top of page


  • How did you get into public health?
    I found public health during undergrad. I chose to major in Community/Public Health while at the University of Central Oklahoma and then attended the University of North Texas Health Science Center for my Master of Public Health (MPH). I speak more about this on The Public Health Millennial Career Stories Podcast episode “Journey to Health Policy Analyst with Shelby Graves, MPH CHES.” I also joined my current team to discuss working in public health on the Harford County Living Podcast episode “Creating the Healthiest Nation.”
  • Is public health a “good” or a “safe” field to go into?
    Public health has grown and received international attention in the past few years. One of the best parts of working in public health is the opportunity to collaborate with a variety of sectors. As the general public begins to recognize the value of public health in addressing social injustices, health equity, and pandemic prevention and response, the field will only continue to grow. This means you can get creative in your future job search or career transitions.
  • Can I still work in public health if I don’t have an MPH?
    Short answer: You do not need a Master of Public Health (MPH) to work in public health. Many professionals enter public health with health science, health education, social work, and clinical health backgrounds. And others come from seemingly "unrelated" fields of work and study. It's no secret that we need a variety of backgrounds to pull from if we're going to build a safe, healthier, and more just world. We've got space for you in public health — whether you're coming from education, liberal arts, social work, or another field. Bring your unique lens to the field and let the magic happen!
  • What advice would you give to set a new public health student up for success?
    This is a broad question and the answer is ultimately dependent upon a student's particular interests and their current academic program. Here are a few general pieces of advice I can give to everyone: Find a mentor. Finding a mentor in a senior student, faculty member, current public health professional, or internship coordinator will set you up for success in both study and practice. Get your feet wet. Dive right into public health field experience wherever you can! This could be through a formal internship, practicum, or fellowship. This could also be through volunteer work or a mentorship program. The more experience you have, the better equipped you will be to select an area of concentration and to prepare for future job interviews. Take advantage of your program’s professional development and networking opportunities. Engage in professional development opportunities as they arise, such as mock interviews, effective communication training, and team building exercises. Attend networking events to meet fellow students, alumni, and current public health professionals – you never know what opportunities can come from a simple meet and greet.
  • Should I take the CHES exam?
    I highly recommend the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) exam for aspiring or early career public health professionals interested in health education or the planning, implementation, and evaluation of health promotion programs. Your particular career track may not require the CHES, so it is important to look at the NCHEC responsibilities and competencies to determine if they align with your intended practice. The CHES certification creates additional opportunities for networking and it also holds you accountable for engaging in continuing education. I passed the CHES in 2014 and have greatly benefitted from the certification.
  • Should I take the CPH exam?
    Some graduate programs encourage or require the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam. My graduate program required the CPH for graduation, so I sat for and passed this exam in 2016. The CPH essentially certifies that a student/professional meets the core standards of public health practice. Most MPH (and similar) degree programs already certify these standards are met prior to graduation through comprehensive exams. The CPH has gained traction in the past few years and is becoming a more popular preferred qualification for job applications. Learn more about the CPH exam at the NBPHE website.
  • What area of public health should I concentrate in?
    Choosing a concentration is one of the most challenging parts of preparing for grad school and practice. There isn't a true "shortcut" to answering this question. This is something that often comes with time. One of the best things you can do to narrow down your concentration or area of practice is to get field experience ASAP. If you can get your feet wet in the field, then you will have a better sense of where your skills and interests fit. You can get experience through: Full time work experience Part time work experience Internship, fellowship, practicum experience Research assistantships Mentorship programs Site visits and shadowing Some helpful questions to consider include: What future jobs are you interested in? What coursework are you most interested in? How strong of a concentration does this specific program have? For example, are there established courses, mentors, and research opportunities? Do you prefer working in direct service, behind the scenes, or on macro projects? At the end of the day — your concentration doesn't have to determine your entire career.
  • Where can I go to learn more about job hunting in public health?
    I have a collection of job hunting tips highlighted on my Instagram page @seriously.shelbs. There are many other talented and successful public health professionals who specialize in professional development. I encourage you to follow and engage with many accounts so you can gain multiple perspectives to apply to your job search. A few of these accounts include: The Public Health Millennial Chilombo Careers Public Health Hired The Public Health Network Public Health Connect
  • How do I choose a program?
    Choosing a program comes down to your personal preferences for "fit", concentration interests, finances. Rest assured that you don't have to go to the #1 public health program to have a phenomenal graduate experience or to excel in your career. My recommendation is to research the programs thoroughly and also complete a site visit (even virtually) to get a feel for the right program for you. Here are a few things to consider when choosing a program: Campus culture Fit with faculty and student body Accessibility (e.g., online learning, evening classes, accommodations) Concentration choices Core curriculum Elective options Accreditation status Mentorship opportunities Research opportunities Scholarships Cost of attendance Alumni network Geographic location This is a very personal choice. A program can be the perfect fit for one student, but a complete "dud" for another. Take your time in choosing and take the time to speak with current faculty and students.
  • Where can I go to hear more stories about how current public health professionals found their way in the field?
    The Public Health Millennial: To hear more stories from public health professionals, see The Public Health Millennial’s Instagram page @thephmillennial and "The Public Health Millennial Public Health Career Stories Podcast.” Careers in Epidemiology: For information regarding public health careers in epidemiology, see Dr.CH Huntley’s “Public Health Epidemiology Careers Podcast.”

I'm happy to share my public health career experiences and insights with anyone interested in this career track. I receive many of the same questions on a regular basis, so I've included my responses to some of these questions below. 

bottom of page