Public Health Career Guide

PublicHealthDegrees.org has created the Public Health Career Guide to provide insight on how public health degrees can open the door to many different career opportunities. This guide will share insight on which degree is suitable for your ideal career in public health, salary outlook, top employers in public health, and how to succeed in the career path of public health.

SponsoredConsider a Sponsored Online Public Health Program
Click the university name for information on admissions, courses, status of accreditation, and more

One thing to remember is that public health degrees open doors beyond just the commonly assumed government career path. There are actually a wide variety of settings in which public health graduates may work, as with any degree program. Some of those settings are:

  • Public: Health department administration, disaster preparedness and public nursing are just three areas in which a public health graduate may work for the government.
  • Education: Education-related roles in public health are often as teachers to public health students or within research.
  • Private: Whether as a consultant or employee, public health graduates often work for pharmaceutical brands, healthcare organizations or insurance companies.
  • Non-profit: Non-profit roles for public health graduates tend to address gaps in healthcare or specialize in a specific population. For example, a non-profit role may serve minorities, veterans or mothers.

View the highest paid jobs in public health here.

Consider a sponsored online master's in public health program, currently accepting applicants:

Sponsored

Sponsored


Degrees to Start Your Careers in Public Health

In order to ensure that the student is qualified and able to compete for their desired role in public health, he or she should research the degree level required for performance within that type of position. While a particular job of interest may only require a lower degree, students should also consider their ultimate career progression and whether a graduate degree will serve them more adequately. Some students spend up to six years focusing on their education, first acquiring a general public health foundation, followed by a greater focus on their area of specialization.

Public health schools generally offer the following degree programs:

Associate Degree

A two-year degree can be a good starting point for the public health career. Students in such a program learn foundational information about public health, such as public health worker goals and challenges. There may be some focus on legalities of public health. Credits achieved as part of this program can usually transfer toward a higher degree, if the student later desires to acquire a bachelor's degree.

A degree at this level may work fine for administrative support and entry level roles in public health. Common career opportunities for those with an Associate Degree are:

  • Community Health Worker
  • Cancer Registrar
  • Medical Coder
  • Medical Transcriptionist

Bachelor Degree

Multiple areas of specialization are often provided in bachelor of public health programs. Such degrees also provide a good foundation and focus for a later graduate program.

A four-year Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science program may be available to students of public health programs, depending upon the school. A Bachelor of Science may focus on natural science, while a BA may focus on social science. Research specializations such as epidemiology and biostatistics generally benefit more from a BS degree. Students more interested in areas such as community health, behavioral health or health communications might benefit more from a BA degree program.

Some common careers for those with a Bachelor's Degree include:

  • Health Educator
  • Research Assistant
  • Wellness/Health Coach

View All Bachelors Degrees in Public Health

Graduate Degree

A Master of Public Health (MPH) degree provides students with the ability to compete with their peers toward more lucrative roles. Most public health graduate programs take 1-3 years to complete and usually have multiple areas of potential focus for MPH students. Students in an MPH degree programs often have the opportunity to pick one of these areas in which to specialize:

There are various career opportunities available for those who choose to pursue a masters degree in public health. Depending on the specialty chosen, a potential job title may be:

  • Health Promotion Specialist
  • Healthcare Administrator
  • Health Services Manager
  • Program Coordinator

View Masters Degrees in Public Health

Doctorate Degree

A doctorate degree in public health is the highest attainable level of education for a public health student. Doctorate in public health programs include a comprehensive course of study. Upon completion of this program, students are prepared for roles in academia, research, and/or upper management.

Common career options for those who have a Doctorate Degree include:

  • Health Policy Advisor
  • Epidemiologist
  • Principal Investigator
  • Professor
  • Community Health Director

View Doctoral Degrees in Public Health

Consider a Sponsored Online Public Health Program

School and Program Information Online Program? GRE Requirements Time for Completion
Tufts University
Online MHI
Online MS in Health Informatics & Analytics from Tufts School of Medicine. Harness data to improve human health. Bachelor’s required.
check_circle Online GRE Waivers Available As few as 20 months
George Washington University
Online MPH, Online MHI, Online MHA
CEPH Accredited
check_circle Online GRE Waivers Available As little as 12 months
University of North Carolina
Online MPH
The University of North Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health is an Accredited School of Public Health under the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
check_circle Online GRE, GMAT or MCAT scores required As few as 20 months
Baylor University
The service-oriented Master of Public Health online program from Baylor University is now accepting applications.
check_circle Online No GRE Required As few as 12 months
Simmons University
Develop the methodological, leadership, and advocacy skills needed to address health inequity during our 21-month program.
check_circle Online No GRE Required As little as 2 years

Sponsored

Potential Career Paths in Public Health

In essence, the higher the degree of pursuit, the more specialized education in public health may become. A highly specialized degree program can influence which sector of employment the graduate is most appropriately suited for, as well as how much salary can be earned. You may consider viewing our comprehensive guide to what you can do with a public health degree.

Common Careers in Biostatistics and Informatics

This is the collection, storage, and analysis of data as it applies to healthcare. It helps answer pressing research questions in medicine, biology, and public health, such as whether a new drug works, what causes cancer and other diseases, and how long a person with an illness is likely to survive. There are various career opportunities in this field/public health specialty; however the more advanced roles, such as Biostatistician, require a Masters or Doctorate degree.

Statistician1

  • Job Description:
  • Design surveys, experiments, or opinion polls to collect data
  • Interpret data and report conclusions drawn from their analyses
  • Decide what data are needed to answer specific questions or problems
  • Use data analysis to support and improve public health decisions
  • Individuals with Conventional & Investigative personalities are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $87,780
  • Expected Career Growth: 34%
  • Health Informatics Technicians2

  • Job Description:
  • Organize and maintain data for clinical databases and registries
  • Track patient outcomes for quality assessment
  • Use classification software to assign clinical codes for insurance reimbursement and data analysis
  • Electronically record data for collection, storage, analysis, retrieval, and reporting
  • Individuals with a Conventional personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $44,700
  • Expected Career Growth: 14%
  • Common Careers in Community Health

    In community health, public health professionals try to better understand the foundational blocks of a given community and the role these structures play in promoting a healthy life in a given area - whether it be a neighborhood, a city, or an entire region. The main focus is behavioral change and public health interventions.

    Social and Community Service Managers/Program Managers3

  • Job Description:
  • Work with community members and other stakeholders to identify necessary programs and services
  • Oversee administrative aspects of programs to meet the objectives of the stakeholders
  • Analyze data to determine the effectiveness of programs
  • Suggest and implement improvements to programs and services
  • Plan and manage outreach activities to advocate for increased awareness of programs
  • Write proposals/grants for funding
  • Individuals with Artistic and Enterprising personalities are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $65,320
  • Expected Career Growth: 18%
  • Health Promotion/Health Education Specialists4

  • Job Description:
  • Assess the health needs of the people and communities they serve
  • Develop programs, materials, and events to teach people about health topics
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and educational materials
  • Provide training programs for community health workers or other health professionals
  • Collect and analyze data to learn about a particular community and improve programs and services
  • Individuals with Artistic and Enterprising personalities are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $54,220
  • Expected Career Growth: 14%
  • Community Health Workers4

  • Job Description:
  • Discuss health concerns with community members
  • Educate people about the importance and availability of healthcare services, such as cancer screenings
  • Collect data
  • Conduct outreach programs
  • Advocate for individual and community needs}
  • Individuals with a Social personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $39,540
  • Expected Career Growth: 18%
  • Common Careers in Environmental Health

    Environmental Health looks at different factors in our environment and tries to understand their role in the health of individuals and populations. This concentration addresses the environmental risk factors - such as smoke, water, and airborne pollutants - pose to certain populations and their health.

    Environmental Scientists/Specialists5

  • Job Description:
  • Determine data collection methods for research projects, investigations, and surveys
  • Collect and compile environmental data from samples of air, soil, water, food, and other materials for scientific analysis
  • Analyze samples, surveys, and other information to identify and assess threats to the environment
  • Develop plans to prevent, control, or fix environmental problems, such as land or water pollution
  • Provide information and guidance environmental health stakeholders
  • Individuals with Investigative and Realistic personalities are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $71,130
  • Expected Career Growth: 11%
  • Environmental Engineer6

  • Job Description:
  • Prepare, review, and update environmental investigation reports
  • Design projects that lead to environmental protection, such as water reclamation facilities or air pollution control systems
  • Obtain, update, and maintain plans, permits, and standard operating procedures
  • Provide technical support for environmental remediation projects and for legal actions
  • Analyze scientific data and do quality-control checks
  • Individuals with a Realistic personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $87,620
  • Expected Career Growth: 8%
  • Environmental Science and Protection Technicians7

  • Job Description:
  • Inspect establishments, including public places and businesses, to ensure that there are no environmental, health, or safety hazards
  • Set up and maintain equipment used to monitor pollution levels, such as remote sensors that measure emissions from smokestacks
  • Collect samples of air, soil, water, and other materials for laboratory analysis
  • Clearly label, track, and ensure the integrity of samples being transported to the laboratory
  • Use equipment, such as microscopes, to evaluate and analyze samples for the presence of pollutants or other contaminants
  • Individuals with a Realistic personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $46,740
  • Expected Career Growth: 12%
  • Common Careers in Epidemiology

    Epidemiological studies are the foundation of prevention and control of disease, and are a crucial building block in the field of health and medicine. Those in epidemiology provide vital research and understanding to public health and medicine. The key component of this job is to study disease, illness and the associated risk factors in a population.

    Epidemiologist8

  • Job Description:
  • Plan and direct studies of public health problems to find ways to prevent and treat them if they arise
  • Collect and analyze data—through observations, interviews, and surveys, and by using samples of blood or other bodily fluids—to find the causes of diseases or other health problems
  • Communicate their findings to health practitioners, policymakers, and the public
  • Manage public health programs by planning programs, monitoring their progress, analyzing data, and seeking ways to improve the programs in order to improve public health outcomes
  • Individuals with Conventional and Investigative personalities are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $69,660
  • Expected Career Growth: 9%
  • Survey Researcher9

  • Job Description:
  • Plan and design surveys, and determine appropriate survey methods
  • Analyze data, using statistical software and techniques
  • Summarize survey data, using tables, graphs, and fact sheets
  • Evaluate surveys, the methods underlying them, and their performance to improve future surveys
  • Account for and solve problems caused by nonresponse or other sampling issues
  • Individuals with an Investigative personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $57,700
  • Expected Career Growth: 2%
  • Common Careers in Health Administration

    Health administration is a broad field within public health and at its core is the brain of the healthcare industry. The functioning of the healthcare system in which it represents is its main priority, and it includes various aspects that touch on financial, operational, and consistency of the system/organization as a whole.

    Medical Records Technician/Medical Coder10

  • Job Description:
  • Preview patients’ records for timeliness, completeness, accuracy, and appropriateness of data
  • Enter patient information into medical records
  • Maintain confidentiality of patients’ records
  • Review patient information for preexisting conditions, such as diabetes, so patient data can be coded properly
  • Assign appropriate diagnosis and procedure codes for patient care, population health statistics, and billing purposes
  • Work as a liaison between the healthcare providers and billing offices
  • Individuals with a Conventional personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $40,350
  • Expected Career Growth: 13%
  • Medical and Health Services Manager/Healthcare Executives11

  • Job Description:
  • Develop departmental goals and objectives
  • Ensure that the facility in which they work is up to date and compliant with laws and regulations
  • Recruit, train, and supervise staff members
  • Manage the finances of the facility, such as patient fees and billing
  • Keep and organize records of the facility’s services, such as the number of inpatient beds used
  • Create work schedules
  • Individuals with an Enterprising personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $99,730
  • Expected Career Growth: 20%
  • Common Careers in Nutrition

    Nutrition, sometimes referred to as dietetics is a science-based field that educates on the role of food in human lives and how it affects health, well-being and the prevention of disease. Individuals with any degree in nutrition can only refer to themselves as "nutritionists". They are able to become a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN or Dietitian) only after completing a clinical internship year and passing a national exam.

    Nutritionist4

  • Job Description:
  • Assess patients’ and clients’ nutritional and health needs
  • Counsel patients on nutrition issues and healthy eating habits
  • Develop meal and nutrition plans, taking both clients’ preferences and budgets into account
  • Evaluate the effects of meal plans and change the plans as needed
  • Promote better health by speaking to groups about diet, nutrition, and the relationship between good eating habits and preventing or managing specific diseases
  • Create educational materials about healthy food choices
  • Keep up with or contribute to the latest food and nutritional science research
  • Individuals with a Social personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $60,370
  • Expected Career Growth: 15%
  • Health/Nutrition Educator4

  • Job Description:
  • Develop programs, materials, and events to teach people about health and nutrition topics
  • Teach people how to manage existing health conditions
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of programs and educational materials
  • Advocate for improved health resources and policies that promote health
  • Provide informal counseling and social support
  • Individuals with an Artistic personality are well suited for this role.
  • Average Salary: $54,220
  • Expected Career Growth: 14%
  • Salary Outlook in Public Health Careers

    There are many variables included in determination of salary for a given field of work or role within the field. Those considerations include level of education, geography of employment, sector of employment, occupational responsibility or management level, economy and other factors.

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics under the U.S. Department of Labor provides occupation-specific statistics for each geography in the United States. Within these statistics, public health workers in Hawaii are paid the least of all in the country. The highest paying state is New York. Florida lies in the middle of all states, for salary.

    An Associate's degree in public health can provide an educational foundation for roles such as Environmental Health Technician. However, at the Associate level, one must realize that salaries will be among the lowest in the field of public health. Generally, such roles start within the $30,000 range and allow for career progression to today's salary of about $50,000.

    A Bachelor's degree provides entry to even some roles where employers might seek a Master's level candidate. Salary for these roles start at about $8,000 or $12,000 higher than the annual average for entry level Associate's degree roles. Individuals with a bachelor's degree have an opportunity to work diligently toward a salary which doubles in their lifetime. While this is not a given, it is possible for an experienced manager with a Bachelor's degree to peak within their career at $80,000 or more.

    At the Master's degree level, starting salaries hover around the $50,000 mark or slightly higher. With a Master's degree, there is greater potential to advance more quickly toward higher paying and management roles, once field experience is added to the resume. A Master's educated public health worker can exceed income of $100,000 per year.

    Individuals with a Doctorate of Public Health degree naturally have the best salary outlook of all public health professionals. Top roles with such a degree pay above $125,000 per year, with some reaching as high as an average of $155,000 per year.

    Of course, at this level, an individual is more able to forge an unlimited pathway in salary and entity of employment. Top corporate executives are often paid in excess of $200,000 per year, so a private sector Doctorate degree public health professional is presented with a wider range of growth opportunity.

    Top Employers for Public Health Careers

    Immense growth is expected for jobs in the public health field over the next ten years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects about 16 percent more jobs to open by 2026 for educators in health and community health workers, alone. Medical and business fields are also opening more for public health graduates.
    Some potential employment pathways for public health graduates include:

    Government

    As part of the broader sector of government, there are some intriguing opportunities for public health graduates within highly respected areas of employment. Those include opportunities at the federal, state and local levels of government.

    • Center for Disease Control (CDC): The primary federal organization for public health, this entity employs a wide variety of public health professionals in diverse roles. The mission of the CDC is to protect against outbreaks and respond to such, when those occur. The CDC also works health data analysis and makes policy recommendations. Most of the CDC's employees hold a bachelor's degree or higher.
    • National Institutes of Health (NIH): The NIH provides biomedical and health related research under the Department of Health and Human Services. Heavily funded by the government, the NIH has been at the forefront of medical research, such as in understanding of cancer, development of the MRI and in other research leading 144 of its employees to become Nobel Prize winners.
    • Local and state public health departments: Programs, policies and research are the three primary areas of focus for public health workers at the state and local level of government. These employees fulfill many of the duties of the CDC, just at a lower level of government and within individual communities, to individual members of the population.

    Educational Institutions

    Public health degree professors within colleges and universities provide the foundation and preparation for the next generation of public health workers. These roles are most often a blend of research and education.

    Healthcare

    Executives educated in public health help their organizations balance medical care, field advancements, wellness programs and more well-rounded delivery of optimum healthcare. Settings may include a hospital, home health agency or long term care facility.

    Social workers with public health degrees guide patients' healthcare related needs, bridging gaps and enabling connections with the right resources for medicine, therapeutic care, nursing and other needs.

    Managed Care Organizations

    Using their ongoing access to vast databases of health information, health insurance organizations help identify trends in healthcare for improved delivery. Of course, these organizations aim to improve care quality while enabling cost reduction. Much of this is facilitated through pathways of disease prevention to improve patient health and wellness.

    Corporations

    Corporate health and wellness programs have proven successful in development of healthier workforces. Involvement in healthcare policy development and pharmaceutical-related research and development are other potential areas of employment or contracting as consultants for public health graduates within corporations.

    Non-Profits

    Consumer advocacy and voluntary health agencies are two areas of growth for public health graduates within the nonprofit sector. Unification of global goals and initiatives are important to the public health industry. Niche non-profits focused on a specific disease, population or health issue also provide critical contributions.

    Useful Resources for Public Health Professionals

    For students seeking more information about a potential career in public health and for identification of the right degree program to suit their goals, the following websites are helpful:

    • Council on Education for Public Health: Provides students with assistance in location of an accredited degree program at undergraduate and graduate levels.
    • I am Public Health: This web page provides information for students exploring career options available for public health majors.
    • SOPHAS.org: SOPHAS.org provides one center of application for degree programs in public health.

    For individuals desiring to access a program for experience within public health, whether as a career foundation or to explore the field, the following resources are available:

    • AmeriCorps: AmeriCorps provides opportunities to gain public health experience for students and others interested in the field.
    • Peace Corps: Becoming a volunteer with the Peace Corps is an invaluable means of gaining experience in public health, for students and others interested in the field.
    • Public Health Training Fellowships: Fellowships available to students from high school to graduate level are listed on this helpful page, as well as ways to gain post-doctoral research and career training.

    For professionals already in the public health field seeking to gain information from peers or to network, the following websites may prove helpful:

    • American Public Health Association: A professional group for public health workers, their website provides coverage of hot topics in public health and networking opportunities.
    • This is Public Health: Fact sheets about public health and information about how public health workers can heighten awareness of the field are included on this site.

    Sponsored Live Online
    Public Health Programs

    Sponsored

    Master's of Public Health Programs

    Earn your degree in as few as 12 months
    45 credits • GRE Waivers available • Live Classes

    Earn your degree in as few as 18 months
    42 credits • GRE not required • Live Classes

    Earn your degree in as few as 24 months
    42 credits • GRE required • Live Classes

    Earn your degree in as few as 21 months
    45 credits • GRE not required • Live Classes

    Master's of Health Informatics Programs

    Earn your degree in as few as 20 months
    36 credits • GRE required • Live Classes

    Earn your degree in as few as 24 months
    45 credits • GRE not required • Live Classes

    Master's of Health Administration Programs

    Earn your degree in as few as 24 months
    45 credits • GRE not required • Live Classes

    Sponsored