Highest Paid Public Health Careers

There are many options for a successful career in public health, but it should be noted that you more than likely need a degree and that salaries vary by geographic location, cost of living, the company and job roles or functions. If you are looking for a job in public health, read our guide to learn  the 10 highest paying public health jobs and the salary breakdown on highest paying locations and industry.

Before Considering a Public Health Career

To start a successful career in public health, one needs to start at the basics, so let’s review the top public health degrees and why they are important.

  • Bachelor of Public Health (BPH): The BPH degree is the undergraduate option for college students. It is not a requirement to study a specific BS in public health program, as many students take an undergraduate path in health administration, nursing, informatics or a different healthcare degree. Most people working within public health have their MPH, and most MPH programs require a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field. However, if you know that you want to work in public health, you can pursue a BPH degree and build a foundation on your undergraduate training. BPH programs are offered online and on campus—review the BPH programs using our guide.
  • Master of Public Health (MPH): An MPH is not required to work in public health, but most public health professionals would recommend it to work in both the private and public sector. There are many different concentrations if you want a specialized MPH degree—epidemiology, global health, community health and environmental health are some of the most common. There are plenty of traditional MPH programs and Online MPH programs offered—feel free to explore them.
  • Doctor of Public Health(DPH): The DPH degree is the terminal degree in the public health field. If you are looking to become a public health professor in a college setting or if you want to delve deep into a research position, you might consider continuing on to a DPH or DrPH (or PhD in Public Health) after your master’s education. Learn more about the DPH degree.

Highest Paid Public Health Jobs

This list will break down some of the highest paying career options, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and explain what the job is, requirements necessary to be considered for employment and the salary the profession can pay. Click on the job title to learn more about it.

Salary information gathered from BLS 2020 data. 

1. Biostatistician

Summary: $92,270 per year / Minimum of a Master’s Degree in Public Health (BLS Statisticians)

Statisticians are a vital part of public health research. Statisticians design experiments, questionnaires and surveys to collect data on people and health. They will not only collect the data but will also analyze it and create reports explaining their findings. Statisticians can work in many fields, but most are employed in government, health care, or research and development. Biostaticians, in particular, use the tools of statistics to research questions related to medicine and biology. They may look into new drugs on the market or the causes of diseases.

Degree Requirements

An undergraduate degree in statistics will suffice for some entry-level jobs, but the vast majority require a master’s degree. Coursework in statistics and mathematics is necessary for entry into a master’s program. A master’s degree in statistics, when paired with biology, sociology and public health courses, will best allow an individual to work in public health as a statistician or, as it is more commonly called in the health field, a biostatistician.

Salaries & Wages

Job growth for statisticians in all occupations is on the rise, especially in the pharmaceutical industry and the government. The top 10% of statisticians earn $150,840 on average while the median annual wage for all statisticians was $92,270 per year in 2020. 

2. Computer and Information System Manager in Healthcare

Summary: $151,150 per year / Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (BLS Computer and Information System Managers

Computer and information system managers plan, coordinate and direct computer-related activities in a healthcare organization. Computer and information systems managers, also known as clinical informatic specialists or information system managers, are responsible for determining the information technology goals for an organization and then implementing and meeting those goals. They may resolve software and hardware issues, install new computer systems, keep operating costs low, and orchestrate and oversee long-term strategies to make computer systems and medical record keeping safer and more effective. 

Degree Requirements

To become an IT manager, a bachelor’s degree in computer and information science is required. However, if you are specifically interested in computer science, healthcare and health informatics, a Master’s in Healthcare Informatics may be the best fit. Courses will cover health care systems, introductory courses in health informatics, data analytics, database design and implementation, and IT strategy and management courses.

Salaries & Wages

There is a growing demand for IT managers as organizations expand their operations to digital platforms and need to increase their cybersecurity. The median salary for a computer and information systems manager is $151,150 per year, with a range from less than $90,430 to more than $208,000.

3. Doctoral Degree Holder

Summary: $80,560 per year / Minimum of a Master’s Degree (BLS Postsecondary Teachers)

Many careers in public health can continue to a terminal degree, but it is not necessary for most when establishing a career. Those who do seek a doctoral degree often do so to work in academia or in research. Bioterrorism, vaccines, health care outcomes, mental health and social behavior are just a few of the topics most highly researched by public health practitioners with a doctoral degree.

Some public health practitioners choose to also obtain their medical license and work as public health physicians or preventative medicine physicians. This allows practitioners the ability to treat populations and individuals. These individuals often work for hospitals or government agencies and may also be on boards or serve as key members of other public health organizations

Degree Requirements

Professors, or postsecondary teachers, in public health will educate students at an undergraduate or graduate level in their specialty. Most professors must have a doctoral degree, but some institutions will accept master’s level degrees with experience. Additionally, many professors are expected to conduct research or be involved in a variety of other organizations, which may help to increase pay from other sources.

For those who are interested in preventative medicine, it is recommended to become a licensed medical doctor (M.D.). 

Salaries & Wages

Depending on which doctoral path you take, you can earn a respectable salary. A professor’s median salary in 2020 was $80,560, with those teaching health specialties earning $99,090.  

4. Emergency Management Director

Summary: $76,250 per year / Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (BLS Emergency Management Director)

The chief responsibility of emergency management directors is to prepare and develop plans to respond to natural disasters and other emergencies. They must assess hazards and develop plans to respond to disasters while also minimizing the risk to the public. In collaboration with public officials, nonprofits and government agencies, emergency management directors help lead the response both before and after emergencies or disasters.

Degree Requirements

Emergency management directors typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in business, emergency management or public health, as well as many years of work experience in public administration, emergency preparedness or disaster planning. In the private sector, some emergency management directors may need a degree in computer science, information systems administration or another informational technology (IT) field.

Salaries & Wages

Careers in emergency management and preparedness are expected to grow at the same pace as all other occupations, around 6% by 2030. Emergency Management Directors make, on average, $76,250 per year, but salaries can range from less than $42,230 to more than $142,870 per year.

5. Environmental Scientist

Summary: $73,230 per year / Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (BLS Environmental Scientist)

Using their knowledge of natural sciences, environmental scientists protect both environmental and human health. Many do this through land reclamation after pollution or developing regulations that restrict air and soil pollution. Environmental scientists do this through data collection, plan development and sharing information with the government, businesses or the public. The majority are employed by state and local governments, but many also work as consultants. Most of their time will be spent in a laboratory or office, with some field work collecting data and monitoring conditions.

Degree Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering or public health is enough for most entry-level jobs in environmental sciences (such as field analysts or research assistants). For more advanced careers, a master’s level degree is often required. Coursework for an individual looking for a career in environmental sciences should include biology, geology, physics and more specialized courses such as waste management, fluid mechanics, data analysis and computer modeling. Communication and interpersonal skills can be useful to environmental sciences as many careers require individuals to explain findings to a variety of people. Additionally, thinking analytically and applying problem-solving skills are powerful tools.

Salaries & Wages

The median wage for Environmental Scientists is $73,230 but can range from less than $42,960 to more than $129,450 depending on employer, experience and education. The federal government pays the highest average wage for environmental scientists followed by the engineering and consulting industries. The employment of environmental scientists will grow 8% between 2020 and 2030, in part due to a growing population and public interest in environmental safety.

6. Epidemiologist

Summary: $74,560 per year / Minimum of a Master’s Degree in Public Health (BLS Epidemiologist)

Epidemiologists work to reduce negative health outcomes by recognizing and researching the causes of disease and injury among populations. They do this through research, policy and education. Developing and directing studies along with analyzing data are the main functions of an epidemiologist. Communicating findings to the public and policymakers is one of the most important duties of an epidemiologist.

Degree Requirements

A master’s level degree is required to work as an epidemiologist. The degree could be in epidemiology or another related public health field. The coursework, however, must include statistics, analysis, survey design, public health, biostatistics and some natural sciences. An attention to detail and clear communication and critical thinking skills are needed for a career in epidemiology.

Salaries & Wages

With a median annual wage of $74,560 per year, epidemiologists are among the highest paid public health practitioners. The top 10% of epidemiologists earn more than $126,040 while the lowest 10% earn less than $49,140. The expected job growth for epidemiologists from 2020 to 2030 is the same pace as the projected job growth for all occupations: 30%. At the local and state levels, however, job growth is anticipated to increase, according to the BLS.

7. Health and Safety Engineer

Summary: $94,240 per year / Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (BLS Health and Safety Engineer)

Health and safety engineers work primarily in scientific and technical services but are also employed in construction and by the government. Historically, manufacturing has used health and safety engineers to help with cutting costs and to provide safer consumer products and safer work environments. The job of a health and safety engineer is to design systems and procedures that prevent people from getting sick or injured. Health and safety engineers must have keen critical thinking, observational and problem-solving skills, along with creativity to solve sometimes complex, multifaceted problems. Health and safety engineers will identify potential hazards, ensure compliance to health and safety regulations, review safety programs and investigate accidents.

Degree Requirements

A bachelor’s degree in engineering, public health or occupational/industrial hygiene is required for entry-level jobs in health and safety engineering. Individuals interested in health and safety engineering should take courses in engineering, occupational safety, industrial hygiene, and environmental health and safety while pursuing their undergraduate degree. Experience is also highly sought after by employers, so internships or work experience should also be considered.

Salaries & Wages

Careers in health and safety engineering are expected to grow at the same pace as all other occupations, around 6% by 2030. Advancements in software safety engineering and biomedical engineering will likely contribute to this growth. Health and safety engineers make, on average, between $55,390 and $144,800 annually, with the median annual wage being just over $94,240. Those in professional, scientific and technical services tend to make more than those in government or construction.

8. Medical and Health Services Manager

Summary: $104,280 per year / Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (BLS Medical and Health Services Managers)

A healthcare services manager supports a clinic, department or group of physicians by directing and coordinating health services. The main goal of a healthcare manager is to improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare services. Duties range from billing and scheduling to representing their team at board meetings or with governing bodies. Healthcare administrators (also known as medical and health service managers or healthcare executives) work in hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory health services, clinics and rarely, in government positions.

Degree Requirements

At a minimum, healthcare administrators must have a bachelor’s degree, but master’s degrees are more common. A degree specific in health administration will cover the basic knowledge requirements such as accounting, budgeting, health economics, strategic planning, and hospital organization and management. For those with a bachelor’s degree, experience working in a hospital is highly desired for employers. A certification or license may also be required by employers or the state.

Consider featured, accredited online MHA programs seeking applicants for a master’s health administration:

Salaries & Wages

The median annual wage for medical and health services managers was over $104,280 in 2020 and ranged from less than $59,980 to more than $195,630. This range correlated with the type and size of organization. Medical and health services managers working with smaller numbers of physicians tend to earn less than those working in larger practices.

9. Public Health Attorney

Summary: $126,930 per year / Minimum of a Doctoral or Professional Degree (BLS Lawyer)

Public health lawyers work with local, state and national government officials to devise policies, set regulations and pass laws concerning public health standards. Public health attorneys may also advocate for patients and victims and pursue lawsuits against companies and organizations that violate public health standards.

Degree Requirements

Lawyers must complete a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association. To become a lawyer, four years of undergraduate study and three years of law school are required. For lawyers who wish to specialize in public health, taking coursework focusing on health law is helpful.

Salaries & Wages

The average salary of an attorney is $126,930 per year, with a range from less than $61,490 annually to more than $208,000. Employment of attorneys is expected to grow 9% by 2030. Having a specialization in health law may offer candidates an edge, but competition for all legal jobs remains high.

10. Social and Community Service Manager

Summary: $69,600 per year / Minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree (BLS Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers supervise workers who provide social services to the public. Such services may include those focusing on a specific demographic, such as children, veterans, senior citizens or the homeless population, as well as those with particular challenges like substance abuse, mental health issues or long-term unemployment. Core responsibilities include coordinating and overseeing health programs and community organizations. Social and community service managers are also responsible for the administrative aspects of community programs, working with stakeholders to identify needed programs and meet their objectives, planning and managing outreach and awareness campaigns, and writing proposals for community services funding. 

Degree Requirements

Most positions in social and community service management require a bachelor’s degree in social work, public health or a related field. However, some jobs also require a master’s degree. Strong analytical, communication, time management and problem-solving skills are key to a career in social and community service management.

Salaries & Wages

Job growth for social and community service managers is expected to grow by 15% from 2020 to 2030. That increase is mostly due to the aging population, which will require more social services. The median annual salary for such a position is $69,600, with a range from less than $42,230 to more than $115,800.

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Public Health Jobs

Besides the 10 highest paid public health jobs listed above, we have also compiled a list of the highest paying locations and industries, according to May 2020 BLS data, for certain public health jobs for you to browse:

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Health Education Specialists

Top 5 Paying Industries: Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation), Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods, Accounting, Tax Preparation, Bookkeeping, and Payroll Services, Scientific Research and Development Services, Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers

Top 5 Paying States: District of Columbia, Georgia, Rhode Island, Maryland, California

Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA: $47.61 hourly, $99,030 annually
  • New Haven, CT: $99,030 hourly, $89,360 annually
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $41.87 hourly, $87,090 annually
  • Savannah, GA: $39.11 hourly, $81,340 annually
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $37.37 hourly, $77,730 annually
  • Urban Honolulu, HI: $37.22 hourly, $77,410 annually

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Health and Safety Engineers

Top 5 Paying Industries: Oil and Gas Extraction, Natural Gas Distribution, Office Administrative Services, Petroleum and Coal Products Manufacturing, Federal Executive Branch

Top 5 Paying States: District of Columbia, New Mexico, California, New Jersey, Delaware

Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA: $59.49 hourly, $123,730 annually
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $58.51 hourly, $121,700 annually
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA: $58.33 hourly, $121,330 annually
  • Bakersfield, CA: $57.49 hourly, $119,570 annually
  • Kennewick-Richland, WA: $57.17 hourly, $118,920 annually

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Environmental Scientists 

Top 5 Paying Industries: Other Pipeline Transportation, Natural Gas Distribution, Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation), Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers, Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers

Top 5 Paying States: District of Columbia, California, Massachusetts, Washington, Virginia

Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $54.01 hourly, $112,340 annually
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $51.59 hourly, $107,320 annually
  • Utica-Rome, NY: $50.42 hourly, $104,870 annually
  • Santa Rosa, CA: $50.34 hourly, $104,710 annually
  • Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA: $49.05 hourly, $102,030 annually

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Medical and Services Managers

Top 5 Paying Industries: Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing, Scientific Research and Development Services, Insurance Carriers, Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing, Computer Systems Design and Related Services 

Top 5 Paying States: District of Columbia, New York, Hawaii, California, Massachusetts

Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • Vallejo-Fairfield, CA: $83.66 hourly, $174,010 annually
  • Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA: $82.42 hourly, $171,430 annually
  • Madera, CA: $80.81 hourly, $168,090 annually
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $75.08 hourly, $156,160 annually
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $75.03 hourly, $156,050 annually

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Statisticians

Top 5 Paying Industries: Semiconductor and Other Electronic Component Manufacturing, Software Publishers, Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods, Federal Executive Branch (OEWS Designation), Computer Systems Design and Related Services

Top 5 Paying States: Massachusetts, New Jersey, Idaho, California, Maryland

Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $61.10 hourly, $127,080 annually
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA: $58.10 hourly, $120,850 annually
  • Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH: $57.16 hourly, $118,900 annually
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT: $55.49 hourly, $115,410 annually
  • Trenton, NJ: $54.80 hourly, $113,980 annually

Highest Paying Locations and Industries for Epidemiologists

Top 5 Paying Industries: Grantmaking and Giving Services, Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing, Management of Companies and Enterprises, Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals, Offices of Physicians

Top 5 Paying States: Washington, Nevada, Maryland, District of Columbia, New Jersey

Top 5 Paying Metropolitan Areas:

  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA: $64.70 hourly, $134,580 annually
  • Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN: $58.91 hourly, $122,520 annually
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA: $58.44 hourly, $121,560 annually
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV: $56.40 hourly, $117,320 annually
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: $54.95 hourly, $114,300 annually

FAQs on Public Health Jobs and Salaries

If you still have questions after reading about the highest paying careers in public health, read on to view frequently asked questions or learn more about What Can You Do With a Public Health Degree.

What are the five highest paying jobs in public health?

Among the above list of highest paying public health jobs, Health and Safety Engineers, Medical and Health Services Managers, Biostatisticians, Public Health Attorneys and Computer and Information System Managers in health care tended to earn higher average salaries than the other public health jobs in 2020.

Which are the highest paying locations for public health jobs?

In general, public health professionals may have higher salaries in large metropolitan areas, such as New York or California, but it largely depends on the types of public health jobs as well. For instance, Hawaii is one of the top five paying states for health education specialists and medical and services managers, and Colorado is one of the highest paying for environmental scientists.

What are the public health jobs most in demand?

As explained above, community health workers, medical and health services managers, health care social workers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors all have over 10% projected job growth from 2019 to 2029.

What are the factors that affect public health salary?

Many factors may affect public health salaries: types of public health jobs, locations, work settings, work experience, education levels, personal abilities, job growth and industry fields. So it’s important to take all these factors into consideration when choosing a public health job.

How much do types of work settings affect public health salary?

It may vary largely depending on the types of public health jobs. Take epidemiologists as an example: There are different types of epidemiologists, and the median salary for an epidemiologist in scientific research was $99,970 in 2019 while $62,440 in colleges or universities. Read our guide on types of epidemiologists, in which you can also find salary comparisons.

Information last updated November 2021