Community Health Degree Program Information
Find out what degree programs in community health are available. Read about levels of study, prerequisites and likely course topics, as well as certification and continuing education information. Learn job growth and salary statistics, and explore career paths for graduates of these types of programs.
Community health degree programs, including programs in public health and health education, provide students with a solid understanding of health care services, government agencies and needs of specific communities. Students can pursue degrees in this area at the bachelor's, master's and doctoral levels.
Studies can address general health care topics such as ethics, policy development and organizational structures, as well as community health topics including public health assessment methods, environmental health, community health program coordination and public health law. Graduates could be prepared to better educate the public on health issues and coordinate services to bring improved health care to communities. Some careers could require certification.
Bachelor's Degree in Community Health
Bachelor's degree programs in community or public health provide students with the knowledge and skills to develop and implement community programming aimed at bettering public health and wellness. Graduates are prepared for careers as health educators with medical institutions, schools and universities, government agencies and nonprofit community organizations. Most programs don't have specific course prerequisites; however, previous coursework in sociology, health science and psychology may be beneficial.
Community health programs pull from various disciplines, including sociology, biology, nutrition, political science and economics. Course topics might include:
- Modern health issues
- Health care organizations
- Health statistics
- Ethics in health care
- Health care policy
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Employment for health educators was expected to grow at a much-faster-than-average rate from 2010-2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov). Growth was attributed directly to rising health care costs. The government, as well as insurance companies and employers, use health education as a means of preventative medicine to help curb medical costs. Health educators earned a median annual wage of $48,790 in 2012, according to the BLS.
Certification and Continuing Education
The National Commission of Health Education Credentialing, Inc., awards the Certified Health Education Specialist credential to entry-level health educators who hold a bachelor's degree and pass a certification exam. Continuing education is required to maintain certification. While certification is not always a requirement, some state public health departments require it, and many employers prefer to hire certified applicants. Other professional organizations, such as the Society for Public Health Education and the American Association for Health Education, provide continuing education opportunities.
Master's Degree in Community Health
Master's degree programs in community health, often leading to a Master of Public Health, provide students with the knowledge to develop educational community health programming, help set health care policy and conduct research in community health. Many programs allow students to focus on a specific area of community health, such as women's, geriatric or international health. Students must hold a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission into a community health graduate program.
Graduate-level courses in community health cover sociology principles, as well as techniques for developing and implementing programs. Some colleges and universities require or encourage students to participate in internships, and most require a thesis or research project. Courses might include:
- Health program planning
- Community health assessment
- Program evaluation
- Environmental health
- Health care law
Popular Career Options
With a master's degree in community health, graduates are prepared for jobs as health educators or health care administrators working with community organizations, government agencies, hospitals, or environmental or global health organizations. Job titles might include:
- Community health manager
- Public health manager
- Director or programs and services
- Health communications specialist
- Health policy advocate
Ph.D. Programs in Community Health
Ph.D. programs in community health prepare students for academic or research careers related to the area of public or community health. Students learn to conduct research and provide analysis on topics relevant to community health policy and programming, including community influences on disease prevention. Admission to Ph.D. programs in community health requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and may require a foundation in areas such as behavioral science or public health.
Doctoral students take an in-depth look at behavioral and social sciences and their effect on community health. Programs also focus on research and evaluation methods. Students are required to complete a dissertation or research project. Course topics might include:
- Public health informatics
- Community health principles
- Research methods
- Public health law
- Community needs assessment
Popular Career Options
Graduates of doctoral programs in community health are prepared for positions with government agencies, private agencies concerned with public health issues and academic institutions. Popular fields to consider include:
- Health education
- Global health
- Environmental health
- Health administration
- Public health
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