There are multiple options when it comes to Bachelors degrees in Public Health, but the most common are a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BS) in Public Health.
It is very typical for seekers of a BA or BS in Public Health to continue on to get their Masters in Public Health or other advanced degrees, but there are a variety of career paths for those holding solely a Bachelors degree.
Whether you choose a BA or a BS is up to you and your preferences for your career, but there are distinct differences you should be aware of:
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Public Health: Students typically specialize in social sciences and public health. Curriculum tends to revolve around biology, human behavior, social studies and classes, and health-related topics.
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Public Health: Students typically specialize in natural sciences and public health. Curriculum includes much of what is involved with any BA program, and also tends in include coursework in math, statistics, health informatics, or chemistry-related coursework.
Regardless of a BA or BS, it's a great start. Public health is booming, and is one of the best places to be for career security for the long haul. You can also make an impact on not just individuals, but mass quantities of people in different areas, communities, towns, or even nations!
What is a Bachelor's in Public Health
A Bachelor's in Public Health is an undergraduate degree that provides an individual with the skills needed to enter into a wide variety of fields within public health. It can be obtained through either a Bachelor's of Science (BS) or a Bachelor's of Arts (BA). Individuals obtaining their BS in Public Heath will be more equipped for a career in science based, clinical fields such as epidemiology or biostatistics. The BA degree tends to attract individuals more interested in the socio-cultural, socio-economical, health policy aspects of public health. However, the BA and the BS by no means dictate what field an individual may choose to enter due to the cross-disciplinary nature of public health.
The study of public health stems from the need to educate and keep healthy large groups of people in a way that individualized medicine cannot. Individuals with a degree in public health will focus on the 4 P's of public health during their education: Prevention, Promotion, Protection, and Population-based. Each of these are hardly ever done alone and will combine research, education, and policy development. A BS or BA in public health as a career option requires a wide variety of skills and provides just as many opportunities to use those skills. These opportunities may be in the public, private and non-profit sectors.
What are the Typical Pre-Requisites for a BPH Program?
For most BPH programs the applicant will apply as general admission to the college or university of their choice. Once accepted the applicant should then contact the public health department or school to inquire about the specifics of the program admissions. Most colleges or universities require high school transcripts, either an SAT or ACT score, letters of recommendation, and often a personal statement. A personal statement may also be required for admission into the public health program.
Most Popular Concentration Options
While a BPH usually does not require an individual to choose a specific concentration, choosing one to focus on may be beneficial to create a slightly more niche education. This is especially important if going for continuing education and receiving an MPH in which a concentration is required. Currently the more popular concentrations in public health are biostatistics, epidemiology, and environmental health sciences.These concentrations often lead to careers in research, pharmaceuticals, statistics and government, lending to their popularity.
Is Public Health Right for You?
When considering a career in public health it is important to understand that research and education are the backbone of the profession. The ability to take scientific research and transform that into usable, understandable material to the average person is a key component of a career in public health. Additionally, the desire for social justice and an ecological understanding of the world help significantly when addressing public health problems. An individual who is fascinated by health and well-being, driven to help others, and enjoys research and education makes an excellent candidate for a BPH.
Typical BPH Curriculum & Classes
The curriculum for a BPH may vary slightly between a BA and a BS in public health. In general, the courses will teach: how to communicate with individuals with varied cultures and ethics, cultural diversity, preventative health theory, and health education. If at a liberal arts college, there will be general education courses that must be completed before some or all public health classes may be taken. Once taking classes in public health, most schools or universities have introductory classes on Public Health, Epidemiology, Environmental Health, and/or Health Policy. These must be passed first before moving on to more advanced classes in the degree. At this point, choosing a concentration will either be required or help narrow down which electives to take. A practicum / internship or a capstone project may be required as well.
Online BPH Degree
Online programs will often have the same requirements and classes as brick-and-mortar schools. The main difference will be attending classes online and the lack of planned, class room, hands-on experiences. This should not go against an online degree, as many brick-and-mortar schools also offer an online degree or classes. An individual interested in receiving and online degree should be a self-starter and willing to find opportunities to practice what you learn.
Some Bachelors of Public Health programs of note
University of Colorado - Denver's program offers two bachelors of public health degrees: a BA and a BS. UC Denver's relationships with large public health providers make their program intriguing, as you will want to complete an internship within the public health field to gain experience in the real world. UC Denver prides itself on its multidiciplinary perspective, understanding that for students to be sucessful after graduation they must beable to apply their knowledge of theory into practcie in various contexts using mixed methods.
The University of Arizona's Bachelor of Science (B.S.) with a Major in Public Health program features multiple tracks, including environmental, health behaviors, and health delivery tracks. The majority of professors for this major are also terminal professors, meaning most professors have PhDs in their area of expertise. As Arizona's first accredited college of Public Health, The Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health has much to offer its students. With opportunities in research and community involvement students receive a rich, diverse education.
University of California Berkeley
The School of Public Health at Berkeley sets itself apart with what it calls "The Berkeley Difference" characterized by:
- A broad-based ecological perspective on health
- An interdisciplinary, campus-wide resource base
- An emphasis on applying new and emerging research
- A sensitivity to multicultural issues informed by social justice and the protection of human rights
Learn more about the Berkeley Difference and how to apply visit(sph.berkeley.edu).
Walden University offers an online Bachelor's of Public Health degree, making this program especially interesting for those looking to study public health from home. The program is mostly geared for adult learners, and has a number of concentrations to select from, including health informatics, health promotion and wellness, and child development. Walden also has a general public health concentration.
What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Public Health?
A Bachelors in Public Health will provide an individual with an expansive introduction to the field of public health. Through electives and a chosen concentration the options available to a BPH may narrow some. Careers in research and community education are most common for BPH degrees. Starting as a research assistant, community educator and community surveyor are common jobs as a new BPH. Health education and community health workers have a high projected job growth, making it an appealing option to some (ONET). A career in the government sector is also popular among BPH graduates. Some individuals use the BPH as a platform for continuing education in medical school, nursing school, pharmacy school or a master's degree.
Public Health Associations to Know
Anyone interested in public health should consider becoming a member of The American Public Health Association. Their mission to "improve the health of the public and achieve equity in health status" explains so clearly what drives many public health workers. The APHA provides opportunities in professional development, news from around the globe and current public health topics and research (APHA).
Joining a local or state public health association is an excellent way to use a BPH degree and network with others in public health. Some state associations share reciprocity with the APHA and will offer two-for-one memberships or significantly discounted memberships for joining both.
The World Health Organization is considered the leader in public health by many through the organizations direction and coordination of international health efforts. As a component of the United Nations, the WHO provides leadership, shapes research agendas, and provides technical support for evidence-based changes in policy and practice around the world. Individuals entering into public health should have a strong understanding of the WHO and how it impacts the world.