Masters of Public Health (MPH) Degree in Tennessee

Public Health Career Resource in Tennessee


The non-profit group, Trust for America’s Health, published its annual report on public health funding in 2014, which revealed that Tennessee’s state public health budget was $285,610,100 that year alone. This represented the 15th largest public health spending budget in the nation.

In 2014, funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) accounted for 58% of Tennessee’s public health budget ($156,541,772), while the balance came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ($120,956,615). The Tennessee Department of Health distributed this money throughout the state’s 95 local health departments in order to continuously fund the public health programs aimed at keeping state residents safe and healthy.

According to a 2014 joint study conducted by Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Tennessee had the 2nd highest rate of diabetes mellitus of any state in the nation, and in fact, more than 600,000 Tennessee residents are currently struggling with diabetes. Diabetes is also the 7th leading cause of death in the state, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. In response, the Tennessee Department of Health directed nearly $9.1 million to address chronic disease prevention and health promotion, funding state programs like Take Charge of Your Diabetes and Project Diabetes, initiatives designed to support diabetics and help reduce the rate of obesity in the state.

The design, implementation, and management of such essential public health programs falls within the purview of master’s-prepared public health policy writers and program administrators whose programs aim to promote the health and well being of all Tennessee residents.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Connecticut

The Master of Public Health (MPH) is an interdisciplinary degree that prepares professionals to effectively advocate for public health at all levels, from municipal and state programs to global health initiatives. This versatile degree suits both bachelor’s-educated professionals from other fields pursuing a career in public health, as well as public health professionals with their sites set on advanced positions related to public health policy and program administration. With the option to specialize in health policy development and program management, the MPH prepares professionals from all backgrounds to take on instrumental roles within Tennessee’s public health system.

One of the greatest features of MPH programs is the part-time option, as this allows working professionals to fulfill their aspirations for career advancement while maintaining employment.

Most MPH programs accept a bachelor’s degree within any major, so long as the academic institution is regionally accredited.

Academic Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) sets national standards of accreditation for master’s degree programs in public health. MPH programs with CEPH accreditation encompass the five core competencies established by the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH), as laid out in the 2004 MPH Core Competency Model:

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

In addition, seven interdisciplinary focus areas were also established by the ASPH, the purpose of which was to widen the educational base and to provide graduates with the skills and expertise needed to serve in nearly any capacity within our nation’s public health system:

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

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for MPH degree programs are specific to each school. Typical requirements include:

  • 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
  • Bachelor’s degree and official transcripts from each school attended
  • Statement of purpose essay (500-1,500 words)
  • Current resume
  • Two letters of recommendation

Focus Areas and Specialization

Most MPH programs incorporate additional areas of focus directed at readying students to be strong, effective public health leaders who can improve the quality of our nation’s public health system. These focus areas also allow students to specialize in the sector of public health which interests them most and in which they aspire to participate. The specializations shown below are not universal, but they are a good representation of the most common specializations offered by MPH programs:

Health Communication: This area of specialization is designed for students who want to learn how to use communication and marketing to help influence public health objectives. As an example, one of the most effective public health marketing campaigns in Tennessee led to the eventual development of the Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline in 2013. The hotline was created to provide breastfeeding help and support to breastfeeding mothers in underserved areas of the state where lactation consultants are not available.

Courses within the health communication specialty may include:

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

Health Policy: This area of specialization is designed for students who want to improve public health policy in the U.S. and globally. One of the most recent changes in public health policy came in 2015 when changes were made to the Tennessee Food Service Establishment Law. In July of 2015, the 2009 FDA model food code was incorporated into the Tennessee Food Service Establishment Law and enforced throughout the state in an effort to reduce food-borne illness among consumers.

Courses within the health policy specialty 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 credits 10-15
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Program Planning and Evaluation: This area of specialization is designed for students who want to participate in evaluating the efficacy of current health programs and in creating new and more effective programs. Some of the public health programs in Tennessee include Children’s Special Services (CSS), Asthma Management Initiative, Breast and Cervical Screening Program, Project BRAIN, One Health Program, and Farmers’ Market Nutritional Program (FMNP).

Courses within the program planning and evaluation specialty 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 credits 10-15

Global Health: This area of specialization is designed for students who want to participate in designing policies that reduce the effect of global health concerns on communities locally, nationally, and globally. The non-profit organization, Tennessee Global Health Coalition, is a conglomerate of more than 70 individual organizations, including universities and churches, and is devoted to promoting health and improving the quality of life of citizens everywhere, whether serving in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina or in Africa providing access to healthcare services.

Courses within the global health specialty 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
  • Total credits 10-15

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program offers an accelerated one-year option that enables students to obtain their degree in as little as 12 months. The accelerated option encompasses all of the same course material and adheres to traditional curriculum standards but is much more fast-paced and aggressive than the traditional two-year program schedule.

The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program also offers a part-time option. The part-time option offers a great deal of flexibility and is ideal for working professionals who are unable to dedicate themselves on a full-time basis but yet still aspire to advance themselves professionally. Many schools allow up to four years for completion of the MPH program on a part-time basis.

Job Growth Projections for Public Health Professionals in Tennessee

A report published by the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability, the Tennessee State Plan on Aging 2014-2018, estimates that about 20% of Tennessee’s population will reach age 65 within the next 15 years or so, which represents an additional 1.2 million Tennessee residents. The growing elderly population is, of course, one factor driving the demand for healthcare services in Tennessee.

According to the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s employment outlook publication, demand is expected to shift from inpatient hospital services to home health services and outpatient care centers because of the cost benefit. Public health programs that promote wellness and disease prevention as well as those that coordinate home health services, such as OPTIONS for Community Living, will become vitally important to this growing demographic of elderly residents. The end result is that a greater need will exist for well-educated public health professionals who can develop, direct, and manage public health programs in Tennessee.

The following is a list of job growth projections for public health occupations between 2014 and 2022, based on data published by the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 10.4%
  • Statisticians: 17.6%
  • Microbiologists: 0.8%
  • Biological Scientists, All Other: 8.8%
  • Epidemiologists: 4.8%
  • Social Scientists: 10.4%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 12.8%

Salaries for Public Health Professions in Tennessee

In 2014, the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development published the following salary ranges for public health professionals that often hold an MPH. The salaries shown here range from the tenth percentile (entry-level) to the 90th percentile (experienced):

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $37,643 to $72,380
  • Statisticians: $42,283 to $71,513
  • Microbiologists: $45,400 to $76,923
  • Biological Scientists, All Other: $42,595 to $74,947
  • Epidemiologists: $51,615 to $83,923
  • Social Scientists: $46,880 to $75,109
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Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals in Tennessee

Professionals that complete the master’s in public health degree program will be fully prepared to function in any number of public health roles, whether in policy development and management or program coordination and evaluation. Professionals with an MPH degree can expect a real demand for their skills in addition to profitable career opportunities. (The job descriptions shown below are only given as illustrative examples and don’t represent job offers or an assurance of employment.)

Research Analyst 2 at Metro Public Health Department in Nashville

  • Responsibilities:
    • Oversees federal grant program for HIV disease
    • Implements data collection, management, and analysis of HIV grant program
    • Develops and evaluates public health objectives for HIV grant program
    • Oversees 13-county area of Middle Tennessee and assesses risk factors and health status of residents
    • Identifies and records individual and community outcomes
    • Independently evaluates program and develops quality improvement measures
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health, statistics, or epidemiology
    • Two years’ experience

Public Health Program Director 1 at Tennessee Department of Health in Nashville

  • Responsibilities:
    • Manages implementation of new HIV prevention project in Memphis area
    • Collaborates with HIV Prevention director
    • Collaborates with Shelby County Health Department
    • Creates measurable objectives for new HIV prevention program and creates a plan to achieve objectives
    • Collaborates with local health departments to ensure tools are available to counsel and educate the public about HIV
    • Oversee accountability and data reporting of local health departments
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree with five or more years’ experience in public health work
    • Graduate coursework and/or professional experience may be substituted for experience requirement
    • Preference for candidates with program management and evaluation experience as well as strong leadership and communication skills

Public/Population Health Project Manager at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville

  • Responsibilities:
    • Develops project objectives, goals, and plans
    • Evaluates and analyzes public health program outcomes
    • Evaluates feasibility of public health programs and develops appropriate project budgets and resource allocation
    • Evaluates program activities and identifies areas for improvement
    • Assumes leadership role and directs project teams to achieve objectives
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree plus five years of relevant experience required
    • Master’s degree in public health, behavioral sciences, or epidemiology preferred
    • Preference for candidates with project management experience