Public Health Career Education in Mississippi

The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), the Mississippi Public Health Institute, and a wide array of partners across many sectors are dedicated to improving the health and well-being of Mississippi’s most vulnerable populations.

The MSDH administers more than 200 programs and provides a broad range of services that reflect the goals of other agencies. Some of the programs the MSDH oversees include:

  • WIC Program: Provides supplemental foods to eligible women and children to age five
  • Early Intervention Program: Provides services for children with disabilities from birth to age three to prepare them to enter the educational system
  • Rural Water Systems Improvements Loan Program: Helps communities assure safe drinking water for their citizens
  • Preventive Health: Collaborates with other agencies and organizations to improve policies that support healthful practices across the lifespan

The MSSH evaluates the overall health of Mississippians and Mississippi communities at both the district and state level, bringing together a wide variety of public, private, and voluntary entities that contribute to the health, safety, and well-being of Mississippi citizens.

The broad scope of these initiatives and the many partners involved in the implementation and operation of programs require skilled public health administrators, program directors, educators, and program evaluators that possess a comprehensive foundation of knowledge in public health, most often achieved through earning a Master of Public Health (MPH).

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Mississippi

The Master of Public Health (MPH) has become the gold standard among post-secondary degrees in public health.

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) ensures that all accredited MPH programs encompasses an interdisciplinary course of study that includes the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health’s (ASPPH) MPH Core Competency Model.

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

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

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

Program Options

Although the structure of MPH programs tends to be distinctly similar, given they include the same core areas of study in public health, many of today’s programs provide flexible schedules to accommodate students with different professional goals and needs:

  • Part-time programs allow students to extend their course of study to ease the demands of a full-time program
  • Accelerated programs allow students to take on a more condensed course of study and earn an MPH in just one year
  • Executive MPH programs accommodate working professionals through a number of unique offerings, such as weekend courses and online study
  • Online programs allow students to complete part or all of their MPH through web-based study

Program Focus Areas

In addition to providing students with an interdisciplinary program of study in public health, accredited MPH programs often provide students with the opportunity to focus on one or more key topics. These focus areas include blocks of courses consisting of between 10 and 15 credits.

The following focus areas, although not available in all MPH programs, are indicative of focus areas found in many of today’s leading MPH programs:

Health Communication: Health communication allows public health professionals to work collaboratively using a variety of communication and marketing tools. Social media plays an important role in health communication and the advancement of health policy initiatives, making health communication a popular area of study for aspiring policy developers and program administrators.

Health communication is used to promote the Mississippi Partnership for Comprehensive Cancer Control, a group of individuals and organizations working together to create a statewide cancer plan. To date, over 100 members have joined and participated in a coalition of work groups that created and implemented the Comprehensive Cancer Control plan.

Courses frequently found in a health communication focus area include:

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

Health Policy: The goal of health policy in public health is to advance health policy education, research, and analysis. Professionals in health policy use their expertise in communication and marketing to work with a wide array of public health professionals to promote public health initiatives.

A good example of health policy in action is the Mississippi Community Research Fellows Training, which enhances community knowledge and understanding of research, while creating a pool of trained community members who can participate more actively in research and address the health issues of their community.

  • 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 developing, improving, and analyzing public health programs. Program planning and evaluation professionals in public health manage, implement, assess, and evaluate health promotion and education programs for the public.

Public health professionals in Mississippi working in program and evaluation focus their efforts on programs such as the MSDH’s Communities Putting Prevention to Work, a state initiative working through the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Professionals working in this initiative focus on policy, systems, and environmental change.

Courses frequently found in a program planning and evaluation focus area include:

  • Researching violence against women and girls
  • Qualitative research methods in public health
  • Monitoring and evaluation of sexual and reproductive health programs in low- and middle-income countries
  • Social marketing

Global Health: Global health professionals in public health contribute to the development, implementation, and evaluation of policies at the local, national, regional, and international levels that affect the most vulnerable populations.

UNICEF, for example, is a leading humanitarian and development agency that works globally for the rights of every child. This includes safe shelter, nutrition, protection from disaster, and conflict, as well as prenatal care for health births, clean water and sanitation, healthcare, and education.

Courses frequently found in a global health focus area include:

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

Admission Requirements

Admission into an MPH degree program requires a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. While some students enter these programs with undergraduate degrees in areas such as public administration, business administration, or in a clinical discipline, most MPH programs do not require a specific undergraduate major. However, incoming graduate students must possess a number of undergraduate prerequisites, such as:

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

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

Public health leaders and administrators in Mississippi protect the state’s most vulnerable citizens and communities through programs aimed at everything from disease surveillance and environmental protection to injury prevention and comprehensive reproductive health. Therefore, many jobs in public health that require master’s-prepared professionals show positive job projections in coming years.

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security revealed positive job growth projections for the following public health careers between 2010 and 2020:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 8.3 percent
  • Epidemiologists: 14.3 percent
  • Social Scientists: 8.8 percent
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 6.5 percent

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

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security also reported the salary ranges (entry-level to experienced) for the following master’s-prepared public health careers in Mississippi, as of April 2015:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $29,960-$53,760
  • Statisticians: $27,340-$71,500
  • Microbiologists: $44,930-$90,550
  • Epidemiologists: $29,720-$45,290
  • Social Scientists: $41,800-$76,110
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $25,080-$38,060
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Career Opportunities for Mississippi’s Master’s-Prepared Public Health Professionals

Master’s-prepared public health leaders in Mississippi enjoy professional opportunities in a wide array of sectors and settings. The following job descriptions (sourced in January 2016) provide insight into the types of public health jobs often available in Mississippi (Examples shown for illustrative purposes only and are not meant to imply a job offer or assurance of employment.):

Family and Community Engagement Manager, Early Head Start Childcare Partnership, Indianola

  • Responsibilities:
    • Manages parent involvement activities
    • Supervises coordinators and lead family and community engagement staff
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree in early childhood development, social work, human services, public health, or public administration
    • Master’s degree preferred
    • Five years of relevant experience working with children and families

Health Education Specialist Project Manager, ORISE

  • Responsibilities:
    • Develops and provides health information to the public, health organizations, and other stakeholders
    • Designs, implements, and evaluates health education and health communication projects for federal agencies
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health , health sciences, or a related field
    • At least four years of related experience