Public Health Career Education in Kentucky

Governor Steve Beshear has made improving Kentucky’s health one of his main priorities – and it shows. In a November 2015 publication (kyhealthnow: Advancing our State of Wellness), he further confirmed his commitment to the state’s health and safety through prevention, promotion, and protection.

The Kentucky Department of Public Health (KDPH) develops and operates the state’s public health programs and education campaigns aimed at improving the lives of Kentucky citizens through the prevention of disease and negative health outcomes, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, and protection from diseases, injuries, and environmental health impacts. To date, the KDPH operates nearly 150 programs, many of which include the assistance and cooperation of partners, such as local health departments, universities, and private providers.

For example, the KDPH has worked to expand access to healthcare in Kentucky, which has resulted in more than 90 percent of all Kentuckians now receiving healthcare coverage. In 2014, Medicaid revealed that nearly 160,000 preventive dental services, more than 51,000 breast cancer screenings, and more than 35,000 colorectal screenings were performed – that’s double the number of those who received these services in 2013.

Just a few of the KDPH’s most successful public health programs include:

  • HANDS (Health Access Nurturing and Development Services)
  • Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program
  • WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children)
  • Kentucky Physician’s Care Program and Prescription Assistance Program
  • Kentucky Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention
  • Public Health Preparedness programs

A graduate-level education in public health is the common thread among professionals focused on creating, developing, and nurturing public health programs and initiatives as to ensure a brighter, healthier, and safer tomorrow for Kentucky’s citizens.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Kentucky

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredits both schools of public health and public health programs. The CEPH-accredited Master of Public Health (MPH) is largely recognized as the standard professional degree among leaders in local, state, and federal public health agencies and healthcare organizations. Graduates of accredited MPH programs learn how to apply an interdisciplinary approach when developing public health policy and when designing and administering the resulting programs and methods.

Academic Overview

What remains constant among CEPH-accredited MPH programs is their multidisciplinary course of study, which follows the MPH Core Competency Model developed by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH).

The ASPPH’s MPH Core Competency Model includes competencies in the five, traditional core areas of public health, as well as the seven interdisciplinary/cross-cutting areas of public health:

Core Areas of Public Health:

  • Biostatistics: The development and application of statistical reasoning and methods in solving problems in public health, healthcare, and similar, population-based research
  • Environmental Health Sciences: The study of environmental factors that affect the health of a community
  • Epidemiology: The study of patterns of disease and injury in human populations
  • Health Policy and Management: Focuses in on the delivery, quality, and costs of healthcare for individuals and populations
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences: Addresses the behavioral, social and cultural factors related to individual and population health and health disparities throughout the lifespan

Interdisciplinary/Cross-Cutting Areas of Public Health:

  • Communications and Informatics
  • Diversity and Culture
  • Leadership
  • Public Health Biology
  • Professionalism
  • Program Planning
  • Systems Thinking
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Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for MPH programs include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although some enrolling graduate students possess undergraduate degrees in areas related to public health, most programs accept students with an undergraduate degree in a variety of different majors. Public health policy professionals most often come from a background in healthcare administration, public administration, education, or a clinical healthcare discipline like nursing.

Course prerequisites for MPH programs typically include:

  • Math course (algebra, statistics, calculus, etc.)
  • Biology course
  • Health-related science course (physiology, anatomy, nutrition, etc.)

Other common admission requirements into MPH programs in Kentucky include:

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA
  • Minimum standardized test scores (GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT)
  • Resume
  • Personal statement
  • Letters of recommendation

Program Structure and Focus Areas

Most MPH degrees are two-year, full-time programs, although a number of programs offer executive MPH programs, designed for working professionals, and accelerated programs, which can be completed in just one year. Many programs offer a wealth of distance education opportunities.

In addition to a broad education in public health, MPH programs allow students to specialize their master’s degree program by taking 10-15 credits in one or more areas of public health.

Although each MPH program will vary somewhat according to the focus areas they offer, students can often find the following focus areas in many of today’s leading MPH programs:

Health Communication: Health communication involves health issues associated with human behavior, such as HIV/AIDS and obesity. An example of health communication is the Kyhealthnow program, which has made significant strides in addressing adult obesity, achieving progress through strategies like the Kentucky Office of Adventure Tourism’s Kentucky “Trail Towns.”

Courses include:

  • Global health communication interventions
  • Preventing health disparities
  • Social marketing
  • Marketing and research for public health

Health Policy: Health policy involves understanding and studying U.S. health policy and applying it in private, nonprofit, and government agencies. A prime example of health policy is Kentucky Governor Beshear’s Executive Order, which recently expanded the prohibition of all tobacco products and e-cigarettes on Executive Branch properties, thus making historic progress toward efforts to reduce Kentucky’s smoking rate and cardiovascular deaths by 10 percent.

Courses include:

  • Public health and law
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Law, medicine, and ethics
  • Research methods in public health
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Program Planning and Evaluation: Program planning and evaluation involves improving public health program performance through the creation of policies and the implementation of those policies in low- and middle-class settings. For example, thanks to funding from the Governor’s 2014-2016 Executive Budget, the Kentucky Colon Cancer Screening Program has been able to support efforts that impact the goal to reduce Kentucky cancer deaths by 10%.

Courses include:

  • Researching violence against women and girls
  • Research methods in public health
  • Social marketing
  • Marketing research for public health

Global Health: Involves contributing to global health policies around the world through leadership roles. Examples of global health programs in the U.S. include WHO’s Roll Back Malaria strategy and the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations.

Courses include:

  • Preventing health disparities
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Climate change and social change
  • Environmental and occupational epidemiology

Students can customize their MPH program by taking additional electives in areas of interest.

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

Kentucky’s professionals of public health remain a vital link to Kentucky citizens on the receiving end of local, state, and federal health initiatives. Public health policy directors and program directors have made—and continue to make—significant and meaningful progress in reducing Kentucky’s youth and adult smoking, adult obesity, and cancer and cardiovascular disease deaths while increasing access to healthcare.

The following graduate-prepared public health occupations reveal positive growth projections between 2012 and 2022, according to a 2014 Kentucky Workforce Intelligence Branch publication:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 24 percent
  • Statisticians: 15 percent
  • Microbiologists: 17 percent
  • Epidemiologists: 30 percent
  • Sociologists: 18 percent
  • Social Scientists: 5 percent
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 25 percent

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

The Kentucky Career Center revealed the salary ranges for a number of public health professionals and scientists, from entry (10th percentile) to experienced (90th percentile), as of 2014:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $30,933-$84,744
  • Statisticians: $46,436-$108,360
  • Microbiologists: $39,706-$82,971
  • Epidemiologists: $33,980-$70,942
  • Social Scientists: $36,266-$75,515
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $24,973-$54,916
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Career Opportunities for Kentucky’s Master’s-Prepared Public Health Professionals

Kentucky’s MPH public health professionals are prepared to take on a wide range of public health positions throughout the state, in local, state, and federal government, nonprofit organizations, and private corporations, among others.

The following job descriptions in public health, although for illustrative purposes only, provide job seekers with an idea of the many professional opportunities available throughout the state to those who possess a master’s degree in public health:

Quality Improvement Manager, Wellcare Health Plans, Louisville


  • Conducts oversight and management of accreditation initiatives, state and regulatory quality compliance, delegation audits, and external quality reviews
  • Designs and develops methodologies for preventive care and healthcare evaluations


  • Bachelor’s degree in healthcare, nursing, public health, health administration, or a related degree
  • Master’s degree is preferred

Health Systems Education Manager, Colon Cancer Prevention Project, Louisville


  • Oversees the strategic initiative of community health center engagement across Kentucky and Southern Indiana with the goal of increasing colon cancer screening rates in these centers


  • Master’s degree in public health and/or at least two years of related work experience

Analytics Manager, Humana, Louisville


  • Provides analytics expertise and consultation on the design, testing, and enhancement of quality analytics programs, projects, and tools
  • Researches, handles, and prepares data related to clinical quality programs and leaders other analytics professionals in similar work


  • Master’s degree in engineering, informatics, public health, business administration, information technology, mathematics, statistics, or a related field

Research Consultant, Humana, Louisville


  • Works collaboratively to design and conduct outcomes research studies
  • Manages outcomes projects from inception to final report
  • Serves as a liaison to the client, both internal and external


  • Minimum of a master’s degree
  • PhD preferred