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Rutgers ranks in top 10 institutions for public health majors

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November 2011 | The public health major, run through the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, has been ranked in the top 10 among universities in the country, falling behind Johns Hopkins University and the University of Southern California.

Rutgers was recently named in the top 10 U.S. colleges for a major in public health in a ranking compiled by College Factual, tailing behind universities like Johns Hopkins and University of Southern California.

Students in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy earn an average starting salary of $45,000 and mid-career salary of $96,000 because of the school’s comprehensive education, according to USA Today College.

It is exciting to see the quality and uniqueness of the program at the Bloustein School being recognized with such distinguished colleagues like Hopkins and Berkley and other top universities in the country, said Ann Marie Hill, an assistant professor and internship coordinator.

The school has been working hard for the past decade or more to be at the forefront of changes in undergraduate education when it comes to public health, said Dona Schneider, acting dean of the University College Community.

“This has been a challenge because many people do not understand why public health is a major in a liberal arts institution as opposed to something like nursing, which comes out of a professional school,” Schneider said.

The public health major is currently one of the first in the nation to go under accreditation as liberal arts, she said.

The students have a core curriculum where they have to aquire a liberal arts background, she said. The major is credit-intensive, and students take a variety of courses throughout their undergraduate careers including a leadership seminar and a 6-credit internship which requires 225 hours in the field.

“We’re expecting our kids to have a much broader educational experience,” Schneider said. “They take courses in poverty, community health education and a lot of things that might not be so technical as might be presented in a professional school of public health.”

The school is proud of the internship program in particular, Hill said, because they work very hard to provide robust placements for students in everything from community grassroots efforts to top tier leadership levels in hospitals.

“Our students really get real-world experience in this but they also have to focus on bringing benefit to the agency, and they do that through a project,” she said. “And it has been really a dynamic experience for student and agency alike.”

The school also offers a variety of certificate programs, Schneider said, which students seem to really enjoy.

Many students focus on public health education during their studies with interests in community efforts such as improving maternal-child health, safety programs and environmental programs, she said.

“One of the things you need to recognize about public health is it is a major that is a huge platform to jump into any number of career paths,” Hill said. “And our students at the undergraduate level do that.”

A student can be a public health major and go into medicine, become a physician’s assistant or a nurse, she said. They can also go into community development, work in hospital settings, in the government, the private sector and non-profits, all using a public health degree.

“In that sense it’s a very attractive degree for a young person,” Hill said. “It gives you solid skills, combines science with – in our program in particular – a broad liberal arts education and I think it’s a wonderful foundation for students to have successful careers and our students are proving that to us every day.”

Schneider emphasized the importance of the national movement in undergraduate education to push liberal arts students to take at least one public health or wellness course in order to be a better and well-informed citizen.

“(So you can) understand the news every day and understand what it means to have a Zika outbreak,” she said. “What could that mean? What does it mean when we’re talking about food and nutrition programs such as WIC? How do you elect the appropriate officials who understand the important of providing nutrition for women, infants and children nationally?”

If the program allows students to find ways they can give back to society or become a better physician or figure out a better way to work in a community, then we have done our jobs, Schneider said.

“I think that if you have any program that is broad enough to allow students to explore what’s important to them, I think we can help,” she said.

Samantha Karas is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in journalism and media studies and English. She is a correspondent for The Daily Targum. Follow her on Twitter @samanthakaras for more.

Samantha Karas

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