Public Health Nurse Degrees & Programs

Public health programs help to prepare you to work in the public healthcare sector in a variety of positions. Just as varied as the positions are that you can choose as your career path are the number of different degree levels and types of studies you can choose in this area.

Below, we give you an overview of the various schools that offer these degrees and the types of degrees available.

If you are already in the medical field or wish to go into the medical field, public health care programs are one area that can offer you a large range of careers. You can start out earning certificates in various areas or go directly into school for a BS degree. The different levels of public health care classes and degrees that are available include:

  • Certificates: These are excellent choices for healthcare professionals who want to add to their education. These classes can usually be used to fulfill continuing education requirements.
  • Bachelors Degree
  • Masters Degree
  • Doctoral
  • Minor (undergraduate)

You should choose the level of education you want to pursue based on what your end goal is for your career.

Schools with Public Health Care Programs

The number of schools and universities that offer degrees in public health is enormous. Some of the most recognized schools are listed here with a sampling of the programs that they offer.

  • Boston University School of Public Health: Boston University offers 73 programs in public health. They have Masters in Public Health degrees and PhDs; they also have some dual degrees available. The areas that you can focus on include: Biostatistics, Environmental Health, Epidemiology, Health Policy and Management, International Health and more.

Within each of these and the other areas of focus are various levels of degrees that you can achieve.

  • Emory University – Rollins School of Public Health: Emory is a well-known teaching hospital that excels in producing some of the finest healthcare professionals in the nation. The Rollins School of Public Health offers over 90 programs designed to have you ready to enter the public health sector in a variety of fields, including: Epidemiology, Behavioral Sciences & Health Education, Biostatistics, Environmental Health and Global Health.

These are just a few of the Masters in Public Health degrees that are offered by the Rollins School. In addition to Master’s degrees, healthcare workers can choose certificate courses such as; Human Rights, Religion & Health, Russian and European Health Studies

These courses are excellent options for earning continuing education credits or simply extending your knowledge of certain healthcare issues.

  • Harvard: The prestigious Harvard School of Public Health offers all levels of degrees in public health programs. Students can get a Masters of Public Health, a Master of Science or a PhD. Some of the more than 138 offerings from the school include: Clinical Effectiveness, Environmental Health, Global Health, Epidemiology, Health Care Management and Policy, Law and Public Health, Health & Social Behavior, etc.

Harvard also has joint degree programs for professionals who wish to have a dual degree.

These schools show the vast array of programs available for those in the medical field who wish to go into public health. There are many more campus based universities to choose from and with some research you will be able to make an informed decision.

If you prefer distance learning, the following schools are an excellent choice. You can get a quality education in a variety of public health courses from the comfort of your living room. Schools that offer web-based classes include:

  • University of Minnesota School of Public Health: Certificate course in Aging Studies
  • Emory University Rollings School of Public Health: Master of Public Health in Applied Epidemiology and Applied Health Informatics
  • John Hopkins University School of Public Health: MPSH in Environmental Health Science
  • South Carolina University – Arnold School of Public Health: MCD in Communication Sciences and Disorders
  • Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine: Tulane offers both a certificate and an MPH in Disaster Management

As you can see here, there are many schools that offer online public health programs. These classes allow you to work at your own pace and complete your degree while you work.

Public health programs are available to all levels of healthcare professionals. You can choose a certificate program or go all the way for a joint degree in many different areas that serve the public health sector. Study your options carefully and start your educational path to serving the community through a career in public health.

Public health nursing degree programs are the perfect nurse training programs for nurses who wish to serve the society in the medical field but do not wish to work in a hospital setting. Public health degree programs train students to work with the community by solving health issues affecting them at their living areas. This explains the reason as to why public health degrees are alternatively known as community health nursing programs.

Since a public health nursing is one of the specialties of the nursing profession, nurses need to have a license as registered nurses before enrollment. The nurses can then enroll for a master’s degree program with a specialty in public health nursing.

The study program takes about two years to complete upon which a certification is issued.

Coursework for Masters of Science in Nursing-public health
The course work for RNs who take public health nursing as specialty is a bit divergent from that of nurses who will work in a hospital setting. Although the scope is the same, the courses are tailored to meet the needs of the community at an outdoor situation. Major courses of the public health nurses training will include:

  • Environmental health

This course covers the maintenance of good living conditions and sanitation around the environs where people live.  Public health nurses are trained on how to help people comply with environmental protection and conservation rules. Such is important to help mitigate outbreaks of health pandemics like cholera.

  • Epidemiology

This course includes training on how to carryout studies of health events, health trends or determinant patterns and evidence based health care. It is one of the core responsibilities of public health nurses.  The course imparts data collection and analytical skills to public health nurses so as to help in policy making.

Other aspects of epidemiology courses are study of diseases surveillance methods, clinical trials, investigation of diseases outbreaks and biostatistics.

  • Community health assessment

Community health nurses are trained in carrying out health assessment in patients’ homes, home based care centers or in hospice centers. The course equips the nurse student with skills on how to master patient psychology and counseling. Public health nurse may also work in palliative homes where they deliver health care needs to aged persons.

  • Public health law and principles

This is a regulatory role of public health nurses. It familiarizes future public health nurses with laws and principles governing public health. As such, nurses are trained to ensure all sectors of the public comply with the set public laws and standards.

Degree Programs in Public Health Field
Rather than using the RN specialization path, interested students can take a bachelors degree in public health. Although this degree program is not part of the nursing degree programs, at the end of the day, there are similar courses and roles upon graduation. The only difference between a public health officer and a public health nurse is that the latter receives training with a background of patient care.

There are advanced opportunities for both public health nursing and public health officers. There are doctorate degree programs in community health. Such degrees enable nurses to become policy makers, educators and researchers in matters of community and public health nursing.

The work scope with a public health nursing Degree

Public health nurses/officers work scope falls beyond taking care of patients in a healthcare facility. It encompasses focus on general wellness of the community or that of a group of individuals.  The work would include:

  • Taking care of sanitation and drainage systems in assigned regions
  • Health care campaigns for disease prevention
  • Good nutrition habits
  • Demographic studies on diseases spread in given regions
  • Inspection of food production process to enhance compliance with food hygiene standards
  • Substance and drug abuse education and awareness
  • Field research on common diseases like malaria, HIV, Diabetes, infectious diseases and STI
  • Public education on general health issues
  • Teen pregnancy

About the MPH Degree

A leadership position in health is not an ordinary RN or doctor, but a health professional with the” leadership paradigm” in his or her methodology.  A leader in a Public Health role, therefore, must be able to recognize and assess public health problems as they occur, and ultimately use his or her problem-solving skills and experience to arrive at solutions.

What are the qualifications for the MPH degree?   Are there a prerequisites? 

It is desirable that the candidate either come from a public health program, with some internship level experience, or with some academic experience in health-related course work.   The program is far too intense for a complete novice to enter unprepared.

As to the actual qualifications, anyone entering the realm of Public Health with an eye to leadership has to be an innate problem solver.  That is, they have to have a kind of intuition for understanding challenging health issues that affect different types of communities, particularly groups that are underserved or of low socio-economic stability.  You must also possess empathy for working with individuals and families from these groups, and have special insights into the needs of minorities and their communities, as the majority of health issues worldwide are found in the venues of the economically challenged patient.

In addition to a propensity for leadership, and an ability to work with a diverse population, a Public Health Masters Degree candidate should be passionately motivated to work with the health problems of a particular body of individuals.  They should have the resolve, the creativity and the sheer tenacity to continue working on communal health problems until they can arrive at intelligent and creative solutions for them.   And they will need to have the commitment to work directly with their patient caseload, in the settings and habitat where they find them.  There is probably no one individual more discouraging to a group, or ineffectual as a leader, than a 9 to 5 Public Health professional who only keeps office hours.   After all, you cannot solve the world’s health problems gazing at the clock.

What’s the most important thing about a Public Health Degree’s education? 

There is no single experience more crucial to a Public Health leader than their clinical internship, which is extensive, involving thousands of committed and dedicated hours of labor in a medical facility, in positions that directly apply the classroom learning and experiences to practical working reality.   The validation, or lack of it, in an internship for a prospective leader is where “the rubber meets the road,” and the student truly learns if he or she has what it takes to enter and maintain leadership, creativity and motivation in the public health field.

If I get the Public Health Masters Degree , where can I find a job?  What kind of job? 

If the successful candidate does not choose a traditional medical setting or public health facility, they can often find excellent job opportunities in the Federal government, in agencies such as the American Cancer Society or the Center for Disease Control/Prevention.   Many candidates go international, in the WHO (World Health Organization) or the Red Cross, as the need for Public Health officials is worldwide.

They can also find employment as program managers, health information specialists, research associates or community educators, in such diverse employment venues as state health facilities or pharmaceutical firms.   Also, health professionals can be employed in corporations to increase the health of their workforce and reduce insurance costs.   Even fast food corporations are beginning to realize the need for health professionals on their staffs.

No matter what avenue one chooses, the market for employment is very promising, and substantial growth is predicted for future employment in this specific field.

Top Online Masters in Public Health Degree Programs being offered today.

Walden University – This college offers an online Master of Public Health Program, which is a practice accommodated degree including such courses as epidemiology, biostatistics, health administration,healthcare policy, behavioral sciences, and environmental health.

Grand Canyon University – This one is for the student with a hectic schedule. The student wanting to quickly achieve their career goals can go to the GCU online for their MS of Public Health program.

University of Phoenix – This is the largest online college in the USA, UP provides 2 degrees of interest for anyone wishing to pursue a career in public health field.

Liverpool University – This school also offers an online Masters in Public Health programs for the students with the capability to concentration their choice of degree international public health, in epidemiology, and health systems management. Additionally, Liverpool provides a customary online MPH degree.

Benedictine University – BU prepares their students with an online Master in Public Health program to aid in combatting poverty, disease, epidemics and inequities.

Boston University – Boston offers a Master’s in Health Communication, pupils here can enjoy a higher level of positions, which can allow them to employ their education into their careers.

Can I specialize?  Are some specializations more needed than others? 

There is a huge need for professionals in health concerns related to terrorism; as well, the HIV/AIDS crisis is still a vast and destructive force for many communities.  Obesity and its prevention is a new focus as well.

Whatever the calling or specialization, your a Public Health master’s degree will stand you in good stead for continual employment and fulfilling work.   

Why Become a Public Health Nurse?

Public health nurses are concerned about the population as a whole, instead of concentrating on individual patients and their immediate problems.  A public health nurse will be focused on the issues of pandemic disease, or crisis management rather than the personal issues of a small group of patients.

The Necessity of Public Health Nurses

In many communities, the public health nurse is the only medical care giver in the community.  This makes the responsibility of the public health nurse to care for patient from birth to the grave.  The public health nurse will deliver a baby, give the baby its first immunizations, check for growth patterns and milestones, give the school immunizations and health exams, administer eye examinations and look for loose or missing teeth.  After becoming school aged, the child is patched and fixed by the public health nurse when they have scratches, scrapes and broken bones from football practice.  When the child reaches puberty the public health nurse is the educator regarding safe sexual practices and birth control.  When the child marries, the public health nurse is the family health caregiver and watches for signs of coronary heart disease, diabetes and cancers.  If cancer is diagnosed, the public health nurse documents the trends in the community to see if there is an environmental element that could be the cause.  The public health nurse records all the deaths in the community, again looking for sociological trends and disease causations.

What Does a Public Health Nurse Do?

A public health nurse is concerned about groups of people and the health trends affecting them.  The public health nurse is part teacher, part researchanalyst, part caregiver and part advocate and is often the liaison between the government and a community in terms of health care and emergency situations.  The public health nurse has the ability to look beyond the community and into the future, and is often the first to identify trends and concerns of an epidemic in disease.

Duties and Responsibilities of a Public Health Nurse

–        Monitors health issues to specific communities, for example, Native Americans and Diabetes

–        Establishes priorities for the greatest help to the greatest number of people

–        Educates and provides personal care to the at-risk targeted population

–        Educates the group about the available health care services and follow-up on usage

–        Designs health care campaigns in the form of Health Fairs and Shot Screenings, offer the current immunizations and screenings

–        Advocates with the local governmental officials to improve health care opportunities for the underserved community

Education Requirements for a Public Health Nurse

A public health nurse is a registered nurse with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, although some communities will hire with an associate’s degree in nursing, if you have enough work experience in the nursing field.  After completing the B.S. in Nursing, it is necessary to pass the State Board Examinations -NCLEX-RN.

If you wish to supervise or manage, it is recommended that you pursue a Master of Science in Public Health Nursing.  There is also a post-Master’s specialty degree in Vulnerable Communities Advanced Public Health Nursing.

Salary and Working Conditions for the Public Health Nurse

A public health nurse is paid $55,000 annually to start but will rise to a higher level with years of experience.  This is one of the lowest financially paid sectors of nursing but many practitioners believe it is the highest paid in job satisfaction.  The public health nurse is often the only medical personnel available in isolated, rural communities and is depended on for all emergency situations.

In some ways the public health nurse is a combination of a teacher, preacher, and doctor rolled into one job.  The PH Nurse will teach the entire community about a specific disorder or disease that affects their population; then will advocate for this community on the local and national level.  The PH Nurse will preach to the community about the hazards or dangers of the disorder and will eventually treat the victims or patients who have suffered from the situation.

There is a satisfaction from your job when you know that the entire community is dependent upon your knowledge and leadership to avoid the certain hazards of a negative influence.  The paycheck for a public health nurse more often is in the form of smiles and the healthy interaction of the community for which they are responsible.

Public Health Nurse Career Information

Public Health Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice
While most nurses work and have roles in the public realm, public health nurses in particular are nurses who work specifically in educating the general community on important health issues.  These nurses may work in specific areas of the population such as with those living in poverty stricken areas.

Nurses hold a very necessary position in the community.  Those nurses working in the public health sector need to have a strong nursing background because they must work with many various illnesses and medical problems.  They must also be very compassionate because they will be working with the public on a daily basis.  In many cases, this nurse is the one who assists the doctor by working directly with patients.

How to Become a Public Health Nurse

Those who are interested in becoming nurses are required to first obtain a nursing license as an RN (registered nurse). The first step on the path towards becoming a nurse who works in the area of public health is to first enroll in a nursing program.  Upon completion of a nursing program, the aspiring nurse will need to take the licensing exam (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed as a nurse in the state where they are working.  It is also helpful to attain a bachelor’s degree in nursing with a specialty in public health.

Nurses should begin working in the field of public health as early as possible to begin to acquire the necessary skills and experience required to pursue a career in public health. These specialty nurses may decide to join the American Public Health Association (APHA), a group that advocates for public nursing and provides news and information to members.

Public Health Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

Nurses who wish to work in public health should begin by taking courses in the nursing program that will provide the student with a degree in nursing.  Most nurses should complete undergraduate study to achieve a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).  Choose a program that offers coursework in family and general nursing to ensure that you have a strong educational platform.  After graduating with a BSN degree, you will be prepared to take the NCLEX-RN exam.  This provides your license, enabling you to work in your state as a registered nurse.  You should consider getting some practical experience by taking a position in a public health sector.

The American Public Health Association recommends certification through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for public-health nurses. Qualified nurses receive the Advanced Public Health Nurse-Board Certified (APHN-BC) after successfully passing an examination. Eligible applicants hold a graduate degree in public or community health awarded from an accredited program. Those with nursing degrees that are not in the community-health field may obtain certification after completing 2,000 practice hours in public health within the three years prior to taking the exam. While certification is voluntary and not required, certified nurses often get hired and receive promotions sooner than their non-certified counterparts.

Public Health Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

Nurses are in high demand and will continue to be necessary in the coming years.  There are too few nurses, particularly in the area of public health, so the outlook for this career is very good.  With the demand high, the salary will also rise somewhat as well. Nurses working in public health can expect a salary of between $45,000 and $58,000 per year.  The salary depends on your own experience, education, and the location and setting where you work.  Those with advanced degrees will achieve higher salaries throughout their careers.