accredited schools of public health graduated 5,568 students. Of all degree recipients, 89.9 percent received a master’s degree (61.5 percent received an MPH degree) and 10.1 percent received doctoral degrees (of these, 6.7 percent received a doctor of philosophy [PhD] degree and 2 percent received a DrPH degree) (ASPH, 2000). It is estimated that accredited graduate programs in community health and preventive medicine and in community health education graduate an additional 700 to 800 master’s degree students each year (Davis and Dandoy, 2001). Many of these graduate programs in public health are represented by the Association of Teachers of Preventive Medicine. Additionally, in 1997–1998 there were 9,947 master’s graduates of programs of public administration and public affairs, many of whom emphasized health policy and management and public health in their training (National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration, 1998). The Association of University Programs in Health Administration reports that in 2000 there were 1,778 graduates who received master’s degrees (in health administration); some (an unknown number) of them received the MPH and master of science degrees (Association of University Programs in Health Administration, 2000). Many public health workers also receive undergraduate training from 4-year institutions that offer programs in the environmental sciences or in health education and health promotion. These programs can offer valuable continuing education to health workers by providing current scientific information in many specialized areas.
Those who graduate with training in public health are only a small part of the public health workforce. Although it is unclear exactly how many public health workers there are in the United States today, it is estimated that about 450,000 people are employed in salaried positions in public health and that an additional 2.85 million people volunteer their services (HRSA, 2000a). This is probably an undercount because, according to HRSA, states reporting the number of workers within their jurisdictions almost never include information about public health workers found in nongovernmental and community partner agencies. Additionally, limited information is obtained regarding the numbers of volunteers and salaried staff in voluntary agencies.
Kennedy and colleagues (1999), in an 18-month study of the Texas public health workforce, counted nearly 17,700 professional public health workers in that state. Only one-third of the professional public health workforce identified in that study was employed in official public health agencies, and only an estimated 7 percent had formal education in public health. Nationally, it is estimated that about 80 percent of public health workers lack basic training in public health (CDC, 2001a). Furthermore, only 22 percent of chief executives of local health departments have graduate degrees in public health (Turnock, 2001).