Master’s-Level Education in the Governmental Public Health Workforce

Academic Article


  • Objectives: More than 16 000 graduate degrees in public health are awarded annually. Yet only 14% of the governmental public health workforce has formal public health training of any kind, and 8% has a master of public health (MPH) degree. We characterized the differences among governmental staff members with master’s degrees across US health departments. Methods: We used data from the 2017 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey, a national survey of state and local public health departments (43 669 responses; response rate, 48%). We examined the characteristics of the workforce by educational attainment and compared respondents who had obtained a “terminal” (ie, highest degree obtained) MPH degree with respondents who had obtained a terminal non–public health (non-PH) master’s degree. Results: Respondents who had a non-PH master’s degree were as likely as respondents who had an MPH degree to hold a supervisory role (43% vs 41%; P =.67). We found only 1 significant difference between the 2 groups: respondents aged ≤40 with a terminal MPH degree were significantly less likely than respondents aged ≤40 with a non-PH master’s degree to earn more than the national average salary (adjusted odds ratio = 0.67; 95% CI, 0.47-0.97; P =.03). Conclusions: We found only marginal differences in career outcomes for people working in governmental public health who had a terminal MPH degree vs a terminal non-PH master’s degree. This finding does not necessitate a full reconsideration of the MPH as it relates to governmental public health practice but a greater recognition that there are multiple paths into practice.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Leider JP; Sellers K; Bogaert K; Castrucci BC; Erwin PC
  • Start Page

  • 650
  • End Page

  • 657
  • Volume

  • 135
  • Issue

  • 5