Top Public Health Specializations and Concentrations

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The expansive nature of public health allows for many areas of speciality. Because of this, most colleges and universities that offer a degree in public health will have concentrations that students can declare.  By declaring a concentration, the student will focus his or her course work in a specialty area of public health and will gain the skills needed for a career within that specialization. has compiled a list of the top public health specialities in the field that translate into public health program concentrations.

Two additional things to note is that colleges and universities may combine similar specialities into one overarching concentration (ex: Community Health and Health Promotion) and that a school may use different names for their concentrations (ex: Industrial Hygiene instead of Occupational Health). 

Biostatistics Degrees and Programs

A concentration in biostatistics will provide students with the skills needed to collect, analyze, and interpret data then communicate the findings. This will be done though courses specializing in quantitative methods that use statistical software programs, such as SPSS. By the end of the program, students should be able to design, implement, and analyze various health-related research studies. 

The majority of individuals working as biostatisticians will have a master’s or doctorate degree; however, some may hold a bachelor’s degree in biostatistics, mathematics, or statistics. Individuals working in the biostatistics area of public health tend to find careers in academia, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, independent research groups, public health organizations, and the government. 

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Child & Maternal Health Degrees and Programs

The child & maternal health concentration of a public health degree focuses on the developmental, mental, social, and behavioral health of mothers and children. Within this public health concentration, students will develop the skills needed to examine the biological constituents of an individual’s and family’s health, along with the geographical and socioeconomic factors that may play a role in maternal and child health. Additionally, students will learn how to design and implement health programs targeting soon-to-be mothers, mothers, infants, children, and families. 

Once a degree in public health with a concentration in maternal & child health is completed, there are a variety of different career options to pursue. Many professionals may find a place working with expectant mothers counseling them on how important health is before, during, and after childbirth. The most common employers for this speciality within public health are hospitals and healthcare centers, local health departments, and social services agencies. 

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Community Health Degrees and Programs

A concentration in community health focuses on the needs of all citizens within the community rather than just one individual group and provides a broad outlook of public health in terms of awareness, education, and research. Students who choose this public health concentration will develop the skills to perform community assessments and develop, implement and evaluate health programs. Additionally, students will have a better understanding of how disease and illness can affect people and how providing adequate community health education can lead to better preventative habits and an overall safer area to live.

By choosing the community health concentration, professionals will find that the generalized approach of this specialty allows for many different career opportunities. Individuals working in the community health area of public health can find positions at community centers and clinics, state and local government agencies, health departments, non-profit organizations, and academia.  

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Environmental Health Degrees and Programs

Environmental health studies human health and the health of the environment as it affects the general well being of the population. The environmental health concentration encompasses a wide variety of fields and specialties, including toxicology, disease prevention, zoonotic diseases, occupational hazards, and air & water quality. These specialities within the field are usually touched on throughout the courses in the concentration. In addition to learning about the different factors that affect environmental health, students will also study how societies, occupations and geographical settings affect the health of populations.

Once a student has completed a degree in public health with a concentration in environmental health, there are a variety of different career options to him or her to pursue. Common employers include academia, companies involved in chemicals or pharmaceuticals, along with environmental protection agencies at the local, state, and federal level. 

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Epidemiology Degrees and Programs

Epidemiology is a very important specialty within public health as it is the study of disease, illness, and the associated risks in the population. Students who choose the epidemiology concentration will learn epidemiological and statistical methods, strategies for analyzing data, research design and implementation, and transferring this information to oral or written communication. 

Career options for those with degrees in epidemiology can be fairly limited because of the precise nature of the field.However, professionals can work for local or state government agencies that are concerned with Public Health, research laboratories that work to solve some of the most influential health problems, education, or pharmaceutical research. Each of these positions can lead to daily investigations and laboratory work that is relevant to individual health. The majority of individuals working as epidemiologists will have a master’s or doctorate degree. 

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Generalist Public Health Degrees and Programs

The generalist concentration seeks to elevate students’ knowledge of how the overall public health status affects concern and application of public health principles. This public health concentration tends to touch on the many different aspects of public health, rather than just one particular specialty. Students that take part in this concentration have the opportunity to learn about the different effective components of disease, illness, injury, socioeconomics, occupational health, and nutrition.

The generalist concentration applies concepts that are relevant to the field of public health as a whole, making this level of degree a great choice for students that are seeking management positions in policy development or in applied research. As a generalist, there is a multitude of career choices that involve the investigation, analysis, development, and methodology associated with public health policy creation and management. Common employers of those with this concentration include government agencies, research facilities, and nonprofits. 

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Global Health Degrees and Programs

A Global Health concentration provides an educated outlook on potential solutions for widespread health-related issues. Within this specialty, students learn how public health differs between cultures and countries and how these differences can be narrowed by international public health initiatives. Throughout this public health concentration, students will learn about culture, history, and ecology in relation to human health and wellness and gain extensive knowledge regarding the research, analysis, and developmental skills. Through this public health concentration, learners can absorb information pertaining to the use of geographical-related context, social cues, and economics in global health.

Students who choose the global health concentration may gain the skills needed to properly plan, analyze, and implement public health agendas that can improve public health within various areas. Global health professionals can work in settings that investigate the cause of widespread illness in foreign countries, implement health policies in the US, or promote wellness programs in areas without advanced knowledge of everyday health practices. Public health professionals in this field can find careers at government agencies, research facilities, and non-profit organizations employ global health specialists.

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Health and Human Services Degrees and Programs

A concentration in health and human services prepares an individual to help humans through prevention and remediation to improve quality of life. Students will develop skills in case management, crisis/trauma response, advocacy, conflict resolution and community collaboration. Those who choose this specialty will gain knowledge in project and service management, ethics, systems management, theory, and research methodology

A career in health and human services will have a great impact on society as the individual will work to improve the lives of those around them. Because this is a broad specialty within public health there are endless career paths that can be chosen. Some common career paths for individuals who focus on this concentration include health educators, case managers, mental health counselors, behavioral specialists, and substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors. Health and human services professionals can usually find work in health departments, hospitals, mental health facilities, and nonprofits.

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Health Science Degrees and Programs

The health science concentration is a field that encompasses the research and application of scientific principles to human health. Within this public health concentration, students will learn how to increase the efficiency in the use of technology in medical practices, research, and the development of new and innovative medical advances. Students will also develop an understanding of the underlying aspects of healthcare, such as internal hospital function, patient statistics, and theory of disease and medicine.

The need for health science professionals can only grow as the healthcare industry expands with technology and an increasing population. Those who choose the health science concentration can seek out employment in management, education, and applied health science careers. Potential work settings for health science professionals include hospitals, local, state, and government agencies, research institutes, and community health organizations.

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Infectious Disease Degrees and Programs

The infectious disease concentration encourages research and the prevention of widespread illness and disease. Students will learn how diseases and illnesses are acquired, spread throughout the population, and methods for controlling them. Students will take courses in microbiology, pathology, anatomy, and prevention strategies. Those who choose to pursue this public health concentration will gain skills in communication, critical thinking and problem solving, and how to identify potential risks in various settings.

Infectious disease professionals can perform a variety of functions that are necessary in protecting the public from dangerous illness. In research organizations, professionals can collect relevant data concerning disease, including blood sample, health records, and home surveys to develop hypotheses about disease acquisition. Educationally, those in this specialty can provide educational programs that raise awareness, explain how diseases are spread, teach proper prevention techniques, and how to treat the diseases. Common employers include local, state, and federal agencies, hospitals, and research institutes.

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Nutrition Degrees and Programs

A concentration in nutrition, sometimes referred to as dietetics, focuses on the role of food in human lives and how it affects health, well-being and the prevention of disease. Students will more than likely gain knowledge in the historical, cultural and sociological aspects of food and nutrition through the life cycle. Students will develop skills in nutrition counseling & clinical practice, community education and health promotion.

Nutrition is a two-sided specialty.The scientific side requires attention to detail, critical thinking and the ability to understand, sometimes complex, concepts and data. On the other side, one must also have patience and the ability to work well with others. This also parallels well with the career options for those who choose the nutrition concentration within public health. Many career options for nutritionists are either based in research or education/nutrition counseling. Some industries that may hire nutritionists are health food stores, schools and universities, community health organizations, and nonprofits focusing on access to food & nutrition. 

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Occupational Health Degrees and Programs

A concentration in occupational health will prepare students to create healthier communities and workplaces, create and promote sustainable workplace environments, develop emergency response and disaster planning and much more. Students will be introduced to different methods for improving occupational health and wellness through awareness and health programs. Research, community education, and policy analysis are some of the skills learned through this type of program. 

Careers available within the occupational health specialty can be found in companies that are responsible for following proper protocol during the production process as well as in private organizations that work hard to ensure that various businesses are abiding by safety policies. Additionally, careers in occupational health will provide many opportunities to create policies and regulations that will keep whole populations safe and healthy. Common types of employers of occupational health professionals include commercial and retail organizations, regulatory and governmental organizations, insurance carriers, petrochemical companies, and heavy and light industries. 

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Social and Behavioral Science Degrees and Programs

The social and behavioral science concentration of Public Health encourages students to investigate the effects of society and behavior on the acceptance of health programs, motivation behind staying healthy, and the overall sustenance of illness and disease. Students will gain knowledge in psychology and sociology with health habits and preventative notions that affect public health in general. Students will learn to investigate what lies beneath social interaction, behavior, and attitudes toward public health. Students may also identify cultural norms or ideas that influence how people respond to health dilemmas.

Behavioral and social sciences have a large influence on the field of public health. Careers in this discipline can be found in many different areas, including mental health, sociology, and research. Students that want to blend their knowledge of public health with specific fields such as psychology may find that careers as licensed therapists or counselors.

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