Epidemiology vs. Public Health: What’s the Difference?

Zika virus. Ebola. SARS. Smoking and tobacco use. Air pollution. Water pollution. We don’t like to think about the spread or impact of these public health threats, but they happen. And they affect populations, communities, and families all over the world.

More than ever, we need trained professionals to step up and respond to public health emergencies and disease outbreaks affecting our greater good. We need skilled experts to prevent these epidemics from happening in the future. We need compassionate workers to promote our collective health and safety.

That is where public health professionals and epidemiologists come in. As critical assets to society, they are needed to protect the health and safety of communities, both next-door and across the globe.

If you are interested in creating a better, safer, and healthier world, a career in public health may just be calling your name. But public health is wide-ranging discipline, and within it, there are many career and educational paths you can pursue. You may be here now as you are considering a degree in the field, but are wondering how to distinguish epidemiology vs. public health. Which path is right for you?

A Path in Public Health

Public health is the overarching science of protecting and improving the health of families, communities, and entire populations throughout the world. This science involves not only the promotion of healthy lifestyles and choices, but also great research surrounding disease and injury prevention as well as the detection and control of infectious diseases, according to the Center of Disease Control.

While epidemiology is a more narrowed focus of study, public health considers the broader picture. When looking at public health from an educational perspective, this area of study is truly a blend of the sciences. Public health pulls together everything from sociology to biology, environmental health to policy, ethics to epidemiology, in order to preserve and progress the health of people through evidence-based measures. If you enjoy getting involved in the community, helping others, and have a strong passion for emerging health trends, public health is undoubtedly the field for you.

At Goodwin University, public health is a bachelor’s degree program taught by industry experts. Through courses like microbiology, biostatistics, and psychology, students are able to gain a full grasp of the knowledge and skills needed in this critically important field. Upon graduation, our students are prepared to work pursue public health careers as:

  • Community Health Workers
  • Disaster Preparedness Coordinators
  • Environmental Health Specialists
  • Health Educators
  • Health Promotion Specialists
  • Public Health Program Coordinators
  • Research Assistants
  • And more!

If you choose to earn your bachelor’s degree in public health, you will be well-equipped to work in a variety of settings such as hospitals, research facilities, and healthcare organizations. If you would like to work directly with people, you may choose to work as a public health promotor or educator, teaching individuals, communities, organizations, and populations about emerging health trends and the importance of preventative care. If you prefer to be behind-the-scenes, you may choose to work in research, investigating the latest breakthrough conditions, treatments, and preventions in healthcare.

No matter their title, public health professionals typically maintain common missions in their jobs. On the day-to-day, they work to monitor the health of entire communities as well as the individuals within them. They work to identify and solve health problems as they occur. Public health workers investigate and diagnose these health problems, and develop plans and policies that will prevent them in the future. Even more, these workers empower people to take initiatives in their own personal health and well-being. They ensure that people and populations have accessible and quality healthcare.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for public health professionals is expected to increase between 12 and 15 percent by the year 2024, depending on the career path you choose. Job security will also be great, as there is always a need for public health.

A Path in Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a specific concentration within the public health field. While public health is an all-encompassing area of study, this discipline focuses on uncovering the particular patterns and causes of disruptions in public health. They investigate concerning health trends and diseases affecting specific populations, while public health workers promote health and wellness within populations. In layman’s terms, epidemiologists work to answer the “who, what, where, when, and whys” of the field.

Epidemiologists study the distribution and determinants of health-related outbreaks. On a daily basis, they are using statistics, probability, and science-based research methods to determine the specific factors that trigger threatening events, diseases, defects, and disorders in specific populations. Especially in the case of an epidemic, they use these investigative methods to control and mitigate the spread of health-related problems.

Because of all the research it requires, epidemiology is truly a field that is quantitative and analytic in nature. Epidemiologists collect, analyze, and interpret data in order to form solutions in public health. For this reason, they are also at the forefront of public health, constantly forming and informing health policies and preventive strategies that will be used by medical professionals. They also work hand-in-hand with a range of industry professionals, in a variety of different workplaces: it is not uncommon to find epidemiologists in offices, laboratories, state or local health departments, hospitals, or colleges.

If you enjoy research, statistics, and sciences, an epidemiology program may in fact be the path for you. To become an epidemiologist, you must hold at least a master’s degree from an accredited college or university. Most epidemiologists today hold a Master’s in Public Health (MPH), though some have a doctoral degree in epidemiology as well. The stepping stone to a master’s in public health or epidemiology is a bachelor’s degree in a related public health field.

When it comes down to an epidemiology vs. public health degree, the education you choose should meet your long-term career goals of helping and protecting others. The world needs more aspiring public health professionals like you, see our video for three reasons to pursue a career in public health. Call 800-889-3282 today.