Public health degrees are for people interested in the big picture—a population-level focus on health and disease that arms you with the statistical and medical knowledge to create long-term changes in the lives and well-being of broader populations of everyday people.
Healthcare management, on the other hand, tends to be more focused on business and the practical aspects of administering healthcare organizations. While healthcare managers are certainly concerned with public health trends and information, they are usually working at the pointy end of the spear since they have more business training than medical education.
But the dividing line isn’t always so clear. Big public health efforts need to be managed just as much as private hospitals and medical centers do. Creating vaccines, developing new technologies for detecting and halting the spread of disease, or managing infection control measures at major hospitals are all private sector roles with major public health implications.
That’s why getting a master’s in public health with a healthcare management emphasis can set you up better for roles in either field in a way that a standard MHA or MPH alone can’t.
Career Options for Master’s Degree Holders in Public Health With Healthcare Management Emphasis
The best news about getting an MPH with a healthcare management emphasis is that your credentials are valuable for both traditional public health positions and managerial healthcare jobs.
This puts you in a position where you can confidently apply for traditional graduate level jobs in either field. But it also gives you an edge for those positions that have a significant crossover between the two… all of which tend to be more advanced and better paying.
From hospital/clinic administrator to healthcare project manager to C-suite titles like chief operating officer and chief medical officer, an MPH can prepare you for a host of exciting career opportunities. Healthcare roles for those with an MPH generally feature a blend of traditional administrative oversight with expertise in communicable disease or population-centric healthcare measures.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), chief executives in healthcare and social assistance enjoyed a median salary of $160,950, while general and operations managers earned a median salary of $103,650 as of May 2020. Senior-level general and operations managers earned salaries that exceeded $208,000 during this time
Epidemiology is an exciting field within public health often explored through an MPH. As of May 2020, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported an average salary of $83,620 for epidemiologists. Early career epidemiologists earned about $59,380 during this time, while senior-level epidemiologists earned about $126,040.
Some of the areas in which epidemiologists work in healthcare, and their average salaries, include:
- General and medical surgical hospitals: $87,750
- Scientific research and development: $110,490
- Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing: $114,050
- Offices of physicians: $116,870
May 2020 Bureau of Labor Statistics salary and job market trends for general and operations managers, epidemiologists, and top executives in healthcare and social assistance represent national data, not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Salary statistics representing entry-level/early career = 25th percentile; mid-level= 50th percentile; senior-level/highly experienced = 90th percentile. Data accessed August 2021.
Selecting a Master’s Program in Public Health With Healthcare Management Emphasis
Master degree programs in public health with a management focus are also commonly found with titles like:
- Master of Public Health, Health Services Administration
- Master of Health Services Administration
- Master’s in Public Health, Health Policy and Management Concentration
- Master’s in Public Health, Health Services and Policy Concentration
There is also the master’s in healthcare administration with a focus in public health, which comes at the same goal from the other direction—emphasizing the management aspects with extra public health courses rather than the other way around.
Healthcare System Affiliation
It’s most common to find these degree options at schools with large public health programs, often operating in conjunction with a university-run teaching hospital.
The presence of a large medical facility run by or in cooperation with the university is a big plus. You’ll find professors and lecturers who have skin in the public health game, real-world experience that they can pass along. You’ll also have expanded opportunities to become involved in real-world public health and management issues as part of your courses or capstone projects.
Partnerships without outside agencies are also a benefit. County or state health departments or regional or local hospital systems can offer similar advantages for real-world projects and concerns.
Online Degree Options
If you’re aiming for a master’s degree, chances are you already have some professional experience in the field. Maybe you already have a successful career and are looking to build on that success. Or maybe you just have to keep paying the bills while you’re getting the education you need to meet your goals.
In either case, online degree programs make a lot of sense for master’s degree candidates. By making lecture and interactions with professors and other students asynchronous and accessible anywhere you can get an internet connection, these programs open up worlds of flexibility in your life. If 3 a.m. at the kitchen table is when you have time to study, then that’s when you can do it.
This avoids all the costs associated with relocation and work disruption. And because the cost of delivery may also be lower, you can find online programs that are extremely affordable as well.
MPH With Healthcare Management Emphasis Core Curriculum and Electives
Public health is effectively the adoption of a systems approach to healthcare—looking at the interactions and processes that lead to healthcare outcomes as a cohesive whole and teaching students how to view and manipulate the parts to achieve healthier populations in the most cost-effective way possible.
This means that courses tend to fork into both medical and social concerns. Taking on healthcare management as a specialty also means the addition of courses in business, law, and economics.
Epidemiology and Environment
Public health is largely concerned with controlling the spread of disease. Where major outbreaks originate and how their propagation is influenced by environmental and sociological factors is crucial information for public health majors. You’ll be taught the principles of disease vectors and the elements of controlling them by implementing programs aimed at both environment (such as mosquito eradication) and society (such as immunization).
Biostatistics and Informatics
Closely related to epidemiological studies, courses in biostatistics will prepare you with the scientific principles and techniques necessary to evaluate data across large population groups. The representation, storage, and manipulation of biomedical information for understanding disease patterns and mechanisms also requires an understanding of healthcare informatics. You’ll get hands-on experience manipulating medical information systems and databases alongside a theoretical understanding of information theory.
Public Health Policy
Public health services are ultimately the outgrowth of public health policy. You’ll learn how policies are developed and implemented in the American political and healthcare systems and how those interface with global healthcare efforts. The role of science and political leadership are taught, as well as how those fields have come together to create the current American healthcare system.
The business aspects of healthcare are subject to the forces of economics in both public health and in narrower areas such as service delivery. These courses have a lot of crossover between public health and management as you learn how affordability, insurance, and costs of delivery affect the spread of disease and the sustainability of medical services.
Health Services Administration and Delivery
These courses delve directly into the structure and management of healthcare services. Whether you end up running a network of free clinics in disadvantaged neighborhoods or a multi-million dollar regional healthcare provider, the basis of managing medical professionals and building those organizations are things you will learn in these classes. Accounting, HR, and other common business practices are covered from the medical angle.
Law and Ethics
Legal considerations are paramount in healthcare operations today. From the mandatory patient record and privacy requirements of HIPAA to the CDC’s nationally notifiable diseases program, any high-level manager in healthcare needs a solid understanding of the legalities in the system. Alongside legal requirements are the ethical mandates of providing care for patients. When those two considerations collide is where you’ll earn your money as an administrator. Courses like these give you the tools to do it.
Some healthcare administration master’s programs have a final capstone project requirement. These projects are designed to allow you to more deeply assimilate all the various aspects of the field that you have absorbed in the preceding courses and bring them together. The course often deals with some real-world challenge and is often undertaken in cooperation with outside agencies. You’ll get an early chance to take your master’s education out for a spin and see where reality matches up with theory.
Many programs also have either mandatory or optional internship programs available. Like capstone projects, these positions allow you to test your training in real-world environments. Unlike the capstone, internships offer complete immersion, placing you with a functioning healthcare organization in a role that has immediate and real responsibilities. The networking possibilities that go along with the internship can be just as valuable. Many interns find themselves landing job offers at the organization they interned with.
Accreditation Standards for Master’s Degree Programs in Public Health With Healthcare Management Emphasis
Accreditation is the process by which entire schools and specific programs within those schools are rated by independent third parties to attest to their quality and consistency. All schools that house reputable master’s programs in the United States are accredited by agencies recognized by either the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)or the Department of Education (DOE). You can be pretty confident that any school you’re considering holds accreditation, but it’s still worth a quick check to be sure.
Those accreditations are typically given by one of six different regional accrediting agencies, with a few national agencies assuming the role for more nationally-oriented online schools. Although this kind of university-level accreditation helps validate the academic basics, you should also look for specific healthcare-related accreditations specific to the master’s program you’re considering.
The agencies that offer programmatic accreditations within the sphere of public health and healthcare administration are:
- Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
- Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
- Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) – Certification only, which involve no on-site visits
Unlike the regional and national university-level accrediting agencies, these agencies look specifically at coursework and credentials related to the subject matter within MPH and MHA programs. They provide the same degree of assurance of quality and consistency, but with respect to public health and management topics instead of just general academic matters.