Graduate degrees often come with a hefty price tag. In 2004, a National Postsecondary Student Aid study found that 60 percent of graduate students walked away with an average debt of $37,000. Compared to a law or medical degree, this may sound like a drop in the bucket. But the added debt may not be worth the time if your salary isn’t what you expect. With a master of public health, your earning potential is dependent on the job. Some professions just offer higher returns than others, even with the same degree.
A master of public health is often the minimum requirement for an epidemiologist, a health professional who investigates the cause, scope and likelihood of infectious diseases and other public health concerns. As of 2011, half of all epidemiologist earn at least $64,220 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But the top 10 percent of earners make in excess of $100,000 a year.
Graduating with a master of public health may also lead to a career as a statistician. Like epidemiologist, statisticians -- or biostatisticians as they’re often called in the health industry -- help identify the causes of infectious diseases, particularly with outbreaks. They also design studies for pharmaceutical companies and medical research facilities to test the efficacy of drugs. In 2011, the average statistician made $77,280 a year. But those working for pharmaceutical manufacturers averaged closer to $91,470 a year, while those in scientific research settings made an average of $86,370, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
If you’re hoping to work directly with the public, you could use your master’s in public health to become a health educator. In fact, a graduate degree is often necessary to work in this capacity for either the state or the federal government. The role of a health educator is just as it sounds -- to develop, teach and evaluate public health programs. In 2011, half of all health educators earned at least $47,940 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those in the state government, however, earned a bit more, averaging almost $51,000 a year. Those in the federal government were the highest earners, with an annual salary of $95,800 a year.
Though many health services managers enter the field with a master’s degree in health administration, it isn’t uncommon to see someone with a master of public health in this role. As a healthcare executive, you’ll likely find yourself planning, directing and coordinating medical services for hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and other health-services facilities. The average health-service manager made $96,030 a year in 2011, reports the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If, however, you find yourself working for an insurance company, your salary may be almost $140,000 a year.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Epidemiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Epidemiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Statisticians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Statisticians
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Health Educators
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Health Educators
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook – Medical and Health Services Managers
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Medical and Health Services Managers
- The New York Times: What is a Master’s Degree Worth?
- Comstock/Comstock/Getty Images