Public health is the study of protecting and improving the health and well-being of people, as well as the communities in which they live. Many people are drawn to public health careers because they desire to help others at a larger scale. Especially now, as we face persistent public health threats like COVID-19, more people are hoping to get involved and make a real difference in society.
Perhaps that is why you are here. If you are looking to break into the field of public health, you may be wondering which types of careers are out there and available to you. There is good news: Because public health is such an expansive and interdisciplinary field, there is truly a job for everyone. Keep reading to explore the potential pathways within public health, as well as our top-ten list of public health careers.
Possible Career Pathways in Public Health
Like the broader field of health care, there are many areas in which a public health professional can specialize. Depending on your interests and career goals, you may choose to pursue a career in:
- Emergency Management
Emergency management is all about preparing, responding to, and alleviating health emergencies. In this area of public health, workers come together to minimize death, disease, and injury. Emergency management specialists aim to ensure safe, stable environments for people to live, work, and play. This might involve preparing for a natural disaster, responding to a community crisis, reducing a disease outbreak, or monitoring terrorism threats.
- Public Health Education
Public health education is dedicated to teaching individuals, organizations, and communities about healthcare and prevention. Specifically, they may educate people, populations, and companies on topics like nutrition, pollution, substance use, obesity, epidemics, family planning, personal hygiene, accessing health care, and preventing injury in the workplace.
- Health Promotion and Outreach
Much like health education, health promotion is designed to help others improve their health and well-being. However, those working in health promotion and outreach go beyond educating others. They enable people and communities to have more control over their health by increasing access to care providers, implementing health resources, implementing health programs, and reaching out to help communities in need.
- Administration and Policy
Healthcare administration and policy is a concentration that’s primarily focused on leadership. If you desire to manage teams, spearhead campaigns, and/or develop public health policies, public health administration and policy is a great career path to consider within this field of study.
- Health and Welfare
As a whole, public health is dedicated to improving the health and welfare of communities. However, those specializing in welfare are fully focused on ensuring that individuals have benefits and/or access to the care they deserve. Those working in this sector might help provide health insurance, develop benefit programs like SNAP, or work in child welfare agencies to help youth find loving, permanent homes.
- Environmental Health
In order for public health to thrive, we need healthy and well-cared for environments. Environmental health is a branch of public health that’s aimed at monitoring the environments in which we live, work, and play. The goal of environmental health professionals is to create and improve environments where humans can thrive. Part of this role means mitigating disease and other health threats in environments.
- Research and Statistics
Perhaps you are a natural number-cruncher, or passionate about data. There is a large sector of public health that’s dedicated to research and understanding health statistics within our populations. For example, these specialists might monitor health trends, conduct community surveys, analyze risk factors for disease, evaluate clinical trials, and more.
Top 10 Public Health Careers List
As you can see, the public health field is all-encompassing. There are a diversity of careers you can explore, depending on your passions and talents. Below are examples of exciting and popular public health careers that you can achieve.
1. Community Health Worker
Community health workers ensure that individuals or communities have proper access to healthcare services. They also work to engage communities in health campaigns, raise awareness on public health concerns and health maintenance tactics, as well as get individuals the resources they need to lead healthy, fulfilling lives. They are a liaison between communities and government or healthcare systems. A bachelor’s degree in Public Health is typically sought-after in these job candidates.
2. Disaster Preparedness Coordinator
Disaster preparedness coordinators ensure that communities are prepared for emergencies. They direct activities to expand preparedness, communicate policies, and ensure procedures are known and up-to-date. These professionals can also manage emergency responses, such as making evacuation decisions during an emergency. A bachelor’s in Public Health is the minimum requirement for this career path, though some employers may require candidates to hold a master’s degree in Public Health (MPH).
3. Environmental Health Officer
Environmental health officers are dedicated to protecting environments that might affect human health. They work to reduce health and safety hazards in a range of community, natural, and occupational settings, which might involve testing water supplies, monitoring food poisoning outbreaks, and ensuring public health environments follow proper hygienic and sanitary procedures. This position typically requires a master’s degree in Public Health.
4. Public Health Educator
Much like their job title implies, public health educators are responsible for teaching others about health and wellness. Also called health education specialists and health education coordinators, these professionals teach others about techniques for maintaining good health, as well as for preventing injury and disease. They may develop and implement health campaigns to teach larger populations or organizations about various topics, from substance abuse to air pollution. Educational positions may be found with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in Public Health.
5. Public Health Director
Public health directors are leaders in their field. These professionals are responsible for planning, coordinating, and overseeing health programs and policies. They may also manage health departments or agencies at the local, regional, or federal level. Ultimately, the goal of public health directors is to ensure programs and campaigns are running smoothly, health policies are in place to protect the public, and steps are being taken to improve the health and well-being of communities. A master’s in Public Health is required for this leadership position.
In public health, a biostatistician is a vital researcher. These professionals collect and analyze data relating to medicine, population health, and the environment. For example, they might evaluate the numbers behind an infectious disease outbreak, and use that data to predict future trends. Biostatisticians may also assess clinical trial data to understand how a new drug functions, or study public health numbers to estimate a demographic’s life expectancy. Biostatistics is a highly involved and intricate field, therefore requiring at least a graduate degree, such as the MPH.
Epidemiologists are research professionals who investigate infectious disease. Deemed “disease detectives” by the CDC, epidemiologists are responsible for identifying the causes of disease, risk factors for disease, and solutions that will stop the spread of disease. As you can imagine, epidemiologists played a critical role in mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic. Epidemiologists have an incredibly important scope of work, and therefore require significant training. An MPH degree is the standard requirement.
8. Research Assistant
If you desire a career in public health research, but do not have the time to invest in a master’s degree, you can find highly-rewarding careers as a research assistant. Research assistants help to conduct experiments, studies, and trials that will be used to make data-driven decisions regarding public health. They may screen clinical trial candidates, collect laboratory samples, and/or compile scientific information about health patterns, treatments, and populations. This entry-level career can be attained with a bachelor’s degree in Public Health.
9. Child Development Specialist
Do you have a desire to work with youth? A child development specialist is a unique public health career that is trained in identifying developmental and psychological disorders in children. These professionals assess the traits, symptoms, and patterns of certain disorders in childhood, and work to develop age-appropriate programs for youth who are affected (typically those between 0 and 8 years old). You can launch an entry-level position in this field with a bachelor’s degree, though a master’s degree is typically expected among child development specialists today.
10. Health Promotion Specialist
Health promotion specialists endorse and advocate for programs that will improve public health. They encourage healthy behaviors by promoting informative campaigns about various public health issues, such as the importance of good oral hygiene or saying “no” to drugs and alcohol. They also might promote mental health screenings, or vaccines and immunizations, within communities. This may be done through trainings, workshops, and other informative events, or via media promotion like brochures and leaflets. Health promotion specialists need a bachelor’s in Public Health to get started.
Breaking Into a Public Health Career
While the above public health careers list is vast and diverse, each job title has something in common: they are working to make the world a better place. That is the primary motivator for individuals seeking a public health career—they get to be difference-makers. They have the unique opportunity to improve the health and well-being of others, whether that’s in a small community or at a global scale.
So, how do you choose the right public health career for you?
Consider your interests, skillsets, and personality. Do you think you will thrive in a community-based setting, or in a behind-the-scenes role? Do you love analysis and data-crunching, or creative program development? Do you enjoy teaching others, or leading teams at a large scale? Will you thrive in fast-paced environment, such as responding to emergencies, or do you prefer more consistent work?
These are just some of the many questions you must ask when evaluating the list of potential public health careers. At the end of the day, the beauty of working in public health is that there is diversity. As Dr. Charlene Brown, CEO and founder of CaregiverJobsNow, explains: “Public health is a very diverse field, and many people with different training can find a home in a public health career. It just matters what their interest is, what their passion is, and what skills they bring to the table.”
Are you ready to launch a career in public health? Goodwin University is a leading public health education provider, with flexible and online degree offerings. Learn about our pathways to a public health career by visiting us online here.