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Find Your Career Calling with an MPH Social and Behavioral Sciences Degree

March 18, 2024
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In today’s dynamic global environment, Master of Public Health (MPH) professionals, particularly those with expertise in the social and behavioral sciences (SBS), are uniquely poised to address evolving public health challenges.

This blog post provides insight into core professional competency areas and how the practical application of these skills can make a significant difference in public health. It also explores information on work settings, duties and salaries, and highlights the benefits public health professionals can gain from earning an online MPH with a Social and Behavioral Sciences specialization from Kent State University.

Social and Behavioral Sciences Support Public Health Through Changing Times

Global forces, including climate change, infectious disease outbreaks and technological advancements, add to existing public health challenges. Health professionals with expertise in social and behavioral sciences are essential in adapting and responding to these challenges, championing public health initiatives that are culturally sensitive, evidence-based, and technologically informed.1 The research, analysis and communication skills that SBS professionals develop positions them to effectively design and manage interventions and programs that help communities adapt to existing and new public health challenges.

Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals

The Public Health Foundation, a private, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing the public health workforce to achieve organizational excellence, enumerates eight competency areas for public health professionals. These competencies, grounded in the 10 Essential Public Health Services, are used to inform public health professionals' education and to create job descriptions for professional public health roles.2

A group of 24 national organizations working to improve public health developed the Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals. Participants include the American Public Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Association of County and City Health Officials and the Veterans Health Administration, among others.2

Core Competency Skills Domains for Public Health Professionals

  1. Data analytics and assessment
  2. Policy development and program planning
  3. Communication
  4. Health equity
  5. Community partnership
  6. Public health sciences
  7. Management and finance
  8. Leadership and systems thinking2

How the Core Competencies Translate to Professional Skills and Job Duties

Illustrative job descriptions on the Public Health Foundation's website show how the core competencies relate to specific job functions.3 For example, the Ontario County, New York Director of Preventive Health Services role includes duties such as "address population diversity in policies, programs, and services" (Domain 4), "collaborate with community-based participatory research" (Domain 5) and "facilitates and implements the development, implementation and evaluation of comprehensive public health quality assessment and improvement plan for the department" (Domain 6).4

What Types of Jobs Can You Get with a Master's in Public Health Degree?

Graduates from Kent State's MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences often find rewarding and diverse career paths in public health agencies, hospitals, international health organizations, and even corporate wellness programs. They are well-represented in the nonprofit sector, public or government agencies, and in areas of occupational health and safety services.5

Two generalized job titles illustrate the diverse activities and settings where your expertise as an MPH with a Social and Behavioral Sciences specialization can help you thrive: Social and Community Service Manager and Health Policy Analyst.

Nationally and across settings, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 2022 median salaries of $74,240 for Social and Community Service Managers.6 Working with constituents, these professionals identify community health needs, then plan and develop programs to address them, including finding funding, managing operations and evaluating the programs’ effectiveness in meeting the stakeholders’ objectives.7

Like Social and Community Service Managers, Health Policy Advisors often work with stakeholders to determine needs. These professionals also analyze legislation, policies, economic and cultural trends, and research data to help them formulate recommendations for modifications or new programs and policies. Glassdoor, the career website, reports an average annual salary of $128,250 for Health Policy Advisors in 2024.8

Design and Manage Public Health Education and Interventions with an MPH in Social and Behavioral Sciences

A Master of Public Health with a Social and Behavioral Sciences specialization empowers graduates to understand the intersection of individual behaviors and the environment, and to translate that knowledge into effective public health practice. With an SBS specialization, you'll develop a crucial understanding of health behaviors and the skills needed for strategic program development and management. You'll learn to assess community health challenges, design interventions that uniquely address them and evaluate outcomes. You can make a real difference for your career and community with the tools you gain.

How Kent State's Online Master of Public Health Develops Your Competencies

Kent State's online MPH program helps you develop mastery of the core competencies with specialized instruction built on foundational knowledge. Core courses such as "Biostatistics in Public Health" teach essential data analytics skills, while "Public Health Administration" covers management and policy essentials. The specialization in Social and Behavioral Sciences adds a focused layer, with courses like "Social Determinants of Health Behaviors" enhancing understanding of health equity and community dynamics. "Quantitative Methods in Social and Behavioral Sciences" further sharpens analytic skills specific to behavioral research. Social and Behavioral Sciences Theory and the Seminar in Social and Behavioral Sciences contextualize the research practices with theoretical frameworks and real-world case studies. Together, core and specialization courses create a comprehensive training program, preparing you to lead in public health with a strong foundation and specialized expertise in social and behavioral sciences.

Participate in Public Health Practice While You Learn

As a student in the Kent State MPH in SBS program, you'll experience real-world public health work through a practicum placement in your community. With dedicated support from a practicum coordinator, you'll participate in public health activities in a setting such as a hospital, nonprofit or research program. You may also find placement in a health education program, corporate wellness program, or government agency. This experience is not just exposure; it can be a pivotal step in your public health career.

An Online Master of Public Health Program for Working Professionals

The Kent State online MPH in SBS is tailor-made for working students. The asynchronous coursework offers flexibility in meeting course deadlines and accommodating busy schedules. The practicum provides valuable on-site experience in your own community while maintaining the convenience of 100% online coursework. Taught by seasoned public health faculty, the program matches the rigor of the on-ground program and holds CEPH accreditation, ensuring high-quality education. With these benefits, the affordable Kent State online MPH is an excellent fit for working professionals seeking to further their careers.

Embrace Your Public Health Calling with Kent State's Online MPH

If you feel called to support public health in your community or on a larger stage, Kent State’s online Master of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Sciences can prepare you to make a real impact. The flexible, affordable program combines core public health competencies with an in-depth SBS specialization and practical experience through a community-based practicum. Throughout the rigorous program, you’ll be learning with support from faculty who are deeply experienced and committed to helping you develop your skills. Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor to learn more about how the Kent State online MPH can support you in your calling.