Master’s in community health transitions from traditional to online format
Beginning this fall, the master of science in community health will be offered 100% online. This move offers students flexibility and convenience and may help meet the demand for more community health professionals.
“Moving the program online allows us to expand its reach,” said Noel Kulik, Ph.D., associate professor and program coordinator. “It also allows students — particularly busy working professionals — to earn a degree in a way that works for their lifestyle and location. In addition, student interest in online classes has increased, and this transition helps us better meet their needs.”
Taking classes online offers students many advantages. Students can plan their own schedules, revisit course material online as often as needed and feel comfortable asking professors to delve deeper into a particular topic — all from the convenience of home. Online classes can also be cost-effective because students can reduce money spent on gas and parking. In addition, students who live out of state will be able to take online classes at in-state tuition rates.
Community health students must complete 30 credits that may include a culminating experience such as an internship, project or thesis. Alternately, students may choose a course-only option and complete a three-credit class in their specific area of interest. Students are expected to participate in a meaningful way with course content and through experiential learning opportunities. Just as in a face-to-face classroom environment, students will interact with instructors and classmates; however, they will use tools such as email, video conferencing and Canvas — an online learning management system — to communicate or meet with instructors and classmates.
Kulik said faculty and staff are dedicated to helping students succeed in their classes and careers.
“When students are admitted, we can work with them to ensure a smooth transition to online learning,” she said. “Students can work with faculty and advisors to determine the best course of action for their specific career goals. Faculty are committed to ensuring students are prepared for the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam. Our program is unique because it is the first completely online master’s program in community health in Michigan that specifically prepares students for this exam.”
Offered through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, the CHES® certification is the only nationally accredited health education and promotion certification on the market. Becoming certified helps students expand their career options and increase their earning potential.
Kulik said students entering the program have varied levels of exposure to and experience in the field of community health, which examines the multiple levels — individual, family, community, policy and systems — and social factors that influence behavior and health. Community health professionals develop and use evidence-based strategies to improve population health. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment of health education specialists and community health workers is projected to grow 17% through 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will be driven by efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services. Master’s program graduates typically work for health departments, local health agencies, nonprofit organizations, hospitals, universities, corporations and health insurance companies.
“Some students have little or no background in community health,” Kulik said. “Many are career-changers and others are experienced professionals who want to advance their careers. This diversity enriches the experience of all students in the program.”
Kulik thinks several factors will persuade students to choose Wayne State’s master’s program. The curriculum was revised to reflect the new 2022 CHES standards for the community health profession. Courses were added to focus on health equity and advocacy. In addition, students have the opportunity to use what they learn in the classroom to address actual health needs through their involvement with the college’s Center for Health and Community Impact, which seeks to improve community health and vitality through diverse and inclusive programs, advocacy and research.
“Many students find the convenience of online courses a big draw,” she said. “However, I think things such as the commitment of our faculty and staff and the competencies the program will help them develop are major advantages. When they graduate, they will have the knowledge, skills and ability to advance health equity by planning, implementing, evaluating and advocating for health programs. They can hit the ground running and make an immediate impact. That is what matters most.”