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Do I need an MPH Degree to Work in Management at the VA (Veteran’s Administration)?

When it comes to working for a public agency within the healthcare field, few options are more appealing to qualified candidates than the Veteran’s Administration. The VA has long been a center of hiring in the industry, and it blends the benefits of public service with the satisfaction of knowing that each day’s work, whether it’s medical care or management, benefits those who have fought hard to protect the United States abroad. One of the most common concern among prospective applicants, however, is whether or not they need to have obtained a graduate-level application in order to be qualified, interviewed, and eventually hired.

The answer to this common question is generally a firm “maybe,” based largely on the nature of the management position being sought. When considering a job with the Veteran’s Administration in a management or administrative capacity, here’s what candidates need to know in order to have their best shot at landing the job.

The Management Structure is Vast and Generally Open at the Entry-Level

The Veteran’s Administration is a large federal agency and has one of the largest management structures of any healthcare organization nationwide. That bodes well for candidates who are looking to get in on the so-called “ground floor,” since there are plenty of entry-level openings for things like assistant administrators, second-tier management, and other positions that report to a higher-ranking official.

In many cases, entry-level assistant positions do not require a Master’s in Public Health in order for an applicant to be considered qualified for the position. For secondary management roles, the agency generally prefers a strong background in undergraduate programs emphasizing healthcare administration, public health, or a combination of science and business management courses. With that said, however, this technical acceptance of just a bachelor’s degree does come with some asterisks and fine print.

1. Competing Candidates May Have a Master’s Degree

Though the agency may not require some entry-level positions to be filled by graduate-level candidates, the truth of the matter is that the Veteran’s Administration is an attractive job prospect for many people in the field and most will have graduate degrees under their belts at the time of applications. This is an inherent competitive advantage in the job search, and it may very well be the difference between a candidate who gets hired and one who gets passed over for the position.

2. Many Positions Require the Earning of a Master’s Degree

Many positions that hire those with a four-year degree will require them to obtain graduate-level education within several years of being hired. In some cases, the agency may pay for this education. In other cases, they very well may require the employee to fund their own graduate-level pursuits while staying in their full-time position. Keep in mind that this requirement may be noted during the interview or hiring process.

3. Advancement Without a Master’s Degree is Virtually Impossible

Finally, entry-level candidates without a master’s degree in public health will find it quite difficult to advance through the ranks and take on new responsibilities or higher salaries. The Veteran’s Administration favors those with advanced education in administration, since the agency already deals with high volume and even a regular backlog of claims and issues. Their goal is efficiency and deep administrative knowledge. Graduate degrees assure them of this when they promote a candidate.

Long Story Short: The MPH Degree is Worth It

For the best chance at being hired, promoted, and retained, candidates looking for employment with the Veteran’s Administration need to have a graduate degree in public health either underway or already earned. Once they do, the agency’s full range of positions will open up rather quickly.