Public Health Advisor

Government agencies, non-profit organizations, community centers, private corporations, consulting firms, and hospitals all employ public health advisors. In all of these settings, public health advisors provide advice and guidance on protecting and improving the population’s health. They may develop and implement programs to promote healthy lifestyles, screen for disease, and educate the public about health risks. Public health advisors may also research the efficacy of different interventions and make policy recommendations.

One important role of a public health advisor is to help create policies that will improve community health. For example, they might recommend increasing the availability of vaccinations or creating laws restricting smoking in public places. They may also work with businesses to develop workplace wellness programs or promote healthy eating habits among employees.

Public health advisors typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field, although employers increasingly prefer candidates with a graduate degree. These degrees allow students to learn about the latest research on promoting good health and how to design and implement effective programs. There are many ways to become a public health advisor, but most likely involve working as a public health professional first. This could include working for a government agency or a non-profit organization focusing on public health issues. Once a professional has gained experience, then they can move into a role as a public health advisor.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics classified public health advisors as either health education specialists or community health workers. Professionals in this field earn between $47,780  and $64,930 per year, although salaries vary widely based on employer and job duties. This is a growing field, with an estimated 12 percent increase in jobs expected nationally between 2021 and 2031 (BLS 2022). 

Below is a detailed guide on how to get started in this profession, top programs to earn a public health degree, and other essential things to know when pursuing this career. 

Public Health Advisor Specializations & Degree Types

There are several types of degrees aspiring public health advisors can earn. At a minimum, a bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field is required. However, it is highly recommended that professionals pursuing this career earn a master’s in public health (MPH) or a doctorate. Public health advisors can specialize in an area of public health, such as environmental health, epidemiology, or health policy. They may also specialize in a particular population, such as children, the elderly, or minorities.

Admissions Requirements for Public Health Advisor Programs

Admission requirements for a degree in public health will vary based on the level of degree pursued and the institution. In general, students applying to a bachelor’s degree program can anticipate the following requirements:

  • A high school diploma or GED
  • Specific high school coursework in math, science, foreign language, and language arts
  • SAT or ACT scores
  • An entrance essay
  • Letters of recommendation

A master’s in public health or doctorate program will have additional requirements such as a completed undergraduate degree, work experience in public health, proof of scholarly research, a current resume, and additional letters of recommendation.

Public Health Advisor Program Accreditation

When considering a degree in public health, it is important to choose a program accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). This will ensure that the degree is top-quality and will adequately prepare graduates for a successful career in public health. 

Accreditation is a voluntary step institutions undertake to attest that their program meets a high standard of faculty, curriculum, facilities, and student outcomes. Attending a CEPH-accredited program is one of the fattest routes to earning a Certified in Public Health (CPH) certification through the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE).

On-Campus Public Health Advisor Degree Programs

The George Washington University – Milken Institute School of Public Health

The bachelor of science in public health degree at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health offers students a chance to learn about critical aspects of public health and how to apply this knowledge to improve the health of individuals and communities. The curriculum provides a foundation in epidemiology, health education & promotion, and health policy, aiming to create professionals who can think critically and analytically about public health issues.  

This degree is designed for students who want to use their public health knowledge to make a difference in the world. Students in this program will have the opportunity to learn about historical and current trends in public health and health care delivery, and to develop skills in critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis of information. 

  • Location: Washington, DC
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $62,110 per year

Vanderbilt University – School of Medicine

At Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, students can earn their master’s in public health in either epidemiology, global health, or health policy. The health policy degree is particularly applicable for students seeking a career as a public health advisor. However, any of the tracks will help prepare students for this career. This is an on-campus degree that takes two years to complete. As part of this program, students will complete 240 hours of practicum experience, where they will put their new knowledge to work. 

Required coursework for all tracks includes epidemiology, biostatistics, and public health ethics. Students can choose to complete a thesis or a capstone project, depending on their interests and career goals. To be considered for admission, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher in public health or a related field and at least two years of work experience in health care or policy. 

  • Location: Nashville, TN
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $39,999 for the first year and $19,998 for the second

The University of Wisconsin–Madison – School of Medicine and Public Health

The master’s of public health at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health offers both single-degree and dual-degree options. This program has a practice-oriented emphasis that strives to give students as much practical experience as possible to help them excel in their future careers. In addition to core coursework, students will complete 13 credits of electives that will allow them to tailor their education to their interests. 

A unique aspect of this program is the multitude of applied practice experience opportunities where students will complete fieldwork in public health. These opportunities are offered in the state and around the world, affording students exposure to diverse populations and cultures. Admission requirements for this program include a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution with at least s 3.2 GPA. Work experience is not required but is highly recommended. 

  • Location: Madison, WI
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $1,936.99 per credit 

Brown University – School of Public Health

Students at Brown University School of Public Health can earn their bachelor’s of arts with a concentration in public health. This degree allows students to learn basic research methods, statistics, problem-solving, and critical thinking.  A strong emphasis is placed on understanding how different factors contribute to physical well-being aspects of people’s lives and social behaviors that affect one’s mental state.

During their studies, students will examine population health and disease patterns and draw insights into how these issues are influenced by various factors such as policy or social structures. Students can participate in the Departmental Undergraduate Group (DUG) which allows them the opportunity to organize and participate in the School of Public Health community. 

  • Location: Providence, RI
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $62,680 per year

Oregon Health & Science University and Portland State University – School of Public Health

Portland State University and Oregon Health & Science University collaborate to offer a bachelor of arts of science in public health studies through their combined School of Public Health. This innovative partnership allows students the best of both schools and enables them to complete the education necessary for a career in education, clinical care, policy, or direct healthcare services. The curriculum teaches students to think critically about the factors that shape well-being and how they relate to society as a whole, through individual lenses of gender or race, among others. 

With five concentrations, students can personalize their education. Options include healthy aging, community health promotion, health services administration, clinical health science, and school health education. Regardless of the concentration, students will develop knowledge of basic concepts such as population science and be able to analyze topics including social determinants of health and behavioral risks indicators of diseases.

  • Location: Portland, OR
  • Duration: Four years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $570 per credit

Online or Hybrid Public Health Advisor  Degree Programs

Dartmouth College – Geisel School of Medicine

The Dartmouth College Geisel School of Medicine online or hybrid master of public health program is designed specifically for working professionals who want to make a difference in health and health care. 

The program is 22 months long and offers a combination of online coursework and brief residential periods on campus. During the program, students will work closely with a small group of peers and world-renowned faculty who will help them lead transformative change in health and health care.

Students take one course at a time and spend three weeks per year on campus interacting with faculty and classmates. Assignments are completed on a predictable schedule, allowing students to plan ahead. Through case studies, problem sets, video lectures, and virtual classes, students gain in-depth knowledge of epidemiology, biostatistics, and healthcare ethics. They also complete a practicum project in their chosen field. 

  • Location: Lebanon, NH
  • Duration: 22 months
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $38,181 per year

Liberty University

Liberty University’s online master of public health degree prepares graduates to make a  difference in people’s lives and improve the health of communities. The MPH program can give students access to educational opportunities and real-world experience through hands-on projects that prepare them both academically and professionally. Courses are taught by outstanding faculty in this field who have decades of experience in academia and public health. 

Classes are offered in a flexible eight-week format, which can all be completed online and at the student’s own pace. Most students can complete this degree in just two years. There is an option to choose a concentration in environmental health, global health, community health promotion, or nutrition. This program is taught from a Christian worldview. 

  • Location: Lynchburg, VA
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $565 per credit 

University of New England

The fully online and interactive master’s of public health at the University of New England will provide students with essential knowledge and skills in various public health areas. They learn how to advocate for healthier communities, communicate with people from all walks of life, and plan programs that improve the health of everyone. Students will also gain a strong ethical foundation to help them make the best decisions for their patients or clients.

In total, students must earn 46 credits to graduate from this program. This includes nine required classes, four electives, an applied practice experience, and an integrated learning experience. Electives will either follow the generalist track, align with a student’s career goals, or be in the newly established epidemiology focus. Applicants for admission must have a bachelor’s degree and a working computer with a solid internet connection. GRE scores are not required. 

  • Location: Biddeford, ME
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $770 per credit 

New Mexico State University

There are two concentration options for students completing their online master’s of public health at New Mexico State University. They are health behavior and health promotion, management, administration, and policy. Both programs offer courses asynchronously to allow students a high degree of flexibility in completing their degrees. Online courses at New Mexico State University are offered at a significant discount to enable more students the opportunity to advance their education. 

Admission deadlines for this program are twice a year in November and February.  Required classes, regardless of concentration, include community and psychosocial aspects of public health, biostatistical applications in public health, epidemiological approaches to disease control and prevention, health services system, and environmental public health issues. All students must complete fieldwork in addition to their lecture classes. 

  • Location: Las Cruces, NM
  • Duration: Two years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $444.40 per credit 

Missouri State University

The online master’s of public health at Missouri State University is designed with the working professional in mind. Classes can be completed entirely through distance learning or can include some on-campus coursework should students reside close to the school. To ensure students can work while earning this degree, classes that require attendance either virtually or in person are offered after five pm or on the weekends. Classes rotate, being offered online and on-campus each semester, so students always have an option of how to complete their studies. 

In addition to core coursework, this program offers seminars and electives to allow students to broaden their studies. To graduate from this program, students must complete a field experience internship at a public health agency. Through this experience, students will gain on-the-job skills and grow their professional network. 

  • Location: Springfield, MO
  • Duration: Two and a half to three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
  • Tuition: $333 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Public Health Advisor?

A public health advisor typically has a bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field. However, some professionals in this field may have a master’s degree or even a doctorate. At a minimum, it takes four years of education post-high school to begin entry-level work in this career. Public health advisors who pursue a master’s can anticipate two to three more years of education, while those seeking a doctorate should plan on five to eight additional years.

How To Become a Public Health Advisor – Step-by-Step Guide

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

A high school diploma or GED is required to pursue a career as a public health advisor. Completing this base level of education demonstrates that a candidate has the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue additional education successfully. Students should endeavor to take advanced placement and honors classes as this can prepare them for the rigors of future studies. 

Step 2: Complete a Bachelor’s in Public Health (Four Years)

Public health is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on improving the health and well-being of populations worldwide. A bachelor’s in public health can prepare students for a career in various settings, from government agencies to non-profit organizations. And because public health problems are often complex and multi-faceted, a public health degree can provide graduates with the skills and knowledge they need to develop innovative solutions. 

While most aspiring public health advisors will earn a bachelor of arts or science in public health, related majors such as psychology, anthropology, or even genetics can adequately prepare students for this field. 

Step 3: Gain Work Experience (Timelines Vary)

Work experience is essential for gaining the necessary skills and understanding of the issues faced by public health advisors. Professionals in this field must be able to identify the needs of their community and develop effective plans to address those needs. They also need to be familiar with the resources available to public health practitioners and be able to connect community members with those resources. 

Work experience provides an opportunity to develop these skills and gain the necessary knowledge to be successful in this career. Many aspiring public health advisors will initially gain work experience in other areas of public health, such as a research assistant or health intern, before moving on to a role of an advisor. 

Step 4: Complete Additional Education (Optional, Timelines Vary)

A graduate degree in public health can benefit a professional pursuing a career as a public health advisor for many reasons. First, a graduate degree demonstrates to potential employers that the individual is dedicated to the field and has the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful. 

Additionally, a graduate degree can lead to increased opportunities for career advancement and higher salaries. Finally, a graduate degree allows networking with other professionals in the field, which can lead to beneficial collaborations. The most common degree earned is a master’s in public health, although ambitious students may complete a doctorate. 

Step 5: Earn Voluntary Certifications (Optional, Timelines Vary)

Certification for public health advisors is a voluntary step that can help them stand out from other candidates when applying for work or grants. The primary certification is the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential from the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE). More details can be found in the certification and licensing section below.

What Do Public Health Advisors Do?

Public health advisors work in various settings, including government agencies, hospitals, and non-profit organizations. Duties and responsibilities vary. Here are some common day-to-day tasks. 

  • Developing and implementing programs to promote healthy lifestyles
  • Screening for disease
  • Educating the public about health risks
  • Researching the efficacy of different interventions
  • Making policy recommendations
  • Monitoring the spread of a particular disease or health condition
  • Compiling data into digestible reports so senior staff can make data-driven decision
  • Advising on the best next steps to improve community health

Public Health Advisor Certifications & Licensure

Currently, there are no state licensing requirements for public health advisors. However, depending on job duties, some states may require public health advisors who work in a community health education capacity to be licensed. Aspiring public health advisors should check with their local board to ensure they have the necessary credentials to perform their job duties. 

Certification for public health advisors is a voluntary step. The primary certification earned is the  Certified in Public Health (CPH) designation from the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE). This certification demonstrates that a public health advisor has the knowledge and skills to effectively protect and improve a community’s health. 

The CPH is a nationally-recognized credential for public health professionals and is highly respected by employers. It demonstrates that a public health advisor is committed to lifelong learning and keeping up with the latest best practices in the field. To be eligible to sit for the CPH exam candidate must meet one of the following requirements:

  • Current student in a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited program 
  • Graduate of a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited program with a master’s or PhD 
  • Hold a bachelor’s degree and five years of work experience
  • Have a master’s degree and three years of work experience
  • Earn a graduate-level certificate in public health and have three years of work experience

The CPH exam consists of 200 questions that must be answered in four hours. Topics covered on the exam include:

  • Evidence-based Approaches to Public Health 
  • Communication 
  • Leadership 
  • Law and Ethics
  • Public Health Biology and Human Disease Risk 
  • Collaboration and Partnership 
  • Program Planning and Evaluation 
  • Program Management 
  • Policy in Public Health 
  • Health Equity and Social Justice

How Much Do Public Health Advisors Make?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t track wages for public health advisors. However, they can be classified as either health education specialists or community health workers. 

On average, health education specialists earn $64,930 annually, while community health workers earn $47,780 on average. The BLS (May 2021) reports that the percentiles for wages for health education specialists are:

  • 10th percentile: $37,020
  • 25th percentile: $46,770
  • 50th  percentile (median): $60,600
  • 75th percentile: $78,220
  • 90th percentile: $102,480

The BLS (May 2021) reports that the percentiles for wages for community health workers are:

  • 10th percentile: $30,440
  • 25th percentile: $36,940
  • 50th  percentile (median): $46,590
  • 75th percentile: $59,280
  • 90th percentile: $70,720

Public Health Advisor Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a public health advisor: 

Become a Health Educator

A health educator promotes health and wellness in individuals and communities. Health educators develop and implement programs and activities designed to raise awareness about important health issues, such as nutrition, physical activity, and tobacco use. They also offer education on healthy lifestyle choices and provide resources and support to help people make positive changes. They work in various settings, including schools, hospitals, community organizations, and businesses. 

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

Become a Medical Science Liaison

A medical science liaison is a healthcare professional who serves as a conduit between the scientific and medical communities. They are employed by pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and their primary role is to disseminate information about new products and therapies to key opinion leaders in the medical field. 

In addition to conducting educational sessions and providing scientific support, medical science liaisons also collect feedback from clients that can be used to improve clinical trials and product design. 

  • Typical Education: Doctorate
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: Medical Science Liaison Society (MSLS)

Become a Population Health Manager

Population health managers work to improve the health of a defined population. This may involve developing and implementing programs to promote healthy lifestyles, conducting outreach to high-risk groups, coordinating care for chronic conditions, and more. 

Population health managers typically have a background in public health or a related field and must be able to communicate with a wide range of people effectively. They must also be able to work collaboratively with other professionals to develop and implement programs that will improve the overall health of their community.

  • Typical Education: Bachelor’s
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Board of Public Health Examiners or the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC)
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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