1. Taylor, Heather L. MPH, LDH
  2. Yeager, Valerie A. DrPH


Objectives: To examine the role of a formal public health degree as it relates to core competency needs among governmental public health employees.


Design: This cross-sectional study utilizes the 2017 Public Health Workforce Interests and Needs Survey (PH WINS). Bivariate relationships were analyzed by conducting [chi]2 tests of respondents' supervisory level and reported skill gaps. Multivariate logistic regressions of reported skill gaps were performed holding gender, age, race/ethnicity, highest degree attained, current employer, role type, tenure in current agency, and public health certificate attainment constant.


Setting: Nationally representative sample of government public health employees.


Participants: A total of 30 276 governmental public health employees.


Main Outcome Measure: Self-reported competency skills gaps.


Results: Among nonsupervisors, those with a public health degree had significantly lower odds of reporting a competency gap for 8 of the 21 skills assessed. Among supervisors/managers, those who had a formal public health degree had significantly lower odds of reporting a competency gap in 3 of the 22 skills assessed. Having a degree in public health was not significantly related to an executive's likelihood of reporting a skill gap across any of the 22 skills assessed. Regardless of supervisory level, having a public health degree was not associated with a reduced likelihood of reporting skill gaps in effective communication, budgeting and financial management, or change management competency domains.


Conclusions: Possessing a formal public health degree appears to have greater value for skills required at the nonsupervisor and supervisor/manager levels than for skills needed at the executive level. Future work should focus on longitudinal evaluations of skill gaps reported among the public health workforce as changes in public health curricula may shift over time in response to newly revised accreditation standards. In addition, public health education should increase emphasis on communication, budgeting, systems thinking, and other management skills among their graduates.