Master of Public Health (MPH) Careers in Virginia

Public Health Career Education in Virginia


According to a report published by the non-profit group, Trust for America’s Health, in 2014, the Virginia Department of Health allocated a total of $290.4 million to support the state’s public health programs.

The Virginia Department of Health received the majority of its public health grant money ($156 million) from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The rest of the state’s funding came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the amount of nearly $134 million. These funds were then dispersed throughout Virginia’s 35 local health departments to support the various public health programs, and education campaigns available throughout the state.

The figures clearly reflect the enormity of Virginia’s public health system and its capacity for developing effective health programs and improving health outcomes among its citizens. In fact, in 2014, the Virginia Department of Health spent nearly $25 million supporting maternal and child health. One particular result of this was that the number of premature babies born in Virginia between 2009 and 2014 dropped by 8%. In recognition of this, in November of 2015, the March of Dimes bestowed the Virginia Department of Health with the esteemed Apgar award.

The development of health policy and the implementation and management of public health programs is the responsibility of graduate-level professionals who are dedicated to improving health outcomes in Virginia.

Earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) in Virginia

An interdisciplinary master’s degree in public health prepares professionals for some very influential career opportunities in health policy development and program design, management and evaluation. Professionals interested in advancing their public health career or specializing in a specific area of public health will find the MPH to be highly customizable.

Students who cannot commit to a full-time schedule will find relief in the part-time, online option that most MPH degree programs offer.

Most MPH programs accept students with a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited 4-year university in most any major. Undergraduate degrees in health administration, public administration, psychology, teaching, nursing or another healthcare discipline, among others, are well suited to graduate study in public health.

Academic Overview

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) establishes the accreditation standards for Master of Public Health. CEPH-accredited institutions integrate the five core competencies delineated 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

Seven additional interdisciplinary focus areas were introduced by the ASPH for the purpose of giving students a more comprehensive foundation of skills and competencies:

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

Admission Requirements

Admission requirements for acceptance into an MPH program are determined by each individual school. The list of requirements shown here is not representative of all schools, but it provides a good idea of what students can expect when applying to an MPH program:

  • Current GRE scores; applicants who have current LSAT, GMAT, or MCAT scores or who have a graduate degree are exempt from producing GRE scores
  • Official transcripts from all institutions attended
  • Statement of purpose essay (500-1,500 words)
  • Current resume
  • Two letters of recommendation

Focus Areas and Specialization

One of the unique highlights of MPH programs is the integration of key focus areas, which gives professionals the opportunity to specialize in a particular area of public health. Not only does this benefit professionals by allowing them to guide their education in the direction of their intended career path, it also hones the specialized skills required of leaders in the global health community.

Health Communication: The purpose of this specialization is to help students master the essential communication and marketing skills needed to effect change on public health objectives. The Virginia Adult Hepatitis B Immunization Initiative (VAHBII) is just one of the public health programs in Virginia reliant on leadership and skilled communication.

This specialization includes courses in:

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

Health Policy: The purpose of this specialization is to help professionals develop the foundational knowledge and skills needed to be effective public health policy practitioners. In July of 2015, the Virginia Department of Health and Walgreens Free HIV Testing Collaboration changed its policy by broadening accessibility to Virginia residents and making testing services available at 32 Walgreens sites instead of the previous 13.

This specialization includes courses in:

  • 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: The purpose of this specialization is to engage professionals interested in planning and implementing public health programs and evaluating the outcomes of these programs. Some of the public health programs in Virginia include Southwest Virginia Care Connection for Children (CCC), WISEWOMAN, Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), and Get Smart Virginia.

This specialization includes courses in:

  • 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: This specialization fosters a global perspective and prepares professionals for the development and advocacy of global health initiatives that promote health and prevent disease both at home and abroad. Global health programs include the United States President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI).

This specialization includes courses in:

  • 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 of 10-15 credits

Accelerated One-Year and Part-Time Options

The accelerated one-year option grants students the opportunity to fast-track their education and complete their master’s degree in public health in just one year. The accelerated option utilizes the same curriculum as traditional campus-based programs but cuts the completion time in half.

The part-time option is offered in an online format and grants students more freedom and flexibility in pursuing their graduate degree. The majority of schools allow students using the part-time option up to four years to complete the program.

Job Growth Projections for Masters – Educated Public Health Professionals in Virginia

In April of 2009, the University of Virginia, Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service, published in the Virginia News Letter its findings on the status of Virginia’s aging population. It was revealed that the population of Virginians aged 65 and over is expected to reach 1.8 million by the year 2030, accounting for 19% of Virginia’s total population and representing a two-fold increase over the 900,000 Virginians aged 65 and over in 2009.

With Virginians living longer and the aging of the Baby Boom generation, it’s not surprising that the Virginia Employment Commission labeled the health care and social assistance industrial sector as the second fastest growing industry in the state for projected employment through 2020. Collectively, these factors have created a genuine need for public health policies aimed at improving the health of older Virginians and also making healthcare services accessible to them. In turn, this has created a heavy demand for public health professionals in Virginia who can develop, implement, and manage the public health programs essential to the well-being of older Virginians.

Shown here are the expected 10-year employment growth rates for public health occupations in Virginia between 2012 and 2022 which were released by the Virginia Employment Commission in 2014:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: 17%
  • Statisticians: 27%
  • Microbiologists: 11%
  • Biological Scientists, All Other: 5%
  • Social Scientists: 7%
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: 24%

Salaries for Public Health Professions in Virginia that Require a Masters Degree

In 2014, the Virginia Employment Commission, in collaboration with the Bureau of Labor Statistics, published the following annual salary figures for various public health jobs throughout Virginia. The salaries below range from the tenth percentile to the 90th percentile, which are generally representative of entry-level professionals and the most experienced professionals, respectively. Salaries are also provided for the Richmond Regional PDC area which encompasses the Town of Ashland, Charles City County, Chesterfield County, Goochland County, Hanover County, Henrico County, New Kent County, Powhatan County, and the City of Richmond:

  • Social and Community Services Managers: $43,590 to $115,290
    • Median in Richmond Regional PDC: $72,582
  • Statisticians: $39,520 to $129,650
    • Median in Richmond Regional PDC: $80,025
  • Microbiologists: $43,680 to $118,190
    • Median in Richmond Regional PDC: $46,966
  • Biological Scientists, All Other: $52,150 to $171,670
    • Median in Richmond Regional PDC: $73,191
  • Epidemiologists: $48,730 to $113,470
    • Median in Richmond Regional PDC: $62,404
  • Sociologists: $47,200 to $177,160
  • Social Scientists: $59,070 to $155,470
    • Median in Richmond Regional PDC: $69,833
  • Rehabilitation Counselors: $25,070 to $61,870
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Career Opportunities for Public Health Professionals in Virginia with Masters Degrees

Public health professionals who complete a master’s degree program in public health will find that they are not only well prepared for a wide variety of public health job opportunities, but also that the MPH offers them the ability to customize their education to fit a particular role. Shown below are a few public health job descriptions taken from a survey of job vacancy announcements performed in January 2016 (provided for informational purposes only and not meant to convey the assurance of employment):

Surveillance Program Manager at Virginia Department of Health in Richmond

  • Responsibilities:
    • Maintains oversight of Office of Epidemiology’s Reportable Disease Surveillance Program and Virginia Electronic Disease Surveillance System
    • Maintains awareness of statewide disease surveillance for communicable diseases and emerging public health threats
    • Manages implementation of electronic reporting of communicable diseases and public health issues
    • Develops public health program goals and objectives and assesses program effectiveness
    • Develops policies and procedures and provides training to subordinates
  • Requirements:
    • Graduate of an accredited college with advanced coursework in public health, epidemiology, or biostatistics

Human Services Program Coordinator at Virginia Department of Health in Prince William

  • Responsibilities:
    • Management of Prince William Health District Chronic Disease Program
    • Planning, implementation, and evaluation of assigned chronic disease public health programs, mainly the Prince William Health District Chronic Disease Program
    • Strategize and implement evidence-based policies directed at the prevention of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke
    • Plan, direct, implement, and assess community-based programs
    • Maintains awareness of social determinants which impact health promotion and disease prevention and strategizes ways in which to manage social determinants and improve public health programs/outcomes
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s in public health or program management
    • Experience in program implementation, management, and evaluation highly desirable

Researcher – Public Health Program Evaluation at Battelle in Arlington

  • Responsibilities:
    • Serves as a public health researcher in Battelle’s Advanced Analytics and Health Research within the Health & Analytics Business Unit
    • Assumes independent leadership role over assigned and self-initiated research projects
    • Collection and compilation of primary and secondary data
    • Reviews technical data related to public health, summarizes and analyzes for evaluation projects
    • Participates in the design and implementation of qualitative and quantitative methods of public health data collection
  • Requirements:
    • Master’s degree in public health, social sciences, or epidemiology
    • One to five years’ experience in public health, health policy, and/or program evaluation