Public Health Career Education in South Dakota

In April of 2015, the non-profit health advocacy group, Trust for America’s Health, published a report detailing the state of public health funding in the United States. The report revealed that in 2014 alone, South Dakota received federal grants to the tune of $52,600,057 to support public health initiatives in the state.

Federal grants coming through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accounted for $25,421,244, while the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) was responsible for the remaining $27,178,813. This money was distributed through the South Dakota Department of Health to the dozens of community health services offices located throughout the state to support the public health programs and education campaigns the state’s residents have come to rely on.

These figures help show the enormity of South Dakota’s public health system, which ranks 25th in the nation in terms of highest state public health budget based on per capita spending.

This funding has had real and measurable results. In 2014, about 37% of the public health funding from the CDC ($9.3 million) was allocated to promote childhood vaccination. This resulted in one of South Dakota’s most successful public health campaigns, and earned the state a position among the top ten states in the nation with the highest childhood immunization rates, according to the CDC’s 2014 survey examining vaccination trends among children aged 19 to 35 months.

An interdisciplinary graduate-level education remains the common thread among the professionals who develop public health policy and implement and manage programs designed to improve the health and quality of life of South Dakota’s most vulnerable residents.

Master’s Degrees in Public Health Available in South Dakota

An interdisciplinary master’s degree in public health helps position professionals for the best possible career opportunities in policy development and program design and implementation. The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is designed for public health professionals interested in career advancement, as well as bachelor’s-educated professionals from any number of backgrounds interested in pursuing a career in public health policy and/or program development.

Convenient part-time online MPH programs provide the flexibility that working professionals need to earn a graduate degree while remaining active members of the workforce.

A bachelor’s degree in any major obtained from a regionally accredited 4-year university is generally considered acceptable for most MPH programs.

Academic Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) sets accreditation standards for master’s degree programs in public health. CEPH-accredited programs incorporate the five core competencies laid out in the MPH Core Competency Model developed by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH) in 2004:

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

The ASPH also developed seven interdisciplinary areas of focus in the interest of providing students with the skills necessary to function in contemporary public health settings and to succeed in any realm of public health:

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

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for master’s degree programs in public health may differ by school. While not universal, the list below shows some of the most common admission requirements for MPH programs:

  • Submission of current official GRE scores; applicants who have taken the LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT or who currently hold a graduate degree are exempt from the GRE requirement
  • Submission of official transcripts from all academic institutions attended.
  • Submission of statement of purpose essay (500-1,500 words)
  • Submission of current resume
  • Submission of two letters of recommendation

Focus Areas and Specialization

MPH programs often offer additional focus areas within the curriculum aimed at preparing students to face the unique challenges of working within the interconnected global health community. While the focus areas listed below are not universal, they exemplify some of the options for specialization found within MPH programs:

Health Communication: Designed for those interested in mastering the communication and marketing skills necessary to influence public health objectives. South Dakota’s Flu Bug Campaign is one example of a public health program reliant on leadership, communication and marketing.

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Leadership Seminar
  • Global Health Communication Interventions
  • Preventing Health Disparities
  • Social Marketing
  • Marketing and Research for Public Health
  • Total of 10-15 credits

Health Policy: Designed for those interested in improving public health policy in the United States and abroad. In 2013, the South Dakota Department of Health, along with several healthcare entities throughout the state, coalesced to form the Antimicrobial Stewardship Workgroup with a focus on developing health policy designed to effectively combat and control the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections. In 2015, national policy followed suit when the National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria was released.

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
  • Total of 10-15 credits
Sponsored Content

Program Planning and Evaluation: Designed for those interested in evaluating the efficacy of health programs and developing new ideas and ways in which to make public health programs more beneficial to the consumer. Some of the public health programs in South Dakota include All Women Count!, South Dakota Bright Start, Good & Healthy South Dakota, QuitLine, and the Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program.

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
  • Total of 10-15 credits

Global Health: Designed for those interested in developing policies aimed at lessening the effect of global health issues on local communities as well as at the national and global level. Global health programs include the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and Feed the Future (FTF).

Courses within this specialization may include:

  • Monitoring and Evaluation of Sexual and Reproductive Health Programs in Low- and Middle-Income Countries – 2 credits
  • Researching Violence Against Women and Girls – 2 credits
  • Global Health Communication Interventions – 2 credits
  • Preventing Health Disparities – 2 credits
  • Global Health Diplomacy – 2 credits
  • Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology – 3 credits
  • Climate Change and Social Change – 2 credits
  • Total of 10-15 credits

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

The accelerated one-year option allows students to obtain their master’s degree in public health in just 12 months. The one-year option follows the same curriculum and covers the same course content as the traditional online and campus-based MPH program. However, students on the accelerated one-year track follow a more aggressive and time-consuming schedule.

The part-time option allows students more flexibility when it comes to completing their MPH degree, and in fact, some schools allow up to four years for completion of the MPH program on a part-time basis.

Job Growth Projections for Master’s-Educated Public Health Professionals in South Dakota

Between 2015 and 2035, the population of South Dakota residents aged 65 and older is expected to increase by 95%, according to the data sheet titled “What’s HOTT? Health Occupations for Today & Tomorrow,” published by the South Dakota Department of Health. This is just one reason why the healthcare industry is slated to be one of the biggest growth sectors in the state between 2012 and 2022. Public health initiatives aimed at health promotion and disease prevention are essential to the state’s vulnerable population of elderly residents. This has resulted in a growing demand for skilled public health policy professionals and program directors in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics report the following job growth projections for public health occupations in South Dakota between 2012 and 2022:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 7.7%
  • Statisticians: 25%
  • Microbiologists: 15.8%
  • Epidemiologists: 10%
  • Sociologists: 15%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 11%

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

The South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics furnished the following salary figures for public health occupations in South Dakota (2014). The salaries shown below range from the tenth percentile (entry-level professionals) to the 90th percentile (experienced professionals):

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $51,035 to $93,256
  • Statisticians: $35,530 to $92,569
  • Microbiologists: $37,993 to $82,043
  • Biological Scientists, All Other: $28,280 to $78,760
  • Social Scientists: $49,101 to $83,081
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $27,109 to $56,876
Sponsored Content

Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals with Master’s Degrees

The master’s degree in public health prepares students to function in an array of public health settings and, as such, the career opportunities for public health professionals with master’s degrees are often plentiful and lucrative. (The following job descriptions are shown only as illustrative examples and don’t represent job offers or the assurance of employment.)

Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor at Department of Human Services, Division of Rehabilitation Services in Sioux Falls

  • Responsibilities:
    • Case management of approximately 80 disabled clients
    • Determination of eligibility for services
    • Development of individualized rehabilitation plans
    • Approval and implementation of rehabilitative services as appropriate
    • Counsel residents on vocational rehabilitation
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in human services
    • Preference to candidates who have certification through the Commission on Rehabilitation Counselor Certification and those willing to pursue such certification

Microbiologist at Vanguard Sciences in North Sioux City

  • Responsibilities:
    • Aseptic sample preparation
    • Pathogen detection
    • Culture preparation and sterilization
    • Chemical composition analysis
    • Accurate data documentation
    • Proper use and disposal of biohazardous material
  • Requirements:
    • Four-year degree in microbiology

Compliance Specialist (Health Plan Policy) at Sanford Health in Sioux Falls

  • Responsibilities:
    • Completion of annual risk assessment and policies
    • Leadership of compliance organization
    • Management of compliance risks
    • Strategize and implement corrective action plans
    • Assess risk of implementing regulatory processes
    • Develop, implement, and ensure compliance with policies and procedures
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree in health services required
    • Master’s degree in healthcare administration or public health preferred