National health issues, including health equity and the burden of chronic disease, are at the core of public health programs in New Mexico. In addition to confronting these problems, New Mexico’s health officials face the further challenge of a low population density (the sixth lowest in the U.S.), which makes efficiently educating the public about health and healthcare especially difficult. Finding ways to reach the two million people living in the state is key for New Mexico’s health educators.

The U.S. BLS projects a 14% increase in the number of health educators by 2026.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 14% increase in the number of health educators by 2026. Considering the growing healthcare needs of an aging nation and the higher associated healthcare costs, health educators, community health workers, and epidemiologists who work on disease prevention will be in high demand. Individuals with an advanced degree, such as an online master’s in public health, should hold an advantage when it comes to filling these roles.

In 2014, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) published the state’s current health improvement plan. This plan was the culmination of a three-year study aimed at identifying priority health issues for New Mexico’s two million residents. The NMDOH settled on 10 leading health indicators that fall under the broader topics of nutrition, tobacco, substance abuse, injury/violence, clinical preventive services, reproductive health, and access to care.

Based on these findings, the public health programs in New Mexico are varied and far-reaching. With some of the nation’s highest rates of obesity, drug overdoses, alcohol-related deaths, and fall-related deaths, New Mexico urgently needs to address its health issues and improve health outcomes. The NMDOH study also confirmed that social determinants of health, such as socioeconomic status and/or location, have a dramatic impact on an individual’s overall health status. As such, improving health equity remains a major goal for the state.

While internships and fellowships have many similarities, your expectations of each should be different. Internships are usually shorter than fellowships, with some lasting only a few months, and can be filled by undergraduate and graduate students alike. Students participating in an internship work for an organization and gain practical experience. They may or may not be paid.

Alternatively, fellowships are typically longer, lasting anywhere from six months to multiple years, and are open to graduate and post-graduate students. The work tends to be research-focused and students receive a stipend, allowing full-time commitment to the fellowship. The list below includes five internships and fellowships available to public health students in New Mexico.

SOPHE/CDC Student Fellowship in Unintentional Injury Prevention

This fellowship awards a $2,000 stipend in support of research or practice-based projects focused on unintentional injury prevention or violence prevention. Applicants must be full-time graduate students studying health education, health promotion, behavioral sciences, or a related field. The application period runs from February through April.
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E-Learning Institute Fellowship (ELI)

This six-month fellowship is for public health training professionals; it provides access to CDC-developed materials and the opportunity to learn from peers in a cohort. Applicants must submit an example of the content they want to develop (each student creates a quick-learn module) and a letter of support from their supervisor.
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Community Outreach & Patient Empowerment

Individuals in this role assist COPE in its mission to address health disparities for the Navajo Nation in Gallup, New Mexico. Applicants should have a two- or four-year degree and a background in either public health or project coordination. Intern opportunities are year-round and responsibilities change depending on the specific project.
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Paul D. Coverdell Fellows Program

This program offers financial assistance and professional experience to graduate students, including those enrolled in online MPH programs in New Mexico, as they continue their Peace Corps mission by working with underserved communities. Applications vary by participating university, but every returned Peace Corps volunteer is eligible.
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The BLS projects the number of public health workers, including health educators and community health workers (CHWs), to increase by 16% by the year 2026. While a health educator requires at least a bachelor’s degree, community health workers can begin their careers with only a high school diploma. However, the wages for these two positions reflect this discrepancy in training, with health educators making an average of $16,000 more than CHWs each year ($37,000 vs. $53,00). Meanwhile, epidemiologists typically hold at least a master’s in public health. New Mexico pays epidemiologists a similar wage compared to the rest of the nation, which is about $18,000 more than health educators. Many epidemiologists also have a doctoral degree.

 EmploymentHourly Mean WageAnnual Mean Wage
New Mexico805$32.85$68,315
United States63,260$32.60$67,810

Source: BLS

Public Health Employers in New Mexico

As you begin your employment search after graduation, it is prudent to look at large employers within the state; these companies tend to represent your greatest opportunities for employment. New Mexico graduates who have earned a master’s in public health online should qualify for most health education roles in the state, where the top employers are the government and education and health services.

EmployersNumber of Employees
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)11,300
University of New Mexico/UNM Hospital>11,000
Sandia National Laboratories10,652

Public Health Research Centers in New Mexico

Research centers and think tanks represent good places to start a job search for health educators interested in carrying out research, data collection, and/or analyses of public health studies related to prevention, outreach, and policy. The list below contains a few of the public health research centers located in New Mexico.

  • Institute for Public Health at UNM: This on-campus institute coordinates resources for the University of New Mexico’s Health Sciences Center. It aims to reduce health disparities in the state by working with local communities, the NMDOH, Indian Health Services, and the New Mexico Health Policy Commission.
  • Albuquerque Area Southwest Tribal Epidemiology Center: Based in Albuquerque, this center’s mission is to improve the quality of life for 27 American Indian tribes located across the southwestern United States. From behavioral health to fall prevention, the AASTEC addresses New Mexico’s health issues through research, monitoring, and outreach.
  • Con Alma Health Foundation (COHF): This Santa Fe-based foundation supports public health programs and efforts across the state in the form of project grants, contributions, and investments. The foundation has a collaborative project with KUNM, reporting on the people and policies impacting public health in New Mexico.

Public Health Professional Organizations in New Mexico

Professional organizations provide networking, continuing education, and mentorship opportunities to their members; these can be especially helpful for students and recent graduates taking their first career steps. Professional organizations provide industry insight and job opportunities in the form of job boards and career services, new professional connections, and financial assistance through scholarships or internships. Most professional organizations hold annual conferences and workshops.

  • New Mexico Public Health Association: This association is well-suited for public health professionals whose work is focused on health equity. Members advocate for health education and policy changes by sharing their research and ideas to improve health outcomes. The association holds an annual conference each April and forums take place throughout the year.
  • Behavioral Health Providers Association of New Mexico: Members work to inform policymakers about changes that should be made to New Mexico’s health system. Individuals can apply to be voting or nonvoting members.

Although certification is not required for all public health positions, having the CHES or MCHES designation sets a candidate apart from their peers.

For certain health educator roles in New Mexico, a credential may be required. For example, the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential verifies the academic qualifications of entry-level health educators. To earn this designation, students must pass a test consisting of 165 multiple-choice questions. Graduate students can also take the Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES) test, which is a competency-based exam that covers seven areas of responsibility. Students who earn an MPH in New Mexico should be adequately prepared for both of these exams. Although certification is not required for all public health positions, having the CHES or MCHES designation sets a candidate apart from their peers.

To become a health educator, a bachelor’s degree is required; however, many students choose to continue their studies by enrolling in online MPH programs in New Mexico or another state. Individuals who hold an advanced degree can opt to pursue work as an epidemiologist.

Additionally, community health workers only need a high school diploma to begin work; however, many of these workers decide to earn a one-year certificate or associate degree. While certification is not required to work as a CHW, many states, including New Mexico, offer voluntary certification.

Accreditation assures students that their chosen school meets certain quality standards. When choosing a school, a college or university’s accreditation status should be one of the main deciding factors. While regional accreditation is reserved for more traditional academic institutions, national accreditation is granted to a wider group, including for-profit schools and vocational and technical colleges. Regional accreditation is the older designation and is typically considered to be more prestigious. There are six regional accrediting associations in the U.S., each of which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation). The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) regionally accredits degree-granting colleges and universities in New Mexico.

In addition to accreditation by the HLC, future health educators in New Mexico should also check for specific accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), which is the independent accrediting agency for U.S. schools that offer public health programs.

New Mexico State University

Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico State University opened its doors in 1890 as the state’s first public university. Today, the school enrolls over 15,000 students, and its global presence includes scholars from 89 countries. The university’s location along the southern border of New Mexico creates an atmosphere of diversity, rich with Hispanic influence and multicultural students. Each year the university awards more than 700 master’s degrees. With 83% of its student body residing off campus, this school’s flexible online programs continue to attract students from around the world.

One of the most accessible online MPH programs in New Mexico, this program features asynchronous courses led by experienced instructors. The program was designed to meet the ongoing obligations faced by working professionals. Out-of-state students receive in-state tuition rates for six credits. The online learning environment presents numerous opportunities for meaningful interactions through video conferencing software and discussion forums. Using the Canvas learning platform, students complete their coursework entirely online.

This master of public health program consists of 42 credits, including 18 concentration credits. Students may choose a concentration in community health education or health management, administration, and policy. Students who specialize in community health education choose between a thesis or non-thesis track. The thesis track concludes with an oral defense. The non-thesis track requires three elective credits and a comprehensive exam.

Students in the health management, administration, and policy concentration complete non-thesis requirements. Both concentrations include a field experience, which begins after the student’s second semester in the program. In addition to the online concentrations, students may enhance their degree by earning a graduate minor in gerontology or U.S.-Mexico border health.

Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Potential students must submit GRE scores unless they are eligible for a waiver.

Graduate Scholarship

Given by the New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED), this scholarship lasts one year and helps students from underrepresented groups pursue graduate studies; recipient must maintain good academic standing.

Amount Offered: Up to $7,200
Scholarship Deadline: Application requirements/deadline varies by year.
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be a citizen of the U.S. or a permanent resident, with priority given to New Mexico students. The recipient also serves an unpaid internship or assistantship.

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Davis-Putter Scholarship Fund

This award provides financial assistance to students active in social and economic justice, such as those focused on health equity and closing disparities in healthcare. Scholarships are need-based.

Amount Offered: Varies
Scholarship Deadline: April 1
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must submit a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and transcripts documenting all previous academic work.

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The Julia D. Sweeney Endowed Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to a New Mexico graduate student pursuing a degree to become an occupational therapist or assistant in occupational therapy. Recipient must also be a member of the New Mexico Occupational Therapy Association.

Amount Offered: $500 to $1,500
Scholarship Deadline: Continuous
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be a full-time graduate student studying therapy/rehabilitation or health and medical sciences.

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WICHE's Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP)

In an effort to make higher education more affordable and accessible, this program allows students from 16 participating states to enroll in graduate school and pay in-state tuition instead of non-resident rates. Award amounts vary depending on the degree program.

Amount Offered: Varies
Scholarship Deadline: Continuous
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be an active graduate student, a U.S. citizen, and a resident of Oregon, South Dakota, Washington, Utah, Wyoming, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, New Mexico, or Nevada.

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Healthcare Leaders Scholarship

This leadership scholarship is available to students pursuing a nursing or medicine degree. Applicants must submit an essay about their career goals and ambitions.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: January 29
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

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CHCI-United Health Foundation Scholar Intern Program

This program awards up to two years of financial aid to students pursuing an advanced degree. Applicants must demonstrate that their degrees will lead to careers in healthcare, including work as a family practitioner, nurse, or public health professional.

Amount Offered: $5,000
Scholarship Deadline: May 12
Eligibility Requirements: Graduate/professional students who won’t graduate before May 2019 can apply. Students should be enrolled full-time, have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and be U.S. citizens.

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Dr. Alma S. Adams Scholarship

This scholarship is awarded to two students with innovative ideas related to confronting tobacco use and its effects. The basis for awarding the scholarship changes each year; previously addressed topics include smoke-free environments, social justice, tobacco product flavors, and tobacco point-of-sale.

Amount Offered: $5,000 (two scholarships)
Scholarship Deadline: April 30
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must have a proven record of community service/involvement and a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

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Healthdaddy Scholarship

Nutrition researcher John Fitt offers two scholarships to students pursuing degrees in health are, from nutrition to improving health education in one’s community. Students must answer an essay question.

Amount Offered: $5,000 ($2,000 for runner-up)
Scholarship Deadline: July 1
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be a current college student with a GPA of 2.8 or higher.

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Healthcare and Life Sciences Scholarship

Awarded by the Expert Institute, this scholarship is given to students in the fields of health or life sciences.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: December 31
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant must be actively pursuing a degree/career in health or life sciences and have a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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National CPR Foundation Scholarship Program

This program awards a scholarship each month for the best essay submitted by a student studying healthcare or education. Funds pay for expenses at the recipient’s school.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: Continuous
Eligibility Requirements: Applicant should be enrolled in a postsecondary academic institution and pursuing a degree in healthcare or education; student should have a minimum 2.8 GPA.

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