Public Health Career Education in Maryland

Maryland’s Million Hearts Initiative is an outstanding example of the far-reaching impact comprehensive public health initiatives can have. The Maryland Millions Hearts Initiative is a broad, state-level effort, led by the Maryland Department of Health and Hygiene (DHMH), aimed at engaging partners across a number of sectors to improve the cardiovascular health of the citizens of Maryland.

This initiative involves the expertise of a wide array of public health professionals who work to improve the clinical care within public and private healthcare settings, strengthen tobacco control, promote healthy diets, encourage workplace wellness, and incentivize local public health action.

An initiative of this size requires the dedication of public health leaders from all levels of government, as well as from nonprofit organizations and private corporations. For example, Million Hearts strategies align closely with Maryland’s Community Transformation Grant priorities that support active living, tobacco-free living, healthy eating, and quality clinical and other preventive services to improve the control of cholesterol and blood pressure.

Public health leaders, administrators, researchers, and program directors also work closely with Maryland’s State Health Improvement Process (SHIP) to provide a framework for accountability, local action, and public engagement as to advance the health of Marylanders, while public health professionals at the local level oversee SHIP implementation through the coordination of local health improvement coalitions. Maryland’s Million Hearts also leverages health information technology partners and clinical and public health data to track the progress of the initiative’s activities.

Thanks to their interdisciplinary education, master’s-prepared public health policy experts and program administrators are the clear choice for leading wide-reaching initiatives at the local, state, regional, national, and even international level.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Maryland

The gold standard among leaders in health policy, health communication, global health, and program planning and evaluation, among others is the Master of Public Health (MPH). An MPH degree accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) encompasses the MPH Core Competency Model developed and endorsed by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH).

MPH Program Structure and Content

Graduate students in CEPH-accredited MPH programs receive a broad, interdisciplinary education in the five traditional core areas of public health, as well as the seven interdisciplinary/cross-cutting areas of public health. These competencies prepare graduates to work across any number of disciplines, sectors, and settings in public health:

Traditional Core Competencies of Public Health:

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

Interdisciplinary/Cross-Cutting Areas of Public Health:

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

Most MPH programs take about two years to complete, although a number of institutions offer MPH degrees in an accelerated format, which allow students to complete the program in just one year through a more demanding schedule. Many MPH programs also offer students the option of completing their coursework through online study or on a part-time basis.

Admission Requirements

Admission into an accredited MPH degree program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most programs accept students with a wide array of undergraduate degrees, provided they have completed certain undergraduate prerequisites, which often include:

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

Other typical admission requirements include:

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA
  • Minimum GRE scores (or other standardized test scores, such as the MCAT)
  • Work experience in an area of clinical or public health (executive programs)
  • Letters of recommendation

MPH Program Options/Focus Areas

Not all MPH programs feature a similar design. Although the core of these programs adheres to the MPH Core Competency Model, many programs allow students to customize their master’s degree in public health by choosing one or more focus areas.

Focus areas usually consist of a group of courses totaling about 10 to 15 credits. Although the number and type of focus areas vary from one MPH program to the next, many institutions offer the following focus areas:

Health Policy: A focus area in health policy allows students to study the advancement of contemporary health policy education, research, and service, all of which aim to improve public health and health service at all levels. Students focused on health policy will learn about the many aspects of communication and leadership, including the strategic use of marketing tools to work collaboratively with a broad range of public health experts.

For example, public health leaders in health policy work to recruit community and school leaders to join Healthiest Maryland!, a statewide movement designed to create and implement strategic wellness plans and promote policy and environment changes in Maryland.

Coursework in a health policy focus area includes:

  • Monitoring and evaluating reproductive health programs in low- and middle-income countries
  • Public health and law
  • Qualitative research methods in public health
  • Global health diplomacy
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Program Planning and Evaluation: A focus on program planning and evaluation allows students to develop, improve, and critique public health program plans and evaluations aimed at health promotion and/or disease prevention.

Public health professionals in programming planning and evaluation may work for the Maryland Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System, which collects and analyzes data on maternal behaviors and experiences that may be associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes. Their work is aimed at analyzing information on everything from smoking and alcohol use to maternal stress and infant health.

Coursework in a program planning and evaluation focus area includes:

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

Health Communication: A focus on health communication within an MPH program allows students to gain expertise in the strategic use of communication and marketing tools, both of which will allow them to work collaboratively with a broad range of public health experts involved in high-impact health enhancement initiatives.

For example, public health administrators, educators, and program directors working with the Maryland Million Hearts Initiative create new programs, help improve health across communities, and help Maryland citizens live longer, more productive lives.

Coursework in a health communication focus area includes:

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

Global Health: A focus on global health allows students to tackle some of the most pressing global health issues. Students learn the skills required to contribute to the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies at all levels to improve the health and well-being of underserved populations.

A few examples of global health organizations include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Food Programme (WFP).

Coursework in a global health focus area includes:

  • Researching violence against women and girls
  • Preventing health disparities
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Global health communication interventions

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

Maryland’s public health educators, directors, and administrators, the majority of whom possess master’s degrees, lead the charge in protecting and improving the health of families and communities through education, research, and disease control.

Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation reveals a positive job outlook for many public health professionals from 2012 to 2022. Job growth for some key public health professions in Maryland during this ten-year projection period are as follows:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 9 percent
  • Statisticians: 18 percent
  • Microbiologists: 2 percent
  • Epidemiologists: 8 percent
  • Social Scientists: 7 percent
  • Sociologists: 9 percent
  • Rehabilitation Counselors:7 percent

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

In addition to positive job growth projections for Maryland public health professionals, salaries for these leaders remains equally impressive, according to recent statistics published by Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation. The following salary ranges reveal the lowest 10 percent (entry-level) and top 10 percent (experienced) of earners in the following professions, as of 2014:

  • Community and Social Service Specialists: $27,856-$52,376
  • Statisticians: $72,471-$113,431
  • Microbiologists: $68,462-$127,696
  • Epidemiologists: $56,696-$88,798
  • Social Scientists: $57,569-$108,150
  • Sociologists: $48,178-$109,899
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $22,782-$38,109
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Career Opportunities for Maryland’s Master’s-Prepared Public Health Professionals

Career opportunities for Maryland’s master’s-prepared public health professionals abound in all sectors, from local, state, regional, and national governmental entities to nonprofit organizations and academic institutions.

The following job descriptions, sourced in December 2015, do not imply a guarantee the availability of jobs in public health in Maryland; however, they do provide a good deal of insight regarding the types of jobs MPH graduates can expect to have access to when entering or advancing in the profession:

Senior Specialist, Global Health, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Silver Spring

  • Responsibilities
    • Manages and implements all activities related to support for the CDC
    • Coordinates with the CDC in-country laboratory leads and the director, global health programs to identify technical assistance needs, plan strategies, and implement country project activities
  • Requirements
    • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree in public health or a laboratory science and at least 5 years of progressive experience
    • An advanced degree may be substituted for work experience

Senior Program Specialist, Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, University of Maryland, Baltimore

  • Responsibilities:
    • Involves an advanced level of work planning, development, implementation, and evaluation in the area of public education and outreach
    • Plans, develops, refines, implements, and evaluates public education, outreach, and recall activities
  • Requirements:
    • Minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field
    • Minimum of 3 years of related health education/communication experience
    • Master’s degree in public health preferred

Manager, Program Evaluation, Association of Public Health Laboratories, Silver Spring

  • Responsibilities:
    • Establishes a strong institutional foundation for program evaluation, monitoring, and adoption
    • Works collaboratively with staff, members, partner agencies, and other stakeholders to evaluate projects utilizing sound protocols to determine measureable outcomes
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health, epidemiology, statistics, or a related social science
    • At least 8 years of demonstrated experience