Public Health Jobs: Explore 10 Careers To Pursue
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- Public health careers include biostatistics, engineering, and education.
- All public health professionals work towards improving the health of their communities.
- Public health careers can offer competitive salaries and high demand.
- Job-seekers can find public health careers on government job sites and popular job search sites.
The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of public health in the United States. Several public health crises and the growing aging population highlight the need for public health and public health workers.
Public health encompasses careers from education to law with the overall goal to improve the health of a population. Although the demands and work environment may change depending on their careers, all public health workers, from entry-level positions to executive roles, aim to better the lives of people in their community and beyond.
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How to Enter the Public Health Field
With so many job options in public health, the path to a career in public health depends on your professional goals and interests. Typically, public health jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. You can complete a bachelor’s in public health or find a more specialized degree program.
Through your degree program, you may have the chance to apply for internships. Internships are a great way to get real-life experience in your field while networking with future employers. If you do not gain employment through an internship, you can contact your college's career services department for job listings and search tips.
Depending on your career, you may need to complete a master’s in public health or even a doctorate in public health. Even if an advanced degree is not a requirement, you may find completing a graduate program makes you more competitive when applying for jobs.
You may also need to complete certificates or licenses along with a degree program. Some public health careers require licensure, while others offer optional license opportunities. While studying or employed, you can seek out public health associations for certificates and continuing education courses.
10 Types of Public Health Jobs
Public Health Program Manager
- Median Salary: $101,340
- Job Outlook: 32%
- Licenses/Certifications: Typically, public health program managers need to obtain a minimum of a bachelor's degree, although many employers seek people with master's degrees.
Public health program managers work at federal, state, or local agencies; nongovernmental organizations, hospitals, or public health clinics. These professionals organize and oversee public health programs and projects. Tasks may include developing and implementing public health services or campaigns, like free vaccination clinics or anti-smoking campaigns. Public health program managers must have strong organization, collaboration, and leadership skills.
Health Education Specialist
- Median Salary: $60,600
- Job Outlook: 17%
- Licenses/Certifications: Although licensure and certification is not required, many employers encourage professionals to earn certification as a certified health education specialist through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing.
Hospitals, nonprofits, and government agencies employ health education specialists. These professionals help improve the health and well-being of people and communities. They assess public health needs, collect data, and develop and provide training programs. Health education specialists also promote health reform and connect people to local health resources.
Occupational Health Specialist
- Median Salary: $74,870
- Job Outlook: 7%
- Licenses/Certifications: A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement. Occupational health specialists can pursue voluntary certifications, which require continuing education.
With a goal of workplace safety, occupational health specialists inspect work environments and evaluate work practices to ensure worker safety. As an occupational health specialist, you will inspect and test workplaces, equipment, and procedures to maintain worker safety. You may lead training on safety procedures and proper handling of equipment.
Public Health Consultant
- Average Salary: $80,140 as of August 2022
- Licenses/Certifications: Beyond a bachelor's degree, public health consultants aren't required to have specific certifications or licenses. But, most professionals have graduate-level education and significant experience in the field. Various certifications are available for specialization or continuing education opportunities.
Public healthcare consultants may work on a contract basis. Contractual work gives you a flexible schedule and the freedom to choose projects you work on. Public health consultants work with public health agencies, healthcare organizations, healthcare-focused nonprofits, and government agencies to create programs and policies to address communities’ public health issues.
- Median Salary: $78,830
- Job Outlook: 30%
- Licenses/Certifications: Epidemiologists must complete a master's degree. Certification is not required, but those interested can obtain certification through the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology.
Epidemiologists are public health workers who investigate patterns and causes of disease and injury. They seek to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes through research, community education and health policy. For instance, an epidemiologist may study groups of people to understand who is at higher risk of developing a disease.
Many epidemiologists specialize in areas like:
- Emergency response and public health preparedness
- Environmental health
- Infectious diseases
- Maternal and child health
Public Health Attorney
- Median Salary: $127,990
- Job Outlook: 9%
- Licenses/Certifications: After completing a law degree, public health attorneys must also pass the Bar Exam to earn licensure in their state. Most states require lawyers to complete continuing education credits to stay licensed.
A public health attorney typically takes clients from government agencies, groups, or people working in the public health field. As legal experts, public health attorneys may represent their clients in lawsuits or help them navigate their legal rights. For example, they may help agencies navigate the law while drafting policies.
Public health attorneys can choose a specialty, including:
- Environmental law
- Insurance coverage
- Health policy
Health and Safety Engineer
- Median Salary: $99,040
- Job Outlook: 6%
- Licenses/Certifications: Professionals need a bachelor's degree in engineering or environmental health and safety. Entry-level health and safety engineer positions do not always require a license. Yet, many advanced positions require a professional engineering license. Licensing requirements vary by state, including continuing education requirements.
The main goal for health and safety engineers is to ensure people avoid injury and illness. Health and safety engineers design and develop procedures following health and safety regulations and policies. This can vary from food inspection safety to chemical hazards used in facilities.
Areas of focus include:
- Fire prevention engineers
- Product safety engineers
- Systems safety engineers
- Median Salary: $96,280
- Job Outlook: 33%
- Licenses/Certifications: Although you do not need any specific licenses or certifications to become a biostatistician, you may need certain certifications if you pursue a specialty.
Biostatisticians apply statistics and mathematics to biology to answer questions about human health. Biostatisticians collect and analyze data and form deductions based on their data summaries. They use these summaries to help determine the best course of action to solve public health issues.
Health and Wellness Manager
- Average Salary: $65,800 as of August 2022
- Licenses/Certifications: (List any required licensing or certifications needed for this career. Remove if not applicable)
Companies hire health and wellness program managers to design and implement programs that improve the health and well-being of their employees. Likewise, nonprofits or government agencies may hire health and wellness program managers to create community programs and initiatives to positively impact the health of community members.
Focus areas may include:
- Mental health
Public Health Veterinarian
- Median Salary: $100,370
- Job Outlook: 17%
- Licenses/Certifications: Licensure requirements for public health veterinarians vary by state, but every state requires their veterinarians to be licensed. Certifications are available for those seeking continuing education credits or who want to specialize.
Public health veterinarians keep people from getting exposed to diseases caused by animals. They also work to control diseases spreading between animals or from animals to humans. This work includes live animal and meat inspections and conducting or supervising inspections to ensure federal food and animal policies are followed.
Public Health Salary
The highest paying careers in public health are administrative or highly technical roles. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), medical and health services managers earn a median annual salary of $101,340 and health and safety engineers make a median annual salary of $99,040. Public health education roles earn the lowest salaries. Community health workers earn a median salary of $48,860 annually.
Along with experience, completing advanced degrees, seeking voluntary licensure, and earning certificates can help advance your career and increase your overall public health salary.
How to Find Public Health Jobs
Landing a job after college, especially in your chosen profession, requires effort and persistence. Luckily, you can tackle your job hunt from the comfort of your own home. Along with scouring the best job search sites, you may even be able to attend virtual career fairs.
If you feel overwhelmed, start with your college's career services department. Even if you completed your degree online, you might have access to a remote career services department. These programs can help you refine your resume, make connections, and understand job benefits.
Many public health jobs are through government agencies and nonprofits. Begin your web search with local state government career pages and federal government job pages.
Professional Public Health Organizations
American Public Health Association
With 150 years of experience, APHA is an organization for all public health employees, regardless of speciality. APHA's goal is to improve public health through community and lobbying for policy change.
The American College of Epidemiology
A professional organization for epidemiologists, ACE organizes sponsorships, educational activities, and professional publications. Since 1979, ACE has created professional criteria for epidemiologists.
National Environmental Health Association
With more than 6,000 members, NEHA strives to create a healthy environment by providing educational opportunities and resources for environmental health and protection workers. Professionals can earn credentials in environmental health through NEHA.
Frequently Asked Questions About Public Health Jobs
What is the highest paid public health job?
Although your salary depends on many factors, including experience, education, and location, some public health jobs pay more than others. Careers that require an advanced degree or manage others tend to pay the highest. For instance, public health attorneys make a median annual salary of $127,990.
Administrative roles also earn high salaries. For instance, medical and health services managers make $101,340. Technical fields like engineering also earn higher salaries. Health and safety engineers make a median annual salary of $99,040.
What public health career is the most popular?
Public health is a career field with many potential job paths. Professionals can choose from many emerging public health careers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that biostatisticians will grow 33% between 2020-2030, which is much faster than average job growth.
Hospital administration is another growing public health profession. The BLS projects job growth to increase by 32% from 2020-2030, which is four times the average.
Can I go into public health with an online degree?
Earning your degree online can be a flexible, more affordable option for some students. Accredited online programs offer the same rigorous academics as their in-person degrees. You have multiple options when choosing an online degree program in public health.
Studying online is becoming more popular. The NCES estimates that about 75% of undergraduates took at least one online course in the fall of 2020, while 44% pursued distance learning options exclusively.
How much money can I make with a public health job?
Because public health jobs encompass many careers, from engineering to education, the money you can make with a public health job depends on your career path. Public health careers in management, engineering, and law can offer salaries near $100,000.
Public health careers in education tend to pay the lowest. Health educators and community health specialists earn some of the lowest public health salaries, with a median annual salary of $48,860.
What degree is best to go into public health?
Most careers in public health require at least a bachelor's degree, while advanced positions often require a master's degree. Prospective students can earn a bachelor's in public health or pursue a master's in public health. This may be a good option if you are unsure of your future public health career goals.
You can also seek more specific degrees related to public health. For instance, you can earn a health services administration degree if you are interested in pursuing managerial roles in public health or a health education and promotion degree if you plan on becoming a health educator.