Online master's degree programs in public health are available, but typically require an in-person experience such as an internship or field experience. These programs are usually designed for students interested in practical community health applications and research. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a bachelor's degree is the minimum educational requirement for positions in community health, and many positions - including working for the federal government or for state public health agencies - require a master's degree.
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Master of Public Health in Community Health Education
An online Master of Public Health (MPH) in community health education program is designed to provide the knowledge and skills necessary to offer educational resources and promote public health within communities, groups and organizations. Students examine the theories and processes involved in planning and implementing health education programs, prevention initiatives and health policy advocacy. MPH programs usually require a field experience or capstone project component that requires students to volunteer or intern with a local health agency. Thesis and non-thesis options are available.
An online graduate degree in community health education is designed to be completed in 2 years and typically requires 42-45 credit hours of health education and public health coursework. In many programs, all courses can be completed entirely online. The MPH curriculum is usually designed to be taken in a particular sequence, as most courses build upon the knowledge and skills developed in previous ones. Students enrolled in an online MPH program must have good computer skills and reliable access to a high-speed Internet connection. Course materials and assignments are usually accessed through an online course management portal, such as WebCT or Blackboard.
Online courses for this type of degree program emphasize the philosophy and methods of community health promotion and education. In addition to core public health courses in biostatistics, epidemiology and public health issues, the curriculum focuses on a variety of community health education courses similar to those listed below.
Community Health Assessment
This course covers the central principles of community health assessment and improvement. Students gain an in-depth understanding of the public health system, the health improvement process and community health assessment procedures.
Instruction focuses on a wide array of communication and education theories and methods. Students learn to apply principles and theories of community health education and explore topics such as program planning and evaluation in public health programming.
Community Health Organization
Students examine a variety of strategies for identifying and engaging community leaders in the community health education process. The importance of involvement in community needs assessment, small area analysis, community-level development strategies and planning is emphasized.
Graduates of an MPH program in community health education often assume leadership roles as department heads or wellness directors within the field of community health education. Health educators work with community agencies to encourage healthy lifestyles and wellness by educating populations about healthy behaviors that can prevent injuries, diseases and other health issues. Community health educators can find employment opportunities with community agencies, government organizations, schools, corporate wellness departments and health care facilities.
According to the BLS, employment of health educators was projected to increase by 12%, faster than the average for all occupations, during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported that as of May 2015, health educators in the U.S. earned a median annual salary of $51,960.
Continuing Education and Certification Information
Some employers require the Certified Health Education Specialist credential; a minimum of a bachelor's degree is required for this professional certification.
Online master's degree programs in public health typically include coursework that can be completed remotely in addition to a required in-person internship or field experience. These 2-year programs explore topics such as community health assessment, health education and community health organization.