When President Obamsa signed the contentious Affordable Healthcare for America Act into law on March 23, 2010, he continued a long tradition of federal involvement in the public's health, joining Medicare and Medicaid, for better or for worse.

One thing is certain, the reformed healthcare system that is now the law of the land will mean increased employment for public health social workers and public health administration managers seeking to make a positive change in the way communities address their citizen's health.

Public health social workers are employed by organizations like hospitals, nursing homes, governments at the local, state, and federal level, and other nonprofit service organizations. They are generally tasked with helping vulnerable groups with managing their health care. This may mean working with non-Anglophone (English-Speaking) or English as a Second Language (ESL) speakers with complicated insurance paperwork, arranging meals on wheels for the elderly, or picking up a carless patient for a doctor's appointment across town.

If public health social workers are the foot soldiers fighting the battle on the ground, then public health managers are often the generals orchestrating their efforts. Working for the same institutions as social workers, public health administrators manage the organizational, budgetary, and logistical challenges posed by public health initiatives like the Affordable Healthcare for America Act.

Public Health Administration Career Opportunities

Leads to Public Health Administration, Medical and Public Health Social Workers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 138,700 working medical and public health social workers in 2008. Because of the increasing healthcare needs of an aging population, the field of medical and public health social work is expected to grow by 22% from 2008 to 2018. That's 31,100 new jobs for a projected 2018 total of 169,800.

The field of public health social workers is expected to experience robust job growth - 22% from 2008-2018, much faster than the average for all occupations. Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Even that robust growth rate, 268% faster than the projected growth of all civilian jobs does not accurately portray the number of opportunities expected qualified public health social workers in the coming years. According to the Occupational Information Network, a project of the Department of Labor's Employment and Training Administration, there will be a total of 65,900 openings for public health social workers from 2008 to 2018. That figure includes the 31,100 new jobs added as the field grows AND established jobs vacated by retirement, promotion, career change, early termination, etc.

The BLS does not distinguish public health managers and administrators from their larger category, of medical and healthcare service managers. But opportunities in that field were excellent: according to the Bureau of Labor Statisticss, there were 283,500 medical and healthcare service managers in 2008. The occupation is expected to grow by 16% from 2008 to 2018. That 16% is faster than the 8.2% expected expansion of the civilian workforce over the same time period. That will mean over 45,000 new jobs for qualified candidates over 10 years, for a 2018 total of 328,800 health service managers.

Medical service managers are expected to experience exceptional job growth from 2008 to 2018.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Public Health Administration Earnings

Earnings in the public healthcare administration and social work vary widely depending on position, experience, education, and geographic area.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public health social workers made an annual median of $45,650 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $35,550 and $57,690 a year, while the bottom 10% made less than $28,100 and the top 10% made more than $69,090.

Annual median wages for medical and health service managers, including public health administrators, were $80,240 in 2008. The middle 50% of the field made between $62,170 and $104,120, while the bottom 10% earned less than $48,300 and the top 10% earned more than $137,800.

Though both groups earned more money than national median wages, healthcare services managers made significantly more than public health social workers in 2008.Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Public Health Administration Educational Benefits

A bachelor's in social work, public health, or a related social science field is generally the requirement for entry-level public health social worker positions. Medical service managers, including public health administrators, have higher educational prerequisites; most entry-level positions require graduate work in a health administration.

According to the Occupational Information Network, 77% of medical and public health social workers aged 25 to 44 reported having a bachelor's degree or higher. 16% reported some college, and the remaining 7% reported no formal education beyond a high school diploma.

A large majority of public health social workers - 77% - had a bachelor's, Master's or Doctoral degree.  Most of the rest had some college education. Source: Occupational Information Network

Public Health Administration Programs Online

Degrees Possible Graduate Certificates, Bachelor's, Master's, and Doctoral Degrees

There are a number of public health administration and social work programs online. Because of license requirements that require supervised clinical experience, you cannot initially become a social worker through a purely online education, but there are continuing education courses offered online that can qualify working public health social workers for attractive jobs and higher earnings.

Public health administration degrees are more common online, with bachelor's programs generally taking 3 to 4 years and graduate programs taking 1 to 3 years. The best online public health administration and social work degrees will offer a rigorous and thoughtful education as good as those offered by local ground schools in a more flexible format better suited to the working student.

As with any serious educational decision, do your research when picking an online public health program: is the school accredited? Will credits transfer? What is the school's job placement rate? What are people saying about this school in general and this program specifically? You'll be able to find the answers to many of these questions on this family of Web sites, but don't be afraid to ask your admissions counselor the tough questions.

Public Health Administration Skills and Abilities

Public health social workers should be organized to deal with a heavy case load, dedicated to see even tragic cases through to their conclusion, and compassionate enough to empathize with and assist less fortunate people with serious health concerns.

Both social workers and public health administrators should be excellent communicators and listeners, able to work as part of a health initiative team and as accessible and sympathetic public servants.

Public health administrators should be strong leaders and problem-solvers, as they will have to delegate responsibilities and solve organizational and logistical problems.

Public Health Administration Qualification and Advancement

A bachelor's degree in public health social work (which cannot be earned entirely online) generally qualifies the candidate for entry-level positions as Medical and Public Health Social Workers. Continued education at the graduate degree or certificate level can qualify medical social workers for supervisorial positions with better pay and working conditions.

A master's degree in public health or medical business administration is generally required for entry-level positions as Public Health Administrators. Doctorates and postgraduate certificates can qualify working public health administrators for advancement within the organizations for which they work.

Additional Information

The Center for Clinical Social Work maintains a Web site at http://www.centercsw.org.

The American Public Human Services Association maintains a Web site at http://www.aphsa.org.