Public Health Career Education in Nebraska

In fiscal year 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the federal Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) provided $129 million in funding for public health initiatives in Nebraska. Six years later that number had increased by about 12 percent to $159 million, representing an average of $83.93 for every resident of Nebraska.

Secure funding combined with a growing population and ever-present public health threats make Nebraska an ideal place in which to effect change in this field. Nebraska’s Division of Public Health provides a good example of the types of public health activities that take place throughout the state, in addition to traditional services in this field:

  • Indoor air quality testing – Nebraska’s cold winters and hot summers, combined with increasingly efficient home insulation, is making indoor air quality an important public health issue
  • Epidemiology – West Nile Virus, Bird Flu, and the Hantavirus have all been detected in Nebraska
  • Rural health – according to the Nebraska Rural Health Association, approximately 46.2 percent of Nebraskans live in rural areas or small cities, making the delivery of public health services in these areas of vital importance

The US Department of Labor identifies public health policy professionals, program administrators and evaluators, epidemiologists, statisticians and community service directors as requiring a master’s-level education through a customized curriculum in a Master of Public Health (MPH) program.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MHP) in Nebraska

The Master of Public Health (MPH) is the common denominator among professionals in this field who hold advanced positions in a multitude of areas of specialization, both in government and the nonprofit sector. MPH programs are designed for experienced professionals looking to advance through a current career trajectory, as well as those with a bachelor’s degree in another field looking to transition to careers in public health.

Many MPH programs offer an online option for completion, allowing students the possibility to maintain their current career while completing their education at their preferred pace, including full-time and part-time studies.

MPH Admission Requirements

Each MPH program has its own unique admissions requirements, with common standards including:

  • Current CV or résumé
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Bachelor’s degree in any subject
  • Completion of certain undergraduate prerequisite courses
  • Completion of the GRE or other tests such as the MCAT, GMAT, or LSAT
  • Personal statement on the subject of a student’s professional goals and motivations

Academic Overview

For decades the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) has defined the quality of education in MPH programs. Emphasizing an interdisciplinary approach, CEPH-accredited MPH programs ensure graduates are adept in several core-competency areas:

  • Health policy and management
  • Social and behavioral sciences
  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health sciences
  • Epidemiology

In addition to the five core-competency areas, CEPH-accredited programs also ensure their graduates are well-versed in areas that are particularly important for developing effective policy, health communication, leadership, program evaluation and more:

  • Diversity and culture
  • Communication and informatics
  • Professionalism
  • Program planning
  • Leadership
  • Public health biology
  • Systems thinking

Areas of Specialization and Focus

MPH graduate schools will often offer their students the choice of specializing in a particular area within this broad field. The following areas of focus are some of the most relevant for public health leaders:

Health Communication: Those focusing on this subject study marketing and communication strategies to achieve public health goals in challenging environments. The Nebraska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program in Omaha is an example of one public health organization that works in this field, providing information to rural residents in under-served locations regarding health and wellness resources.

Courses covered within this specialization can include:

  • Leadership
  • Global health communication interventions
  • Disparities in public health
  • Social marketing
  • Research and marketing for public health
  • 10-15 semester credits total

Health Policy: This focus deals with public health policy, its formulation and development, and lobbying to achieve public health goals. The Public Health Association of Nebraska is the best state-level example of a professional organization that also has a significant influence on public health policy with lobbying efforts directed at local, state, and federal representatives.

Subjects covered within this specialization can include:

  • Leadership
  • Evaluation and monitoring of contagious diseases
  • Qualitative research methods for public health
  • Public health law
  • Global health and diplomacy
  • Medicine, law, and ethics
  • 10-15 semester credits total
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Program Planning and Evaluation: Students pursuing this concentration study public health planning, assessments, implementation, and management. The 2011-2016 action plan Nebraska Comprehensive Cancer Control report is a good example of what these public health professionals do. This report details how state, local, and private-sector actors will work together to tackle the challenges posed by cancer throughout Nebraska.

Course subjects covered within this specialization can include:

  • Monitoring and evaluation of transmittable diseases
  • Conducting domestic violence research
  • Qualitative research methods in public health
  • Marketing research for public health
  • Social marketing
  • 10-15 semester credits total

Global Health: Public health has global and local elements, with this specialization covering both and emphasizing its global aspects. Epidemiologists with the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services collect local data from throughout the state in support of global health monitoring to address public health threats like rabies, West Nile Virus, arboviruses, and influenza.

Course subjects covered within this specialization can include:

  • Evaluation and monitoring of contagious diseases
  • Researching violence against girls and women
  • Communication during global health intervention
  • Prevention of disparities in health
  • Global health diplomacy
  • Climate and social change
  • Occupational and environmental epidemiology
  • 10-15 semester credits total

Completing an MPH Program on a Part-Time or Accelerated Schedule

Every school has its own schedule requirements for completing an MPH program. Online schools in particular may offer options for fast-track completion as well as part-time completion. Both types of programs typically involve the completion of the same amount of credits and classes found in a traditional-length program.

Accelerated MPH programs may allow for the possibility for completion in 12 months. Students enrolling in this type of program should be prepared for an intensive course load and be ready to make a strong commitment to study.

Part-time programs allow for completion from between two and four years. These are designed to be especially flexible for working students.

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

As a foundational element of Nebraska’s essential services, public health and those who dedicate their careers to this field, can expect growing support over the long term. In just the past six years the state’s public health budget has increased by approximately 12 percent. This is in part due to the increasing demand Nebraska’s elderly residents are placing on public health. As of 2014 the US Census Bureau identifies 14.4 percent of the state’s population – 270,936 Nebraskans – as being at least 65 years or older.

The Nebraska Department of Labor projects that the following public health jobs will see growth during the ten-year period leading up to 2022:

  • Social and Community Services Managers – 15 percent increase
  • Statisticians – 24 percent
  • Microbiologists – 15 percent (more than twice the national average)
  • Biological Scientists, All Other – 8 percent growth (more than four times the national average)
  • Epidemiologists – 5 percent growth
  • Social Scientists – 12 percent growth (six times the national average)
  • Rehabilitation Counselors – 13 percent growth

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

The following salary figures show entry-level (10th percentile) and advanced (90th percentile) salaries for public health professionals in Nebraska (provided by the US Department of Commerce, 2014):

  • Social and Community Services Managers – $36,410 to $82,760
  • Statisticians – $34,460 to $90,340
  • Microbiologists – $38,660 to $110,670
  • Biological Scientists, All Other – $28,270 to $96,110
  • Epidemiologists – $45,570 to $92,720
  • Rehabilitation Counselors – $23,580 to $46,890
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Career Opportunities for Nebraska’s Master’s-Prepared Public Health Professionals

The following job titles are examples of what public health professionals may find in Nebraska. These are actual vacancy announcements taken from a survey completed throughout the state in January 2016 (these job descriptions are shown as illustrative examples only and do not represent job offers or the assurance of employment):

Program Manager at the Nebraska Area Health Education Center (AHEC) Program in Omaha

The goal of the state’s health workforce development initiative AHEC is to recruit, train, and retain healthcare professionals to work in under-served communities. As the program manager, this incumbent is responsible for providing the overall leadership and management within this particular AHEC program.

Applicants must have a master’s degree in any of the following fields:

  • Health Administration or a related field, such as Public Health
  • Management and Leadership
  • Business


Senior Database Analyst with the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha

Working in the hospital’s infection control and epidemiology department, this professional is responsible for constructing databases and analyzing the data produced in these to further business and healthcare goals.

Applicants for this position must have a bachelor’s degree, while preferred applicants hold any of the following master’s degrees:

  • Public Health
  • Computer Science
  • Finance
  • Management Information Systems
  • Business

Health Educator with Doane College in Crete

Improving health risk behavior among Doane College’s students is the primary duty of this incumbent, who must also work closely with other offices on campus. This means developing, directing, and implementing relevant campus initiatives or activities.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree, while preferred applicants hold a master’s degree and have experience in any of these areas:

  • Public health
  • Health/wellness education
  • Student affairs
  • Higher education administration