Population Health Manager

Healthcare providers primarily deliver care to patients on an individual level, addressing their health concerns. However, many issues can and should be addressed at a community level. Population health managers use evidence-based interventions to help change behaviors to improve the health outcomes of a particular population. 

Population health managers work in hospitals, community clinics, government agencies, and non-profits. They are tasked with improving the health of a designated population, enhancing outcomes, and simultaneously reducing the per-capita cost of healthcare. This interdisciplinary profession encompasses public health, healthcare administration, health education, and social work.

The goal of population health managers is to implement changes that can bring about systemic change in the healthcare system. To do this, population health managers will target a specific demographic such as those with diabetes, low-income families, prisoners, drug users, or even domestic abuse victims. After careful evaluation and data analysis, population health managers will craft interventions such as changing healthcare practices, educating patients, and implementing clinics to care for the particular needs of their population. Outcomes of the interventions are then measured to determine efficacy and inform the next steps. 

Education is essential to starting a career as a population health manager. At a minimum, aspiring professionals should complete a bachelor’s in science in population health management. A master’s degree in this field, while not required, can be advantageous as it prepares students for more senior roles and management. Currently, there are no state licensing or certification requirements for a career in this field.  

Job outlook for population health managers is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS 2021) classifies them as “medical and health services managers” and estimates a 32 percent increase in jobs in this field nationally from 2020 to 2030. According to Payscale (2022), a website that aggregates salaries, population health managers earn $77,154 per year on average. 

Keep reading to learn more about how to get started in this community-centric, change-oriented career.

Population Health Manager Specializations & Degree Types

Population health management can fall under either healthcare administration or public health as it is an interdisciplinary field. Students can pursue a number of degrees to start their careers. 

The most common degrees are a bachelor’s or master’s of science in population health management. However, it is possible to delve into this profession with a degree in a related field such as public health, sociology, or healthcare administration.

Admissions Requirements for Population Health Manager Programs

The admission requirements for population health manager programs depend on the level of degree pursued. 

Bachelor’s degree programs typically require:

  • GED or high school diploma
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • High school coursework in specific subjects such as math, science, English, and foreign languages
  • Admission essay

Master’s degree programs often have more competitive and rigorous requirements. These can include:

  • Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution
  • Statement of purpose
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Interview with the admission committee
  • Current resume
  • Work experience

Population Health Manager Program Accreditation

An essential step in selecting a population health manager degree program is ensuring the program is accredited. Accreditation assures students, employers, and certification bodies that the school and program have a certain level of academic quality. During the accreditation process, schools and degrees are evaluated on student outcomes, faculty, facilities, curriculum, graduation rates, and retention. 

As there are no programmatic accreditation agencies for population health management programs, students should ensure that their school has, at a minimum, regional accreditation. These include:

  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

On-Campus Population Health Manager Degree Programs

Arizona State University – College of Health Solutions

The Arizona State University College of Health Solutions offers a four-year bachelor’s of science in population health management. This integrative program combines public health and healthcare delivery to help students learn all the factors that can impact health across a community. Students are expected to complete hands-on learning for this degree, including field experience and citizen scientist projects. 

Required classes for this degree include population health policy and legislation, social determinants of health and health behavior, systems thinking in population health, and applied medical/health care ethics. Students can choose to specialize in one of the seven tracks offered. They include health care compliance and regulation, health education specialist, environmental systems, health informatics, health systems design and improvement, mental health systems, and food systems.  

  • Location: Tempe, AZ
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $1,200 per credit 

Oregon Institute of Technology

The bachelor’s of science in population health management at Oregon Institute of Technology was the first of its kind in the country. This is an interdisciplinary degree, and students will take a wide variety of classes, including psychology, management, marketing, ethics, health informatics, and health science. The foundation of this degree is in medical sociology, so students will get training on the political, cultural, and environmental aspects of health. 

Coursework ranges from outreach to care coordination and research. This program is structured so that students complete the bulk of their classes by the end of their junior year, leaving the senior year open for research and externships. This prepares students well for entry-level work in population health management, 

  • Location: Klamath Falls, OR 
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Tuition: $677.02 per credit 

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology

For professionals who have already completed a bachelor’s degree but aren’t ready to pursue a full master’s, Harrisburg University of Science and Technology offers an 18-credit graduate certificate in population health management. 

Students who complete this certificate will have a keen understanding of how to implement population-focused solutions to health problems. Not only does this program teach methodologies but also how to apply them to real-world problems. 

Upon earning this certificate, students are prepared for work in hospitals, government agencies, community health centers, and clinics. Some of the courses that are required for this certificate include approaches to population health innovation, population health policy, and social determinants of health. All students must complete a final practicum and earn at least 140 hours completing a population-level focused project. 

  • Location: Harrisburg, PA
  • Duration: 18 credit hours
  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Tuition: $800 per credit hour

Missouri Western State University – School of Nursing and Health Professions

Aspiring population health managers can complete a bachelor’s science in population health management at Missouri Western State University School of Nursing and Health Professions. Since this is a non-clinical degree, students will focus on skills such as information systems, public health, healthcare finance, policy, and community wellness. Overall, students will learn how to improve health outcomes and shift population behavior towards healthier lifestyles. 

The required classes for this interdisciplinary program are varied and include everything from business classes to psychology, sociology, ethics, statistics, and economics. During the final semester of their senior year, students will complete a three-credit internship. This hands-on experience will take place within the community and must include 135 hours onsite.  

  • Location: St. Joseph, MO
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $518.32 per credit 

Southeastern Louisiana University – College of Nursing and Health Sciences

By earning a master’s of science in population health management at Southeastern Louisiana University College of Nursing and Health Sciences, students are prepared to be advanced practitioners in this field. Skills students will learn include community analysis of factors influencing health, the ability to develop innovative interventions to improve health, and how to implement healthcare cost-saving measures. 

This degree has an accelerated and traditional track, so students can choose how intensive they want their program to be. In total, students must earn 34 credits to earn this degree. In addition to required coursework and electives, there is a required capstone in order to complete this program. 

  • Location: Hammond, LA 
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition: $10,790.70 for nine credits

Online or Hybrid Population Health Manager Degree Program

Johns Hopkins University – Bloomberg School of Public Health

The online master’s of applied science in population health management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is a flexible program that can be completed in two to four years of part-time study. Courses in this program are designed to help students understand and lead population health management systems. For students looking for a shorter program, there is a 25-credit certificate program as well. 

In total, students must complete 50 credits to earn this degree. The final course is an integrative activity where students will complete a service-learning project where they can showcase the skills they have learned. To be considered for admission to this program, candidates must have at least three years of health-related work experience and have already completed a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution. 

  • Location: Baltimore, MD
  • Duration: Two to four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $1,233 per credit

University of Florida – College of Public Health and Health Professions

The University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Profession hybrid master’s of public health degree has a concentration in population health management. This concentration focuses on teaching students authoritative strategies for implementing programs that can improve population health. Skills gained in this program include data analysis, community engagement, policymaking, and operations research. 

Some of the coursework for this program is available through distance learning, while other classes will require students to attend in person on campus. All students will need to complete an applied practical experience or internship in order to earn this degree. To be considered for admission, candidates must have a four-year bachelor’s degree and at least a 3.0 GPA. 

  • Location: Gainesville, FL
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $550 per credit

Thomas Jefferson University – College of Population Health 

Thomas Jefferson University College of Population Health is an entire college dedicated to the large-scale economic and environmental impacts of the health of groups of people. Among the many degrees they offer is an online master’s of science in population health. 

This degree has three track options: science, employer, and management. The science track is for students interested in a more general program or who are new to population health, the management track is for professionals already working in the field who want additional leadership skills, and the employer track is for business and healthcare professionals who are interested in addressing employee health within organizations. 

Because of the intensive nature of this degree, candidates for admission must have already completed extensive prerequisite coursework and must have already earned a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution with at least a 3.0 GPA.  

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Tuition: $1,210 per credit 

Seton Hall University – School of Health and Medical Sciences

The 15-credit certificate in population management at Seton Hall University School of Health and Medical Sciences can be completed either on-campus or through distance learning. The flexible online option allows students to complete their coursework on their schedule and earn this credential without having to relocate or pause their careers. There is a strong emphasis in this program on practical skills. Because of that, students will gain experience using data analytic software and business management. 

To be admitted to this program, applicants must meet the same requirements as students applying to the master’s of health administration program. These requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, a 3.0 GPA, three letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a current resume.  

  • Location: South Orange, NJ 
  • Duration: 15 credits
  • Accreditation: Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education
  • Tuition: $1,401 per credit 

Walden University 

At Walden University, students can complete an online master’s of health administration degree with a concentration in population health. This healthcare business-focused degree will prepare graduates for leadership roles in hospitals, clinics, community organizations, and government agencies. Students will gain the skill necessary to manage complex population healthcare-focused initiatives that have a basis in best practices and science and have measurable outcomes. 

To earn this degree, students must complete 68 quarter-credits of coursework. Three credits are in foundational coursework, 50 are in core health administration courses, and 15 are in the population management specialization. Students can transfer up to 25 credits into this program, reducing the number of required classes. 

  • Location: Minneapolis, MN
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission
  • Tuition: $490 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Population Health Manager?

The time it takes to become a population health manager can vary. Graduates of four-year bachelor’s degree programs may be able to find entry-level work in this field, although most employers prefer three to five years of work experience or an advanced degree in this field.

How To Become a Population Health Manager – Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years)

Completing high school or earning a GED is the first step towards becoming a population health manager. Because this is an interdisciplinary career, students should focus on obtaining a well-rounded educational foundation in high school including math, science, psychology, and English.  

Step 2: Complete a Bachelors’ Degree (Four Years)

A bachelor’s degree is required for most entry-level work as a population health manager. Students can complete a bachelor’s of science in population management or a degree in a related field such as public health, sociology, or healthcare administration. 

Step 3: Gain Work Experience (Timeline Varies)

Work experience is critical to being successful as a population health manager. In fact, students can start while still in college with internships or practicums. Aspiring population health managers need three to five years of entry-level work experience in order to take on more senior roles. 

Step 4: Obtain an Advanced Degree (Optional, Two to Four Years)

While not required, an advanced degree can help further a professional career in population health management. There are numerous master’s of science in population health management across the country, including several online options for students who do not want to relocate. A master’s degree or higher can improve one’s ability to get a job and earning potential.

What Do Population Health Managers Do?

Population health managers work with a specific population to improve health outcomes. They are employed in various settings, including hospitals, government programs, long-term care facilities, and clinics. Day-to-day duties may consist of:

  • Meeting with community members and stakeholders 
  • Gathering data on a particular population
  • Analyzing the data collected and drawing conclusions 
  • Developing interventions to improve health outcomes
  • Creating partnerships with community organizations to implement interventions
  • Measuring the outcome of interventions
  • Communicating results of interventions and on the overall health of the population

 

Population Health Manager Certifications & Licensure

There are no state licensing requirements for population health managers. However, depending on the roles a population health manager fills, they may be classified as healthcare administrators, which are required to be licensed in some states. Professionals in this field should consult with their state licensing boards to ensure they have the necessary credentials to perform their job.

Presently, there are no certifications specific to population health managers. Since this is a relatively new field, it is very possible that new certifications for this career emerge in the coming years. 

Professionals who work in this field may choose to pursue a related certification such as the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential from the National Board of Public Health Examiners or Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) from the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC)

How Much Do Population Health Managers Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2020) does not track salary data specific to population health managers but does for “medical and health services managers.” The 402,540 professionals working under this general classification earn $118,800 per year on average. The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $59,980
  • 25th percentile: $78,820
  • 50th percentile (median): $104,280
  • 75th percentile: $139,650
  • 90th percentile: $195,630

Population Health Managers Career Alternatives

Here are a few alternatives to a career as a population health manager. 

Become a Gerontologist

Gerontologists are healthcare providers who have specialized training in working with aging clients. They can be nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, and aids and assist with everything from making appointments to managing day-to-day tasks and dealing with the emotional process of aging. 

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s degree 
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Nurses Credentialing Center, National Association of Social Workers (NASW)  

Become a Health Educator

Health educators can help implement many of the interventions identified by population health managers. They work directly with clients or with groups to provide them with education and tools to improve wellbeing. Topics they cover can include disease prevention, vaccination, obesity, fitness, sexual health, and more. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC)

Become a Nursing Home Administrator

Long-term care centers are managed by nursing home administrators. This specialized healthcare management role is responsible for supervising staff, facilities, patient wellbeing, budgets, marketing, and IT. While nursing home administrators rarely interact with patients, they may often meet with families to evaluate grievances.  

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Association of Long Term Care Administrator Board (NAB)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

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