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Top 10 Best States for Public Health
By Staff Writer

Many people are interested in entering the public health professions these days. There is no shortage of entry-level public health jobs available, as this sector is growing rapidly, and there are excellent opportunities for advancement and higher pay with an MPH or a related degree. In the public health field, professionals have a much wider range of occupational opportunities than in most other fields: in the government and private sector, for-profit and nonprofit, education and healthcare and more.

There’s another benefit to working in the public health system – there are jobs available nearly anywhere in the country. Every state has a need for public health, no matter how rich or poor, urban or rural. However, for many reasons, some states are better than others, whether because of high job availability, high pay, or opportunity for advancement. Some states have more public health funding, while others have more need. That’s why MPHOnline is researching the best states for public health jobs.

How We Selected the Best States for Public Health Jobs

Ranking the best states for public health jobs is a process that could go in a number of directions, but to simplify it, MPHOnline editors decided to focus on two factors: job availability, and salary potential using Bureau of Labor Statistics data. To be more specific, we tracked salary data for three key public health careers: Epidemiologist, Health Educator, and Community Health Worker.

1. New Jersey

Public health jobs in New Jersey have never been more plentiful. With so many aging individuals in need of healthcare, there are numerous job openings for careers in the medical field. In New Jersey, there are a total of 401,670 employed in the healthcare field overall. Some of the most popular careers in public health include epidemiologist, community health, and health educators. As one of the best states for public health jobs, the average salary for epidemiologists in New Jersey is $102,500. Community health officers average $45,750 annually while health educators make around $58,460.

Despite the small size of the state, New Jersey is one of the most highly populated states in the nation. New Jersey is also close to New York City, Philadelphia and Washington DC—meaning it is near some of the best healthcare facilities in the nation. New Jersey is also home to Princeton University, a prestigious Ivy League college and medical school.

Epidemiologist: $10,2500
Community Health: $45,750
Health Educator: $58,460

2. Connecticut

Connecticut may be small, but it is considered a top state for public health professionals. Average salaries for public health workers start at $43,790 for community health officers and increase to $71,460 for health educators and as much as $83,810 for epidemiologists. Job outlook is good for the state, particularly for nurses in the public health field. Hospitals and other medical facilities around the state have put initiatives in place to rectify the state’s nursing shortage. These initiatives include tuition grants, scholarship programs, and career counseling with job placement assistance.

U.S. News and World Report ranked Connecticut as a top three state for healthcare. It is considered the best for health care access and an exceptional choice for public health agencies. Top employers for public health workers include the state’s VA healthcare system and the University of Connecticut. As an east coast state, it is also near some of the top cities for healthcare in the country, including Boston and New York City.

Epidemiologist: $83,810
Community Health: $43,790
Health Educator: $71,460

3. Maryland

Maryland is one of the best states for public health because it has numerous positions that serve a large and diverse population. Salaries are competitive in the state due to large-scale job openings. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics states that more than 74,000 individuals work in a healthcare support job in Maryland. Health educators in Maryland bring home a higher salary ($75,270 mean) than epidemiologists ($69,700 mean) and community health officers ($47,600 mean).

Maryland is conveniently located between the top northern and southern east coast cities for healthcare. Along with Baltimore area hospitals, it is right outside of Washington DC. Federal health agencies are located in Washington DC—creating plentiful job openings for public health workers. The Centers for Disease Control also has an agency located in Washington DC. The CDC employs a vast number of epidemiologists, public health analysts, and research associates at their facilities in Atlanta, New York City, and Washington DC.

Epidemiologist: $69,700
Community Health: $47,600
Health Educator: $75,270

4. Massachusetts

Massachusetts is a top choice for public health jobs because of the plentiful job openings at hospitals, universities, and government agencies. The state also has a dedicated Bureau of Community Health and Prevention within their government. Top earners in the state are epidemiologists with an average salary of $96,660 while health educators and community health officers make a mean of $56,540 and $42,330 respectively. The healthcare field is expected to have continued rapid growth in Massachusetts with 37.5% more jobs opening up over the next decade.

Massachusetts is a major hub for the top universities and research facilities in the United States. Most notably, it is home to the most prominent Ivy League college and medical school in the U.S., Harvard University. It is also the location of Massachusetts General Hospital, a nationally ranked medical facility with the largest research-based program in the nation.

Epidemiologist: $96,610
Community Health: $42,330
Health Educator: $56,540

5. California

California is a rare state with no less than three major cities: San Diego, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. With such a large population living in the Sunshine State, there is a strong need for more public health workers in city hospitals, public health agencies, and higher education institutions. As one of the best states for public health jobs, workers involved in disease research and control will make the most out of all professions. The average salary for an epidemiologist in California is $90,670 while health officers make $45,270 annually and public health educators average $56,450.

California is one of the largest and most populated states in the entire country. The U.S. News and World Report has ranked the state as the 7th Best State for Healthcare and as the top pick for public health in the country. The state is also very highly rated for healthcare quality. Top colleges for health educators in California include UC San Diego, University of California, and University of Southern California.

Epidemiologist: $90,670
Community Health: $45,270
Health Educator: $56,450

6. Georgia

Georgia’s healthcare openings continue to grow at an accelerated rate. Healthcare practitioner jobs in Georgia exceed 247,000 while healthcare support jobs surpass 103,000, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Health educators are the top earners in the state with an average annual salary of $85,100. Epidemiologists earn approximately $61,910 each year while community health workers average $38,020.

Georgia is among the best states for public health jobs in the South. The central headquarters for the Centers for Disease Control is located in Atlanta. The federally funded CDC is the top provider for public health jobs in the United States. Examples of CDC jobs available include epidemiologists, public health analysts, community health researchers, and public health advisors. Georgia hospitals and universities are also nationally ranked and serve large populations of residents.

Epidemiologist: $61,910
Community Health: $38,020
Health Educator: $85,100

7. Washington

Washington is one of the best states for public health jobs in the western United States. Washington’s job outlook for healthcare workers is expected to grow by 18% or more over the next ten years. Epidemiologists are amongst the top earners for public health workers with a state average salary of $87,790. Meanwhile, the salary for health educators is $59,140 and $38,870 for community health workers.

Washington has consistently been ranked as a top site for healthcare in the United States by publications like U.S. News and World Report. It has high marks for both public health services and exceptional healthcare quality. The University of Washington and University of Washington Medical Center is just two examples of the top employers of public health workers in the state. Many community health workers find employment in Seattle due to the city’s dense population.

Epidemiologist: $87,790
Community Health: $38,870
Health Educator: $59,140

8. New York

New York has many research centers, medical facilities, and universities where public health college graduates can find employment. Although New York City has the most job openings in the healthcare field, upstate towns in the state can also offer employment for educators and community health workers. With a branch of the Centers for Disease Control located in New York, many epidemiologists pursue employment here. Average salaries in the state are $81,800 for epidemiologists, $53,980 for health educators, and $39,720 for community health staff.

New York has always maintained a stellar reputation as being the best states for public health jobs. New York City, in particular, is home to the top-rated colleges and hospitals in the world. The New York Daily News has named the best city hospitals as Mount Sinai, New York Presbyterian, and NYC Langone in 2019. Medical professionals also flock to New York University and Columbia University to receive training as public health officials. Graduates of these universities can go on to find employment as educators within the university’s undergraduate and graduate schools.

Epidemiologist: $81,800
Community Health: $39,720
Health Educator: $53,980

9. Wisconsin

Wisconsin rates as one of the best states for public health jobs because of the numerous openings at both city and regional hospitals and colleges. According to the Wisconsin Hospital Association, vacancy rates for healthcare positions continue to increase yearly. In Wisconsin, epidemiologists average a salary of $71,980, community health workers make a mean of $43,460, and community health workers earn approximately $43,460.

Wisconsin has made dramatic strides recently in the healthcare field and has become one of the best states for public health jobs. The University of Wisconsin has a large university system with campuses throughout the state—creating plenty of job opportunities for public health workers. The college is also home to an extensive research center and is affiliated with the state’s Level 1 trauma hospital in Madison.

Epidemiologist: $71,980
Community Health: $43,460
Health Educator: $56,030

10. Illinois

Finding a position in Illinois in the field of public health is not difficult for college graduates. Chicago and surrounding areas have suffered a dramatic nursing shortage in recent years and have had to recruit international nurses to fill the void. Patient to nurse ratio at Illinois has been a serious issue with scholarships and grant programs also being used to increase healthcare workers in the state. Top earners for the public health industry are epidemiologists ($81,400 mean), health educators ($55,380 mean), and public health officers ($38,090 mean).

Although the coasts of the United States are popular spots for public health workers, the Midwest still offers plenty of job opportunities. In fact, Chicago is one of the largest and most diverse cities in the country. Illinois has three exceptional colleges for research opportunities: the University of Illinois, University of Chicago, and Loyola University. The University of Illinois also manages a large network of hospitals and medical offices throughout the state.

Epidemiologist: $81,400
Community Health: $38,090
Health Educator: $55,380

Will I Need to Move for a Public Health Career?

People who have committed to pursuing a career in public health may need to move. Most decent-sized metropolitan areas have many entry-level public health jobs and quite a few advanced jobs with a Masters in Public Health. Prospective public health professionals may need to move to a larger city if they live in a very small town, or if they want to advance to the very pinnacle of the public health sector. For example, higher-ups in government health organizations would likely need to move to the Washington D.C. area. Also, some states have higher salary expectations for their public health professionals. To learn more about this, check out the following section.

What Makes a State a Good Choice for a Public Health Career?

When looking at public health jobs by state, it is important to consider public health funding by state, which is sometimes calculated as public health spending by state. There are also other factors that prospective public health professionals should consider when evaluating public health jobs by state. These factors include the presence of many higher education and research institutions and a large, diverse population that is concentrated in multiple large cities. The single most important aspect to look at however, is public health funding by state/public health spending by state.

Public Health Jobs In NC: North Carolina is a decent place for a public health career. It is home to Duke, North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina, which all have well-respected public health programs. The state has an average amount of public health funding. It does have a relatively diverse population, but the only big city is Charlotte. In conclusion, there are enough good public health jobs in NC to make pursuing a career here a worthwhile endeavor.

Public Health Jobs In New Jersey: New Jersey is an excellent place to pursue a public health career. It has many universities that offer prestigious public health degrees, including Princeton and Rutgers. The Garden State also has a high level of public health spending. It also has a large and diverse population. Major cities include Newark, in the Greater New York City area, and Camden, in the Greater Philadelphia area. The number of quality public health jobs in New Jersey make it a great state for a public health career.

Public Health Jobs In New York: A look at the data relevant to public health jobs in New York shows that the situation is similar to that in New Jersey. Public health spending is high. New York State has a large diverse population that is centered around the most populous urban area in the country, New York City. There are many high-quality universities with excellent public health programs, including Columbia University and New York University.

Public Health Jobs In California: Public health jobs in California are abundant and overall well-paid, which is a big factor in its ranking as arguably the best state for a public health career. As an example, the average public health nurse’s salary is $64,000. California also has a large and diverse population, with several big cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles. There are many respected universities with public health programs in California, including UCLA, which is considered one of the top universities in the country for public health studies.

Public Health Jobs In Texas: Texas is not ranked as one of the better states to pursue a public health career, but there are a number of factors that make it attractive. While the level of public health funding is quite low considering the size and diversity of the population, there are several large cities in Texas, such as Houston, Dallas, and Austin, where public health professionals can be assured of finding work. Unfortunately, there are relatively few universities with advanced public health programs, which may mean that public health professionals from out of state could fare well on the job market.

Where Can I Make the Most Money in Public Health?

The salary that a public health professional can demand varies from state to state. For example, a nurse’s public health salary in California averages $64,000. A nurse’s public health salary in Texas averages out at only $58,000. A Master Of Public Health salary in USA is higher than the average public health salary in Texas and the average public health salary in California. This is because a graduate degree qualifies applicants for higher-paid jobs everywhere in the country. Many prospective public health professionals desire a high Master of Public Health salary in USA, no matter which state they are in.

Related:
Best Cities for Public Health Jobs
The State of Public Health