Public Health Salaries: What Can You Earn with an MPH?

Whether you’re already working in the public health field and looking to make a career shift or brand new to the field and considering a public health career, learning more about your potential compensation can, unfortunately, feel like a mystery. Salary information can be hidden in job postings or not shared until following interviews. To add to a lack of transparency, there’s a general sense that salary is one of the forbidden topics in polite conversation, at the top of the list with religion and politics. The bias against discussing salaries is more common amongst Americans and even infiltrates our closest relationships, with a third of cohabiting couples unsure of how much the other makes.

If you can’t discuss salary with your partner, how can you discuss it with a friend or potential employer? If a salary isn’t included in a job posting, or described as “commensurate with experience”, how do you know what you might earn?

This article will illuminate public health job salaries so that your expectations when starting a job search are aligned with potential compensation and job availability. 

Average salary range for someone with an MPH

The “average” salary listed isn’t always the most accurate or best place to start. While some public health positions are available to those with a public health major from undergrad or work experience, having a master’s in public health is an immediate marker for employers of your potential value as an employee. While there can be an assumption that public health is not an especially lucrative field, this isn't necessarily the case. Instead, the average public health salary is elusive given wide-ranging compensation within the broad field of public health.

Certain subsets of the field can be more financially rewarding. Salaries can vary based on industry, cost of living in a certain geographic area, and previous experience required. To aid in your career exploration, this section will discuss some of the highest paying jobs you can get with a master’s degree in public health as well as typical entry-level salaries for someone with a master’s in public health.

High-paying jobs for those with MPHs

Some of the higher paying jobs for those with an MPH are biostatisticians, medical and health services managers, and public health attorneys. The median annual salaries as of May 2021, general description of the role, degree and/or experience requirements, and projected growth are as follows:


Median annual salary: $95,570 

Salary ranges: Depending on the industry, the median annual salary for a biostatistician was as high as $144,770 in research and development for physical and life sciences, $79,060 for health care, and $77,750 for academia1

Job functions: Biostatisticians collect and analyze data to answer health-related research questions. They are frequently employed by pharmaceutical companies to help evaluate whether a new drug is effective in comparison to what is already offered by the company or the industry standard. Other employers include the government or hospitals where someone could analyze data related to disease trends or treatment efficacy. The role of a biostatistician is distinct from that of a public health analyst as biostatisticians focus more on data, whereas a public health analyst is more likely to evaluate the impact of health policy on disease control and prevalence. 

Degree and experience needed: A master’s degree will be required for the majority of biostatistician positions. 

Projected growth: Promisingly, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a rate of growth for biostatisticians at 35% over the next ten years, which is significantly higher than the average rate of growth of 8% for all jobs1


Medical and health services manager

Median annual salary $101,340

Salary ranges: The highest median salaries for these positions are in hospitals, with average annual salaries of $119,450, and the lowest is in nursing and residential facilities with average annual salaries of $83,5502.

Job functions: Medical and health services managers work in health care facilities of all types and have the goal of improving the quality and delivery of health care services. These positions are considered part of health administration and roles are often focused on the finances of a group of physicians or practice, and duties may involve managing overall practice finances, developing and monitoring budgets, and billing. Depending on the facility, they may also be involved with staffing decisions, particularly as these decisions relate to budgets, and scheduling. 

Degree and experience needed: A minimum of a bachelor’s degree will be required, but a master’s degree will be preferred for the majority of healthcare administrator positions. 

Projected growth: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a rate of growth for medical and health services managers at 32% over the next ten years, which is significantly higher than the average rate of growth of 8% for all jobs2


Public health attorney

Median annual salary:  $127,990

Salary ranges: The highest median salaries for these positions are with the federal government, with average annual salaries of $152,590, and the lowest is in local government with average annual salaries of $100,2403.

Job functions: Public health attorneys frequently work with the government to develop policies and laws related to health issues. These attorneys also often represent patients or healthcare facilities in cases. 

Degree and experience needed: A Juris Doctorate (J.D.) is required to be a public health attorney. 

Projected growth: The projected rate of growth for public health attorneys is 9%, on par with the rate of projected growth for all jobs of 8%3


Entry Level-Salaries

Two of the most common entry-level jobs for those in the public health field are health education specialists (also called health educators) and community health workers. These positions are often grouped together since the main goal of both is to provide health education to one’s local community and fall under the umbrella of health promotion, but there are distinct differences between them related to education required and compensation. Their average salaries are much lower than those of the positions listed above, so they might not be a viable long-term option following graduation but could be a good first job to gain relevant experience in the field. 

Median annual salary: $48,860 ($46,590 for community health workers and $60,600 for health education specialists). 

Salary ranges: For community health workers, the higher end of the range was $49,240 for those working in hospitals, and the lower was $38,700 for those working in individual and family services4. Average annual salaries for health education specialists were higher overall, with an upper end of the range of $76,450 for those working in hospitals compared to $47,040 for those in individual and family services4

Job functions: Health education specialists provide community-based education about healthy behaviors and educate their local community members about behaviors and strategies that promote wellness. Community health workers typically come from the community in which they work to help establish trust and conduct outreach to connect community members with health education resources available. 

Degree and experience needed: A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required for community health workers and a master’s degree is typically required for health education specialists. 

Projected growth: The projected rate of growth for health education specialists and community health workers is 17%, more than double the rate of projected growth for all jobs of 8%. 


Other common entry-level positions are in support of a larger team. These can include:

  • Qualitative research interviewer (conducting interviews and focus groups)

  • Study recruiter (helping to find participants for a study)

  • Data assistant (running analyses for review by primary investigators, summarizing data for reports)

  • Field coordinator (providing training support to schools and childcare centers related to health and safety measures)

Factors that affect the salary for someone with an MPH

Given the ranges of potential salaries discussed above, determining what factors might impact your compensation is key to do before starting a job search or even entering a public health program. There are a few main categories that can impact what salary might be offered: previous experience requirements, location and cost of living, and requirement of a master’s degree. Each of these factors is discussed below.

Previous experience: Jobs requiring more advanced work experience often translate to higher compensation. Positions related to healthcare administration that are higher up within a healthcare organization could require several to many years of experience related to business administration and would receive higher salaries. Similarly, someone with a nursing or medical degree prior to completing an MPH could be employed as a public health nurse or public health physician and would receive a higher salary. The average annual salary of a registered nurse (bachelor’s degree only) is $77,600, whereas the average annual salary for a nurse practitioner (MSN degree in addition to a bachelor’s degree) is $120,6805

Location: Using health education specialists as an example, the difference geographically in potential salary can be seen. As of May 2021, there were four cities/metropolitan areas in the US where the average annual salary for health education specialists was above $90,000 annually: Washington, DC, Atlanta, GA, Danbury, CT, and San Jose, CA6. Reasonably, these positions may be the most challenging to get given competition from fellow MPH graduates. In other areas of the country, cost of living may be lower but compensation decreases accordingly. The two areas of the country with the greatest employment opportunities for health education specialists are the Southeast Missouri metropolitan area and Southwest Maine, but the mean annual salaries are respectively $44,380 and $54,0406.

Master’s degrees: Lastly, the choice to pursue an MPH can have major implications on salary. As noted above, many community health worker positions do not require a master’s degree. The median annual salary for community health workers was $46,590 in 2021, whereas most health education specialist positions do require a master’s degree and the median annual salary was $60,600 in 20216.

Job and Employment Outlook

Searching for a job following any graduate program can be a daunting prospect since there’s no clear roadmap for how to begin. Especially after the structure of a graduate program, having to decide your first steps for finding a job can be even more challenging. Certain strategies like working with your university’s career center or networking while still pursuing a public health degree can give you a leg up. As noted above, labor statistics suggest that the number of available jobs for many careers within public health is expected to increase more rapidly than the average rate of job growth in the US., suggesting that investing in a public health degree now is a decision that will pay off financially and professionally in the years to come.  

About the Author

Written by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

Dive Deeper in Research

career path direction icon
Career Guides

Public Health Degree Career Options and Salaries

Entering the public health field isn’t as clear-cut as entering other fields where there’s a set career path or anticipated track to follow after completing a graduate degree.

specialization diagram icon

Master of Public Health Specializations: What are they and how should you navigate the decision?

Picking a specialization in public health is like picking a major in college, only that much tougher. The ability to focus on public health as a content area has evolved to undergraduate as well as graduate school level studies. A public health degree is very sought after given how pervasive of a field it has become.

skills checklist icon
Career Guides

Attributes For Success As A Public Health Professional

Those within public health have inevitably needed to respond to increasing demand of the evolving needs within this field.