What Can You Do With a Public Health Degree?

Professionals working in the public health vertical have a variety of options, depending on their education level. From working in 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 what you can do with a public health degree by education level and specialty. The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is an excellent way for aspiring public health professionals to prepare themselves with knowledge specific to the field.

There are online MPH programs available for those with a bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field. For those who are employed and intend to balance work and education, this is an excellent option.

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What Can You Do With a Bachelors in Public Health?

A bachelor’s in public health (BPH), is the most basic degree level for new college students and returning professionals. This option requires students to enroll in and complete general education such as English, mathematics and history, as well as specific courses related to public health, including: environmental health, human disease, healthcare delivery and principles of public health. 

Continue to read to know what you can do with a bachelor’s 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 help improve public health education programs. Job responsibilities may include conducting site reviews, tracking data and managing input, responding to questions or concerns about public health programs, generating documents and site reports, and coordinating public health programs.

Public Health Administrator

Public health administrators plan and implement disease prevention programs and public services. They may also ensure the quality of these programs meet 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 health-related questions. Typically, research specialists will work in a specific domain of public health, such as testing for specific diseases or illnesses. Recruiting research participants, conducting part of research studies, and analyzing data may be some responsibilities of professionals in this field.

Prevention Specialist

Prevention specialists may focus on preventive services for the community or another designated section of society. Responsibilities include planning preventative services and programs, communicating with the public about these programs, and evaluating program efficiency.

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What Can You Do With a Masters in Public Health?

The most common public health degree is the Master of Public Health (MPH). It can provide students with the opportunity to become well-rounded in public health and develop a specialization. This program is best complemented by those with a degree or work experience in health care. Some bachelor’s-level degree programs that can precede the MPH include those focusing on nursing, biology, sociology, social work and psychology.

Continue to read to know what you can do with a master’s in public health:

Public Health Educator

Educators in public health may focus on different aspects of public health, such as nutrition, exercise, drug use, and chronic disease. Educators may promote their programs through advertising, public outreach, and through schools in the community.

Public Health Epidemiologist

In this position, professionals may help collect and analyze data associated with disease, illness and injury within designated areas. Epidemiologists may also 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 to create effective treatment and prevention services for the public.

Public Health Consultant

Public health consultants ensure that public health programs are providing the right level of services to the community. This can be achieved by 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 provide educational information to the public to improve overall health and wellness. However, the primary focus in this career path is developing and improving public health education programs. This can involve researching effective public health education programs, biostatistical data  and  health education programs in need of change.

Clinical Research Coordinator

Research is a major part of what makes public health useful for society. Clinical research coordinators collect volunteers and obtain their  consent for public health studies. They assist in the research, analysis and delivery of results to proper agencies.

What Can You Do With a Doctorate in Public Health?

The Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree can prepare you to work as a leader in fields 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 in these programs may focus on some of the indirect aspects of public health, such as communication, advanced leadership, community relations and evidence-based practice.

Continue to read to know what you can do with a doctorate in public health:

Assistant Professor

Since the PhD is a 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 teach students who are seeking careers in the field. Job duties may include curriculum planning, implementation, grading, and mentoring.

Prevention Expert

This research-oriented career path involves using expertise to create and implement helpful prevention programs. Communities with a lot of disease or illness may call on prevention specialists to provide insight into helpful prevention programs. These professionals may be employed by local public health organizations or work as consultants. They may analyze the community’s biostatistical data to understand the prevalence of the ailment and connect citizens with the right services.

Program Manager

Duties of program managers may include planning and implementing public health programs in specific areas, hiring and training staff, and financial management of relevant programs under their supervision. Some program managers ensure their programs comply with public health regulations, and promote improvements when needed. If you work in this field, you may be expected to take on a primary leadership role in your organization to provide high quality public health services.

Clinical Services Coordinator

The primary role of the clinical services coordinator is overseeing the delivery of administrative services in public health organizations. These professionals may also develop and implement helpful and easily accessible community public health programs and prevention services. Management duties may play a large role in this career field.

Research Director

Higher up on the tier of expertise in research, research directors may oversee research studies, data collection, and the delivery of reports. Directors typically report their findings to higher tier professionals in 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

Medical and health service managers plan, lead and change health care facilities. These professionals may manage staff in a specific area of a medical center, or have leadership responsibilities for an entire hospital. Duties include financial planning, purchasing, hiring/training new employees, scheduling, and improving service delivery.

Medical Scientists

The medical scientist helps the public understand human health and the factors that can affect it. This field is research-driven and involves examining medicines, treatments and environmental factors that can improve human health. Professionals who work in medical science may help develop and implement clinical trials and experiments to discover methods to improve public health.

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

There are countless specialties within the public health field, along with numerous job roles and responsibilities.

Below, you can learn more about career options in various public health specialties.

Community And Population Health

Community and population health is a field of public health concentrating 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.

Recommended Degrees: Master’s in Public Health, Online MPH, Doctorate in Public Health

1. Community Health Workers

Community health workers work with the community on various health-related issues.  They conduct outreach, help residents with health system navigation, and focus on addressing any health barriers within the community. For example, a community health worker may interview people diagnosed with tuberculosis to determine how they contracted this illness and provide them with resources needed to manage the illness.

2. Health Educator

Health educators inform people how to stay healthy. These professionals create educational programs for different age groups, advertise their programs through various schools and public health agencies, and instruct and mentor people about avoiding illnesses, and about good nutrition and personal health habits.

Read the Step-by-Step Guide on How to become a Health Educator.

Public Health And Safety

This is a diverse field that includes many aspects, including 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 who want to improve public health are a great fit for this field.

Recommended Degrees:   Online MPH, Master of Occupational Health 

1. Occupational Health and Safety Specialists

These professionals 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 comply with national standards. A formal report is then filed with the employer in the event that changes are needed to promote a safe environment for those who come in contact with the workplace.

2. Emergency Management Directors

Emergency management directors plan for detrimental events that pose a risk to public health. Directors often lead teams of planners who help communities react in the event of emergencies such as  natural disasters, mass illness or terrorist attacks. These professionals may work for local community health agencies or local governments.

Read the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Occupational Health and Safety Specialist.

Health Administration

Health administration is a sector of public health centered on health policy, health economics, management, quality improvement, leadership, and finance. The main roles in this field are in management and running hospitals or other health care businesses.

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1. Social and Community Service Managers

Managers in this field may lead organizations that provide services to the 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

Medical and health services managers in the healthcare field may be responsible for finances, human resources and recordkeeping. The goal is to maintain normal operations within medical facilities, working  alongside upper management and dealing with employees and patients. Since most health and medical facilities require a large staff, professionals in this field are increasingly important to smooth operations.

Read the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become a Healthcare Administrator.

Public Health Policy And Relations

Public health policy and relations focuses on government and legal policies, and communicates the need for public health services to local, state and national stakeholders.

Recommended Degrees: Master’s in Public Policy

1. Public Health Relations

Communicating with the public is an important aspect of public health. To connect with members of society, public health organizations and government departments focusing on public health awareness may employ public relations specialists. These specialists develop outreach programs for the public, communicate the need for individual public health awareness, and connect people 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

To be an effective public health professional, students must understand the wide variety of services available for the public. Even though health and human services is a broader specialization, its main focus is to help people through prevention and remediation to improve their quality of life.

Recommended Degrees:  Master’s in Health Administration, Master’s in Social Work

1. Health Care Social Workers

Social and human service assistants work with other health care professionals, such as social workers, to provide client services, including support for families, psychology services, rehabilitation, and social work. They help clients find community services that assist with daily living activities, such as eating and bathing, and 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

Mental health and substance abuse social workers work with the public to ensure patients suffering from these disorders receive proper 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 they can become contributing members of society. These professionals can provide emotional support and referral and developmental services to people at rehabilitation centers or in the general public.

Environmental Health

Environment is a key factor in public health. Public health professionals have realized the importance of studying the environment’s effects on the public to provide helpful programs and policies.

Recommended Degrees:  Environmental Health Degrees, Occupational Health Degrees

1. Environmental Scientists and Specialists

Environmental scientists and specialists learn many aspects of natural science and public health during their degree program. These professionals can apply that knowledge to prevention programs and public planning focused on protecting the public. Pollution, natural disasters, workplace hazards, and other environmental threats to human health are important topics to workers in this field. Specialists in environmental science can work with businesses, public health agencies, or the government to provide safe living and working environments for the public.

2. Agriculture and Food Scientists

Agriculture and food scientists investigate the safety and efficiency of crops and foods provided to the public to prevent health problems. Professionals in this field may be employed by food-producing agencies, local public health organizations, or local governments.

Read the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Environmental Health Specialist.

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.

Recommended Degrees:  Master’s in Health Informatics, Online Master’s in Health Informatics

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1. Health Informatics Systems Managers

In public health agencies, medical centers and hospitals, computer or IT systems managers create, maintain, and repair computer systems housing public health data. These professionals have expertise in computer information systems and public health. 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 store and analyze public health information.

2. Medical Records and Health Information Technicians

Public health organizations that use technology to store information require the expertise of health information technicians. These professionals ensure that patient information is accurate, accessible and secure 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. Medical record and health information technicians can also specialize in this field, for example as a cancer registrar.

Read the Guide on Health Informatics Careers and Jobs.

Biostatistics

Biostatistics involves the study and research of illnesses and diseases within populations. Some of the main components of this degree program involve properly collecting, analyzing and reporting biological statistics to improve public health.

Recommended Degrees: Biostatistics Degrees

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1. Biostatisticians

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 where change is needed. The purpose of this field is to identify areas in the community that need improvement due to a lot of illnesses, injuries or diseases. Biostaticians can have a profound impact on public health.

Read the Guide on How to Become a Biostatistician.

Epidemiology

This section of public health involves a deeper look into prominent illnesses, injuries and diseases. Epidemiologists study diseases and associated risk factors in a population. Epidemiological studies are the foundation for preventing and controlling disease, and a crucial building block in health and medicine.

Recommended Degrees: Epidemiology Degrees

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1. Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists discover more about the diseases and illnesses in their area of research. Starting from the beginning, these professionals look at the biological development and transmission of diseases 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 the mass spread of illness. Epidemiologists can work for private research companies, medical facilities, or in government.

Read the Step-by-Step Guide on How to Become an Epidemiologist

What Jobs Outside of Public Health Can You Do with a Public Health Degree?

Graduates of BPH or MPH programs can develop skills that are applicable beyond public health. Through coursework, research and internships, they learn to communicate effectively, analyze data, formulate policy, solve problems, conduct research and lead others. These skills can be beneficial in many industries where knowledge of public health can be an asset. Here are some jobs outside of public health where a public health degree might be valuable.  

Medical Writer

Writers with public health expertise and the ability to translate complex subjects into simpler language can become medical writers, writing research documents, journal abstracts, health care web content, news articles, marketing materials and more. Medical writers may work in pharmaceutical companies, health care communication organizations or media companies.

Survey Researcher

Survey researchers design surveys and analyze the data gathered from those surveys. They can design surveys covering many topics — including health — and may develop surveys through interviews, focus groups or questionnaires. Many survey research positions require a master’s degree or PhD, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A public health degree could be beneficial in this position. 

Health Care Compliance Officer

As health care laws and regulations grow more complex, hospitals, practices and other health care companies may benefit from the expertise of compliance officers. Health care compliance officers ensure their organization follows federal and state rules governing issues such as patient data privacy. Duties include developing a compliance plan, training employees on regulations, monitoring for and correcting non-compliance, and conducting risk assessments. 

Medical Librarian

These specialized librarians, also called health science librarians, work in various settings, from universities to pharmaceutical companies. They help researchers, medical professionals and consumers find accurate information on topics such as new clinical trials or medical treatments. Medical librarian duties may also include managing websites, digital libraries and IT systems. Librarians typically need a master’s degree in library science, but the BLS notes that speciality librarians — such as medical librarians — supplement their education with specialty knowledge in their field. It could be helpful to bring a public health educational background to this position.

Healthcare Public Relations or Fundraising Manager

Public relations managers direct activities and create materials that improve the public image of their clients. As a public relations manager, you may coordinate press releases and interviews through the media. Fundraising managers facilitate campaigns to raise money for their organizations. Typical duties include developing fundraising strategies and meeting with donors. A public health degree could be beneficial to someone pursuing a public relations or fundraising manager career within a health care organization. 

Political Scientist

Political scientists study political systems. They may research political ideas, evaluate laws and policies, analyze data from surveys, or publish research articles about pertinent topics. A background in public health might prepare you for a career as a political scientist with a focus on health policy and research. Most political scientists need a master’s degree or PhD, the BLS reports.

The above career opportunities are only a small segment of roles 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.

FAQs on What You Can Do with A Public Health Degree

FAQ: What are the most in-demand jobs I can do with a public health degree?

In our guide to the highest paying public health jobs, community health workers, medical and health services managers, health care social workers, mental health and substance abuse social workers, and behavioral disorder and mental health counselors are all projected to have over 12% job growth from 2019 to 2029, which is higher than average for the United States.

FAQ: What can you do with an MPH?

The jobs you can do with a master’s in public health may include public health educator, epidemiologist, public health consultant and health promotion specialist. You can also consider roles that require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in public health, such as community health specialist or public health administrator.

FAQ: What are the best careers for those with a public health degree?

A good career may depend on many factors. Compare the job descriptions with your interests and strengths. Also look at the growth projections and potential career paths of the jobs that fit your career goals.

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Earn your degree in as few as 20 months
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Earn your degree in as few as 21 months
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MPH/Registered Dietitian Programs

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

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42 credits • GRE not required • Live Classes

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