Public Health Career Education in Minnesota

Minnesota’s public health system is strong and effective, built upon a partnership between the Minnesota Department of Public Health (MDH), local public health agencies, tribal governments, and non-profit organizations at nearly every level. The mission of the MDH is to protect, maintain, and improve the health of all Minnesotans. And with more than 1,500 employees and an annual budget of $500 million, MDH is poised for continued success.

In fact, the North Star State now ranks as the third healthiest state in the nation, according to the United Health Foundation’s annual America’s Health Rankings list. This ranking is due, in large part, to the state’s low rate of cardiovascular deaths and its low percentage of uninsured citizens, among other factors.

Thanks to the efforts of Minnesota’s public health leaders, administrators, program directors, and educators, among others:

  • Smoking among Minnesota adults decreased 3 percent in the past two years, from 19 percent to 16 percent
  • Low birthweight infants decreased 4 percent in the past five years
  • Cardiovascular deaths decreased 47 percent since 1990

Contemporary public health programs in Minnesota and throughout the nation require public health directors, administrators, program evaluators and educators who possess the expertise to lead effective initiatives. Increasingly, employers require these professionals to possess an interdisciplinary graduate-level education, which is best achieved by earning the Master of Public Health (MPH).

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Minnesota

The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health’s (ASPPH) MPH Core Competency Model has long served as the trusted template for the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. Schools of public health and public health programs in the U.S. accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) include interdisciplinary coursework in all areas outlined in the Core Competency Model. It comes as no surprise, then, that many employers now seek MPH graduates of CEPH-accredited programs.

Core Competencies of the MPH

The MPH Core Competency Model identifies five, traditional core areas of public health and seven interdisciplinary/cross-cutting areas of 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:

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

MPH Program Options

Many of today’s MPH programs provide students with a number of options for completing their course of study:

  • Part-time MPH programs: Unlike a traditional, two-year MPH degree program, part-time programs provide students with a more flexible schedule. Many programs allow students up to four years to complete their MPH.
  • Executive MPH programs: Executive MPH degree programs, designed for professionals already working in public health, provide students with flexible program options, such as web-based and weekend courses.
  • Accelerated MPH programs: Accelerated MPH programs provide students with an accelerated course of study that allows them to complete their MPH program in about a year.

Focus Areas

In addition to featuring a core course of study in the areas of public health as identified in the MPH Core Competency Model, many MPH programs allow students to customize their master’s degree by choosing one or more focus areas in public health. Each focus area consists of a handful of courses consisting of between 10 and 15 credits. Students may also choose additional electives, as desired.

Although focus areas may differ from one institution to the next, many of today’s leading MPH programs offer the following focus areas:

Health Communication

Health communication involves the use of communication and marketing tools that improve the exchange of information with a wide range of public health experts regarding health enhancement initiatives.

For example, Minnesota’s Comprehensive Cancer Control (CCC) is a collaborative process that involves pooling community resources to reduce the burden of cancer. The public health professionals skilled in health communication plan and implement a coordinated and integrated approach to addressing the continuum of cancer control, from prevention and detection to treatment, survivorship, and end-of-life care.

A focus area in health communication includes courses in:

  • Leadership seminar
  • Preventing health disparities
  • Global health communication interventions
  • Social marketing

Health Policy: The study of health policy in public health involves tools and approaches for advancing education, research, and service in an effort to improve public health programs and initiatives at any level.

A prime example of health policy in action in Minnesota is the state’s landmark healthcare reform legislation, which now encompasses a number of initiatives, such as the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which works to improve health and prevent illness by partnering with schools, communities, clinics, and employers and providing education and services.

A focus area in health policy includes courses in:

  • Qualitative research methods in public health
  • Public health and law
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Leadership seminar
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Program Planning and Evaluation: Program planning and evaluation aims to achieve public health goals through planning, design, implementation and evaluation of programs based on research aimed at health promotion and disease prevention.

One such public health entity is the MDH Infectious Disease Division, which monitors the occurrence of infectious diseases, develops strategies for preventing and controlling disease, while working to put these strategies into action.

A focus in program planning and evaluation includes courses in:

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

Global Health: Global health involves assessing the burden and determinants of health problems in underserved low- or middle-class populations, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Many U.S. governmental agencies focus much of their efforts on advancing global health, including the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and many others.

A focus in global health includes courses in:

  • Researching violence against women and girls
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Environmental and occupational epidemiology
  • Preventing health disparities

Admission Requirements

Admission into an MPH degree program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. While some students possess undergraduate degrees in a clinical health discipline or in areas such as business, health administration or public administration, many students entering these programs come from a wide array of backgrounds, with undergrad degrees in the physical sciences, health sciences, and the liberal arts, among others.

Although most MPH programs accept students that possess a variety of undergrad degrees, they do require students to show proof of the completion of a number of undergraduate prerequisites in math, biology, and the health sciences (physiology, anatomy, nutrition, etc.).

Other admission requirements generally include:

  • Minimum undergraduate GPA
  • Minimum standardized test score (GRE, MCAT, GMAT, LSAT)
  • Admissions essay
  • Letters of recommendation

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

Public health professionals in Minnesota are on the pulse of public health programs and initiatives at the local, state, and federal levels, working to eliminate health disparities among Minnesota citizens, reducing environmental health risks like pollution, and encouraging people to make healthy choices, and much more.

It’s no wonder then that job growth for many of the jobs associated with master’s-prepared public health professionals remain strong through 2022. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development reports growth for the following public health professions between 2012 and 2022:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 11 percent
  • Statisticians: 26.2 percent
  • Microbiologists: 13 percent
  • Epidemiologists: 4.5 percent
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 13 percent

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

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revealed the following salary ranges for public health professions for master’s-prepared professionals (lowest 10 percent and highest 10 percent), as of 2014:

  • Social scientists: $52,230-$104,670
  • Sociologists: $33,910-$92,360
  • Statisticians: $ 33,830-$89,260
  • Microbiologists: $33,420-$125,570
  • Epidemiologists: $39,680-$69,800
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $18,090-$57,260
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Career Opportunities for Minnesota’s Master’s-Prepared Public Health Professionals

Public health professionals in Minnesota enjoy a broad array of job opportunities in government, nonprofit, academia, research, and private entities. The following job descriptions, sourced in January 2016, do not provide a guarantee of employment, but they do provide MPH graduates with a general idea of the many types of careers available to them throughout Minnesota:

Public Health and Human Services Director, St. Louis County, Duluth

  • Responsibilities:
    • Manages operations and staff involved in providing children and family services
    • Manages financial assistance, child care, and foster care licensing, management of individuals, and public health services
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in human services, social services, public health, public administration, or a related field
    • Five years of experience at an executive management level human services agency

Director, Public Health, West St. Paul

  • Responsibilities:
    • Implements effective community-based health promotion strategies primarily in nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco
    • Focuses on policy, systems, and environmental change
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree or higher in public health, health education, nutrition/food science, health policy, human services, or a related area
    • Master’s degree in public health or a related field preferred

Program Director, Children and Family Services, Hmong American Partnership, Saint Paul

  • Responsibilities:
    • Manages all program activities to ensure participants receive program services in a timely and respectful manager
    • Ensures all program outcomes are consistently achieved
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree in social work, public administration, policy, management, leadership and/or related field
    • Master’s degree preferred