Recently, professionals from North Dakota’s state and municipal government agencies, along with non-profit organizations and other non-governmental agencies joined forces to issue a joint statement regarding a Hepatitis C outbreak in the Minot area. Laboratory scientists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the outbreak to have a common genetic source, and are working with health care professionals, program directors, epidemiologists, to resolve this public health threat by approaching it from a variety of angles.
North Dakota’s relatively high concentration of professionals in several public health fields indicates career mobility options for qualified individuals.
In North Dakota, some of these fields offer strong job prospects and nationally-competitive average salaries, as reported by the US Department of Labor:
- Emergency Management Directors – North Dakota has the fifth-highest concentration of these professionals in the nation
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors – North Dakota offers the third-highest average salary in the nation for these professionals
- Health Educators – Bismarck has the second-highest concentration of these professionals of all cities in the nation
Many public health fields also report impressive growth projections for the ten-year period between 2012 and 2022, as is evident in the following numbers released by the North Dakota Labor Market Information Center
- Nursing Instructors, college level – 35 percent job growth
- Mental Health Counselors – 27 percent job growth
- Community Health Workers – 23 percent job growth
- Medical and Health Services Managers – 23 percent job growth
- Dieticians and Nutritionists – 21 percent job growth
- Environmental Scientists and Environmental Health Scientists – 19 percent job growth
- Social and Human Service Assistants – 19 percent job growth
- Rehabilitation Counselors – 18 percent job growth
- Healthcare Social Workers – 18 percent job growth
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers – 14 percent job growth
In 2009 the National Institutes of Health set a precedent by providing $4.48 million in grants for public health initiatives in the state. More recently, in 2015 it provided $2.22 million for public health programs in North Dakota.
North Dakota’s Public Health Professionals at Work
Private companies employ public health professionals to keep their employees safe and ensure regulations are met. Non-profit organizations employ public health professionals to achieve ideological objectives that benefit society. Government policy makers enact laws designed to enforce regulations and see to it public health threats are countered through the most efficient means. Some recent examples include:
- Healthcare workers, environmental health professionals, and public health journalists have been reminding the public of the respiratory conditions that can arise from smoke inhalation in light of recent forest fires around the Bismarck area.
- Physicians, nurses, epidemiologists, and medical campaign leaders have been raising public awareness about HIV and other STDs through a recent statewide education program.
- Epidemiologists, public health directors, and public health educators have been reminding parents to get their children vaccinated in light of the recent national measles outbreak.
- Public health regulators, journalists, and environmental scientists recently responded to an oil pipeline leak near Powers Lake, issuing alerts to the public and testing for environmental contamination.
- Public health media relations professionals, environmental scientists, regulators, and laboratory scientists were recently involved in a boil order issued to residents of several counties in the northwestern portion of the state after tests showed drinking water contamination in these areas.
Earning a Master of Public Health in North Dakota
A bachelor’s degree in public health or another related field can fulfill entry-level requirements for many jobs, while a master’s degree in public health is often required for positions of greater influence in health policy and public health program administration. The Master of Public Health (MPH) is the standard among those interested in moving into the public health sector from other fields, since a four-year undergraduate degree in any major meets the undergraduate requirements for MPH programs. This makes the MPH ideal for career changers and those seeking advancement alike.
MPH degrees are offered as general multidisciplinary degrees, as well as with specialized concentrations. In accordance with the Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH), all MPH programs must cover the five core public health disciplines:
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Health Administration and Health Policy
- Environmental Health
More specialized MPH programs will focus in-depth on one of these disciplines.
In addition to an MPH, there are also many other related degrees new public health job candidates can pursue. Prospective professionals can get an idea about what to expect in North Dakota’s public health sector by reviewing current job vacancy announcements and job descriptions.
The following were sampled from across the state in April of 2015, and are provided solely as illustrative examples:
- Administrator III, Suicide Prevention Coordinator with the North Dakota Department of Health – This position requires a master’s degree in Public Health, Public Administration, Social Work, or a related field plus one year of program administrative experience; OR a bachelor’s degree in one of these subjects plus two years of related experience.
- Infection Control Nurse with Vibra Healthcare in Mandan – This company was looking for a registered nurse who had at least two years of clinical work experience that was related to epidemiology, infectious diseases, microbiology, or other similar topics. Expertise in infection prevention and control was also a requirement.
- Environmental Scientist II with the North Dakota DOH Division of Water Quality – This position requires at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the natural or physical sciences such as biology, geology, hydrology, and resource management.
North Dakota’s Public Health Employers
North Dakota is home to numerous governmental agencies, cooperative programs, private companies, and non-profit organizations that work together to face public health challenges head-on:
- Fargo Cass Public Health
- Grand Forks City and County Health Department
- Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health
- North Dakota Department of Health (DOH)
- North Dakota Hunger Coalition
- North Dakota Cancer Coalition
- NDQuits for smoking cessation
- Bottineau Community Prevention Coalition
- North Dakota Environmental Health Association
- North Dakota State Office of Rural Health
- North Dakota School Nutrition Association
Private Companies and Non-Profit Organizations
- Mental Health America for North Dakota
- North Dakota Public Health Association
- North Dakota Nurses Association
- North Dakota Counseling Association
- North Dakota School Counselor Association