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.
- 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 [email protected].
- 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 [email protected].
- 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.
- 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.
|Employment||Hourly Mean Wage||Annual Mean Wage|
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.
|Employers||Number of Employees|
|Northwestern Memorial Hospital||30,000|
|Advocate Health Care||35,000|
|Hospital Sisters Health System||16,900|
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.