The Environmental Health concentration in Public Health encompasses a wide variety of fields and specialities. Disease prevention, the study of zoonotic diseases, occupational hazards, air quality and living conditions are just a few of the topics that can be studied or chosen as a career path with a degree in environmental health. Those who work in environmental health work on human health and the health of the environment and how it affects human health. These may be long or short term problems, and those in environmental health have to be able to balance both. Environmental health will also study how societies, occupations and geographical settings affect the health of populations.
- The online Master of Public Health (MPH) program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University ([email protected]) prepares public health professionals to make a difference in communities around the world, helping students succeed in advancing the health of populations locally and globally. The program is delivered through a dynamic blend of online interactions and real-world experience.
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- Simmons' online Master of Public Health program, [email protected], is designed to give you the real-world skills you need to address health inequity on a local, national, and global scale. You'll learn core public health methodology, leadership, and advocacy skills needed to improve population health equity. No GRE required.
Why Work in Environmental Health?
Individuals who work in environmental health may have diverse interests, but they often share a common thread. Work in environmental health is often answering questions to problems that are evolving or are difficult to solve, being investigative and a critical thinker are key assets. However being realistic is also very important as many problems may not be "solvable" or will be too complex to solve in a straight-forward manner. Being realistic will help in adjusting to problems and what can be feasibly done to solve them. Lastly, a keen attention to detail is very important as many careers in environmental health involve research.
Environmental Health Degrees
For individuals seeking a degree in environmental health, the major or classes/specialties taken will highly influence the career path available. It is important to make a decision on career path as early as possible because it will help to influence the courses taken.
Bachelor's in Environmental Health
Bachelor's degrees (often Bachelor's of Science) are offered in environmental health (or health science) and/or occupational health. These degrees are science based with the first years consisting of classes in biology, chemistry, physics, math and microbiology. Some may require classes teaching the American political system, computer technology and communication. This is because much of environmental health utilizes the political system to make policy changes and communication is vital to these positions.
After the foundational course work is completed, introductory classes to environmental health will begin followed by specific environmental health and public health topics. These are courses covering (but not limited to):
- Epidemiology and biostatistics
- Air pollution and control
- Hazardous waste management
- Insect and vector control
Admissions to these programs requires official transcripts, a specified GPA minimum, letters of recommendation and possibly an interview.
Programs accredited by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council (EHAC) are highly recommended. Many career options will require a degree from one of these programs. Few online degree options are also available for a bachelor's in environmental health.
Master's in Environmental Health
Receiving a masters degree in environmental health can happen through a few different degree options. A Master's of Health Science (MHS) in Environmental Health, a Master of Science in Public Health (MSHP) track in environmental health, and a Masters of Public Health (MPH) track in environmental health are all ways to earn a degree in environmental health. Degree track options in occupational health, toxicology or environmental hygiene are also options available.
Admissions requirements for master's programs usually require a GRE, MCAT or previous graduate degree, a minimum GPA of 3.0 or better, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, and background course work in biology, chemistry, physics or calculus. The length of the degree will vary between schools and programs. Some offer one year degrees, where others offer the option to take classes part-time and extend the process. Most programs are set up with the professional in mind, making classes available to those with previous work or personal commitments.
The course work taken will no longer cover multiple topics as the bachelor's degree did, but instead will be focused on specialties. Practical work will be incorporated into the curriculum as well Introductory classes will be taught that will include introductions to public health, environmental health, biology, epidemiology, etc. After these classes, the curriculum will focus on the track or specialty chosen. Examples of these tracts are:
- Occupational and Environmental Hygiene
- Population Environmental Health
- Sustainability and Global Environmental Health
These schools may be accredited by EHAC or the Council on Education for Public Health. This accreditation of the program may be very important for individuals anticipating a career in industries that require the accreditation or the government. Online degrees are also availbale, some of which may be accredited as well.
Doctorate in Environmental Health
The requirements for admission into a Ph.D. program often include a master's degree in a related field and significant work experience. The course work will further focus the individual's career path through courses taken and original research. For almost all Ph.D. programs research is a primary responsibility for the degree.
This research will include intensive training on research methodologies and seminars with current professionals. Many universities encourage and support research conducted by Ph.D. students by offering full funding of tuition and a stipend for living expenses. Students may also be required to teach undergraduate or graduate classes while receiving their Ph.D.
Environmental Health Careers and Industries
The career options for an individual just starting their degree in environmental health are expansive. Through coursework and specialization, the options available become narrowed but not limited. According to
O-Net Online many jobs in the environmental health area are considered "green occupations".
This means these jobs have a high likelihood of becoming more in demand as the economy moves toward more sustainable, environmentally friendly ideals. For most career options in environmental health a bachelor's degree is enough to start a career. A master's level degree may be required for those who wish to work in government, with international organizations, or in leadership/management positions. A Ph.D. is required for those interested in academia and research. A Ph.D. is also recommended for those interested in leadership positions in international health organizations (i.e. the World Health Organization).
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists are utilized in many different industries from from the government to hospitals to private companies. They will review, analyze, and evaluate the work environment to control, eliminate and prevent disease and/or injury. This may be through procedural change, program design or other options.
They will investigate accidents to identify the cause and future prevention, recommend protection measures, and develop programs specifically to address hygiene problems such as noise and ventilation. The degree required by most employers is a bachelors. Individuals working as an occupational health and safety specialist can expect a median wage of $69,000 annually, but the position has a slow projected job growth of only 21,000 jobs added between 2012-2022 (source).
Compliance managers have a much better job outlook with 250,000 projected job openings between 2012-2022 (source). Similar to occupational health specialists, compliance managers work in multiple industries, but are more likely to be self-employed or work for the government. Compliance managers will plan, direct, and coordinate activities of an organization to ensure compliance to regulations. This may be through reporting, documentation maintenance, filing, or investigations. Work experience is a highly sought after skill for those in compliance as a bachelor's degree in occupational health is the minimum degree required.
Environmental Health Associations to Know
The National Environmental Health Association offers credentialing, networking, research and community for upcoming and established environmental health professionals alike. The mission “to advance the environmental health and protection professional for the purpose of providing a healthful environment for all' is as relevant today as it was when the organization was founded." (source).