Public Health Career Education in Vermont

In 2015, a study published by the health advocacy group, Trust for America’s Health, which detailed the state of public health funding and spending in the United States, revealed that the total public health budget in Vermont during 2014 alone was more than $24.6 million.

With nearly $25 million budgeted to service the public health programs offered by Vermont’s 12 local health departments, Vermont was noted to have the 20th highest public health budget in the nation.

Grants and federal funding for specific programs helped marshal even more public health resources in the state. The Vermont Department of Health received funding from both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Grant money from the CDC totaled nearly $21.4 million and accounted for approximately 48% of Vermont’s total public health funding. In fact, Vermont was ranked 2nd highest in the nation based on per capita spending in terms of funding received from the CDC. Federal funding received from the HRSA was about $23.5 million, which ranked Vermont as the 6th highest in the nation in terms of funding received from the HRSA.

The effect of Vermont’s dedication to public health has not gone unnoticed. In 2015, the United Health Foundation published its annual review of the healthiest states, and Vermont was pinned with recognition as the 2nd healthiest state in the nation. The report recognized the drastic decrease in smoking among Vermont adults, from 30.7% in 1990 to just 16.4% in 2014, as a symbol of progress and one of Vermont’s key health indicators.

The tie that binds all public health policy and program administration professionals in Vermont is a graduate-level education. The Master of Public Health (MPH) prepares graduates to make cutting-edge decisions in the development, implementation, and strategic management of public health programs, which function to protect and improve the health of Vermont’s most vulnerable residents.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Vermont

The master’s in public health degree program follows a multidisciplinary approach which prepares professionals for success in a number of public health venues, whether serving in the private sector or in the public sector at a small health department in Barre or a larger health department in Burlington. The MPH degree program is specific enough to help public health professionals transition into a specific area of public health, such as global health, but versatile enough to help bachelor’s-educated students transition into an altogether new public health career. The MPH degree provides public health professionals with the training necessary to take on some of the most complex and challenging health policy decisions and also to manage some of the largest health initiatives in Vermont.

One of the most impressive aspects of MPH programs is the part-time, online option. This option gives working students the flexibility needed to pursue their graduate education while maintaining employment.

It’s also important to mention that a bachelor’s degree in any major from a regionally accredited institution is generally considered acceptable for admission to most MPH programs. Professionals with a background in education, health administration, public administration, or a healthcare discipline like nursing are commonly found in MPH programs.

Academic Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is the independent agency responsible for setting accreditation standards for master’s degree programs in public health. Programs achieving the mark of CEPH accreditation incorporate the five core competencies laid out in the Association of Schools of Public Health’s (ASPH) MPH Core Competency Model:

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

In addition to the five core competencies, the ASPH contributed another seven interdisciplinary focus areas for the purpose of giving students the foundational understanding needed to succeed in today’s evolving and changing public health environment:

  • 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 tend to vary between schools. The list below is not all-inclusive or universal, but it is reflective of the most commonly reported admission requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited school
  • 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

Most MPH degree programs supplement their curriculum by offering additional courses in certain focus areas. By offering these specialized focus areas, students are better prepared to face the challenges affecting the public health system in the United States as well as the complexities of a shared global health community.

Health Communication: Designed for professionals interested in advocating for and influencing public health objectives through effective communication and cutting-edge marketing skills. The Fit & Healthy Vermonters Initiative, in collaboration with the Blueprint for Health, is one such public health program in Vermont that requires effective marketing and communication in order to benefit Vermont residents.

Courses within this specialization generally 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 professionals interested in developing public health policies directed at improving health outcomes in the United States and abroad. In October of 2015, the Health in All Policies Task Force was created in an effort to achieve better health outcomes by incorporating public health objectives into all state policies and programs.

Courses within this specialization generally 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
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Program Planning and Evaluation: Designed for professionals interested in the development, planning, implementation, and evaluation of key public health initiatives. Some of the public health programs available to Vermont residents include the Vermont Immunization Program, Vermont Early Hearing Detection and Intervention Program (VTEHDI), Get Moving Vermont!, and Vermont’s Obesity Prevention Plan.

Courses within this specialization generally 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 professionals interested in working as part of a coalition with other global health advocates to create health policies designed to promote health and prevent disease locally, nationally, and globally. Global health programs include the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI) and Feed the Future (FTF).

Courses within this specialization generally 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 is a fast-paced online option that gives students the ability to obtain their master’s degree in public health in only 12 months. The accelerated option utilizes the same course outline as traditional campus-based and online approaches, but the course load is much more intense and demanding by comparison.

The part-time option is a convenient option that gives students the freedom to pursue their MPH degree in a more leisurely fashion. Most academic institutions allow students following the part-time option up to four years to complete the MPH program.

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

In July of 2014, the Vermont Agency of Commerce & Community Development released an economic development publication showing that the state of Vermont had one of the oldest populations in the entire United States by average age, and this appeared to be one of the greatest factors driving the heavy demand for healthcare services in Vermont. Between 2003 and 2013, the fastest growing industry in all of Vermont was the Services for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities industry. It’s projected that between 2013 and 2023 this industry will continue to be the fastest growing and also the largest job-creating sector in the state.

As the elderly population in Vermont continues to grow, the need for public health policies aimed at promoting health and preventing disease in this fragile population will become paramount, and the demand for skilled public health administrators will likewise increase. In fact, several public health occupations were labeled as high-demand occupations on the Vermont Department of Labor’s publication, Vermont’s Declining and High Demand Occupations 2014, including social and community services managers, statisticians, biological scientists, social scientists, and rehabilitation counselors.

The following job projections were released in August of 2014 by the Vermont Department of Labor and represent the expected demand for public health occupations in Vermont between 2012 and 2022:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 15%
    • Burlington/South Burlington: 14%
  • Statisticians: 20%
  • Social Scientists: 12%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 22%
    • Burlington/South Burlington: 21%

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

In 2014, the Vermont Department of Labor published salary data for various public health occupations in the state, some of which are listed below. The salary range begins at the tenth percentile (entry-level) and extends to the 90th percentile (most experienced):

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $44,900 to $95,410
    • Range in Burlington/South Burlington: $49,750 to $94,790
    • Average in Burlington/South Burlington: $69,280
  • Statisticians: $44,180 to $82,480
    • Range in Burlington/South Burlington: $44,170 to $83,000
    • Average in Burlington/South Burlington: $61,510
  • Microbiologists: $43,290 to $95,940
    • Range in Burlington/South Burlington: $43,290 to $100,570
    • Average in Burlington/South Burlington: $60,620
  • Social Scientists: $55,780 to $107,420
    • Range in Burlington/South Burlington: $55,170 to $107,440
    • Average in Burlington/South Burlington: $87,590
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $26,460 to $67,210
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Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals with Master’s Degrees

The Master of Public Health is a highly valuable degree in that students who achieve this level of academic recognition will have the benefit of being exceptionally well prepared for public health work and are likely to be solicited by employers for the many career opportunities available to public health professionals. (The following job descriptions are provided only for illustrative purposes and do not represent guaranteed job offers or an assurance of employment.)

Community Public Health Program Administrator at Vermont Department of Health

  • Responsibilities:
    • Develops objectives and plans as well as coordinates functions of community public health programs
    • Interprets federal requirements and ensures adherence of public health programs to federal requirements
    • Develops and implements quality control measures
    • Evaluates public health program objectives and monitors outcomes
    • Analyzes fiscal data and makes operational decisions to ensure public health programs are efficient and effective
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health or public administration
    • Five years’ professional experience in health and human services, at least 3 years’ experience in public policy administration

Chronic Disease Program Specialist at Vermont Department of Health

  • Responsibilities:
    • Participates in all areas of program management including planning, development, implementation, and coordination
    • Participates in contract and grant development
    • Develops plans and coordinates the implementation of chronic disease and health promotion programs, such as tobacco prevention/ cessation, obesity prevention, and/or related chronic diseases
    • Identifies effective strategies for promoting health and preventing disease
    • Assesses chronic disease and health promotion program effectiveness and identifies techniques for improving programs’ efficacy
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in health education, public health, public administration
    • At least one year of experience working in a public health program, particularly in program planning and implementation

Public Health Policy Advisor at Vermont Department of Health

  • Responsibilities:
    • Works with interdepartmental leadership on the development of procedures for implementation of public health policies in order to ensure programs are uniform in nature and consistent with program objectives
    • Displays vigilance and awareness of emerging public health policy issues
    • Evaluates effectiveness of public health programs by comparing program outcomes to program objectives
    • Continuously reassess public health policy and identifies ways in which to make public health programs more beneficial to area residents
    • Develops public health policy standards and procedural guidelines
  • Requirements:
    • Bachelor’s degree in public health, public relations, or political science plus five years’ experience in a professional role in public health, health policy, and/or public relations
    • Master’s degree in public health, public administration, or related field can substitute for two years of required experience