The Public Health vs. Public Safety Career Path

Professionals who work in public health and public safety have a lot in common. They spend their days working to protect our population from outside threats and disasters. Their careers are dedicating to keeping others safe. While public health and public safety are often talked about together, as their relationship is reciprocal, they are two distinct entities. For those aspiring to help the greater good, it’s important to know that public health and public safety are different fields of work and different programs of study, with one common goal.

Below, we break down what it means to work in public health vs. public safety, and where these two career paths overlap.

What is Public Health?

Public health is the science of protecting and improving the health of individuals, communities, and populations. The chief role of public health is to promote health and prolong the lives of people. Often, this involves taking strides to prevent disease and disability, increase access to healthcare, educate others about health topics, and create strategies to improve the public’s quality of life.

What is Public Safety?

Public safety is the protection of people and communities from crime, disaster, and other outside threats. It typically refers to a function of government agencies, which are specifically designed to help safeguard the general public and U.S. citizens from potential danger. Learn more.

Public Health vs. Public Safety Careers

Public health careers involve protecting the health and general well-being of people. Public safety careers are focused on protecting the safety and security of our populations. As you can imagine, then, there is great overlap between the two fields. Both public health and public safety have the same mission: to protect the greater good. How they carry out this mission, however, is what makes each career path unique.

Public health professionals are largely focused on health and healthcare. They may work in medical institutions, health agencies, research facilities, and laboratories to help track, prevent, and respond to disease outbreaks. However, they are also focused on helping the greater health of the public – not just physical, clinical healthcare. Therefore, you can also find public health workers helping to stop gun violence in America, or implementing campaigns to mitigate climate change, water pollution, mental illness, and substance abuse. Public health careers are dedicated to facilitating change where it is needed, in order to create a healthier and stable place for us to live, work, and play.

Examples of public health careers include:

  • Health Educator
  • Community Health Worker
  • Health Promotion Specialist
  • Public Health Services Manager
  • Nutritionist
  • Health Inspector or Sanitarian
  • Child Development Specialist
  • Child Welfare Specialist
  • Health Education Coordinator
  • Patient Advocate
  • Epidemiologist
  • Disaster and Emergency Specialist
  • Public Health Analyst or Researcher
  • Public Health Director
  • Biostatistician

You can learn more about public health career options here.

The role of the public safety professional revolves around security. Public safety officers are responsible for preventing crime and securing communities from potential, outside threats. This may mean securing the nation’s borders from drug trafficking, or securing a company’s networks from cyber-attacks. It may mean sentencing and rehabilitating criminals. Public safety professionals may investigate acts of terrorism and crime, as well as respond to emergencies and threats that occur within communities – natural disasters, fires, violence, intrusions, and more. All in all, public safety professionals are dedicated to safeguarding people’s lives by maintaining a safe and secure place to live.

Examples of public safety careers in modern society include, but are not limited to:

  • Police Officer
  • Security Guard
  • Parole Officer
  • Corrections Officer
  • First Responder
  • Emergency Dispatcher
  • Computer Security Specialist
  • Customs and Border Protection Agent
  • DEA Agent
  • FBI Agent
  • Fire Science Investigator
  • Transportation Security Agent
  • Cyber Crime Investigator
  • Detective
  • Paralegal

You can discover more public safety careers here.

Public Health vs. Public Safety Degree Paths

If you are interested in making an impact on the world, or in the lives of others, both the public health and public safety fields could be great fits for your future career. Now you may be wondering, how does one land a job in either field?

Ultimately, the career requirements for public health and public safety professions will depend on each individual job title. In most cases, however, a bachelor’s degree program is a great place to start.

A bachelor’s degree in Public Health can prepare you to launch a career in this field, by giving you the foundational knowledge and skillsets needed to succeed. A bachelor’s degree program will teach you all about health behavior, health promotion, epidemiology, environmental health, occupational health, injury prevention, and will even cover topics in public safety. This level of coursework will prepare you for careers in health education, health promotion, research, and more. It will also prepare you for graduate studies, should you decide to pursue a Master’s in Public Health down the line.

A bachelor’s degree in Public Safety, meanwhile, will give you the credentials you need to stand out in a competitive workforce. Though not always required for law enforcement careers, a bachelor’s degree in this field can qualify you for advanced careers in government agencies or leadership positions. The bachelor’s program at Goodwin University, for example, touches on all aspects of criminal justice and public safety today, including criminology, corrections, public policy analysis, risk reduction, investigative reporting, and more.

Ultimately, the decision between public safety and public health comes down to your interests: Are you interested in helping promote good health and healthcare among communities in need? Or are you interested in becoming a protector, ensuring that your community and populations are kept out of harm’s way? Do you with to prevent and respond to disease outbreaks or public emergencies?

Learn about public health and safety careers here.

Both career paths pose great opportunity, and you cannot make a wrong decision. These are two of the most rewarding – and respected – professions out there today. No matter which you choose, public health or public safety, you will be able to make an incredible difference in the lives of others.

Interested in learning more? You can explore the public health degree and public safety programs online today. You may also contact Goodwin’s admissions team at 800-889-3282 to get more information about these degree options.