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.
To apply to these programs, students will need a high diploma or GED for a bachelor's degree program or a bachelor's degree for graduate programs. There are a number of different options for specialization within master's degree programs, including women's, geriatric or international health. To complete these programs, students will often be required to complete an internship or a 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 of 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 12% from 2014 to 2024, 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 $51,960 in 2015, according to the BLS.
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.
After graduation, community health professionals may work as health educators or find positions within community organizations and institutions. Found at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, these programs teach students how to create and maintain public health initiatives and to improve public access to health resources.