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How to Become a Public Health Program Manager

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

Medical professional using a headset and laptop

Public health programs come in many shapes and sizes, from educational programs like quit-smoking campaigns to disease-prevention efforts like free cancer or STI screenings. But, whatever their mission, all public health programs have a couple of things in common—they help communities get healthier, and they depend on people like public health program managers to coordinate the resources they need to succeed.

If you’re a natural organizer who loves diving into projects and seeing them through from start to finish, becoming a public health program manager could be your pathway to a long and fulfilling career. Not only do program managers perform a critical role in helping public health facilities and organizations accomplish their goals, but they’re also well-compensated for their skills. In fact, we recently featured public health program managers 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 program manager, 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 program manager—it’s a career that’s achievable in less time than you might think!

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

Public Health Program Manager Definition

What Is a Public Health Program Manager?

Public health program managers are the organizers and project leads of public health facilities and organizations. They keep public health projects on track with important timelines and budget requirements and coordinate the talent and resources necessary to accomplish their organization’s goals—whether that means providing better direct patient care or educating the public on important health initiatives.

Public Health Program Manager: Job Description

What Does a Public Health Program Manager Do?

Public health program managers help orchestrate complex public health campaigns and services by delegating tasks, responsibilities, and deadlines to various project stakeholders. They frequently lead project meetings, establish goals and milestones, and communicate with upper management to deliver status updates and ensure their work is aligned with the organization’s greater mission. When it comes to public health initiatives, program managers are the people who keep the trains running on schedule, so to speak.

Public Health Program Manager Duties

Some of the day-to-day responsibilities of public health program managers include:

  • Developing production schedules for various project contributors
  • Monitoring project progress and documenting important milestones
  • Conducting ongoing reviews of project processes and workflows
  • Facilitating communication between project team members and outside partners
  • Communicating with organizational leadership to keep them informed of project status and any roadblocks

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Public Health Program Manager Skills

Above all, public health program managers must be exceptionally organized. Taking the reins of multifaceted projects and being responsible for deadlines, delegation, and other tasks requires great planning skills as well as excellent time management. Polished interpersonal skills are also crucial for public health program managers—you’ll be working with a wide range of people, all of whom will have their own communication styles and concerns that may arise throughout any given project.

Where Do Public Health Program Managers Work?

Public health program managers have a surprisingly vast pool of potential employers. You’ll find them working on public health initiatives everywhere, including hospitals, community clinics, government organizations, and health insurance companies. Public health program managers tend to work full-time, 40-hour workweeks, most frequently in office environments. Working hours usually follow a fairly standard 9-5 schedule, though you may occasionally be asked to lend a hand at events that fall outside of the usual business hours.

Public Health Program Manager Schooling & Certification

How Long Does It Take to Become a Public Health Program Manager?

What Degree Do You Need to Be a Public Health Program Manager?

To build the organizational and leadership skills public health program managers need to do their jobs effectively, you’ll need to earn at least a bachelor’s 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 the only path to a career as a public health program manager. 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 program managers 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 program manager 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 program manager:

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

The first step in your public health program manager training is enrolling in a bachelor’s degree program from an accredited college or university. To set yourself up for a career as a public health program manager, 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 of Science in Healthcare Administration. While earning your bachelor’s degree requires discipline and hard work, it’s a goal that’s achievable for just about anyone who’s willing to put in the effort. 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

In order to effectively manage public health projects and programs, 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 program manager.

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.

To succeed as a public health program manager, you’ll need plenty of contextual knowledge 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. All these skills are vital for public health program managers, who must be effective leaders and strategists as well as knowing how to break down big-picture problems into a series of smaller project milestones.

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

While it’s possible to get your foot in the door of many entry-level public health jobs with only a bachelor’s degree, earning a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree can make it much easier to land one of highest paying public health program manager positions. An MPH program is where you’ll polish the advanced leadership and communication skills you’ll need to delegate responsibilities, manage timelines, and ensure your projects turn out to be successful.

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 the kind of data that public health program managers use to evaluate their projects and processes and discover where there’s room for improvement.

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Public Health Program Manager Salary

How Much Do Public Health Program Managers Make?

Like all the other top public health careers, the pay scale for public health program managers tends to be highest for those with the most education and experience. According to, public health program managers across the country earn an average annual salary* of about $70,000, which works out to an hourly rate of around $34. However, public health program managers who earn salaries in the top 25% make over $82,000, and those in the top 10% of earners can expect to make $92,000 per year or more.

Public Health Program Manager Job Outlook

What is the Job Outlook for Public Health Program Managers?

Public health programs continue to be a major provider of essential resources and education to many people, which means public health program managers should remain in high demand. While the BLS doesn’t provide detailed job data specifically for public health program managers, the overall employment of medical and health science managers (a closely related field) is projected to increase 32% by the year 2030. That’s many times higher than the average 4% growth rate for all jobs across all industries, which is surely good news for anyone considering a career as a public health program manager.

Ready to Start Your Career as a Public Health Program Manager?

If you love the idea of working with many different types of people and taking on a leading role in managing public health projects, becoming a public health program manager could be the career you’ve been waiting to discover. It’s a natural fit for people who find satisfaction in orchestrating complex projects, and it’s also a fantastic way to earn a living while simultaneously contributing to the greater good.

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