Community Health Degree Program Information

Community health degree programs, including programs in public health and health education, provide students with a solid understanding of health care services, government agencies and needs of specific communities. Students can pursue degrees in this area at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.

Essential Information

Undergraduate and graduate degrees in community health address topics such as public health assessment methods, environmental health, community health program coordination and public health law. They also cover general health care topics including ethics, policy development and organizational structures. Graduates are typically prepared to better educate the public on health issues and coordinate services to bring improved health care to communities. Some careers also require certification.

  • Program Levels: Bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctorate degree
  • Prerequisites: Bachelor's degrees require a high school diploma or GED, graduate degrees expect a bachelor's degree
  • Program Specializations: Master's programs allow students to focus on a specific area of community health, such as women's, geriatric or international health
  • Other Requirements: Master's programs often require completion of an internship and/or thesis, while doctorate degrees expect students to complete a dissertation

Bachelor's Degree in Community Health

This interdisciplinary degree program provides students with the knowledge and skills to develop and implement programming aimed at bettering public health and wellness. Core coursework often integrates various disciplines, including sociology, biology, nutrition, political science and economics. Students learn how these different subjects influence community health as a whole, and how to respond to any problems that may arise. Common class topics include:

  • Modern health issues
  • Health care organizations
  • Health statistics
  • Ethics in health care
  • Health care policy

Master's Degree in Community Health

This level of formal education often leads to a Master of Public Health, and provides students with the knowledge to develop educational community health programming, help set health care policy and conduct research in community health. Courses typically emphasize sociology principles as well as techniques for developing and implementing programs. In addition, students learn the government's role in public health, and of any regulations related to the creation of new programs or policies. Specific course topics include:

  • Health program planning
  • Community health assessment
  • Program evaluation
  • Environmental health
  • Health care law

Doctorate Degree in Community Health

This degree program prepares students for academic or research careers related to the area of public or community health. Students learn to conduct research and provide analysis on topics relevant to the field, such as community influences on disease prevention. They also take an in-depth look at behavioral and social sciences and their effect on public health. Course topics may include:

  • Public health informatics
  • Community health principles
  • Research methods
  • Public health law
  • Community needs assessment

Popular Career Options

With a bachelor's degree or master's degree in community health, graduates are prepared for jobs as health educators or health care administrators working with community organizations, government agencies, hospitals, or environmental or global health organizations. Job titles might include:

  • Community health manager
  • Public health manager
  • Director or programs and services
  • Health communications specialist
  • Health policy advocate

Graduates of doctoral programs in community health are prepared for positions with government agencies, private agencies concerned with public health issues and academic institutions. Popular fields to consider include:

  • Health education
  • Global health
  • Environmental health
  • Health administration
  • Public health

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Employment for health educators was expected to increase at a much-faster-than-average rate of 21% from 2012 to 2022, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Growth was attributed directly to rising health care costs. The government, as well as insurance companies and employers, use health education as a means of preventative medicine to help curb medical costs. Health educators earned a median salary of $50,430 in 2014, according to the BLS.

Continuing Education

The National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc., awards the Certified Health Education Specialist credential to entry-level health educators who hold a bachelor's degree and pass a certification exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification. While certification is not always a requirement, some state public health departments require it, and many employers prefer to hire certified applicants. Other professional organizations, such as the Society for Public Health Education and the American Association for Health Education, provide continuing education opportunities.

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