Public Health Career Education in Utah

In 2015, an annual report on the funding of public health programs in the United States was published by a non-profit group, Trust for America’s Health. It was reported that in 2014, the Utah Department of Health allocated a total of $85,514,900 to its state public health budget, making Utah 27th in the nation in terms of largest public health budget.

The source of Utah’s public health funding was split between the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The largest chunk of funding came from the HRSA to the tune of $62,144,852, while funding from the CDC totaled nearly $60 million. The Utah Department of Health used these funds to support its 12 local health departments and the public health services they provide to local communities.

In 2014, about $21 million of Utah’s public health funding was allocated to supporting maternal and child health. One of the most critical health programs under the blanket of child health was newborn screening. In 2014, an evaluation of Utah’s Newborn Screening Program (NBS) was conducted and revealed a lag time in how quickly newborn blood specimens were being processed. In response to that, public health professionals worked quickly to remedy the situation, and as a result, the average transport time was decreased to just 1.5 days. In May of 2015, the Newborn Screening Program (NBS) was recognized and bestowed with the Governor’s Award for Excellence.

A graduate-level education is the common tie among public health policy and program administration professionals in Utah. These professionals work tirelessly to develop beneficial health policies that impact the health and wellbeing of Utah’s residents and manage the essential public health programs that many residents have come to rely on.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Utah

Professionals who pursue a master’s degree in public health will find themselves well positioned to take on some of the most prestigious and influential career opportunities in Utah. The Master of Public Health (MPH) serves both public health professionals seeking career advancement as well as bachelor’s-educated professionals who want to break from their current career path and focus on a career in health policy and program administration.

Most MPH programs will accept a bachelor’s degree in any major, as long as the issuing institution is regionally accredited and general undergraduate requirements are met. Professionals with a background in education, health administration, public administration, a healthcare discipline like nursing, among others, are encouraged to enroll.

Academic Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) drafts accreditation standards for the Master of Public Health. Programs recognized as CEPH-accredited integrate the five core competencies specified in the Association of Schools of Public Health’s (ASPH) 2004 MPH Core Competency Model:

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

The ASPH also gave rise to seven additional interdisciplinary focus areas designed to help students succeed in the multifaceted landscape of today’s contemporary public health settings:

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

Admission Requirements

Each academic institution offering the master’s degree in public health develops its own program-specific admission requirements, so while those shown below are not universal to all academic institutions, they are typically the most common requirements for admission to an MPH program:

  • Submission of official GRE scores, though students who have taken the LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT or who currently hold a graduate degree are not required to submit GRE scores
  • Submission of official transcripts from all educational 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

The Master of Public Health degree option integrates four specific concentration areas designed to give students the opportunity to customize their career path as well as to prepare them for the many challenges they will face working in today’s interconnected global health community. The concentration areas shown here are not universal, but they are common specializations among most MPH programs:

Health Communication: This specialization prepares students to participate in advancing public health objectives by learning effective communication techniques and marketing skills. The Utah Cancer Control Program is one example of a public health program in Utah that requires strong leadership, effective communication, and organized marketing in order for the program to be successful.

Courses within the Health Communication specialization 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 specialization is ideal for students who want to be actively involved in health policy analysis and development. In Utah, the development of the EPICC Program (Environment, Policy, and Improved Clinical Care) was the result of dynamic health policy change that endeavored to combine three individual health programs (Diabetes Prevention and Control Program; Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program; and Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Program) in order to achieve more productive health outcomes.

Courses within the Health Policy specialization 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 specialization is ideal for students who want to be involved in evaluating the effectiveness of public health programs as well as planning and implementing new strategies for improving public health programs. Some of the public health programs available in Utah include the Utah Arthritis Program, Check Your Health, Healthy Utah, and Baby Your Baby.

Courses within the Program Planning and Evaluation specialization 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 specialization is ideal for students who want to get involved with improving health across the globe through the development of globally focused health promotion and disease prevention initiatives. In June of 2014, the United States Government formed a coalition with partner nations and began a new public health initiative, Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths.

Courses within the Global Health specialization 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 credits: 10-15

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

The accelerated one-year option is designed for students who want to fast-track their education and complete their master’s degree in public health in just one year. The one-year option utilizes the curriculum of traditional MPH programs and covers the same course content except that it follows a much more fast-paced, time-consuming schedule.

There is also a part-time option that gives students added flexibility in completing their MPH degree. Most schools offering the MPH program allow students up to four years for part-time completion of the program.

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

According to a research report, Taking Care of Our Seniors, released in October of 2015 by the Utah Foundation, the senior citizen age group will account for approximately 13% of the state’s total population by the year 2030. This means that Utah’s senior population will account for more than 550,000 residents. The report found that the majority of seniors want to age in their own home, and public health services are a large part of what it takes to make this possible.

One state-funded program, Alternatives, provides personal care services to seniors and additional help with household chores. Currently, though, there is a waiting list in every county of Utah for caregiver services due to inadequate funding. As Utah’s seniors continue to age and their healthcare and personal needs become greater, the responsibility falls to the public health sector to create cost-effective, accessible public health initiatives for this population. The end result is that there will be an increased demand for public health policy professionals and program administrators in Utah.

Shown below are the projected 10-year job growth rates for various public health occupations in Utah between 2012 and 2022. Job growth rates by city are also included. This data was published by the Utah Department of Workforce Services in September of 2014:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 29%
    • Salt Lake City: 22%
    • Provo/Orem: 35%
  • Statisticians: 42%
    • Salt Lake City: 35%
    • Provo/Orem: 56%
  • Microbiologists: 30%
    • Salt Lake City: 26%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 26%
    • Salt Lake City: 16%
    • Provo/Orem: 50%

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

The public health occupations with respective salary figures listed below were published in 2014 by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics in conjunction with the Utah Department of Workforce Services. The salary range shown spans from the tenth percentile (typically entry-level) to the 90th percentile (typically experienced professionals). Median salaries of these public health occupations are also provided by city:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $35,980 to $92,620
    • Median in Salt Lake Metro: $58,540
    • Median in Provo/Orem Metro: $54,910
  • Statisticians: $50,250 to $117,830
    • Median in Salt Lake Metro: $69,440
    • Median in Provo/Orem Metro: $103,200
  • Microbiologists: $38,700 to $92,580
    • Median in Provo/Orem Metro: $35,950
    • Median in Ogden/Clearfield Metro: $51,540
  • Biological Scientists, All Other: $47,900 to $85,700
    • Median in Salt Lake Metro: $71,530
  • Sociologists: $58,200 (median)
  • Social Scientists: $21,310 to $85,710
    • Median in Salt Lake Metro: $65,720
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $24,510 to $63,390
    • Median in Salt Lake Metro: $46,400
    • Median in Provo/Orem Metro: $47,590
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Career Opportunities in Utah for Public Health Professionals in Policy and Program Administration

Students who complete a master’s program in public health will be prepared for success in a number of settings. A list of public health job descriptions taken from a survey of job vacancy announcements in January 2016 is shown below. (This is provided for illustrative purposes only and is not meant to represent a job offer or assurance of employment.):

HAI Program Manager at Utah Department of Health in Salt Lake County

  • Responsibilities:
    • Assumes leadership role and oversees all healthcare-associated infection (HAI) prevention programs
    • Develops and coordinates project objectives and plans related to HAI prevention
    • Manages and implements projects related to HAI prevention
    • Allocates resources appropriately and uses monetary resources effectively
    • Coordinates and delegates project responsibilities
    • Evaluates and analyzes project progress and implements steps to improve efficacy of project
    • Analyzes project outcomes and institutes policies to improve project outcomes
    • Ensures that HAI prevention programs adhere to local, state, and federal regulations
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health

Health System Administrator at Indian Health Service (HIS) in Fort Duchesne

  • Responsibilities:
    • Evaluates public health programs and develops improvement strategies to help meet program objectives
    • Works in conjunction with tribal governments and health departments to plan and implement healthcare policies
    • Reassesses objectives of public health programs to determine if goals are being met and/or if improvements are needed
    • Identifies needed resources and allocates funding as appropriate
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in Public Health highly desirable
    • One year of experience in a public health management position
    • At least six continuing education credits in healthcare administration obtained within the last one year, including systems thinking and development and quality improvement

MRC Program Coordinator at Salt Lake County Health Department in Salt Lake City

  • Responsibilities:
    • Leadership and management of Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) Medical Reserves Corps (MRC) program
    • Reviews funding and spending patterns of MRC program and allocates funds appropriately
    • Maintains budget and fiscal responsibility of MRC program
    • Researches and applies for grants to support the MRC program
    • Evaluates efficacy and alignment of program outcomes with of program objectives
    • Develops goals and implements new strategies to make MRC program more effective and beneficial to area residents
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree in public health, public administration, public safety, and/or planning
    • Three years’ related experience