5 Skills to Master during a Master’s in Public Health

Public health professionals play important roles in the overall well-being of communities across the country. They work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, government agencies, educational institutions, research facilities and nonprofit organizations. All employers will expect public health professionals to cultivate the following five skills during their Master’s in Public Health degree program.

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Communication Skills

These skills are crucial for the success of all public health professionals. Almost all organizations employ public health professionals to develop and implement health related programs and support services for their clients. Strong communication skills help to understand core values, efficiently interact with co-workers and strategically design information exchange processes. Communication skills include the ability to collect and organize data that is presented to different audiences through various media channels and information technologies. They must know how to apply strategy-based communication principles in different environments and how to collaborate with informatics specialists to evaluate public health programs.

Interpersonal Skills

Public health professionals rarely work in isolation because it’s impossible to independently implement programs. They must continually collaborate with social workers, program managers and health care professionals for the success of the target project. The essence of interpersonal skills is the ability to interact with diverse individuals and communities to influence intended public health outcomes. They should be prepared to explain how professional practices impact equity and accountability. Understanding culturally appropriate engagement and empowerment within diverse communities are a must.

Leadership Skills

Public health professionals should have the ability to create and communicate a shared vision for a positive future. They must have strong change and process management skills. They should champion solutions to community challenges and organizational issues. Leadership within the field of public health means energizing people’s commitment to goals and engaging in collaborative dialogues to advance public health objectives. Master’s in Public Health students must understand the unique attributes of leadership in public health and know the strategies for partnerships between agencies, organizations and the public. Successful leadership requires team building, negotiation, and conflict management skills.

Technical Skills

Basic computer skills, such as familiarity with MS Office, and common Internet applications are a must. Public health professionals must be familiar with statistical software, social media platforms and health information management systems. For example, they must understand biostatistics in order to apply statistical methods and reasoning to analyze and address public health problems. Biostatistics software programs involve the basic concepts of probability, random variation and probability distributions. Thus, strong math and statistical skills are needed to understand the different measurement scales, the implications of research methods and the impacts of descriptive and inferential methodologies.

Systems Thinking Skills

Master’s in Public Health graduates should have the ability to recognize system level properties and analyze dynamic interactions between groups, organizations, communities and environments. Systems thinking implies the ability to identify unintended consequences produced by changes to public health systems. For example, they should be able to articulate how various changes in public health systems, such as different inputs and outputs, can be accurately measured. Knowing how to create strategies to improve or ameliorate these impacts is critical. Public health professionals should be able to explain how systems models can be tested, validated and adjusted.

Finally, Master’s in Public Health students should understand the history, power and structural inequality of local and national health trends and disparities.