Public Health Career Education in Maine

The Main Public Health Association (MPHA) is dedicated to improving and sustaining the health and well-being of Maine residents, and the results are impressive: According to the 2015 America’s Health Rankings, Maine is now the 15th healthiest state in the nation, up from 20th in 2014. Significant improvements in childhood immunization rates reveal the great strides public health policy specialists and program administrators have made in recent years. In fact, up-to-date immunization rates among Maine children (19 to 35 months) increased from 68 percent to nearly 85 percent, while rates of pertussis decreased from 55 to 25 cases per 100,000 during the same period.

The MPHA advocates for evidence-based policy and prioritizes legislation based on evidence/data, organizational and partner capacity and expertise, available funding, and the political climate.

Public health officials in Main utilize a combination of advocacy, public education, community organizing, policy development, and coalition leadership to accomplish initiatives like these:

  • The Smoke-Free Housing Coalition of Maine
  • Let’s Go!
  • Maine Youth Overweight Collaborative
  • Maine Newborn Hearing Program
  • Desert Visiting Nurses Program
  • United Somali Women of Maine
  • Diversion Alert Program
  • Healthy YOU

Public health leaders, program directors, administrators, and educators, among countless others with a graduate-level education obtained through multidisciplinary public health programs, ensure that Maine’s programs and initiatives protect the state’s most vulnerable populations.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Maine

Individuals interested in pursuing or advancing a public health career know that a post-secondary degree is a must. Although public health degrees are available at all levels, the gold standard continues to be the Master of Public Health (MPH).

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) recognizes the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) as the sole accrediting agency for both schools of public health and public health programs in the U.S.

MPH Program Structure, Content and Competencies

Accredited MPH programs provide students with a multidisciplinary, graduate-level education that prepared them to communicate effectively across multiple audiences, identify the determinants of health and disease, apply ethical and legal principles to public health practice and policy, and work with diverse groups and communities.

All accredited MPH programs adhere to the ASPPH’s MPH Core Competency Model, which outlines the skills students should possess upon graduation. The competencies encompass five, traditional core areas of public health, as well as seven interdisciplinary/cross-cutting areas:

Traditional Core Competencies of Public Health:

  • Environmental Health Sciences
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • Biostatistics
  • Health Policy and Management
  • Epidemiology

Interdisciplinary/Cross-Cutting Areas of Public Health:

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

Admission Requirements

Admission into an MPH degree program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Although it is commonplace for students of these graduate programs to possess undergrad degrees in healthcare administration, public administration, or in a clinical healthcare discipline, most programs accept students from a variety of disciplines, provided they have completed math, health science, and biology prerequisites.

Executive programs require candidates to possess relevant work experience and a resume for admission, while most MPH programs require candidates to possess:

  • Minimum standardized test score (GRE, MCAT, etc.)
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Admissions essay/statement of purpose
  • Minimum undergraduate GPA

Program Options

Accredited MPH programs encompass a similar core to give sufficient attention to all areas within the MPH Core Competency Model. However, the structure and design of these programs may vary to accommodate the needs and wants of today’s students:

Executive MPH Programs

Executive MPH degree programs appeal to public health professionals interested in advancing their education to pursue leadership roles. Executive MPH programs, which generally require candidates to possess some experience in public health, may offer students a number of flexible scheduling options, such as part-time programs and online study.

Online Programs

Many MPH programs offer either fully or partially online programs, thereby eliminating the need to travel to and from campus-based classes.

Accelerated MPH Programs

Accelerated MPH programs are relatively new offerings that allow students to complete their MPH in just one year through a more demanding course schedule.

Focus Areas

The core of an MPH program is rather similar from one program to the next. However, most programs allow students to customize their program to fit their personal and professional goals by choosing one or more focus areas, which encompass a handful of courses totaling between 10 and 15 credits.

Although each MPH program’s focus area offerings vary somewhat, many include the following focus areas:

Health Communication

An ecological model of health is the basis for health communication, which includes utilizing communication and marketing as strategic tools for influencing people, places, and environmental conditions.

For example, Maine public health professionals have implemented health communication as part of their Let’s Go! childhood obesity prevention program. Let’s Go! partners with schools, childcare, healthcare practices, and community organizations to reach families where they live, learn, work, and play, with the ultimate goal of reinforcing the importance of healthy eating and physical activity.

Coursework in a health communication focus area includes:

  • Leadership seminar
  • Social marketing
  • Marketing and research for public health
  • Preventing health disparities

Health Policy: Health policy involves advancing health policy education, research, and services designed to improve public health services and programs, both domestically and globally.

An example of health policy is Maine’s Community Health Promotion Program (CHPP), which works with local and state programs to help communities increase their ability to conduct community-based health promotion for all populations and settings. The focus of CHPP is on cross-cutting health promotion and social determinants and disparities in population health and comprehensive health planning and improvement processes, among others.

Coursework in a health policy focus area includes:

  • Public health and law
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Leadership seminar
  • Qualitative research methods in public health
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Program Planning and Evaluation: Program planning and evaluation involves planning, designing, implementing, and evaluating programs and research aimed at health promotion and/or disease prevention.

An example of program planning and evaluation involves the members of the Obesity Policy Committee, who have been collaborating for more than a decade to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of Maine through public policy initiatives designed to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and prevent obesity.

Courses in this focus area include:

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

Global Health: Global health within public health focuses on the importance of addressing contemporary, global issues. Global health professionals work to develop, implement, and evaluate policies at the local, national, regional, and international levels.

A few examples of organizations involves in global health initiatives and programs include WHO, the Global Health Council, the United Nations, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Coursework in this focus area of public health includes:

  • Global health diplomacy
  • Environmental and occupational epidemiology
  • Preventing health disparities
  • Global health communication intervention

Job Growth Projections and Salaries for Public Health Professions in Maine that Require a Master’s Degree

Careers in public health in government, private, nonprofit, or academic settings for master’s-prepared professionals in Maryland are diverse and in-demand.

The Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information reveals attractive job growth projections for professionals in community and social services occupations, increasing from 15,873 in 2012 to 16,906 in 2022, a 6.5 percent change.

Similarly, professionals in life, physical, and social sciences will see impressive job growth through 2022, rising from 4,741 in 2012 to 4,945 in 2022, a 4.3 percent increase.

The Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information revealed the annual salaries for many master’s-prepared professionals in public health as of 2014:

  • Social and Community Service Specialists: $17,810-$ 58,030
  • Epidemiologists: $43,580-$116,500
  • Social Scientists: $44,230-$80,050
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $24,540-$70,750
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Career Opportunities for Maine’s Master’s-Prepared Public Health Professionals

Maine is rich in opportunities for public health professionals, whether they work in health communication, health policy, global health, or program implementation and management.

Although the following job descriptions are intended for illustrative purposes only and do not guarantee employment, they do provide a glimpse into just a few of the many opportunities for master’s-prepared public health leaders in the Pine Tree State:

Director of Grant Services Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, Bangor

  • Responsibilities:
    • Provides leadership to and overall management of EMHS Grant Services
    • Partners with a broad range of constituents to identify and respond to grant development needs
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree (master’s preferred) in related field
    • At least 10 years of experience in successful grant proposal development, writing and grants management, preferably within a healthcare setting

Program Manager, Portland Public Health, Portland

  • Responsibilities:
    • Oversees projects focusing on obesity prevention, tobacco cessation, lead poisoning prevention, and substance abuse prevention
    • Includes program planning, program development, supervision of multidisciplinary public health professionals, grant writing, policy development, and program evaluation
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health, health management, or a related field

Director of Programs and Operations, Consumers for Affordable Health Care, Augusta

  • Responsibilities:
    • Directs the operations and programs of an organization working to ensure that all Maine citizens can get quality, affordable healthcare
    • Oversees and/or conducts external communication activities
  • Requirements:
    • At least eight years of combined education and experience in program management, administrative work, organizational development, fundraising, and grant writing