the following figures for public health jobs in Illinois in 2019. The salaries below range from the bottom tenth percentile to the 90th percentile:
- Social and Community Services Managers: $39,820 – $116,760.
- Statisticians: $57,170 – $132,930.
- Microbiologists: $44,200 – $104,020.
- Biological Scientists: $49,990 – $125,610.
- Epidemiologists: $52,590 – $115,180.
- Social Scientists: $53,640 – $109,240.
- Rehabilitation Counselors- $24,380 – $70,800.
The Jobs & Careers You Can Get with a Public Health Degree in Illinois
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 2020 and don’t represent job offers or assurance of employment.):
Research Study Coordinator
- Participates in the planning & conduct of research study including participant recruitment and retention.
- Obtains informed consent.
- Administers tests &/or questionnaires following protocols.
- Collects, compiles, tabulates & processes responses.
- Gathers information.
- Extracts & analyzes data from medical charts.
- Completes basic clinical procedures such as drawing blood & obtaining blood pressure.
- Successful completion of a full 4-year course of study in an accredited college or university leading to a bachelor’s or higher degree in a major such as social or health science or related; OR appropriate combination of education and experience and 2 years’ research study or other relevant experience required; OR.
- Successful completion of a full course of study in an accredited college or university leading to a master’s or higher degree in a major such as social or health science or related; OR appropriate combination of education and experience. .
- Must complete NU’s IRB CITI training before interacting with any participants & must re-certify every 3 years. .
Program Manager – Cancer Prevention
University of Illinois
- Uses general understanding and experience to administer the delivery of services to program participants and/or beneficiaries.
- Plans and conducts quality assurance reviews and recommends changes as appropriate.
- Analyzes program budgets and uses a moderate/high level of authority to recommend or makes budgetary recommendations.
- Interacts with faculty, researchers and staff for committee work or information.
- Performs other related work as needed.
- Master’s degree
- Professional experience in academic institutions and/or public health
- Quality improvement experience in health care
- Experience working with minority populations
- Experience working at community health center
Public Health Resources for Students & Professionals
Illinois Department of Public Health Website
The IDPH website is a valuable resource for any information related to data and statistics, health alerts, licensing and certification, and the funding opportunities for public health initiatives. It’s a good one-stop shop for information on the state of public health in Illinois.
State of Illinois: Official Website
The state of Illinois website provides useful links to sites that have more information on travel, leisure, life, employment, education, and more. It has an easy-to-use interface and conveys a good general idea of what life in Illinois is like.
Illinois Board of Higher Education Website
IBHE gives you information on various universities, funding, admission advice, and anything you need to know about studying towards a degree in Illinois.