Public health is a broad term that generally refers to government monitoring, regulation and promotion of the health of an entire population. But when it comes to careers, a public health major has more options than working for government agencies such as the health department, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or disaster relief agencies.
Opportunities can extend into the non-profit sector as well, where the focus is generally aimed at particular populations or health disparities. Public health degrees can also help an individual secure a job in the private sector with the likes of insurance companies, pharmaceutical manufacturers and healthcare facilities. Consulting work performed on a contract basis may also be an option.
Like many majors, this field also offers growth opportunities in the academic world as teachers and researchers.
A public health degree can be used for a wide array of careers. Its flexibility is one reason why it’s typically a popular degree for undergraduates to pursue. If a student should decide they don’t want to pursue a master’s degree in public health, the skills developed during the completion of a bachelor’s degree is generally enough to see them flourish in the job market.
Important skills to note include:
- Communication – From client communication to the creation of public service campaigns, public health majors should become persuasive communicators capable of working in a number of environments.
- Writing – Whether a degree in public health leads to work as a biostatistician or a health educator, the training received in pursuit of the degree allows its recipient to clearly write ideas, proposals and informational material. With this skillset, even a career such as technical writing is possible for a public health major.
- Project Management – Undergrad work for public health degrees typically spends a fair amount of time on teaching organizational and community building skills. Degree holders should be able to organize complex projects that encourage participation from a diverse cast of role players, making public health majors well-suited to work in business and non-profit work.
- Research – Whether a graduate ends up with a career in academics or business, the firm grasp of data gathering, analysis and interpretation is a useful skill that public health majors can master. A good knowledge of statistical reasoning and health economics can also help open a lot of doors to career advancement.
A public health degree can allow professionals to work in a variety of specialized career fields. Here are five interesting jobs to consider:
- Pharmacoepidemiologist – This is a clinical researcher who is tasked with protecting the public from the spread of diseases. These professionals study epidemiology and pharmacology, hence their title. They generally are employed by state, local and federal agencies, but can also work at universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical corporations as well. They are required to hold at least a master’s degree and earn some credits in public health while doing so. For their extra studies, professionals in this field are rewarded with above average wages that can reach as high as $98,000 per year, though they may start off at a much lower salary working in the public sector. Working for pharmaceutical companies generally means higher pay, but job growth looks good across the field with demand for this position increasing by 24% through the year 2020.
- Health Promotions Program Coordinator – Working directly with managers, researchers and program developers, these professionals create educational materials used to apply for government grants and push health promotions programs. Many of these individuals work for universities, non-profits or the government. They typically spend their days in the office setting and garner salaries around $50,000 at entry level. The demand for experienced professionals in this field is also expected to increase, particularly in America’s largest cities.
- Emergency Preparedness Specialist – A bachelor’s degree in public health or public planning can lead to a rewarding career in emergency preparations for municipalities. These professionals work on comprehensive plans which facilitate how communities respond to disasters and terrorist attacks. Employers may include government agencies or private entities. Both positions require a blend of office and field work that can include travel, research, facility inspections and first responder training to ensure that disaster plans meet a certain standard. Job growth in this field is expected to rise by 11% between 2012 and 2022. The median salary for this position nationally was just over $64,000 in 2014 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
- Healthcare Administrator – These professionals are typically in charge of a healthcare facility, and are tasked with overseeing entire departments, budgets, patient records, community outreach programs, hiring and training of new employees and facility goals and maintenance. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is required, but a master’s in public health is often recommended. Approximately 40% of administrators work in hospitals, but there is a wide range of possible locations to find work. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics healthcare administrators averaged close to a six-figure salary in 2014.
- Public Health Journalist – For the strong writers in the public health field, opportunities to hone their craft writing articles for medical journals and magazines exist and are actually expected to grow. While the salary range for this position can vary, the position can be rewarding and attained with a public health degree and minimal experience working for a newspaper or website. With a little bit of talent for the written word and an understanding of how to inform the general public of scientific research in an easily understandable way, this compelling and gratifying work is within reach for a public health major.
Choosing to study public health can lead to a wide range of career paths, and often times, a public health major is just the beginning of an educational journey. Along the way, students receive an introduction to the array of opportunities that exist under this large umbrella of career paths and can select the option that is best for them.
Public health is a field where making positive changes and effecting the lives of large numbers of people is part of the job. The diversity of opportunity in the field is outstanding and the monetary reward and job security is generally there to back it up. Is a career in public health right for you?