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What Is Public Health Management and Is It Right for You?

November 01, 2019
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A public health manager is a leader in the field of public health. Usually, public health management professionals are part of a public health team, such as the staff of a hospital, health department or medical facility.1 However, there are roles in public health management across many organizations; public health management professionals may also be employed by advocacy groups, health foundations, nonprofit organizations or regulatory agencies.2 They oversee the work of members of their teams, develop new public health initiatives, determine the best methods to implement their programs and fulfill administrative duties.

What Is Public Health Management?

Working in public health means having an impact on the health and well-being of people on a larger scale. Individuals who work in public health may help in their local communities or they may work on a more global level. No matter which population they serve, they will make a difference in countless lives.3

A public health manager may help educate the public, for example, by providing information on HIV and AIDS treatment options, or by overseeing programs that provide specific services, such as offering free or discounted flu shots.2

What Is the Role of a Public Health Manager?

Most people who pursue public health management careers are experienced professionals in the healthcare field.4 This is not a clinical career path; public health managers do not treat patients. However, to succeed in public health management, it's beneficial to be comfortable with public speaking and interacting with people internally (on your team) and externally (with the public at large).

Everyday tasks in public health management careers may include:5

  • Developing testing and data collection methods
  • Designing and evaluating public health initiatives
  • Implementing new methods and improvements to existing programs
  • Preparing budgets
  • Overseeing team members, reviewing their reports, and providing feedback and approval where necessary

In the role of a public health manager, you'll need a solid understanding of business management.5 However, there are many elements that are unique to public health, such as how legal, political and economic issues in your area or nationally may affect how your public health program operates. Professionals in public health management careers must be prepared to solve complicated problems and adapt to a constantly changing environment.

Public Health Management Careers: How to Get There

Education: A master’s in public health may not be a listed requirement for some management roles, but the degree and knowledge gained can enhance your employment and salary opportunities, paving the way for higher-level roles. Many public health management professionals hold a master's degree.3

  • Earn an undergraduate degree in public health or healthcare administration. This will lay the foundation you'll need to succeed in public health management.
  • Get a master's degree in a relevant field. A Master of Public Health degree like the Kent State online MPH positions you for success with core courses on public health topics (such as epidemiology, environmental health and biostatistics) and health policy and management courses (including healthcare systems, financial management, and policy, law and ethics).

Work experience: Public health management careers are usually pursued by individuals with extensive work experience in healthcare already. To help graduates qualify for these higher-level positions, Master of Public Health programs often include a capstone project, practicum or internship. The Kent State online MPH includes a field-based practicum at a public health agency, hospital or other approved organization.

For more detailed information on entering public health management careers, read our tips on how to become a public healthcare administrator.

Transform Your Career with an MPH Degree

If you're ready to rise to the challenge, a career as a public health manager can be a fulfilling way to enact meaningful change in the world. It's also a stable career choice: Demand for public health managers is high, and increasing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for public health managers will increase 28 percent, much faster than average, by 2032.6 Learn more about how Kent State University's online Master of Public Health program can prepare you to thrive, no matter what public health management career you choose to pursue.