Did you know that the development of public health, in 19th century America, was motivated by social welfare concerns? Sociologist Paul Starr maps the interdisciplinary birth of American healthcare, from social endeavor to the hospital system and the commercialization of private insurance, in his book The Social Transformation of American Medicine. The policy tug-of-war between capitalist free-market thinking and the creation of public programs, both of which are central to maintaining a democratic nation, exist to this day. And that interdisciplinary place is where public health flourishes. In this era, there are so many enticing public health careers for up-and-coming professionals. A master’s in public health (MPH) can help you qualify for many advanced and impactful roles in the field.
Below, we outline three unexpected careers with a Master’s in Public Health.
Master’s in Public Health (MPH) Career Paths
An epidemiologist, in the modern sense, is a researcher of epidemics and pathogens. The history of epidemiology is fascinating—it’s hard to believe how long it took for the political and social pendulum to swing in approval of scientists’ research on infectious disease. The journal, Case Studies in Public Health, describes the journey for waterborne diseases in this scholarly article.
Broadly, public health practice in the early 1800s was still at odds with existing infection theories. Contagious diseases at this time were attributed to “miasmas,” or harmful vapors in the air. Though not completely incorrect, this diagnosis of the problem misses a few key details. When John Snow, a physician in London, proved that a community water pump was the cause of a cholera epidemic (and not miasmas) in 1854, he had to persuade local authorities to allow him to remove the pump handle, which was positioned in a working-class neighborhood. Indeed, he had found the source and stopped the spread of cholera in this instance. For this, John Snow is considered to be the founding father for epidemiology.
The multiple public health factors at play in this scenario were, in fact, seeds for distinct public health careers today. Besides epidemiology, the water pump debacle led to massive developments in sanitation and environmental health, as well statistical modeling and the practice of what we now call contact tracing.
Epidemiologists today use data to prevent diseases and viruses from spreading. They might work with specific categories of diseases, like chronic or infectious, or with specific populations, like children or the elderly. Even mental health and substance abuse challenges might fall under an epidemiologists’ specialty. Depending on the scope of an epidemiologist’s work, they may be employed by the state or local public health department, or by federal health agencies, the government, a hospital, a college, or a private or public research center.
On average, epidemiologists make about $71k annually, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). They can also expect strong job growth over the coming years, with a 5% lift in employment between 2019-2029.
- Sanitarian or Environmental/Occupational Health Specialist
Sanitarians, also called environmental or occupational health specialists, assess the factors of everyday environments that humans interact with. You’ll find these professionals especially within populations that have problems with access to clean drinking water and proper waste facilities. For instance, though the problem of cholera abated in the later 1800s in London thanks to major sewage construction projects, this disease is far from under control worldwide today. Many nations that do not have proper sanitation infrastructure and access to clean drinking water, still lose thousands of lives annually, according to the World Health Organization. A sanitarian may help those communities (as funding is allotted) by working with the government or local authorities plan to improve sanitation standards and quality of life.
Besides public infrastructure, this area of public health also covers the provision and security for safe workplace standards. An occupational health specialist might lead an evaluation of high-risk workplaces such as construction sites, factories, food processing and preparation facilities, and hospitals. Employers who oversee these environments must adhere to strict safety standards, which must be routinely checked.
The range of work for a sanitarian or environmental/occupational health specialist includes taking samples, writing reports, and coming up with suggestions and solutions for strengthening community health. With a Master’s in Public Health, environmental science specialists make on average $71k annually, while occupational health specialists make on average $74k annually.
The biostatistician role is great for people who love spending time with numbers. Similar to a statistician but with additional interest and knowledge of the medical field, a biostatistician needs to possess skills for using complex computing software. Biostatisticians play a supportive role to other public health professionals who are in the field conducting data collection. Epidemiologists and sanitarians can get the most out of such data and plan next steps with this mathematical guidance. Computer models can help public health professionals pose solutions to a problem with multiple open-ended scenarios and unexpected complications, or with various amounts of risk introduced via modeling. A biostatistician offers public health professionals the tested confidence that is essential to a successful implementation plan.
Reasonably, with these skills in demand in the public health field, the statistician job outlook is strong. Employment is expected to grow by 35% over the next eight years, which is much faster than average for all occupations. The average salary for statisticians is $91k annually, and a master’s degree is typically required for competitive jobs.
The public health field is motivated by so many interconnected factors of human co-existence. The more populous the world becomes, the more we’re going to need the research skills of epidemiologists to uncover the roots of new pathogens. We’ll require that sanitarians and occupational/environmental health specialists continue to assess and fix hazards in communities, in individuals’ homes, and at work. The bigger the scope of problems, the greater the data we’ll be asking our biostatisticians to handle, in order to create sizable solutions. All three of these Master’s in Public Health careers push for accountability and strive for advocacy, which are both so important in a world that is unequal for many.
Find your Master’s in Public Health career through Goodwin’s MPH program. Discover more about just how far you can go, by visiting us online, or calling us at 800-889-3282.
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.