There are a number of different career opportunities within the public health sector. We have been researching public health career options and have come up with the top 5 career choices for public health. Keep in mind that this is a subjective "ranking" of the top 5 public health career choices. We used our own methodology, primarily based on the following:
- Job outlook
- Employment opportunities
- Career advancement opportunities
Below, you will find our top 5 list of public health jobs. For more information on public health careers in general, view our public health career guide. Likewise, view the highest paying public health careers here.
1. Healthcare Executive
A Healthcare Executive (also known as a medical and health services manager or health care administrator) will be responsible for the planning and coordinating of medical and health services in a healthcare facility. This may be with a specific department, medical practice, or an entire facility. Because work or clinical experience are highly sought after when hiring healthcare executives, many will begin their career in a administrative position. This allows for a wide range of career advancement from administration, to managing a physician group, to managing a healthcare facility. The minimum degree needed to work as a Healthcare Executive is a bachelor's degree, but most positions will require a Masters of Public Health. In addition to a public health degree many chose to also receive a clinical degree (registered nurse or physician) which will also add valuable experience in the field.
As the need for physicians increases due to the United States' aging population, the need for Healthcare Executives to manage the physicians' practice will rise. The current job growth outlook for Healthcare Executives is 17% by 2024. The pay for Healthcare Executives in 2014 was $93,000 or approximately $44.50 per hour*.
2. Health and Safety Engineer
Health and Safety Engineers are responsible for developing the procedures and systems to keep people healthy. Health and Safety Engineers will work primarily in manufacturing and construction, but also work in state and local governments, engineering services, and consulting services. They use their knowledge of systems engineering and health to ensure that both employees and consumers are safe. They will do this by:
- Identifying potential hazards
- Evaluating control measures
- Installing safety devices
- Reviewing and updating policies, regulations and processes to ensure safety
- Ensuring compliance
The two fields Health and Safety Engineers will work in are industrial hygiene, where chemical, physical and biological agents are the main focus, and in occupational hygiene where the focus is on the environment employees work in. Both work to help employers and employees understand risks and how to mitigate those risks.
A bachelors degree in public health or a related field is required for all entry level positions. However a masters degree with a focus on occupational or industrial hygiene will allow for greater career advancement or entry at a higher level. The expected job growth for careers in Health and Safety Engineering is about as fast (6% in the next ten years) as all other occupations. However, this is expected to change as developments in software safety engineering and computer science continue to grow.
The range of annual wage for Health and Safety Engineers rages from $48,000 to $127,000. This wide range is due to education, skill sets, industry and length of career. The median annual wage is around $82,000, with careers in engineering services and manufacturing on average paying the highest salaries.
3. Public Health Professor
An end of career choice for a public health professional is as a college professor (a.k.a. postsecondary teacher). Public Health professors, for either undergraduate or graduate classes, almost always must have a masters degree in their field or doctorate. Additionally, they must have extensive experience in their field. In rare cases, some programs will hire an individual with a bachelors if a professional has gained significant work experience in their field and is considered to be an expert. Many professors are hired first as part-time teachers, and over time gain the option of becoming full-time or tenured. For most professors the two main focuses of their job will be to 1) instruct courses in their subject area and 2) conduct research, advancing knowledge in their field. Professors will also serve on committees to review policies, budgets, and curriculum's.
As the field of public health continues to expand, more instructors will be needed to teach new students. The current projected growth for all postsecondary teachers is 13% over the next ten years. Some restrictions on hiring are found in public collages and universities as their budget is dependent on state and local governments. Private schools may have an easier time adjusting to increasing enrollment and therefore hire more readily. The median annual wage for professors was $71,000, however heath specialties professors earned on average $90,000 yearly in 2014.
4. Public Health Statistician
A Public Health Statistician will use statistical methods to collect and analyze health data to solve health and healthcare questions. Often times these individuals work under the heading of Biostatistician or Epidemiologist. An epidemiologist will focus on risk and negative health outcomes, where a biostatistician will research almost any health related topic. Each will design data collection methods, analyze that data, and then present it. Individuals interested in public heath statistics must be detail oriented, organized, and have keen communication skills, both writing and orally. Biostatisticians and epidemiologists are found in government, healthcare and research and development. Almost all careers in statistics require a master's degree for entry level positions and for advancement after an entry level position.
Statisticians in general are in high demand as statistical analysis is starting to inform more and more industries. Healthcare in particular is increasing the use of data to better understand healthcare outcomes and prevention. Pharmaceutical companies are also in need of biostatisticians to conduct research. A career in statistics earns a an annual wage between $44,000 and $130,000, with the median annual salary of $80,000. It is important to remember that length of career, education and industry all affect the salary available. Currently the federal government on average pays the highest for statisticians, followed by research and development.
5. Environmental Scientists and Specialists
An Environmental Scientist protects human health and the environment through their understanding of the natural sciences and public health. They will collect and analyze data, develop plans to prevent, control or fix environmental problems, advise government officials, business and the public, and report on their findings. An Environmental Scientist must have analytical, communication and problem-solving skills. A bachelor's degree in environmental sciences is often enough for entry-level positions, however a masters may be needed for career advancement.
Employment of Environmental Scientists is expected to grow over the next ten years by 11%. This is in part due to the heightened awareness of pollution, tighter environmental regulations on business, and environmental hazards. Consulting services and state governments employ the most Environmental Scientists, followed by local governments. The Federal Government, however pays the highest on average (approximately $97,000 annually). The median annual salary for Environmental Scientists is $66,000.
(* all data is taken from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics website (www.bls.gov)