In this weekly feature, the editors of SpringBoard highlight one career in the health care professions–including a basic description, educational requirements, core competencies/key skills needed, and related web sites and professional organizations where you can find more information!


Each state has a department dedicated to public health services for parents, children, and teens. These departments have various names—family health services; maternal and child health services; maternal, child, and adolescent health; and so on. The deputy director typically is the administrator who oversees the finances, handles personnel issues, guides the daily work of the department, and assists the director with decision making and long range planning. These departments house programs such as registries of birth defects, newborn screening systems, programs to track and prevent child abuse, educational programs to reduce teen pregnancies, family planning services, nutrition services, and more. Each of these sections has its own coordinator, but the department administrator makes sure that they are meeting goals, staying within their budgets, and identifying and addressing both new and ongoing needs. When there are changes in the budget, the deputy director helps determine what services must be cut and which should be preserved. He also helps program coordinators write grant proposals, participates in personnel decisions, and works with clinical staff to make sure that patients at community clinics receive appropriate care. This is largely a desk job, but there may also be opportunities to go out into the community and observe the department’s programs in action.


This position requires substantial experience with administration, as well as with the programs within the department. An MPH is particularly useful, because it provides a good understanding of maternal and child health issues. An MPA can also be a good fit, with experience or other training in public health. Some people in this role have clinical training, such as a nursing degree.


  • Strong management and financial skills
  • Excellent written and spoken communication skills
  • Good planning skills, including the ability to break large projects down into specific tasks
  • Knowledge of health issues that are of particular relevance to parents and children
  • Knowledge of state and federal requirements for health and social services programs
  • Ability to understand statistical and epidemiologic data
  • Experience managing a public health program


Salaries depend on the local cost of living, amount of experience, and pay structure within the health department. In one state with a relatively low cost of living, for example, a typical salary would be in the range of $70,000 to the mid-$90,000s.


This is usually a state government job, but some city and county health departments also have sections dedicated to maternal, child, and family health. County-level programs tend to focus more on public health nursing programs, such as home visits and clinic services.


There is generally just one job at this level in family health services for each state. However, there are many administrative opportunities within maternal, child, and family health departments. Individual programs may each have their own managers, there may be directors who oversee multiple areas within the department, and programs may be divided up among different areas of the state. Specific requirements for these jobs, such as an MPH or a clinical degree, vary by department.



Buy now on the Kindle or Nook!