Health Behavior Degree and Training Program Summaries

Apr 22, 2021

Essential Information

Many schools offer degree programs in public health that prepare students for careers in community health education and research. Students with a high school diploma or its equivalent can enroll in a bachelor's degree program, which requires four years to complete. Many programs require that students complete internships with community health agencies.

Students in a master's degree program in public health must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in public health or a related field. Experience in the field may be required, as may be GRE scores. Most master's programs require about two years of full-time study, and a thesis is generally required.

Doctoral programs allow students to perform research and gain hands-on experience in a particular specialization, such as biostatistics or health interventions. To enroll, a bachelor's degree in a public health field and high GRE scores are usually necessary. Students, often paired with a mentor, perform research, engage in fieldwork, and teach undergraduate classes. A dissertation is usually required. The doctoral program can be completed in as little as two years. Graduates are typically qualified for jobs in health education, government work, disease control, and social work.

Bachelor of Science in Public Health and Health Behavior Science

Bachelor's degree programs in public health generally focus on research and community health development. Programs that emphasize health behavior can offer students insight on how to motivate community members to make improvements in diet and general health maintenance. In addition to general education requirements, course topics within the field could include:

  • Nutrition
  • Physical activity
  • Research methods
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Contemporary and environmental health
  • Epidemiology

Master of Public Health Degree

A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree program with a specialization in health behavior can offer students experience in real-world healthcare situations. Students can learn methods of improving awareness for the promotion and maintenance of wellness of the general public, as well as evaluate health patterns in the community and create plans to prevent disease. They might also design methods for chronic illness management in an individual. Topics of study may cover disease process research, health program planning, disease prevention, and disease control. Some course topics might include:

  • Disease populations
  • Health education planning
  • Individual health habits
  • Behavioral science of public health
  • Addiction

Ph.D. in Health Behavior

Ph.D. programs in health behavior often emphasize the understanding and analysis of public health issues as they affect communities and the world. Students can explore solutions to challenges faced in promoting wellness and healthy lifestyles. They can work toward developing new theories in health education and practice. However, those who enter the program with an educational background in a field other than public health may have to complete prerequisite coursework, such as biostatistics, epidemiology, and health policy. Course topics within the program could include:

  • Health interventions
  • Field training
  • Health administration and policy
  • Biostatistics
  • Behavior theory

Popular Career Options

Students who pursue careers in health behavior typically show interest in medicine as it relates to lifelong health choices. A desire to work with people of varying backgrounds can also be helpful, along with a passion for making a positive impact on people's lives. Some possible job titles could include:

  • Community health outreach provider
  • Health promotion planner
  • Public health marketing developer
  • Health program evaluator
  • Wellness coach

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), cites both social work and health education as having favorable job outlooks, with much faster-than-average growth expectations from 2019 to 2029 ( Employment is expected to be up 13% for social workers and 13% for health educators during that time frame. The median annual income as of May 2020 for healthcare social workers was $57,630, and health educators made a median annual income of $56,500 in the same year.

Health behavior and public health degree programs are available at the bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels, teaching fundamental skills in maintaining and promoting health and wellness to communities and the general public. Programs often focus on research and fieldwork.

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