Health science and public health are two professions that often get confused. Both fields are focused on making a difference and improving the health of people in need. Both career paths are highly rewarding, involve working with others, and can be attained with a bachelor’s degree. However, these fields also have many (sometimes subtle) distinctions that aspiring health professionals must acknowledge before diving in.
If you are considering a health-related career, try to envision yourself working within the field. Do you see yourself practicing on the clinical side of healthcare, working directly with patients? Or, do you see yourself working to improve the health systems within our communities, on a larger scale? Sometimes, this answer is the deciding factor between a health science or public health degree. At the least, it can help the wheels start turning as you think about your future career path.
If you are wondering the difference between health science and public health, or simply trying to decide on the right profession for you, read on. Below we outline what each potential program can look like, and where you can go with a public health or health science degree.
What is Health Science?
Health science is an interdisciplinary field that involves the application of science to health-related topics like medicine, nutrition, and environmental health. Simply put, it involves applying scientific research to clinical practice, in efforts to improve health care for individuals and larger patient populations.
As a field of study, health science is a multifaceted degree program that is designed to guide new and entry-level health professionals in their career journeys. Typically, health science programs cover all the core science classes, combined with courses in medical terminology, health and wellness, law and ethics, research methods, and a variety of public health topics. Health science degrees are typically offered at the associate or bachelor’s level, though graduate programs are also available.
Of course, different health science degree programs are structured in different ways. It is important to ask each prospective school about the health topics covered and the career outcomes of their health science program. At Goodwin, for example, health science students can pursue various educational paths within the core major, including:
- Environmental health
- Health care administration
- Medical billing and coding
- Health care career exploration, for those looking to explore different areas of health care
- Degree completion, for those looking to complete an associate or bachelor’s degree
At the undergraduate level, health science degree students gain the technical foundation needed to work in healthcare settings (both clinical and non-clinical). They learn how to understand medical language and codes, how to work with clients of different demographics, and the fundamentals of managing a healthcare organization. Health science graduates are typically prepared to work in medical laboratories, doctors’ offices, outpatient clinics, hospitals, research centers, and more.
If you are looking to pursue a career in patient care, to make a difference as an environmental health scientist, or to lead health departments as an administrator, a bachelor’s degree in health science could be a great next step for you. If you are interested in improving the health of populations at a larger scale, you may consider a bachelor’s degree in public health.
What is Public Health?
Public health is an interdisciplinary field that is dedicated to protecting and improving the health of communities and populations around the globe. According to the CDC Foundation, public health is a science that specifically involves promoting healthy lifestyles, researching disease and injury prevention, as well as detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious disease.
Those pursuing public health will study a range of scientific topics—from sociology to environmental health—in efforts to improve the health and safety of the greater good. They will research emerging health trends and concerns around the world, and develop programs to educate or protect the public. While in school, public health majors will learn about topics like public health policy, health leadership, health behavior, chronic disease, occupational health, and epidemiology.
Public health degrees are offered at various levels, including both undergraduate and graduate programs. At Goodwin University, we offer both a bachelor’s degree in public health and a master’s degree in public health. The bachelor’s degree in public health, which students often weigh against the health science bachelor’s degree, can result in rewarding career outcomes such as:
- Child Development Specialist
- Community Health Education Coordinator
- Community Health Worker
- Education Coordinator
- Health Educator
- Health Promotion Specialist
- Public Health Educator
Public health careers are rooted in health policy, promotion, and research. In a degree program, you can expect to learn the ins and outs of the U.S. health care system, the policies within it, and the other, macro factors that affect human health today. Public health professionals are typically seen as advocates for populations that are in need of better health care or health education. If you see yourself working to fight public health issues like disease epidemics, obesity, substance abuse, overdose, and declining mental health—this is the field for you.
Health Science vs. Public Health: Which is Right for You?
While there is considerable overlap between the health science and public health fields, each pathway carves its own way and its own importance in the larger health care system. Similarly, each profession offers unique and rewarding career opportunities for students looking to make a difference.
When deciding between a health science and public health degree, it is important to assess your ultimate career goals. Where do you picture yourself working, or who do you envision working with? Ask yourself the following questions when weighing your options:
- Do you desire to work in a field with direct patient or client care? Or, do you wish to improve public health at a greater, macro-level?
- Similarly, do you want to work with individual patients or larger populations?
- Are you interested in the clinical aspects of health care, or are you passionate about research and education as they relate to health?
- Do you wish to work on the frontlines at a laboratory or hospital, helping patients in need? Or, do you see yourself leading larger health campaigns, to educate communities about proper health?
These are just some of the many questions that can guide your choice between a health science or public health major. No matter what you choose, both degree options can position you for success. Both a bachelor’s degree in health science and a bachelor’s degree in public health are seen as strong launching pads for aspiring health professionals.
At Goodwin University, both degree options are available to you. You may choose to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public health, which will position you to work in health education, health promotion, epidemiology, and other public health sectors. With a bachelor’s in public health, you may also go on to pursue a master’s degree (MPH).
Or, you may choose to pursue the health science degree at Goodwin, offered at both the associate degree and bachelor’s degree level. Both will allow you to explore your passion areas or interests in health care, and get you into a career you love.
To learn more about these options, please do not hesitate to contact us. Call Goodwin University at 800-889-3282 to learn more about our public health vs. health science degrees. Or, visit us online here to request more information.
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.