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Child and Maternal Health

Read about the degree programs that can help you prepare for a career in child and maternal health. Learn how you can improve the lives of women and children, both here in the United States and around the globe, and find information about career options and salaries for health and social workers here.

Is Child and Maternal Health for Me?

Career Overview

Undergraduate and graduate programs in health education, public health and social work, among other related fields of study, can help you identify and address the needs of children and mothers in different social and economic situations around the globe. For example, you can learn how to assist new mothers, care for families in foreign countries or improve awareness of public health issues, especially as they pertain to children and families in the United States. You can also educate children and their families about healthy lifestyles and wellness-promoting behaviors. In addition to stateside opportunities, you may find work with the United States Agency for International Development, which can include improving child survival rates, living conditions, nutrition and care in developing countries (www.pacifichealthsummit.org).

Employment and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were approximately 141,830 healthcare social workers, 56,720 health educators and 45,800 community health workers employed in the United States in May 2013. Nationwide, employment opportunities for child, family and school social workers are expected to increase by 15% between 2012 and 2022, with jobs for healthcare social workers and health educators projected to grow by 27% and 19% respectively. During the same 10-year period, community health workers will experience a 25% growth in job openings.

As of May 2013, healthcare social workers and health educators earned median annual salaries of $50,820 and $49,210 respectively. As of the same month, child, family, and school social workers had a median annual income of $42,120, while community health workers earned $34,610 a year (www.bls.gov).

How Do I Work in Child and Maternal Health?

Undergraduate Programs

While formal training is not always required to obtain an entry-level position in child and maternal health, prior volunteer work as a social advocate may help you obtain a paying job in the field. However, you'll most likely need a bachelor's degree in management, public health or social assistance to secure a position as a health education specialist or nonprofit manager. Practical experiences associated with an undergraduate program can include helping mothers nurse their children and providing them with the skills they need to care for their babies. You may also study problems in breastfeeding, and find how to develop an educational care plan for new mothers.

Graduate Programs

Master's degree programs in public health may allow for specializations in child and maternal health. In addition to learning how to create and integrate health programs targeted at women and children, you may study child, adolescent and women's health issues, biostatistics, child development and policymaking. In most programs, you'll conduct independent research and gain practical experience working with women and children. Obtaining a master's degree in social work and a state license may qualify you for a position as a medical social worker.

Required Skills

To pursue a career in this field, you should be creative, comfortable working with people, aware of cultural differences and willing to work on behalf of individuals suffering from abuse or neglect (www.bls.gov).