If you are interested in helping people and dealing with “big picture” issues, you are likely a great candidate for a career in public health. But, getting started and knowing how to work in public health can be daunting. So, where do you even begin?
Thankfully, it’s not as complicated as you might think. Furthermore, public health is a broad, in-demand field, and many different public health careers exist, such as epidemiologists, public relations specialists, and health educators.
Let’s explore the steps it takes to work in public health. We’ll also provide some tips you can use to establish a successful career as a public health professional.
What is Public Health?
Public health is a discipline and career path that cares for the population’s health, especially concerning government regulation and support.
Public health professionals make decisions around health care access, policy, epidemiology, and disease research and prevention. This career path differs from other health careers as it focuses on protecting and promoting health in populations instead of diagnosing and treating individual patients. Public health professionals engage with a population’s health from a bird’s eye view.
Job duties within this field can include analyzing health statistics within specific populations, finding the cause of diseases, educating children about proper hygiene, and implementing public service campaigns. But this only scratches the surface.
How Do I Work in Public Health?
The specific requirements for a career in public health will vary depending on the role, but all positions need a certain amount of education. Here, we’ll outline the steps you can take for a career in public health.
Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
While there is technically no educational prerequisite to work in public health, a bachelor’s degree is a significant first step to building a lifelong career.
Candidates do not need to major in public health to apply for a graduate-level degree. Still, many colleges and universities offer a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in public health. In some careers, a bachelor’s in Public Health is required. For example, with a dedicated bachelor’s degree, you can launch a successful career in:
- Clinics and hospitals, promoting advocacy and compliance
- Research facilities, conducting research and planning studies
- Health agencies, teaching others about public health
- Emergency response, addressing matters that require your expertise
Students in public health bachelor’s programs study the ins and outs of public health policy and gain skills to advocate for community members, manage public health emergencies, and gain an in-depth awareness of the facts that influence public health.
These bachelor’s programs give students a broad educational background in public health, allowing them to choose a master’s program that fits their individual needs and aligns with their interests if they seek higher education during their careers.
Step 2: Obtain a Master’s Degree
If you aspire to specialize further or hold a more advanced public health position, consider getting your Master’s in Public Health (MPH).
This degree is typically a professional, practice-based one that helps graduates assume leadership roles in various public health settings at the local, state, federal, and international levels.
Due to the nature of higher education and learning advanced practical skills, earning an MPH requires intense focus on specific topic areas and an eye toward eventual leadership roles. As a result, students will often choose an area of concentration in MPH programs such as global health, community health, or health policy management.
This degree is necessary for many jobs, such as epidemiologists, advanced health educators, biostatisticians, public health directors, and health survey researchers. However, it is not necessary to apply for entry-level positions in public health.
Step 3: Gain Work Experience
Obtaining the first job after graduating from a bachelor’s or MPH program can be intimidating, but it is possible. Completing an internship or volunteering, especially during your degree program, is a great way to get experience and expand your network.
Candidates might also consider offering services as public health consultants to organizations in need. While temporary, this position provides experience, pays well, and can lead to a full-time job within that organization.
Furthermore, entry-level jobs with “assistant” or “associate” in the title seem typical for candidates with a bachelor’s in Public Health. Some examples of these jobs include:
- Program assistant with an international health organization
- Research assistant with a nonprofit organization
- Working at a company that does health communication and health marketing
- Conducting air quality sampling and surveying
- Working as a consultant for disease prevention
Candidates with an MPH are ready for advanced leadership roles and find work in public health as:
- Health program coordinators
- Community outreach directors
- Global health educators
- Health services manager
- Non-profit executive director
- Systems Analyst
- State or federal environmentalist
Download our Master’s in Public Health Get Started Guide to learn more about the opportunities you can pursue with a master’s degree!
Additional Tips for a Successful Career in Public Health
The range of career opportunities for public health professionals is vast, and as such, a number of essential skills are needed for individuals working in this field.
Candidates should ensure they have the following to help set them apart and ensure a successful career:
- Analytical skills
- Policy development and program planning skills
- Communication skills
- Cultural competency skills
- Financial planning and management skills
- Leadership and systems thinking skills
Lastly, aspiring public health workers should be as up-to-date as possible on the latest tools and technology. Up-to-date research and information is essential in this line of work.
We must expect and prepare for unexpected health crises in our post-pandemic world. Public health professionals are at the forefront of these efforts making it a rapidly evolving field with more job opportunities and a high level of job security.
With our flexible scheduling, affordability, and support services, we are here to help you personally and professionally as you pursue your dream career. Contact us today to learn more. We’re ready when you are!