The state of Illinois offers both current and future health professionals many opportunities to advance their careers in the public health sector. Many colleges and universities, such as the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, feature public health programs in the state. After graduation, public health professionals may pursue positions in, for example, education, community health, and epidemiology. In Illinois, job opportunities for health practitioners continue to grow 5.4% annually, yielding 170 new positions each year. Illinois also ranks among the top states in the country to facilitate the largest employment of community health workers in the country. The United Health Foundation ranks the state 28th overall in health, with obesity, child immunizations, and cancer as primary health concerns for the state.

In Illinois, job opportunities for health practitioners continue to grow 5.4% annually, yielding 170 new positions each year.

Illinois’s communities require more public health professionals, and the state features promising job growth while offering several public health programs, making the state an ideal place to obtain a master’s degree in public health (MPH). An online MPH Illinois program also offers distance learners the chance to complete coursework while pursuing a career.

“Protecting health, improving lives,” the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) motto, applies to a number of current health initiatives and these initiatives remain primary goals for the state. The IDPH currently encourages all residents to obtain a flu shot and administers an online vaccination finder.

The Illinois Opioid Action Plan, another of the state’s health initiatives, aims to help with the treatment and recovery of residents suffering from opioid addiction, and to prevent future addiction. The IDPH also operates the Love-to-Love Your Heart initiative, which works with organizations to prevent heart attacks and strokes through education and training.

Additional healthcare initiatives include the HIV Corrections Initiative, which offers HIV care for incarcerated residents; We Choose Health, a multi-year initiative for wellness and prevention for a number of health topics, including obesity, child health, and suicide prevention; and the Precious Drugs and Scary Bugs Campaign, which promotes the responsible use of antibiotics to prevent viral infections.

Some learners who seek on-the-job experience in the public health field elect to pursue an internship or fellowship, which may both add value to a job seeker’s resume. An internship typically involves an undergraduate student currently enrolled in a degree program performing paid or unpaid work in exchange for experience or college credit. A fellowship typically accepts only graduate or post-graduate students who seek additional, hands-on experience before entering the workforce. Public health students and graduates may apply for any of the following internships or fellowships in Illinois.
The Illinois Department of Public Health internship program

The IDPH’s internship program offers degree candidates the chance to learn real-world experience at any of the state agency’s 11 offices in Chicago and Springfield, Illinois. IDPH accepts applications year-round. Potential applicants can find forms on the program’s website.
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The Illinois Alliance to Prevent Obesity internship

Offered through the Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI), this internship provides experience in government, communication, and policy research. Interns analyze obesity data and create reports. To apply, candidates must email a resume, cover letter, and writing sample to internships@iphionline.org.
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Stakeholder Engagement and Research Internship

The IPHI seeks interns to write, analyze data, and support stakeholders at the Chicago office for the Illinois Framework, a multi-agency initiative. Interested applicants must email a cover letter, resume, and writing sample to internships@iphionline.org..
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Administrative Fellowship Program

Offered by the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System, this fellowship introduces interns to all aspects of healthcare, including emergency care, marketing, and finance. Applicants with a master’s degree can apply in the summer by visiting the program’s website.
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Hospital Sisters Health System (HSHS) administrative fellowship program

This two-year fellowship, offered by the HSHS, a multi-institutional healthcare system, provides interns with health systems training at locations in Springfield and Green Bay. Candidates with a master’s degree must apply through the HSHS Career Portal.
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Salaries for public health officials vary greatly based upon a number of factors. Elements such as where a worker lives, the years of experience an employee holds, and any additional credentials or licenses a professional has earned all contribute to a public health official’s salary rate. The table below shows how many Illinois and U.S. residents work in the public health field. The table also displays the hourly and annual mean wages for public health officials in Illinois, and compares the amount to average wages in the United States. As evident below, wages for healthcare professionals in Illinois remain lower than the national average.

 EmploymentHourly Mean WageAnnual Mean Wage
Illinois1,770$28.14$58,530
United States63,260$32.60$67,810

Source: BLS

Public Health Employers in Illinois

Large hospitals, medical centers with various departments, and school systems often offer more job opportunities than smaller medical practices, making the job search easier for degree candidates after graduating from an MPH Illinois program. Large hospital systems also offer an array of employment opportunities. The list below shows the top three public health employers in Illinois and the total number of employees at each company.

EmployersNumber of Employees
Northwestern Memorial Hospital30,000
Advocate Health Care35,000
Hospital Sisters Health System16,900

Public Health Research Centers in Illinois

Research centers serve as an important resource for learners entering the public health industry. While research centers provide job training and educational programs for professionals, centers can also provide tailored jobs for degree candidates seeking a specific field of research. Research centers – including the three Illinois centers listed below – also provide networking opportunities with professionals in the field.

  • Illinois Public Health Institute: With the help of partner organizations and a board of directors, this healthcare organization works to promote prevention and improve public health systems throughout the state. The institute trains healthcare workers, provides consultation and educational workshops, and conducts research. Two primary research initiatives involve fighting obesity and increasing the nutritional value of school lunches.
  • Institute for Health Research and Policy: Approved by the Illinois Board of Higher Education, the institute serves as the University of Illinois at Chicago’s largest research unit. The Institute for Health Research and Policy collaborates with more than eight colleges and 30 departments to study complex health issues, including cancer, diabetes, tobacco use, and obesity.
  • Institute for Public Health and Medicine: Operating out of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, the medical center focuses on improving prevention and treating diseases in the general population. The center also performs population-based clinical studies to improve public health.

Public Health Professional Organizations in Illinois

Professional public health organizations offer current degree candidates and graduates various opportunities to advance their careers through education or networking. Associations in Illinois provide members with lists of current job offerings and discounts to attend conferences, such as the Illinois Rural Health Association’s annual educational conference, which features more than 20 workshops. Degree candidates and graduates can also apply for scholarships through professional organizations, or attend online webinars and continuing education programs to learn more about the public health field.

  • Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA): The oldest and largest public health association in the state, the IPHA provides members with tools specifically designed for public health professionals. Members receive weekly emails, job listings, access to webinars, and the opportunity to post a resume and profile to the online member directory.
  • Illinois Association of Public Health Administrators (IAPHA): A 35-year-old organization, the IAPHA works with local health departments throughout the state to offer networking opportunities and education. The IAPHA invites members to attend meetings and participate in the association’s work to promote and protect public health services in Illinois.
  • Illinois Rural Health Association: Organized in 1989, the association comprises members interested in promoting healthcare in rural areas. Associate members receive invitations and discounts to conferences and workshops, rural health newsletters, networking opportunities, and full voting rights for association decisions.

Public health professionals cannot work using a specific job title without state certification provided by the Public Health Practitioner Certification Board.

After graduating from any one of the many on campus or online MPH programs in Illinois, public health professionals may need to acquire a license or certification from the state. Administered by the IDPH, the required license and certification depends on the profession. Licensure and certifications provide job seekers with an advantage because they demonstrate that those who have earned them meet professional standards set by the state or industry. Illinois also requires certain forms for applicants seeking to become a healthcare professional. Applicants must complete a healthcare professional update data gathering form with prior work experience. Graduates of public health programs in Illinois may work without certification. However, under state law, public health professionals cannot work using a specific job title without state certification provided by the Public Health Practitioner Certification Board.

Healthcare professionals, regardless of licensure, must also undergo a background check and sign up for the Health Care Worker Registry, an online database of all Illinois healthcare workers. The registry applies to all public health professionals employed in Illinois, including nurse aides, home healthcare aides, or an individual working in any similar health-related occupation. The registry provides employers with a safe option to verify a job applicant’s background.

A college or university receives accreditation when the educational institution meets standards, providing an acceptable level of quality for education. Institutions receive regional or national accreditation. Regional accreditation includes a regional agency evaluating the institution’s quality. Only six regional agencies exist in the country. Agencies sponsored by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provide evaluation for national accreditation. Regional accreditation remains the more popular among the two types since credits from regionally accredited schools transfer more easily.

Distance learners seeking to enroll in online MPH programs in Illinois can verify regional or national accreditation with CHEA or the U.S. Department of Education. In Illinois, all educational institutions who offer degrees, including master public health online Illinois programs, must register and gain approval from the Illinois Board of Higher Education. Distance learners seeking a degree in public health can also verify online MPH programs in Illinois with the Council on Education for Public Health, an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Benedictine University

Benedictine University, a Roman Catholic-affiliated school based in suburban Chicago, has recently expanded its distance education offerings, which include two undergraduate degrees and six graduate degrees online. The school’s online master of public health degree allows students to earn an MPH in Illinois without ever having to set foot on campus.

Requiring two years to complete, the curriculum consists of 58 credits. Core courses include biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health, and health policy. All students must also complete a 240-hour internship, an experience which doubles as a capstone. Students are allowed to arrange internship sites in their local communities. Students enrolled in the program have the option of completing an additional 16 credits to earn a certificate in health management and policy, health education and promotion, epidemiology, or emergency preparedness. Benedictine delivers all program coursework asynchronously.

The program offers six start dates throughout the year and accepts applications on a rolling basis. Most students in the program work full-time and take one course per term. Applicants must submit transcripts that show a minimum undergraduate GPA of 2.75, along with their GRE scores. The school occasionally waives the GRE requirement for prospective students who have an outstanding undergraduate GPA or an advanced degree. As a private university, Benedictine charges each student the same base tuition, regardless of residency.

Graduates of the program have gone on to work for the Mayo Clinic, Pfizer, the Office of Public Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Loyola University - Chicago

LUC is a Catholic-affiliated research university based in metropolitan Chicago. Originally founded by Jesuits in the 19th century, LUC is now one of the largest Catholic-affiliated universities in the nation. LUC also offers one of the strongest online MPH programs in Illinois. The program’s 42-credit curriculum requires students to choose a concentration in epidemiology or public health policy and management. The public health policy and management concentration does not include on-campus requirements, but the epidemiology concentration delivers courses in a hybrid format. Students in the public health concentration can also opt for a hybrid format. LUC delivers the online portion for each of these concentrations asynchronously.

Courses in both programs cover the same core areas, including environmental health, epidemiology, biostatistics, health services administration, and social and behavioral sciences. Students in both concentrations must also complete a supervised practicum experience and a capstone project. Full-time students can finish their degree in 18 months. Graduates have gone on to work in the public and private sectors as nutritionists, policy analysts, program directors, and researchers.

LUC offers MPH students three dual degree options, as they can pursue a BS, an MD, or a master of social work while earning their master of public health. The BS/MPH and MD/MPH programs take five years of full-time study to complete, while the MSW/MPH program takes three years.

LUC does not list minimum GPA requirements for admission to the program; however, the school requires applicants to have clearly identified career goals in public health. All applicants must submit GRE or MCAT scores unless they already hold an advanced professional or academic degree, such as a JD or an MD. As a private university, LUC does not differentiate between in-state and out-of-state students when charging tuition.

Northern Illinois University

NIU’s college of health and human sciences focuses on hands-on and applied learning, operating a network of more than 400 practicum sites for its 11 undergraduate and graduate programs. The online master of public health is one of the most flexible public health programs in Illinois. The MPH program does not require students to visit the DeKalb campus, and coursework is delivered asynchronously.

The curriculum requires students to earn 43 to 46 credits and includes two concentrations: health promotion and health services management. The health promotion concentration includes a study in community health promotion, while the health services management program includes coursework in financial decision making and health economics. Students can also choose between a thesis and a non-thesis track.

Students in both concentrations complete core coursework in biostatistics, the behavioral and social aspects of public health, and community health planning. All students must also pass a comprehensive examination and complete an internship in the field. Typically, the degree takes two years to complete. While most students enroll full time, part-time students may take one to two courses per term and still earn their degree, although they must finish within six years.

Tuition is the same for all online programs at NIU, regardless of residency. Accepted students may apply for tuition waivers and graduate fellowships to ease the cost of tuition. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. The program does not require prospective students to submit GRE scores. NIU occasionally accepts students who do not meet the minimum GPA threshold on the condition that they maintain a GPA of 3.2 or better during their first 12-15 credits.

University of Illinois at Chicago

Operating a central campus near the Loop neighborhood in downtown Chicago, UIC is home to more than 30,000 students, making it the largest university in the city. The university’s school of public health is one of the best places to earn a master of public health online in Illinois, offering three different online MPH concentrations: community health sciences, health policy, and public health informatics. Each program delivers coursework asynchronously through Blackboard and never requires students to visit campus. Most students spend 8-10 hours on coursework per week.

Each program requires students to complete a 45-credit curriculum that includes research methods coursework, a 320-hour field experience, and a capstone. The capstone can take the form of a poster, a paper, or an hour-long oral presentation. Students enrolled in the MPH program also have a number of joint degree options, including an MBA, an MD, an MSW, and a JD.

Although UIC evaluates each application holistically, the school prefers applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or better. All prospective students must submit GRE scores. Students with previous public health work experience can enter the school’s accelerated professional enhancement program tracks. Learners who want to try the online MPH program on a trial basis can take up to 13 credits as non-degree students without officially enrolling. If they choose to enroll in the program, those 13 credits will count towards the degree.

UIC currently charges all online students in the MPH program the same per-credit tuition, regardless of residency. Students can apply for assistantships and awards.

Nursing Education Scholarship Program

Offered by the IDPH, this scholarship’s goal includes increasing the amount of nurses employed within the state of Illinois by helping degree candidates overcome financial barriers. The scholarship helps fund nursing coursework at the graduate and undergraduate level.

Amount Offered: $16,052 (tuition and stipend)
Scholarship Deadline: April 30
Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible, applicants must be U.S. citizens, Illinois residents for at least a year, agree to nurse employment or educator obligations, enrolled in an approved nursing program, and demonstrate financial need.

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Allied Health Care Professional Scholarship Program

Provided by the IDPH’s Center for Rural Health, this scholarship aims to increase medical professionals, including midwives, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants, in rural areas of Illinois with a shortage of primary healthcare providers.

Amount Offered: $7,500 per academic year
Scholarship Deadline: June 30
Eligibility Requirements: An applicant must be enrolled in a graduate program at an Illinois college or university, working towards a career as a midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. The applicant must also demonstrate financial need and good academic standing. Healthcare students with previous experience working with underserved populations receive award preference.

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IPHA Scholarship for Graduate Study in Public Health

The IPHA awards three scholarships each year to Illinois residents seeking an advanced degree in public health. The scholarship aims to increase the amount of public health professionals within the state.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: Aug. 4
Eligibility Requirements: Eligible applicants must be enrolled in public-health related graduate program at an accredited Illinois college or university, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of Illinois.

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Edith Heide Memorial Scholarship

The IPHA awards one Edith Heide Memorial Scholarship each year to the applicant with the highest score. The award aims to increase the number of public health workers in the state of Illinois.

Amount Offered: $2,000
Scholarship Deadline: Aug. 4
Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible, an applicant must reside in Illinois, be enrolled in a graduate level healthcare program at an accredited educational institution in Illinois, and hold U.S. citizen status.

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UIC School of Public Health Scrimshaw Latino Health Scholarship

Named after former University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) Dean Susan C. Scrimshaw, the school awards this scholarship to provide financial aid to healthcare workers committed to serving healthcare needs within Hispanic communities.

Amount Offered: $1,100
Scholarship Deadline: Dec. 4
Eligibility Requirements: Scholarship applicants must be a graduate-level learner enrolled at the UIC School of Public Health. The award only funds degree candidates who self-identify as Latino or Hispanic, or whose area of study centers on improving the health of Latino or Hispanic communities.

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Sonne Scholarship Program

Offered by the Illinois Nurses Foundation and named after retired nurse Maybelle Sonne, this scholarship helps pay tuition and other fees for degree candidates enrolled in a state-approved nursing program. The foundation awards four scholarships each year.

Amount Offered: $500 – $1,500
Scholarship Deadline: March 15
Eligibility Requirements: The scholarship remains open to members of the Student Nurses Association of Illinois. Interested candidates must hold a minimum GPA of 2.5, and submit a complete application with proof of membership and a letter of support from a program director.

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Illinois Healthcare Scholarship

Open to the public and provided by the Valley of Freeport Masons, this scholarship awards funds to Illinois residents pursuing a career in healthcare. This renewable scholarship does not require any type of membership.

Amount Offered: Varies
Scholarship Deadline: April 1
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must currently attend an accredited college or university and possess at least a cumulative grade of “B.”

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Long Term Care Nurses Association Scholarship

The Long Term Care Nurses Association awards two scholarships each year to degree candidates currently employed in the nursing field. The fund helps current nurses and aides pursue an advanced degree in healthcare.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: Dec. 30
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must possess at least one year of experience working at an Illinois long-term care facility as a nurse or nurse’s aide; currently work at a long-term care facility in the state; be enrolled in an accredited graduate nursing program or the final years of a registered nurse program; and commit to working at a long-term care facility.

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Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital’s Auxiliary Scholarship

Offered by the Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital, the Auxiliary Scholarship provides funding for degree candidates majoring in a healthcare professional field and residing in the surrounding hospital service area in Illinois.

Amount Offered: Varies
Scholarship Deadline: April 17
Eligibility Requirements: Candidates must reside within a specific Illinois ZIP Code in the hospital service area and hold acceptance in a healthcare professional program, including pharmacy, radiology, nursing, or a physician program.

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William L. Lakie Scholarship

Designed to promote professionalism in the fields of health, physical education, and recreation, the William L. Lakie scholarship recognizes Western Illinois University graduate students who demonstrate academic and professional potential.

Amount Offered: $400
Scholarship Deadline: Sept. 15
Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible, an applicant must currently serve as a second-semester graduate student in Western Illinois University’s health sciences, kinesiology, or recreation departments. The degree candidate must also hold a GPA of 3.5, complete nine semester hours at the graduate level, demonstrate leadership, show proof of extracurricular professional activities, and commit to graduating with a degree from the university.

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