What is Public Health Administration?

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George Washington University
Master of Public Health Online
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Online Master of Public Health (MPH@UNC)
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Master of Public Health Online
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The field of public health administration concerns itself with the administration, leadership, and management of health care systems, such as hospitals, networks, and public health systems. A Master of Public Health Administration (MPHA) graduate is classed as a health care professional. Those who hold an MPHA degree can either be generalists, who hold responsibility for the management of an entire facility; or specialists, who hold responsibility for the management of a specific department.

Why You Should Choose a Career in Public Health Administration

There are a number of important reasons why this is such an important career:

  1. You will be able to complete a social mission and make a real difference to the world. The decisions you make can lead to health improvements for millions of everyday people. It is likely, if you are interested in this field, that you feel socially responsible and that you genuinely care about the health outcomes of the community.
  2. You have a great number of career opportunities. The health care industry itself is the largest in our country, as well as the second largest employer. Eleven million individuals work in the industry at present, and almost every new job in the private sector that was developed over the past five years is related, in some way, to health care. Furthermore, you can work across the different sectors and in either rural or urban communities.
  3. The earning potential is very good. While it is likely that you have entered this field because you feel it is your social duty, the fact that you can earn a six figure income is also a nice bonus.
  4. Your career will be very flexible because you can go in a lot of different directions. You don’t have to work specifically in health care management, choosing instead to work in financial institutions, the pharmaceutical industry, federal agencies, long term care facilities, NGOs, disaster relief agencies, and more. You will also have a number of strong transferable skills, which means that you can change jobs at any point as well.
  5. You will have far more opportunities to manage and to advance your career.
  6. Your role will be highly visible in the community, as well as being highly valued. Essentially, you will be a do-gooder, and this will be appreciated by the people on the receiving end.
  7. You will have the opportunity to continuously improve yourself. Health care management is a fluid role, which means that you will constantly have to study in order to keep up-to-date with developments.

Types of Careers for an MPHA Degree Holder

Once you hold an MPHA degree, you can enter the health care industry in a variety of different settings. Whatever role you choose, you will have the opportunity to drive positive change in the community that you serve. There are tens of thousands of organizations you can work for, both in this country and abroad, so it can be difficult to pinpoint an exact career. During your degree program, however, you should be able to receive guidance from a career counselor to assist you in finding the job that suits you best.

That being said, some of the positions you may commonly be offered include:

  • Working in supplies departments of consulting firms, pharmaceutical companies, and disposable supplies and equipment manufacturers
  • Working with federal, state, or local government agencies to drive new health care policies
  • Working for NGOs and nonprofit organizations, such as the American Hospital Association or the Red Cross.

Those with MPHA degrees are found anywhere from middle managers in small health care organizations to CEOs of large metropolitan hospitals. Usually, you will have to start from the bottom and work your way up to those positions. That being said, you should always be able to take on a leadership position.

How to Start a Career in Public Health Administration

If you are interested in a career in public health administration, you have a range of degrees available to you, ranging from bachelor to doctorate programs. You may also have the opportunity to choose a certain specialization. The first step, however, would be to obtain a bachelor’s degree in public health. While there are specific bachelor’s degrees in public health, many opt instead for a degree in a healthcare-related field, such as nursing, a business degree, or a degree in a field such as sociology or politics. If you really want to be successful, opt for a program that requires an internship for completion, as this gives you real world experience that is in high demand in the professional world. Additionally, make sure you check what licensure requirements exist in your state.

Once you have completed your bachelor’s degree, you can move on to gain some more experience in your chosen field. While some go straight from their bachelor’s into a graduate degree, gaining professional experience will serve you very well and will also ensure you have a greater understanding of the course material during your graduate degree program. Try, as much as possible, to build on your managerial skills, be that in project management or by growing into managerial positions.

Finally, you can enroll in a graduate degree program. The most relevant programs are the Master in Public Health, the Master in Health Administration, or Master in Public Health Administration. There are significant differences between these degrees, as well as some overlap, so you need to take some time to consider the implications of each of the options. This is also one of the reasons why it is so beneficial to gain some professional experience first, as it will tell you more about your personal likes and dislikes, as well as career aspirations.

Program of Study

From the moment you decide that you are interested in the field of public health administration, your studies will start to focus on three principal areas. These are:

  1. Studying the theory, concepts, and skills of management. These include areas, such as financial management, leadership, law, economics, quantitative methods, organizational behavior, and planning.
  2. Studying the health care industry itself. These include areas, such as health and human behavior, epidemiology, and medical care organizations.
  3. Applying and integrating all materials obtained during the study, showing a greater understanding of management concepts and how these apply to public health administration. This is usually done through an exam, paper, or major project.

Skills Employers Look For

Last but not least, there are a number of skills that employers look for specifically in potential public health administration candidates. It is important, therefore, that you build on these. They include:

  • The right education
  • Having experience in the health care industry
  • Having excellent communication skills
  • Being a strong leader and manager
  • Holding business planning skills
  • Understanding quantitative and qualitative research methods
  • Standing behind the philosophy, mission, and values of the organization
  • Personal character

The field of public health administration is interesting and varied and working in this area offers a great deal of personal satisfaction. You will literally be able to change the world. Do, therefore, consider strongly which area of public health administration is most suitable to your personal interests and needs.

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