What Can You Do With a Public Health Degree?

Professionals working within the public health vertical have a variety of responsibilities, dependent on their education level. From working within small communities or towns to advancing global public health and wellness to teaching public health courses at a college, the opportunities are vast.

Our guide walks through the top public health degrees and what you can do with a public health degree by education level and by specialty of field. Keep in mind the following: in many cases (not all), the MPH degree is quickly becoming the most popular degree in public health companies are looking for.

There are online MPH programs available for those with a Bachelor's degree in Public Health or a related field that might be employed currently - this is an excellent option.

Options for a Public Health Degree

BPH

BPH DegreeThe Bachelors in Public Health, or BPH, is the most basic degree level for new college students and returning professionals. This option requires students to enroll in and complete courses that cater to the need for general education such as English, Mathematics, and History, as well as specific courses related to public health, including:

  • Environmental Health
  • Human Disease
  • Healthcare Delivery
  • Principles of Public Health

MPH

MPH DegreeThe most common form of public health degree is the Master of Public Health. It can provide students with the opportunity to become well-rounded in public health and develop a specialization within. This program is best complemented by those with a degree or work experience in healthcare. Some bachelor's level degree programs that can precede the MPH include those focusing on:

  • Nursing
  • Biology
  • Sociology
  • Social Work
  • Psychology

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DPH

DPH DegreeThe Doctor of Public Health degree (DPH) can prepare you to find careers working as a leader in fields that are relevant to public health. The goal of the DPH program is to train students to become effective decision makers, interdisciplinary experts, and knowledgeable advocates for general public health. Since leadership is a core component of DPH programs, students within these programs may focus on some of the indirect aspects of public health, such as:

  • Communication
  • Advanced Leadership
  • Community Relations
  • Evidence-Based Practice

What Can You Do With a Bachelors in Public Health?

Community Health Specialist

In this career field, specialists are needed to manage different specified illnesses and their exposure. These specialists work closely with epidemiologists and disease specialists to conduct investigations and provide site management in the case of exposures.

Quality Improvement Coordinator

These professionals work in coordination with public health education programs to assist with the improvement in the efficiency of the programs. As part of the job responsibilities, professionals may conduct site reviews, track data and manage input, respond to questions or concerns surrounding public health programs, generate documents and site reports, and coordinate public health programs entirely.

Public Health Administrator

As a Public Health Administrator, professionals may be responsible for the planning and implementation of disease prevention programs and public services. They may also ensure that the quality of these programs is up to par in accordance to national recommendations and make changes or improvements if necessary. As a primary component of this career field, professionals may work as a connecting source between local prevention agencies and policies regarding public health programming.

Research Assistant

Research Assistants in public health can work for laboratories, colleges, or research agencies to help find answers to huge health-related questions. Typically, research specialists will work within a specific domain of public health, such as testing for specific diseases or illnesses. Recruiting research participants, conducting part of the research study, and the analysis of data may be some responsibilities of professionals in this field.

Prevention Specialist

Prevention Specialists may focus primarily on preventative services for the community or another designated section of society. The responsibilities within this field include the planning of preventative services and programs, communication with the public regarding these programs, and the evaluation of program efficiency on a regular basis.

What Can You Do With a Masters in Public Health?

Public Health Educator

Educators in the realm of public health may be responsible for focusing on different aspects of public health, such as nutrition, exercise, drug-use, and chronic disease. Educators may also promote their programs through advertising, public outreach, and through schools within the community.

Public Health Epidemiologist

In this position, professionals may assist with collecting and analyzing data associated with disease, illness, and injury within designated areas. Epidemiologists may also be expected to create and maintain reports on their findings and deliver them to the appropriate source for data reporting. One of the primary goals of this field is to better understand the statistics surrounding public health in order to create effective treatment and prevention services for the public.

Public Health Consultant

As a Public Health Consultant, you can work to ensure that public health programs are providing the right level of services to the community. This can be achieved through evaluating an organization's public health programs, treatment process, medicinal storage, and handling of materials. Consultants typically provide an analysis of their evaluation to the agency in which they are employed in order to recommend changes and improvements.

Health Promotion Specialist

Health Promotion Specialists are similar to Public Health Educators in that they focus on providing educational information to the public in an effort to better their overall health and wellness. However, the primary focus in this career path is the development and improvement of public health education programs over the course of their existence. This can involve deep research into effective public health education programs, review of current biostatistical data concerning the specified area, and the review of current health education programs in need of change.

Clinical Research Coordinator

Research is a huge part of what makes public health a useful tool for society. If you choose to work in a position such as this one, you could be a primary player in collecting volunteers for studies, receiving all necessary consent paperwork prior to studies, assisting during the research process, and the analysis and delivery of results to proper agencies.

What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Public Health?

Assistant Professor

Since the Ph.D. is a highly research-oriented degree program, graduates can make great additions to the field of education. Professionals at this level can work for colleges or universities that offer programs in Public Health, such as Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Policy Development, Community Health Education, and Public Health Law and Ethics. As an Assistant Professor, you can deliver your knowledge to students that are seeking careers within the same field. Job duties may include curriculum planning, implementation, grading, and mentoring.

Prevention Expert

This research-oriented career path involves the use of expertise in the creation and implementation of helpful prevention programs. Communities that have a high number of disease or illness cases may call upon the expertise of prevention specialists to provide insight into helpful prevention programs. These professionals may be employed by local public health organizations or work in consultation. They may analyze the community's biostatistical data in an effort to understand the prominence of the ailment and provide information on how to connect citizens with the right services.

Program Manager

Program Managers may have job duties including the planning and implementation of public health programs in specific areas, the hiring and training of staff, and financial management of relevant programs under their supervision. Some Program Managers ensure that their programs are functioning in accordance to public health regulations, and promote improvement when needed. If you choose to work in this field, you may be expected to take on a primary leadership role within your organization in an effort to provide high quality public health services.

Clinical Services Coordinator

The primary role of the Clinical Services Coordinator is providing oversight during the delivery of administrative services in public health organizations. These professionals may also be responsible for developing and implementing helpful community public health programs and prevention services that are easily accessible by citizens. Management-related duties may also be a large component within this career field.

Research Director

Higher up on the tier of expertise in research, Research Directors may be responsible for overseeing research studies, data collection, and the delivery of reports. Directors typically report their findings to higher tier professionals within their research organizations, such as chief financial officers. These professionals may oversee a staff of researchers through standard recruiting requirements, study processes, and information delivery.

Healthcare Service Managers

The role of the Medical and Health Service Manager includes planning, leadership, and change throughout healthcare facilities. These professionals may be responsible for managing staff within a specific area of a medical center, or have leadership responsibilities for an entire hospital. There are several duties associated with this career role, including financial planning, purchases, hiring/training new employees, scheduling, and improving service delivery.

Medical Scientists

The Medical Scientist may play a huge part in the public's understanding of human health and the factors that can affect it. This field is primary research-driven and involves a look into medicines, treatments, and environmental factors that can work to improve human health. Professionals that work in medical science may be involved in developing and implementing clinical trials and other experimentation in an effort to discover more helpful methods for improving public health.

What Can You Do With a Public Health Degree by Specialty/Field?

There are countless specialties within the public health field that you can work in, along with numerous job roles and responsibilities.

Below, you can learn more about different career options within the various public health specialties.

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Community and Population Health

Community and Population Health is a field of public health that focuses on the greater need for public health services. It focuses on the need for widespread education and intervention in health care delivery services, public health education, and research.

Career Options

1. Community Health Workers

Recommended Degree: Generalist / MPH
$39,540/yr

on average (BLS)

What Do Community Health Workers Do?
Community Health Workers are responsible for working with the community on various health-related issues. For example, a community health worker may interview members of the community that have been diagnosed with Tuberculosis to determine what lead to their acquisition of this illness. This information can contribute to the creation of helpful prevention programs and site diagnoses for other non-affected members of society.

2. Health Educator

Recommended Degree: MPH in Public Health Education / DPH
$54,220/yr

on average (BLS)
What Does a Health Educator Do?
The goal of Health Educators is to connect the public with information and education about staying healthy. These professionals work hard to create educational programs for different age groups, advertise their programs through various schools and public health agencies, and instruct and mentor interested learners about the different methods for avoiding illnesses, nutrition, and personal health.

Public Health and Safety

This is a diverse field that includes many different aspects including the safety in the workplace, schools, and in public. Students may take courses such as Occupational Safety, Emergency Management, Environmental Health, Global Health, and Public Health Risk Assessment. Those that have the desire to contribute to the better health of society are a great fit for this field.

Career Options

1. Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

Recommended Degree: Online MPH
$73,020/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Health and Safety Specialists Do?
In a day's work, these professionals are employed to investigate and report on the conditions of working environments. Specialists in this field will typically inspect a workplace to ensure that their conditions, disposal of waste, and employee scheduling are all on track with what is required by national standards. A formal report is then filed with the employer in the event that changes are needed in order to promote a safe environment for those that come in contact with the workplace.

2. Emergency Management Directors

Recommended Degree: Online MPH
$74,420/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Directors of Emergency Management Do?
Emergency Management Directors are the main source of planning for detrimental events that pose a risk to public health. Directors often lead teams of planners that can help assist communities with reacting when serious circumstances such as natural disasters, mass illness, or terrorist attacks occur. These professionals may work for local community health agencies or local government.

Health Administration

Health Administration is a sector of public health that is centered around health policy, health economics, management, quality improvement, leadership, and finance. The main roles within this field revolve around opportunities in management and running hospitals or other healthcare related businesses.

Career Options

1. Social and Community Service Managers

$65,320/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Community Service Managers Do?
Managers within this field may be responsible for providing leadership in organizations that provide services to the general public. This can include local health and wellness departments, local government organizations, or with public-funded programs that improve the health of citizens. Some of the job responsibilities may include planning and implementing helpful programs, leading a team of professionals, and financial planning for the specified organization.

2. Hospital / Health Administration Managers

$99,730/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Healthcare Administrators Do?
Medical and Health Services Managers in the health care field may be tasked with upkeep in regards to finances, human resources, and recordkeeping. The goal of this field is to maintain normal operations within medical facilities and work alongside upper management in the maintenance of high numbers of employees and patients. Since most health and medical facilities require a large staff, professionals within this field are increasingly important to smooth operations.

Public Health Policy and Relations

Public Health Policy and Relations is a field of public health that focuses on the various forms of government policies, legal policies, and communicate the greater need for public health services to local, state, and national stakeholders.

Career Options

1. Public Health Relations

Recommended Degree: Public Health Policy Degree
$58,020/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Public Relations Specialists Do?
One important aspect of public health is communication with the population. In order to fully connect with members of society, public health organizations and government departments focusing on public health awareness may employ the expertise of Public Relations Specialists. Specialists in this field can help to develop helpful outreach programs for the public, communicate the need for individual public health awareness, and connect members of society with different sectors of public health. These professionals may work for local health departments, government agencies, or even in public health marketing and advertising.

Health and Human Services

In order to be an effective public health professional, students must understand the wide variety of services available for the public. Even though Health & Human Services is a broader specialization, it’s main focus is to help humans through prevention and remediation to improve their quality of life.

Career Options

1. Healthcare Social Workers

$33,750/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Social and Human Services Assistants Do?
Social and human service assistants work with other healthcare professions, such as social workers, to provide client services, including support for families, psychology services, rehabilitation, and social work. They help clients find local community services that assist with daily living activities, such as eating and bathing, Research services, such as food stamps and Medicaid, that are available for the client and even develop treatment plans.

2. Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers

Recommended Degree: Masters in Social Work
$44,630/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Mental Health / Substance Abuse Counselors Do?
Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers work with the public to ensure patients suffering from these disorders receive proper initial and follow-up care throughout their treatment plan. In terms of public health, it is vital that people suffering from illness and disorders receive the right support so that they can become contributing members of society. These professionals can provide emotional support, referral services, and developmental services to people at rehabilitation centers or in the general public.

Environmental Health

One of the most important factors surrounding public health is the environment. Public health professionals have realized the importance of studying the environment's effects of the public in an effort to provide helpful programs and policies that are useful over time.

Career Options

1. Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Recommended Degree: Environmental Health Degrees
$71,130/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Environmental Health Specialists Do?
Environmental Scientists and Specialists learn many different aspects of both natural science and public health during the course of their degree program. Through this learning, these professionals can then apply their knowledge to helpful prevention programs and public planning focused on protecting the public. Pollution, natural disasters, workplace hazards, and other specific environmental threats to human health are topics that are of extreme importance to workers within this field. Specialists in environmental science can work with businesses, public health agencies, or the government in providing safe living and working environments for the general public.

2. Agriculture and Food Scientists

Recommended Degree: Occupational Health Degrees
$64,020/yr

on average (BLS)
What Food & Agriculture Scientists Do?
In another aspect of public health, the food that people eat and the processes for growing foods must be under scrutiny by environmental science professionals at all times. Agriculture and Food Scientists investigate the safety and efficiency of crops and foods provided to the public in an effort to prevent health-related issues from consumption. Professionals within this field may be employed by food-producing agencies, local public health organizations, or local governments.

Public Health Informatics

The rise in the use of technology for public health research has been inviting for students interested in these degree programs. Public Health Informatics is a fascinating field that can prepare students for data analysis of public health information, using technology for public health education and research, and surveying public health data through the use of computer systems. Those in health informatics also develop, organize and manage systems that handle patient records and health information systems.

Career Options

1. Health Informatics Systems Managers

$142,530/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Healthcare Informatics Managers Do?
In public health agencies, medical centers, and hospitals, Computer or IT Systems Managers are responsible for the upkeep, creation, and repair of computer systems housing public health data. These professionals have a strong blend of computer information systems knowledge as well as the expertise in public health needed to be a proactive member of this field. Computer and IT Managers may lead a team of experts to ensure that all computer systems are up to date with antivirus software, provide troubleshooting in the event of errors, and create innovative programs that help with the storage and analysis of public health information.

2. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Recommended Degree: Masters in Health Informatics
$40,350/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Medical Records and Health Information Technicians Do?
Public health organizations that use technology to store their information require the expertise of health information technicians. These professionals ensure that patient information maintains its quality, accuracy, accessibility, and security in both paper files and electronic systems. They track patient outcomes for quality assessment, use classification software to assign appropriate diagnosis and procedure codes for patient care, population health statistics, and billing purposes. Medical record and health information technicians can also specialize within this field, for example as a cancer registrar.

Biostatistics

Biostatistics involves the study and research into the prevalence of illnesses and diseases within populations. Some of the main components of this degree program revolve around the need for proper collection, analysis, and reporting of biological statistics for public health improvement.

Career Options

1. Biostatisticians

Recommended Degree: Biostatistics Degree
$79,370/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Biostatisticians Do?
Professionals in biostatistics are primarily concerned with population statistics related to public health. These professionals may organize the collection of health-related data, analyze the results, and promote planning and development in areas that show a need for change. The purpose of this field is to identify areas within the community that need improvement, due to a large number of illnesses, injuries, or diseases. The contribution this field provides towards the improvement of population health is profound to community health.

Epidemiology

This section of public health involves a deeper look into the illnesses, injuries, and diseases that are prominent in society. The key component of an epidemiologist’s job is to study diseases and their associated risk factors in a population. Epidemiological studies are the foundation of prevention and control of disease, and are a crucial building block in the field of health and medicine.

Career Options

1. Epidemiologists

Recommended Degree: Epidemiology Degree
$69,660/yr

on average (BLS)
What Do Epidemiologists Do?
The purpose of the epidemiologists is to discover more about the diseases and illnesses that are present within their area of research. Starting from the very beginning, these professionals look at the biological development and transmission of different diseases in order to learn more about their lifespan. By developing this better understanding, professionals in epidemiology can provide important insight into how to care for and prevent mass spread of illness. Epidemiologists can work for private research companies, medical facilities, or even in government positions.

The above listing of career opportunities is only a small segment of roles and opportunities for those interested in the public health field. For other career possibilities in the area of public health, please head to our Public Health Career Guide.

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