Public health professionals help people and communities achieve better health. They work as epidemiologists, health educators, researchers, public health management analysts, and health initiatives managers. Public health professionals are in high demand across the country, but the need is even greater in Tennessee because of health issues such as high rates of obesity and inactivity. A 2014 UnitedHealth Foundation study ranked Tennessee’s overall health 42nd in the country.

The BLS projects a long-term growth of 34.6% for health educators in Tennessee, with 50 annual openings.

Earning a public health master’s degree online is a flexible, affordable way to study. For students pursuing an MPH, Tennessee offers multiple public health programs. Tennessee’s demand for public health workers to address the state’s health problems makes it an ideal place for students to earn their online public health degree. The BLS projects a long-term growth of 34.6% for health educators in Tennessee, with 50 annual openings, meaning graduates of online MPH programs in Tennessee will have ample job opportunities.

Students in online MPH programs in Tennessee should understand the public health initiatives happening in the state. One of Tennessee’s biggest public health projects is the Primary Prevention Initiative. The project, organized by the Tennessee Department of Health, aims to eliminate risk factors for later health problems in Tennessee communities. Topics the initiative covers include obesity prevention, infant mortality, substance abuse, vaccination, and suicide prevention. The department’s School Located Vaccine Clinics project provides flu vaccines to children and parents at neighborhood schools. Tennessee’s strategies to prevent obesity include expanding access to farmer’s markets, opening community gardens, and encouraging exercise through the Walk Across Tennessee program.

The nonprofit Healthier Tennessee encourages and enables residents to move more, eat smarter, and quit tobacco. Residents in 100 communities throughout the state participate in free Healthier Tennessee programs and use the organization’s app, which provides tips for healthy living.

Public health internships and fellowships are valuable experiences for students in online MPH programs in Tennessee. During internships, students work in real-world settings to earn pay or academic credit. Fellowships are almost always paid and are typically offered to recent graduates of master’s or doctoral programs. The following internships and fellowships are available to public health students in Tennessee.

Tennessee Department of Health Internship Program

The health department’s internship program is located in Nashville and includes a variety of opportunities, both paid and unpaid. The internship is customized based on the student’s interests. Students may apply online.

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Commissioner’s Fellowship in Health Policy

This health policy fellowship from the Tennessee Department of Health awards $35,000 per year to recent graduates of programs in public health or related fields. The position is based in Nashville. Apply online.

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Public Health Internships

The Metro Nashville Public Health Department offers a public health internship program, which is designed to fit each student’s interests. The internship is based in Nashville and includes real-world public health experiences. Apply through the website.
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Knox County Health Department Internship Program

Internships at the Knox County Health Department in Knoxville involve practical public health experiences. Recent internship opportunities include a walking school bus and hepatitis C social work. Application information is available on the website.

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South Nashville Family Resource Center Internships

Internships with the South Nashville Family Resource Center expose students to community organizing and nonprofit work, which often involves public health projects. Internships last at least ten weeks. Application information is available online.

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Salaries for public health officials vary depending on factors such as experience, education, credentials, and geographic location. For example, a professional with a bachelor’s in public health can expect to earn less than someone with a master’s in public health. The following table displays the employment and mean salary of health educators. Public health workers in Tennessee earn less than the U.S. average, but the cost of living in Tennessee is lower than in many other parts of the country, making it easier to live comfortably.

Employment Hourly Mean Wage Annual Mean Wage
Tennessee 960 $18.15 $37,740
United States 63,260 $32.60 $67,810

Source: BLS

Public Health Employers in Tennessee

Identifying the largest public health employers in Tennessee helps graduates find open positions. Graduates of public health programs in Tennessee should consider beginning their job search with the employers below.

Employers Number of Employees
HCA Healthcare, Inc. 35,000
Vanderbilt Hospital & Clinics 13,510
Methodist Healthcare Memphis 9,602

Public Health Research Centers in Tennessee

Public health students should become familiar with public health research centers in Tennessee. Research centers employ a large number of public health professionals and are ideal settings for graduates interested in public health research or related fields.

  • The Institute for Medicine and Public Health: Vanderbilt University runs this institute, which connects health research with policy. The center fosters collaborations, within and outside the university, to improve health.
  • UT’s Department of Public Health: The University of Tennessee’s Department of Public Health in Knoxville houses an MPH program and numerous public health initiatives involving community collaboration.
  • Tennessee Institute of Public Health: This independent entity improves the health of Tennesseans by conducting and promoting health initiatives. Activities include health education, research, and advocacy work related to health policy.

Public Health Professional Organizations in Tennessee

Professional organizations in the field of public health offer students and recent graduates benefits such as networking opportunities, access to discounted continuing education courses, and discounted registration for public health conferences. Many professional organizations also provide members-only job boards and career services. Tennessee offers several public health professional organizations for students earning their master’s in public health online.

  • Tennessee Public Health Association: The largest professional public health organization in Tennessee, this group is open to anyone interested in or working in public health in the state. Member benefits include networking opportunities, newsletters, and an annual conference.
  • Rural Health Association of Tennessee: RHAT is the only group in the state that focuses specifically on rural Tennesseans. The association educates the public on rural health issues, such as substance abuse, oral health, and health professions education. Member benefits include access to educational seminars, a subscription to the RHAT newsletter, and networking opportunities.
  • Tennessee Institute of Public Health: Run by East Tennessee State University, this organization works to create measurable improvement in the health of Tennesseans. Members attend an annual conference and have access to networking and continuing education opportunities.

Although Tennessee does not require licensure for public health professionals, individuals may become a certified public health professional through the National Board of Public Health Examiners.

Public health professionals in Tennessee are not required to hold licensure or certifications. However, because public health is such a broad field, specific positions may require separate licensure or certification. The Tennessee Department of Health has health professional boards that oversee and provide licensing for specialized healthcare professions, such as drug abuse counselors.

Although Tennessee does not require licensure for public health professionals, individuals may become a certified public health professional through the National Board of Public Health Examiners’ Certified in Public Health certificate. Obtaining a voluntary certificate in public health demonstrates commitment to understanding key aspects of contemporary public health sciences, which is advantageous for job seekers.

When researching where to earn your online public health master’s degree, look for accredited programs. Accreditation ensures schools meet educational standards and that programs provide a quality education to help students succeed in their field after graduation.

There are two types of accreditation: regional and national. Regional accreditation is more popular and more prestigious, and most schools accept transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions. Tennessee schools are regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. National accreditation is less common, and regionally accredited schools rarely accept transfer credits from nationally accredited institutions. Additionally, look for field-specific accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

East Tennessee State University

Founded more than 100 years ago in Johnson City, ETSU fosters diversity, collaboration, and student success. This university offers an online master’s of public health that emphasizes both student achievement and community care. The comprehensive MPH program offers three concentrations, and the fully online format allows students to balance education with personal and professional commitments.

The 43-credit curriculum follows a competency-based, practitioner model. Online students can concentrate in community health, epidemiology, or health services administration. While earning the master’s of public health online, ETSU students complete 16 core credits and a six-credit field experience.

The community health concentration prepares students for leadership roles and provides skills in program evaluation and health promotion. Concentration courses cover a variety of topics, including community health assessment research, health communication, and health program planning. Students also explore the unique health needs of rural communities.

The administrative concentration prepares students to pursue administrative roles. This interdisciplinary plan of study examines healthcare policies and program development. Course topics include health services organization and delivery and human resource management. The epidemiology concentration explores human health and covers topics such as biostatistics and epidemiology of chronic and infectious diseases.

Dr. Charlena Seymour Scholarship

Established to recognize women in the fields of public health and environmental health, the Seymour scholarship is awarded to women dedicated to high academic and professional standards.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: July 1
Eligibility Requirements: Must be a female student pursuing a graduate degree in public health or environmental health from an accredited U.S. college or university
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AlcoRehab Scholarship

Addiction Resource offers an essay contest, with three winners receiving scholarships. Applicants submit an essay about the effects of alcohol and addiction.

Amount Offered: $1,000–3,000
Scholarship Deadline: July 1
Eligibility Requirements: Must be enrolled full-time in an undergraduate or graduate program and must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 18 years old
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Albert W. Dent
Graduate Student Scholarship

The Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives created this scholarship to honor the first African American fellow of ACHE. The fund supports minority students in healthcare management programs.

Amount Offered: $5,000
Scholarship Deadline: March 31
Eligibility Requirements: Must be a student in their final year of an MPH program, must be an ethnic minority and a U.S. or Canadian citizen, and must demonstrate financial need.
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Foster G. McGaw Graduate Student Scholarship

Offered by the Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives, this scholarship is for master’s students in their final year of a healthcare management program.

Amount Offered: $5,000
Scholarship Deadline: Unknown
Eligibility Requirements: Must be a student associate in good standing with the American College of Healthcare Executives and must be a U.S. or Canadian citizen
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Cathy L. Brock Scholarship

The Institute for Diversity in Health Care Management offers the Cathy L. Brock Scholarship to graduate students with ethnically diverse backgrounds. The scholarship program aims to increase the number of minorities in healthcare management.

Amount Offered: $1,000
Scholarship Deadline: Unknown
Eligibility Requirements: Must be enrolled in an MPH program, be a U.S. citizen, demonstrate financial need, and have a minimum 3.0 GPA
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Corris Boyd Scholars Program

This scholarship program for MPH graduate students is offered in honor of a healthcare leader who dedicated their life to diversity in leadership.

Amount Offered: $40,000
Scholarship Deadline: April 17
Eligibility Requirements: Applicants must be minorities and U.S. citizens, must have a minimum 3.0 GPA, and must be entering a master’s program the following fall.
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David A. Winston Health Policy Scholarship

This scholarship recognizes excellence and achievement among public health graduate students. The scholarship is awarded to students who have demonstrated commitment to leadership, health policy, academic achievement, and community involvement.

Amount Offered: $10,000
Scholarship Deadline: April 2
Eligibility Requirements: Must be a first-year public health, health administration, or health policy graduate student and must be an American citizen
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Community Scholars Program

Vanderbilt University offers this scholarship program to support MPH Vanderbilt students participating in research with a community partner.

Amount Offered: $5,000
Scholarship Deadline: Unknown
Eligibility Requirements: Must be a graduate or post-graduate student in Vanderbilt’s MPH program
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Bruce A. and Amelia R. Goodrow Endowment

East Tennessee State University offers this scholarship to students planning a career in public health. Preference is given to students who are military veterans or students from rural East Tennessee counties.

Amount Offered: Unknown
Scholarship Deadline: March 1
Eligibility Requirements: Must have two years of documented real-world public experience.
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David Satcher Public Health Scholars Program

This program is for Vanderbilt University public health students and is designed to increase the number of students from underrepresented backgrounds, including ethnic and racial minorities and economically disadvantaged individuals.
Amount Offered: Full or partial tuition

Scholarship Deadline: No deadline
Eligibility Requirements: Must be an incoming Vanderbilt public health student from backgrounds underrepresented in health-related sciences
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