According to health data released by the United Health Foundation, Alaskans enjoy high per capita health funding and a low prevalence of diabetes, yet obesity and violent crimes are on the rise. Individuals considering online MPH programs in Alaska can use their degrees to address issues the state is facing and will continue to face in coming years.
The U.S. Department of Labor projects that roles for health educators in Alaska will grow by 7.7% between 2016 and 2026.
Although the state is largely rural and is home to a relatively small number of higher education institutions (as of 2017, the state has 10 postsecondary colleges and universities), options for completing a master of public health online degree in Alaska do exist. Roles for these health professionals are also on the rise: the U.S. Department of Labor projects that roles for health educators in Alaska will grow by 7.7% between 2016 and 2026. In the guide that follows, prospective students can find out about online MPH programs in Alaska and how they can leverage their education into a valuable and worthwhile career.
Alaska’s Department of Public Health is actively working to introduce public health initiatives to the state, and their efforts are working. Data from the United Health Foundation show that, thanks to a recent smoking cessation campaign, smoking has decreased 12% in adults. Another program which sought to increase awareness of HPV immunizations for females aged 13 to 17 has resulted in a 27% increase of immunizations. Amongst Medicare beneficiaries, a push for residents to engage in more preventative health measures has yielded incredible results; preventable hospitalizations have dropped by 24% – or from 53.1 to 40.1 per 1,000 individuals on Medicare. While all of these programs have worked positively within the state, there is still room for more. Crime rates have risen 41% since 1990, resulting in a shift from 455 to 640 offenses per 100,000 residents. The need for qualified MPH professionals is great, and opportunities for employment are growing.
The terms ‘internship’ and ‘fellowship’ are often used interchangeably, but differences between the two do exist. While internships are typically completed by students in exchange for school credit, often for no pay, and typically as a requirement of a degree program, fellowships are heftier roles that include opportunities to complete academic research or engage in professional development. They also frequently include a stipend to help cover costs. Both internships and fellowships exist for online MPH programs in Alaska. Some of them are highlighted below:
- Native Graduate Health Fellowship
The National Congress of American Indians offers this fellowship to members of the Alaska Native tribal nation who are currently enrolled in an MPH program. Applications are available on the organization’s website.
- SAMHSA/CSAP Prevention Fellowship
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, alongside the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, host this two-year fellowship in Fairbanks that provides a stipend of $15-$20 per hour.
- Global Emergency Medicine and Rural Health Fellowship
The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium provides this two-year fellowship to MPH candidates who want to be mentored by leaders in emergency medicine, global health, and general medicine while serving rural Alaskan communities.
- Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists Fellowship
The CSTE offers four different annual fellowships to MPH students who are looking to gain long-term employment at state or local health departments throughout Alaska.
- Alaska Public Health Association
The APHA maintains an active job/fellowship/internship board for MPH candidates looking to get their foot in the door with meaningful learning opportunities, either while in school or directly after graduating.
In addition to providing a valuable service to the community, public health specialists are often paid well for the work they do. The following table shows the average hourly and annual wages for public health professionals, both in the United States generally and in Alaska. It’s important to remember that salaries can depend on experience, credentials, and where individuals live. While the average overall salary for epidemiologists is approximately $71,000 annually, those who focus their careers in scientific research or development services stand to earn an average of $101,170. Meanwhile, those in the top 10% of earners bring home nearly $115,000 annually.
|Employment||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
Public Health Employers in Alaska
Although Alaska is a relatively small state in terms of population and overall available jobs, that’s not to say that there aren’t many exciting employment opportunities for MPH graduates. The following table highlights a few of the largest public health employers in Alaska.
|Employers||Number of Employees|
|Providence Alaska Medical Center||2,488|
|Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium||2,000|
Public Health Research Centers in Alaska
Research is the backbone of public health initiatives. Public health research centers serve as a perfect first job for current students or recent graduates from an online MPH program. Oftentimes these organizations provide free resources and maintain relationships with other public health organizations in the state.
- Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium: ANTHC works to ensure Alaska Native communities have access to high-quality health services, with special focus given to research and health education. The consortium has outposts throughout the state.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: The CDC is the nation’s leading institution for public health research. The CDC maintains facilities within Alaska to conduct ongoing research on public health crises and health improvement initiatives.
- Division of Public Health: Operating under the Department of Health and Social Services, this division publishes annual reports about public health in the state, including information on rural and urban populations.
Public Health Professional Organizations in Alaska
For recent graduates working to build their careers and seasoned executives alike, public health professional organizations provide excellent opportunities for individuals to excel in their field. One of the best benefits of professional organizations is the opportunity for students and recent graduates to network with those who have connections within the field of public health. Other benefits include access to continuing education credits, annual conferences, regional events, career development services, and job boards.
- American Public Health Association: The APHA offers members access to regular publications, professional development opportunities, annual events, frequent meetings, and the benefits of policy and advocacy efforts.
- Association of State and Territorial Health Officials: This national organization was created for professionals who work on statewide health initiatives. Benefits include access to professional development programs and networking events.
- Public Health Institute: The PHI provides research on many of the public health crises affecting Americans today, as well as policy initiatives and advocacy efforts for the field as a whole.
In Alaska, there is no statewide mandate for graduates of MPH programs to be certified, although some larger companies may have individual requirements.
Completing a public health certification can propel students into high-level managerial roles. In Alaska, there is no statewide mandate for graduates of MPH programs to be certified, although some larger companies may have individual requirements. Because of this, graduates who do elect to go through the rigors of additional education are able to command higher salaries and submit more competitive resumes.
MPH graduates considering a certification should review the offerings of the National Board of Public Health Examiners. The Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential is widely recognized within the field, and the entire program can be completed online or at a partner organization near the student’s place of residence. The National Commission for Health Education Credentialing provides a Master Certified Health Education Specialist credential and a Certified Health Education Specialist credential for individuals who want to educate others about health initiatives.
Students should only attend accredited public health programs in Alaska. Because some public health positions require professionals to be licensed and/or certified, degree seekers who don’t take the time to do research could find themselves unable to practice later.
The most common types of school-wide accreditations available are regional and national. Receiving regional accreditation is a rigorous, multi-year process that requires institutions to demonstrate how the school as a whole supports students in their academic pursuits. National accreditation, however, is a far less rigorous credentialing process. Students who attend nationally-accredited schools may have trouble transferring credits, being accepted to graduate programs, or being properly licensed in their field.
The other type of accreditation is programmatic. Students considering an MPH in Alaska should ensure any prospective school is accredited by Council on Education for Public Health.
- University of Alaska - Anchorage
The University of Alaska Anchorage is the largest university in the state and one of three schools in the UA system. The university offers more than 100 programs and serves nearly 18,000 students. With 91% of UAA’s student body hailing from Alaska, the university has made efforts to extend its programming beyond its borders and provide more flexible learning options. Distance education plays a major role in UAA’s outreach; the university now offers a full complement of online programs and courses. Among these is its MPH in public health practice. This 42-credit program teaches students by using an ecological approach.
The curriculum for this MPH in Alaska consists of 33 credits of core courses and nine credits of public health-related electives. The core provides a comprehensive look at the five disciplines of public health, while also mixing in topics unique to the region; these special offerings include a course on circumpolar health issues that focuses on the health of Northern residents. For the five-credit practicum and culminating experience, students choose from a non-thesis or thesis option. Both options require MPH candidates to apply course content to create and defend an individualized project.
While all courses in the MPH program can be taken online, UAA requires participants to make one campus visit each year. To help accommodate student schedules, the university typically plans these face-to-face meetings such that they coincide with the annual Alaska Health Summit. With a full course load, distance learners can earn an MPH in two years; alternatively, part-timers typically take about twice as long. MPH candidates must take at least six semester credits per year. Up to nine credits (not previously used to obtain a degree or certificate) may be transferred into this program.
Applicants should hold a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited institution and have a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better. Applications should include a resume, writing sample, and essay that explains how an MPH in public health practice relates to the applicant’s future professional goals.
- Public Health Scholarship
This scholarship is available to University of Alaska at Anchorage students enrolled in a graduate-level public health program with a focus on epidemiology or preventative medicine.
Amount Offered: $3,600
Scholarship Deadline: Alongside application
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must have a minimum GPA of 3.0, be enrolled in a public health program at UA, and commit to 240 practicum hours.
- MPH Scholarship for Textbooks
This annual scholarship helps individuals offset the high cost of textbooks that are typically required for a master of public health program. The scholarship prefers students with an interest in international or global health issues.
Amount Offered: $100
Scholarship Deadline: November 1
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must write a 250-word essay detailing how they plan to use their MPH and what their specific interests are within the field.
- MSHF Academic Scholarship
The Mat-Su Health Foundation provides scholarships to residents of the Mat-Su Borough who are pursuing degrees that emphasize community health and wellness.
Amount Offered: Up to $20,000
Scholarship Deadline: February 28
Eligibility Requirements: Students must provide a statement detailing their career goals and details about their academic performance.
- Health Professions Scholarship
The Indian Health Services offers this scholarship to Alaska Native students who plan to complete graduate-level study in a topic related to public health initiatives.
Amount Offered: Tuition, required fees, $1,500/month stipend
Scholarship Deadline: March 28
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be U.S. citizens at least 18 years of age or older and must show proof of being a member of a federally recognized Alaska Native village. They must also have at least a 2.0 GPA.
- Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium
ANTHC awards this annual scholarship to Alaska Native students who either plan to pursue or are actively pursuing an advanced degree in a topic related to healthcare.
Amount Offered: $5,000
Scholarship Deadline: May 26
Eligibility Requirements: The applicant must be an Alaska Native village member and a resident of Alaska.
- HOSA Scholarship
HOSA, in partnership with STEM Premier, offers a number of scholarships to student-members pursuing advanced degrees public health and other related fields.
Amount Offered: Varies
Scholarship Deadline: March 15
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be HOSA members pursuing a graduate-level public health degree.
- Cooley Master’s Scholarship
The Society of Health and Physical Educators provides this award to graduate-level students who plan on pursuing a career as a health educator.
Amount Offered: $5,000
Scholarship Deadline: October 15
Eligibility Requirements: Available to students enrolled in an MPH program with a minimum GPA of 3.0. They must also submit a curriculum vitae.
- Corris Boyd Scholarship
The Association of University Programs in Health Administration offer this scholarship to students of color who plan to work in public health or healthcare administration
Amount Offered: Up to $40,000
Scholarship Deadline: April 17
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must have been accepted to an AUPHA member organization, have a minimum GPA of 3.0, and be a full-time student.
- Elliot C. Roberts Scholarship
The Institute for Diversity in Health Management provides this scholarship to first and second year graduate students pursuing courses in healthcare administration or public health.
Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: Winter
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must demonstrate financial need, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and show a strong commitment to serving their communities.
- Cathy L. Brock Scholarship
The Institute for Diversity in Healthcare Management provides this graduate scholarship to individuals pursuing an MHA, MPH, or related degree.
Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: Winter
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must represent ethnically diverse cultural backgrounds, be U.S. students, show financial need, have at least a 3.0 GPA, and demonstrate an interest in healthcare finance.