is an mph a good degree for nurses?

What Can You Do as an RN with an MPH Degree?

A master’s degree in public health offers a unique and differentiated skillset for nurses looking to advance their careers. Likewise, the experience that comes with working as a registered nurse can provide a fantastic background for a career in public health. If you’re a nurse today and looking to expand your skills, increase your earning potential, and open doors to new work environments, pursuing a master’s in public health degree could be the perfect next step to advance your career.

A master’s in public health offers a rounded curriculum including how to improve public health by managing public health programs, influencing policy, and in general, immersing oneself in challenging and wide-ranging public health issues. Earning a master’s degree doesn’t have to take years or come with an enormous cost either. With Goodwin University’s MPH program, students can complete their course of study in 12 to 15 months at an accelerated rate and fully online. RNs with an MPH can position their patient-interface skills towards community health efforts and apply the skills they’ve mastered to this rewarding trade. Nurses with an MPH degree are great “double threat” candidates for a number of rewarding public health careers like:

1. Public health nurse

Public health nurses make up the largest segment of the public health workforce. They are found in professional environments including clinics, community health centers, schools, at-home healthcare, schools, and in traveling roles. In all of these different possible work environments, public health nurses are called upon to implement policies and programs that aid vulnerable populations. RNs with an MPH offer the perfect combination for leadership in this area because their backgrounds blend health services with social science. Public health nurses are often concerned with health equity, meaning they seek to remove boundaries that inhibit health access and quality for diverse populations. Those experiencing poverty or the impacts of racism, can unfortunately become victims of systemically caused healthcare crises, and therefore are of particular importance to the public health nurse. Public health nurses also have an important role to play in promoting advocacy, not just personally, but by becoming educated in policy and federal lawmaking.

2. Health policy developer

The enforcement of public health policies begins with writing them! It’s not difficult to identify health problems in many communities, such as obesity, heart disease, food insecurity, smoking, and substance misuse. It’s the health policy developer’s responsibility to use evidence-based research to address rampant community health issues with programs that improve the overall health of community members. For example, in 2018, the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion endeavored to raise the minimum smoking age from 18 to 21. Only 9 states had laws in place that restricted the sale of tobacco to 21 years and up. Per recent data, 42 states now implement such rules. Other national health policy initiatives address public health concerns such as ensuring access to safe drinking water and adding fluoride to water systems to improve oral health. Since RNs have a background in patient care and are invested in minimizing health inhibitors, RNs with public health training might gravitate towards policy development, whether at the federal, state, or local level.

3. Environmental health officer

In this big-picture leadership role, environmental health officers work in occupational health and safety, public health emergency planning, and industrial hygiene management. They respond to public health crises with multi-pronged efforts for instituting preventative measures and responding to the impacts of environmental hazards. RNs are already well-trained in the human response to unhealthy environments. An RN background reinforced by a public health curriculum that includes Emergency Management Health Issues and courses from either the Health Policy and Management or Community Health Concentrations, would lay excellent groundwork for employment as an environmental health officer.

4. Epidemiologist

RNs may wish to unleash their inner researcher to discover patterns and solutions to chronic and infectious diseases and other endemic health risks and problems. For example, an epidemiologist might construct fieldwork studies and collaborate with public health leaders to collect samples from community members. They might focus on disease analysis or work with a specific population-based struggle, such as maternal and infant health in a community subset. Epidemiologists analyze data and publish reports to publicize their findings. Epidemiologists are often employed at federal agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institutes of Health, or for independent or academic labs and research centers. While RNs and epidemiologists make a similar average wage annually in the United States, epidemiologists have the opportunity to make up to $40k more than the highest earning potential for an RN by working in scientific research and development services.


Interested in learning more about a career in public health? Download our Master’s in Public Health Get Started Guide today and discover how Goodwin’s MPH program can help you crush your career goals!


5. Public health director

For RNs who have an interest in organizing public health responses—from a program’s conception to its implementation—the public health director’s job could be just right. Public health directors are found in government settings as well as hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, mental health institutions, and crisis centers. The public health director’s role is appealing to RNs who prefer the administrative side of healthcare, and who have a passion for team building and departmental leadership. Like public health nurses, public health directors must stay up to date on developing legislation related to public health, not to mention maintain excellent working relationships with fellow public service, health care, and community institutions and organizations. Public health directors promote and foster the health of their community members through holistic avenues that integrate members’ mental, physical, and emotional well-being.

RNs with an MPH have a unique combined set of skills that are sure to be competitive in the public health field, earning motivated Goodwin University graduates fulfilling careers. Plus, Goodwin University alumni can take advantage of a lifetime of support from career services to further aid in their short-term and long-term aspirations. To learn more about the benefits of earning an MPH, or attending Goodwin University, please call 800-889-3282, or visit us online to request more information, today.