Previous surveys of public health graduates examine where they work; however, little is known about public health graduates' employment decisions or the factors that facilitate interest or deter interest in working in governmental public health settings. The purpose of the current pilot study was to build on the information previously collected in graduate surveys by expanding questions to undergraduates and asking about decisions and factors that influence choices of employment.
A pilot survey of graduates of public health programs was conducted. Respondents provided information about their degree programs, year of graduation, and current employment. Questions asked where they applied for jobs, factors they considered, experiences with the application processes, and so forth. Descriptive statistics were calculated using frequencies and proportions. Open-ended responses were qualitatively reviewed and general themes were extracted.
Employment preferences were ranked the highest for not-for-profit organizations (ranked first among 21 of 62, 33.9%), followed by governmental public health agencies (ranked first among 18 of 62, 29.0%). Among master of public health graduates, 54.7% sought employment within this setting, although only 17.0% of those employed full time at the time of the survey were employed within a governmental public health agency. Job security (84.7%), competitive benefits (82.2%), identifying with the mission of the organization (82.2%), and opportunities for training/continuing education (80.6%) were the most influential, positive factors garnering interest in working in governmental public health. Factors that were the biggest deterrents included the ability to innovate (19.2%), competitive salary (17.8%), and autonomy/employee empowerment (15.3%).
Approximately half of the respondents applied for a job within governmental public health in anticipation of or since graduating. However, only a quarter of employed respondents are currently working within governmental public health, suggesting a missed opportunity for recruiting the other quarter who applied and were interested in governmental positions.