Public health professionals, such as epidemiologists and health educators, study health trends and implement plans to improve community health. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14.1% increase in the number of health educators in Virginia, compared to a 12.2% increase nationally. This growth means graduates of public health programs in Virginia have plenty of employment opportunities.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14.1% increase in the number of health educators in Virginia, compared to a 12.2% increase nationally.

Virginia public health officials address issues such as obesity and opioid addiction. The Centers for Disease Control classifies 28.5% of Virginians as obese, and Virginia struggles with an opioid addiction crisis. According to the Virginia Department of Health, more than 1,200 people died of opioid overdoses in 2016. Opioid overdoses also contribute to thousands of emergency hospital visits per year, burdening healthcare facilities. Another health challenge is the state’s aging population, since older residents require specialized senior care. Graduates of online MPH programs in Virginia work to alleviate these issues and improve residents’ quality of life.

To address the state’s high obesity rate, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) leads efforts to educate children and adults about the health risks of obesity and to provide access to healthy food and opportunities for exercise. Other issues stem from Virginia’s aging population. The U.S. Census Bureau projects the number of Virginians 65 or older will represent 18.89% of the state population by 2030. The Virginia Division for the Aging helps older residents and their caregivers access senior care resources.

Opioid addiction burdens Virginia’s healthcare infrastructure; overdoses accounted for more than 9,000 emergency hospital visits in 2016. VDH efforts to abate this public health emergency include counseling, treatment programs, and educating doctors and patients about how to safely handle prescription opioids. The VDH also oversees the distribution of naloxone, a medication that reverses opioid overdoses.

Internships and fellowships provide students and recent graduates with real-world experience. Internships may be paid or unpaid and involve the performance of limited job functions. In contrast, fellows receive pay and perform tasks similar to regular employees’ responsibilities. Fellowships normally last for a specified amount of time, so fellows receive supervised workplace training before moving on to full-time positions. The following list includes internship and fellowship opportunities for students in online MPH programs in Virginia.
Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) Internship

Working with top public health officials from throughout the United States, Arlington-based ASTHO interns focus on specific issues affecting public health, including disease control, maternal health, and health improvement. Students can apply on ASTHO’s website.
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Chester Family YMCA Wellness Internship

This internship at the Chester Family YMCA of Greater Richmond supports community programs focused on healthy living, social responsibility, and youth development. Interns gain experience working with senior staff at a major community organization. More information is available on the Chester Family YMCA website.
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University of Virginia Health System Administrative Fellowship

This fellowship offers developing public health professionals opportunities to learn best practices in health administration at one of the largest and most respected medical institutions in the state. Apply through the UVA Health System website.
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Virginia Commonwealth University Public Health Internship

This internship provides MPH-seeking Virginia Commonwealth University students opportunities to gain hands-on experience implementing public health solutions. Interns work on projects in partnership with state and national public health organizations.
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Virginia Department of Health Dietetic Internship

This internship is for aspiring public health dietitians and nutritionists. Interns work with Virginia and Maryland WIC programs to provide women and children with access to healthy food. Apply through the VDH or the Maryland Department of Health.
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The public health field encompasses several professional roles, which each pay different salaries. Salaries also vary with experience and academic qualifications; public health professionals who hold advanced degrees earn higher wages. Another factor is geographic location. For example, public health educators in Virginia earn less than those in the District of Columbia.

Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Virginia 1,290 $29.55 $61,450
United States 63,260 $32.60 $67,810

Source: BLS

Public Health Employers in Virginia

Public health professionals fill critical public safety roles. However, relatively few total jobs exist in this specialized profession. Students earning their master’s in public health online in Virginia should research the largest public health employers in the state for the best chance of securing employment after graduation.

Employers Number of Employees
Virginia Department of Health 3,683
Virginia Beach Department of Human Services 1,144
Norfolk Department of Human Services 525

Public Health Research Centers in Virginia

Since public health relies heavily on research, understanding the latest findings in the field fosters career success. Students in online MPH programs should be familiar with the state’s largest research centers, for both current information and employment opportunities.

  • Center for Public Health Practice and Research: This center at Virginia Tech conducts interdisciplinary research in public health issues. CPHPR provides program design and evaluation resources to support community-based projects throughout Virginia.
  • Division of Epidemiology: The Division of Epidemiology at Virginia Commonwealth University specializes in the study of disease control and uses cutting-edge research methods to advance the understanding of biological and social factors affecting population health.
  • Institute for Public Health Innovation: This nonprofit organization builds relationships across disciplines to improve public health and supports research initiatives throughout Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The institute’s focuses include abating the regional obesity epidemic and ensuring access to health resources.

Public Health Professional Organizations in Virginia

The field of public health requires the exchange of new research findings and best practices among specialized practitioners; public health organizations hold conferences that bring together health professionals. Joining professional organizations benefits current MPH students and recent graduates beginning public health careers in Virginia. Many organizations offer continuing education and networking opportunities, and some arrange internships and fellowships.

  • Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: This national organization based in Arlington unites U.S. health officials who are researching disease prevention, maternal health, and other public health challenges. The association holds regular meetings, organizes continuing education seminars, and supports public health agency research projects.
  • Public Health Association at Virginia Tech: This organization comprises Virginia Tech students, alumni, and faculty in departments related to public health. Members gain practical experience working on collaborative solutions to public health issues on Virginia Tech’s Blacksburg campus.
  • Virginia Public Health Association: Based in Richmond, this association improves public health in Virginia by supporting the development of public health professionals. The association publishes a journal, holds conferences, and arranges fellowships.
Many public health positions require certification or licensure. Public health employers in Virginia prefer candidates who hold the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential, especially when filling leadership roles. The National Board of Public Health Examiners oversees CPH certification, which requires passing an exam about theoretical foundations and best practices in public health administration.

Public health employers in Virginia prefer candidates who hold the Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential, especially when filling leadership roles.

Some public health jobs require a license issued by the state of Virginia, particularly positions that involve working with vulnerable populations or controlled substances. Health professionals who work with children typically obtain licensure through the Virginia Department of Social Services, and those who offer counseling services may need a license from the Virginia Board of Counseling. Public health employees who work in drug rehabilitation and handle potentially dangerous substances, such as naloxone, register with the Virginia Board of Pharmacy.

Public health employers need qualified candidates. Public health professionals perform critical services and often work with sensitive populations, so employees need rigorous training. Candidates prove the quality of their training by earning a degree from an accredited institution. Accreditation is the process by which external agencies verify that educational institutions meet set academic standards. To ensure potential employers recognize the value of their academic credentials, students considering online MPH programs in Virginia should choose an accredited program.

The two main types of accreditation in the United States are regional and national. Regional accreditation typically applies to academically oriented institutions, including those offering public health programs in Virginia. National accreditation is usually reserved for vocational programs. Regional accreditation is more highly regarded and is crucial for students pursuing advanced degrees, as degrees and credits from nationally accredited schools rarely transfer to regionally accredited institutions. Students pursuing MPH programs in Virginia should also look for accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health, an independent agency that sets strict criteria for training public health professionals.

Anne Anton Koval Scholarship

This scholarship supports Richmond-area students in health-related fields who demonstrate financial need.
Amount Offered: $1,500
Scholarship Deadline: March 2
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be 21 or older and must be seeking a health-related degree from an institution in the greater Richmond area.

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Franklin D. Boyce Annual Health Scholarship

This scholarship benefits residents of select Virginia counties who are seeking graduate degrees in health science fields.
Amount Offered: $2,500
Scholarship Deadline: February 15
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must live in one of the designated counties, must demonstrate financial need, and must have at least a 3.0 GPA.

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Gregg E. Hosack Scholarship

This scholarship, which honors a government service professional who was committed to the Hopewell community, supports students pursuing continuing education in Virginia.
Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: February 15
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be a continuing education student residing in Hopewell or a surrounding community.

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Health Focus Scholarship

This scholarship, offered by Health Focus of Southwest Virginia, supports Virginia students seeking degrees related to health and wellness.
Amount Offered: Up to $3,500
Scholarship Deadline: May 15
Eligibility Requirements: The recipient must have at least a 2.75 GPA and must be seeking a health-related degree.

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Leo Bourassa Scholarship

Offered through the Virginia Lakes and Watersheds Association, this scholarship assists Virginia students pursuing degrees related to to water quality issues.
Amount Offered: $3,000
Scholarship Deadline: April 1
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be working toward a degree relevant to water resource issues. Preference is given to those who demonstrate academic achievement and who participate in extracurricular activities related to water resources.

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Lisa Higgins-Hussman Foundation Scholarship

This scholarship supports students under 35 years of age who are affected by cancer and who live in the region encompassing Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
Amount Offered: $2,500
Scholarship Deadline: March 11
Eligibility Requirements: The recipient must be under 35, must live in the target region, and must be diagnosed with cancer or have a close relative who is diagnosed with cancer.

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Liz Courain Madison House Graduate Degree Scholarship

This scholarship, offered through the University of Virginia Health System, is available to UVA graduates enrolling in health-related graduate programs.
Amount Offered: $2,500
Scholarship Deadline: May 15
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be a UVA graduate pursuing a health-related graduate degree and must have volunteer experience in the UVA Health system.

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Meadows L. Phillips & Thomas H. Weatherford Veterans Scholarship

This scholarship supports veterans who are full-time students at Virginia Commonwealth University.
Amount Offered: Varies
Scholarship Deadline: February 28
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be a full-time student who served in the United States military and must prove honorable discharge from any branch of the U.S. armed forces.

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Resident Graduate Priority Program

This scholarship supports Virginia residents in graduate programs at Liberty University.
Amount Offered: $2,000
Scholarship Deadline: May 2 and June 1
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be a new, full-time graduate student at Liberty University.

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Virginia Tuition Assistance Grant Program

Offered through the State Council for Higher Education for Virginia, this award supports full-time graduate students in fields other than religious education or theology.
Amount Offered: $1,650
Scholarship Deadline: July 31
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be a Virginia resident and a full-time student at a qualifying institution.

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