Public Health Career Education in North Dakota

Fracking on the Bakken shale deposit created thousands of new oil wells and changed the face of the oil industry in North Dakota. A rush of eager jobseekers accompanied the drilling of these wells between 2010 and 2015, causing North Dakota to now have the largest concentration of men of any state other than Alaska. This sudden influx of men created a slew of new health and safety risks that are challenging the state’s public health and emergency services agencies, prompting them to rethink the way they have been approaching public health.

Between 2005 and 2013, violent crime, aggravated assault, forcible rape, and robbery increased by 125 percent according to the state’s Uniform Crime Reports. According to those same reports, calls to police tripled from 2006 to 2011. In particular, sex crimes and the resulting trauma have been a major issue for the people of North Dakota. Authorities speculate that the influx of people coupled with the state’s proximity to the Canadian border make it uniquely susceptible to the dangers of illegal and underage sex trafficking.

The North Dakota Public Health Association responded with its Blue Campaign, a comprehensive trafficking awareness program meant to educate the public on ways they can protect themselves from traffickers and to provide outlets for the abused and enslaved victims of trafficking.

The Blue Campaign was bolstered in 2015 by a partnership with the Department of Homeland Security, which allowed it to expand its efforts into major airports, truck stops, and gas stations across the region. These are all areas identified by the DHS as high risk for victims of trafficking, and this new partnership has opened doors for the Blue Campaign to make a substantial impact on the flow of illegal sex workers into the state.

The success of this program is in part due to the hard work and effort of highly educated public health professionals, men and women who have dedicated their lives to building and caring for the systems that organizations across the world use to keep the public safe and healthy.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in North Dakota

Earning a Master of Public Health provides students with a platform built on a rigorous interdisciplinary education, preparing them for leadership positions in health policy development, program administration and evaluation, public health communication, epidemiology and more.

Online and part time MPH programs help to provide a degree of flexibility that can help even the busiest of professionals earn a valuable graduate degree.

MPH programs welcome students with a wide variety of undergraduate degrees and professional backgrounds. A background in psychology, business administration, healthcare, teaching and more can all contribute to becoming an effective leader in the public health domain. MPH graduate students would do well to consider using their bachelor’s degree as a way to diversify their long-term career options.

MPH Program Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) has set the accreditation standards for MPH programs since 2004. CEPH accredited programs are built around the MPH Core Competency Model developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH). These competencies are:

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

The ASPH also identified seven interdisciplinary areas of focus that they believe are necessary for a graduate to function in a contemporary public health setting:

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

Areas of Specialization

MPH programs usually offer a handful of specializations that allow students to focus their studies in a particular area most relevant to their career goals. While different institutions may offer their own specializations, the following are some of the most common and useful in the professional world.

Health Communication: In March of 2016, the North Dakota Department of Health will host a series of presentations as a part of a conference on the monitoring and treatment of quality water. Water treatment and maintenance can be a complex issue as health workers strive to deal with environmental factors and industrial pollutants to ensure that clean water is safe for consumption.

Planning, executing, and advertising a conference like this is the job of a health communication specialist. Informing and educating the public and professionals alike about potential health and safety risks is an important part of ensuring that private and government programs are able to make an impact. A health communication specialization can equip an MPH student with the tools they need to design and advertise their own programming for a wide array of subjects.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Leadership Seminar
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing and Research for Public Health

Health Policy:Rural Health Reform Policy Research is an organization responsible for measuring the impact of health reform policies in rural and frontier communities. Centered out of North Dakota, the organization has used resources provided by the University of North Dakota to expand its reach throughout the entire region. Their monitoring helps to inform providers and policymakers alike about the efficacy of their programs and legislation. This uniquely positions reform researchers to influence future health services through their expert analysis and passionate commitment to reform.

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Experts like these develop the skills they need to design and analyze policy in a specialized MPH program. This health policy focus teaches students how to develop and communicate quality policy and react to public and private concerns related to their programs.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Public Health and Law
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Leadership Seminar
  • Law, Medicine and Ethics

Program Planning and Evaluation:Child Care Aware of North Dakota is an organization dedicated to operating successful childcare programs by balancing sound business practices with a systematic approach to childcare. They provide a variety of resources to parents and businesses alike that can help people to ensure that the care they are providing for their children is of the highest quality.

They do this by relying on program planning and evaluation specialists who have the skills to aid in the development of successful programs and the tools to monitor those programs for potential risks. This public health specialization helps teach students how to take the pulse of their programs, successful or otherwise, and equips them with a better understanding of data analysis and research methodology that is absolutely invaluable for healthy initiatives.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Public Health
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing Research for Public Health

Global Health: The advent of penicillin changed the course of human history, leading to the containment and even eradication of some of the deadliest diseases ever encountered by mankind. However, modern bacteria are beginning to develop resistances to certain antibiotics, seriously hampering the efforts of health professionals around the world. These diseases can easily spread globally due to the widespread nature of international travel. This means that implementing new health policy designed to contain the spread of resistant bacteria and to reduce the use of effective antibiotics is a decisively global concern.

This is exactly the kind of issue that a global health specialization prepares MPH students to tackle. A global health MPH program is designed to teach students about the major global health concerns faced today by organizations around the world. Alongside this, it helps to give students a global perspective, teaching them how to make an impact in their local community.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Global Health Diplomacy
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
  • Climate Change and Social Change

Admission Requirements

Master’s programs each have their own unique academic requirements, but most will require some variation of the following for admission:

  • Submission of GRE, LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT
  • Submission of official transcripts from all other undergraduate and graduate institutions
  • Submission of a 500-1000 word purpose essay
  • Resume
  • Two letters of recommendation

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

Part time programs can add a layer of flexibility to an MPH that would allow working professionals to achieve their academic goals in 3-4 years without compromising professional obligations.

Most MPH programs also offer an accelerated one-year option that can help students earn their degree in as little as 12 months.

Job Growth Projections for North Dakota’s Public Health Professionals

Public health careers are on the rise according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Projections for the next 10 years show that much of the public health industry is expanding and experiencing significant growth The following are growth projections for North Dakota in 2015 and 2016:

  • Social and Community Service Managers-19%
  • Statisticians-34%
  • Microbiologists-13%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors-19%
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Salaries in North Dakota for Public Health Professions that Require a Master’s Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics provided the following figures for public health jobs in North Dakota in 2014. The salaries below range from the bottom tenth percentile to the 90th percentile.

  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $31,110 to $58 670
  • Statistician: $42,010 to $95,040
  • Biological Scientists: $28,280 to $90,350
  • Social and Community Service Managers: $42,050 to $80,430
  • Microbiologists: $39,930 to $65,660