Hospital manager with paperwork

How to Become a Public Health Administrator

Duties, Responsibilities, Schooling, Requirements, Certifications, Job Outlook, and Salary

Hospital manager with paperwork

Every day, public health programs help millions of people with everything from basic medical needs to highly specialized healthcare services. However, keeping these public health programs running smoothly—and ensuring they can help as many people as possible—requires plenty of planning, leadership, and organization. That’s where public health administrators come in!

If you’re a big-picture thinker and natural leader who wants to be a part of building healthier communities, becoming a public health administrator might be your career calling. It’s a role many people find incredibly fulfilling, as you’ll be playing a major role in overseeing health programs and services that make a noticeable impact for individuals and families. Of course, the fact that you can earn a great living is a nice bonus, too! In fact, we recently featured public health administrators on our list of the highest-paying public health jobs in 2021.

This career guide will teach you everything you need to know about becoming a public health administrator, including the educational requirements, necessary certifications, and some of the daily responsibilities you can expect on the job. You may also be pleasantly surprised at how long it takes to become a public health administrator—it’s a career that’s achievable in less time than you might think!

Not sure if becoming a public health educator is the right career path for you? Click here to see our full list of the highest-paying public health jobs.

Public Health Administrator Definition

What is a Public Health Administrator?

Public health administrators are the leaders, organizers, and connection-makers that enable public health programs and agencies to operate more efficiently and effectively. They’re a lot like business managers, except their primary goal is making sure their organization can help as many people as possible rather than maximizing revenue. Public health administration can be a great career field for entrepreneurial types who love the idea of using their talents to help others.

Public Health Administrator: Job Description

What Does a Public Health Administrator Do?

Public health administrators are involved in just about every aspect of running public health programs and organizations—from fundraising to public outreach to coordinating healthcare providers and volunteers. They ensure public health programs have access to the talent and resources they need to fulfill their mission, and that their organization is operating within the scope of any relevant governmental regulations. In effect, public health administrators are often equal parts managers, bookkeepers, and public-relations experts.

Public Health Administrator Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of public health administrators include:

  • Assessing community health issues and developing strategic plans to address them
  • Serving as the face of their organization during public outreach or media efforts
  • Scheduling, training, and managing employees and volunteers
  • Monitoring the effectiveness of health programs and adjusting strategy as necessary
  • Writing grants and hosting fundraisers to secure revenue from various funding sources
  • Drafting public reports on the effectiveness of their public health programs

Woman holding blocks with medical symbols

Public Health Administrator Skills

To thrive as a public health administrator, it takes a balance of analytical skills and people skills. You’ll need the versatility and adaptability to go from crunching numbers on population data to charming donors at a fundraising event. Being highly organized is also a must for a career as a public health administrator, as you’ll need to keep track of everything from employee schedules to annual budgets. Polished communication skills are equally important. After all, it helps to show supporters, stakeholders, and the general public that your organization is making a difference!

Where Do Public Health Administrators Work?

You’ll find public health administrators working to anywhere that public health programs are working to benefit the community. Common workplaces for public health administrators include hospitals, insurance companies, government organizations, and healthcare-focused nonprofits. Full-time, 40-hour workweeks are the norm, though occasional travel or offsite events may be required outside standard business hours. While public health administration is considered an office job, you’ll also have plenty of chances to step away from your desk for things like hosting public health events, attending training sessions, or performing public outreach.

Public Health Administrator Schooling & Certification

How Long Does it Take to Become a Public Health Administrator?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Public Health Administrator?

Building the organizational leadership skills required of public health administrators takes plenty of education and experience, which starts with earning a college degree. While traditional bachelor’s degree programs require a full four years in school, some accelerated degree programs can be completed in just two and a half years. Some colleges offer bachelor’s degree programs focused specifically on public health, though studying public health as an undergrad is not necessarily a requirement for a future career as a public health administrator. Other healthcare programs or even degrees in other subjects like social sciences or humanities can also prepare you for a career in public health, especially if you plan to pursue a postsecondary degree.

The highest-paid public health administrators also frequently earn a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, which often provides more opportunities for advancement into higher-level positions. Many master’s degree programs require another two to three years in school, but just like your bachelor’s degree, you can finish your MPH degree much faster with an accelerated degree program. Some MPH programs can even be completed entirely online in as few as 63 weeks!

Like any other long-term goal, becoming a public health administrator can be broken down into a series of smaller steps, which can keep you on track and make the final outcome feel much more attainable.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to the education, experience, and certifications you’ll need to become a public health administrator:

Laptop draped with a stethoscope

1. Enroll in a Healthcare-Focused Bachelor’s Degree Program

The first step in your public health administrator training is enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program from an accredited college or university. To pursue a career as a public health administrator, you may want to consider a B.S. program focused on public health, or on adjacent fields like a Bachelor of Science in Health & Wellness or a bachelor’s degree in Healthcare Administration. While graduating from college requires focus, discipline, and dedication, earning your bachelor’s degree is a goal that’s achievable for just about anyone who’s willing to work for it. For example, to enroll in any of the healthcare bachelor’s degree programs at Brookline College, all you’ll need is a high school diploma or GED, plus a passing score on a Scholastic Level Exam and a computer literacy exam.

2. Earn Your Bachelor of Science Degree

Before you can become a public health administrator, you’ll need to gain a fundamental knowledge of human health and the issues surrounding it and learn how to become a great leader, organizer, and communicator. That means earning a healthcare-focused bachelor’s degree can give you a major head start over other degree programs as you work toward a career as a public health administrator.

Like any bachelor’s degree program, you should expect to study a number of general-education subjects like math, literature, statistics, psychology, and communications. There’s a reason these types of classes are required of all bachelor’s degree students—they’ll make you a more well-rounded person and professional and help you discover new interests and talents.

While public health careers don’t involve practicing medicine directly with patients, you’ll need to be well-educated about human health and behavior, as well as how healthcare facilities and programs work in the real world. Any bachelor’s degree program with a concentration in healthcare will likely include courses in everything from kinesiology to psychology to courses focused on health education and healthcare administration. Other classes will teach you leadership and management principles and how to use data and statistics in the context of public health issues. These skills are essential for public health administrators, who must excel at organizational management and data-driven decision-making.

3. Earn Your Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree

While a bachelor’s degree will qualify you for many entry-level public health jobs, earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree can put you on the fast track to the top-paying public health administrator jobs. An MPH program is where you’ll polish the advanced management and communication skills you’ll need to lead public health programs and broaden your organization’s impact.

Your public health master’s program will build upon your bachelor’s degree with courses like epidemiology and biostatistics, as well as courses that will teach you about environmental and occupational health, clinical effectiveness, and how to analyze and improve public health systems and policies.

At the end of your MPH program, you’ll need to complete a capstone course where you’ll apply the statistical methods you’ve learned to some aspect of public health. This capstone will demonstrate your ability to analyze data and interpret the kind of meaningful conclusions that public health administrators use to help health programs more effectively serve the community.

4. Get Certified By the National Board of Public Health Examiners

While public health administrators aren’t required to be licensed, earning your Certified Public Health credential from the NBPHE can make you even more attractive to potential employers. In addition, a CPH certification shows your commitment to staying at the forefront of public health knowledge, as it requires relevant work experience and ongoing education to maintain your credential.

The CPH exam is made up of 200 multiple-choice questions over a maximum of four hours, though many people complete the exam in less time. The NBPHE provides a number of convenient CPH exam study resources, which can help you feel more confident and prepared when test day arrives. With years of public health education under your belt, you should be in good shape—over 85% of people pass the exam, according to the NBPHE.

Stethoscope next to money

Public Health Administrator Salary

How Much Do Public Health Administrators Make?

The pay scale for public health administrators can vary significantly, and people with additional degrees and more experience tend to earn the highest salaries.

According to, the average annual salary* for public health administrators is well over $68,000, which works out to over $33 per hour. Public health administrator salaries in the top 25% of earners average over $77,000, while salaries in the top 10% can reach $85,000 per year and higher.

Public Health Administrator Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Public Health Administrators?

As healthcare programs and organizations continue to expand, qualified management professionals with a strong public health background should also continue to be in demand. While the BLS doesn’t offer detailed job data specifically for public health administrators, they estimate the overall employment of medical & health services managers—a closely related career—to increase an enormous 32% by the year 2030. Considering the average growth rate for all other jobs is only around 4%, public health administrators have cause to be very optimistic about their long-term job outlook.

Ready to Start Your Career as a Public Health Administrator?

If you’re excited by the prospect of bringing a business-management mindset to creating a healthier world, becoming a public health administrator is one of the top careers you should be considering. You’ll have a chance to make your mark on organizations creating meaningful positive change, and you’ll also have the flexibility to work in an area of public health that’s most important to you and your life’s journey.

Ready to start taking steps toward a long and rewarding career as a public health administrator? Click here to learn more about the MPH program at Brookline College, and get started on the road to your new career in public health today!