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.
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.
- 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.
Complete your MPH in 12 months. GRE waivers available.
- UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health, the No. 1-ranked Public School of Public Health, offers an online Master of Public Health program, [email protected]. Earn your master’s degree in as few as 24 months. Part-time and full-time program options are available. GRE, GMAT or MCAT scores are required to apply.
Click for admissions information from OnlineMPH.UNC.edu
- The Master of Public Health (MPH) online program from Baylor University, [email protected], offers a specialization in Community Health. Improve quality of life in Texas communities and around the world. The program can be completed in as few as 18 months. No GRE required.
Learn more from [email protected]
- MPH @ Simmons, the online Master of Public Health program from Simmons University, prepares students to become public health practitioners and address health inequity at a local, national, and global level. The program can be completed in 21 months. No GRE required to apply.
Click for admissions information.
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:
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
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
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:
- Biostatistics Programs
- Environmental Health Science Programs
- Social and Behavioral Social Sciences Programs
- Epidemiology Programs
- Health Services Administration Programs
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
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
- Principal Investigator
- Community Health Director
|School and Program Information||Online Program?||GRE Requirements||Time for Completion|
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
|check_circle Online||GRE Waivers Available||As little as 12 months|
|University of North Carolina
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|
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|
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|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
² Bureau of Labor Statistics - Medical Records and Health Informatics Technicians
³ Bureau of Labor Statistics - Social and Community Service Manager
4 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Health Educators and Community Health Workers
5 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Environmental Scientists and Specialists
6 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Environmental Engineers
7 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Environmental Science and Protection Technicians
8 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Epidemiologist
9 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Survey Researcher
10 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Medical Records and Health Information Technicians
11 Bureau of Labor Statistics - Medical and Health Services Manager
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