Public Health Administration: Definition, Jobs, Salaries, and More

Written by Coursera Staff • Updated on

In this article, you’ll learn more about public health administration, what public health administrators do, and how to join the field.

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Public health administration pairs organizational and administrative know-how with public health goals. 

This exciting career field is focused on improving public health by overseeing the operation of public health organizations from the local to the national level. Whether it’s educating communities about common health concerns or staving off the spread of novel viruses, public health administration professionals provide an important service that has a real impact. 

What is public health administration? 

Public health administration professionals improve the health and well-being of the public at large by assessing their health needs, developing outreach programs, and managing public health facilities. Unlike public health practice, which is more focused on clinical work, public health administration is focused on designing wide-ranging programs for the public and overseeing the organizations that do so.  

As a result, public health administration is primarily concerned with the business and organizational aspects of public health endeavors rather than the more hands-on aspects of the field.   

What is the difference between a master’s degree in Public Health (MPH) and a master’s in Health Administration (MHA)? 

The graduate degree most commonly associated with public health is the Master’s of Public Health (MPH), which prepares degree holders for a wide range of public health positions, including administrative and clinical ones. Specializations within each program can help you focus on your area of interest.

The Master’s of Health Administration (MHA), meanwhile, prepares degree holders for the administrative side of health care in general, particularly as it relates to management, business, and organization. This degree can prepare you for some public health administration positions, as well as other managerial positions within health care, such as a clinical manager


What do public health administrators do? 

Public health administrators pair knowledge of public health with an organizational and managerial approach. As a result, they are focused on improving community wide-health outcomes by facilitating outreach efforts and managing public health facilities at the local, state, and federal levels. 

While the exact responsibilities of a public health administrator will vary from job to job, some of the most common duties include: 

  • Assessing community health issues 

  • Educating the public on common health issues, such as mental health issues and personal hygiene

  • Developing public health plans to improve community health 

  • Setting budgets and writing grants for public outreach projects

  • Hiring and training staff 

Public health administrator salary and job outlook 

In the United States, health care is a growing field that is poised to expand even further due to an aging population in need of care. As a result, those entering public health administration can generally expect higher than average salaries and positive job growth for the foreseeable future [1]. 

Public health administration salary 

The salary expectations for those working within public health administration are typically high. 

For example, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that the median annual salary for medical and health services managers – the job category under which public health administration falls – was $101,340 in 2021 [2]. Glassdoor, meanwhile, puts the average annual pay for public health administrators at $71,172 [3]. 

However, as with any job, the exact amount you will be paid will depend on your prior work experience, educational credentials, geographic location, and employer. 

Public health administration job outlook

The job outlook for public health administrators is positive. 

According to the BLS, job openings for medical and health services managers are projected to grow by 28 percent between 2021 and 2031 [1]. 

Read more: What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health (MPH)?

How to become a public health administrator

To become a public health administrator, you must gain the proper training and experience to prepare you for the real world. In this section, we’ll cover some of the steps you should consider to join the public health field: 

1. Get an undergraduate degree. 

Those hoping to enter the field of public health administration should have a bachelor’s degree in a related subject, such as public health, nursing, health science, health care administration, business, or management. In general, those looking to enter the field should seek to undertake a course of study that offers some training in health, management, and business, which can be taken through both major and elective courses. 

2. Gain experience.

As with any job, employers will likely look favorably upon applicants who have relevant prior experience. As a result, those hoping to become public health administrators could benefit from gaining work experience in entry-level health care and administrative positions, whether it be in nursing, clinical research, or public health. 

3. Consider a master’s in public health. 

While a bachelor’s degree is typically the bare minimum for many public health administration positions, many employers are likely to look more favorably upon those with a relevant master’s degree. Common degrees that public health administrators receive include a master's in public health (MPH), master's of health administration (MHA), master's of business administration (MBA), and master's of health services administration (MHSA). 

Read more: Is an MPH Worth It?

Start your public health career with Coursera 

The University of Michigan’s Master of Public Health Program is a two-year-long online graduate degree program that builds expertise in core public health concepts. Meanwhile, Imperial College London’s Global Master of Public Health program is a two- to three-year-long online graduate degree program offering a curriculum rooted in evidence-based research skills with specializations in epidemiology, health systems development, and population health improvement. 

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Article sources


US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Healthcare Occupations,” Accessed August 2, 2023.

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