Schools Offering Public Health Degrees
- Average Salary: $41,380
- Job Outlook: 24% (faster than average)
All stats from BLS.gov
Do you highly value the collective health of people? Would you like to work to improve it? If so, you should definitely consider a career in public health. Instead of working to address health on an individual level like physicians do, those who work in public health strive to improve the health of communities. They can work globally, nationally, or locally to address the largest health concerns for modern citizens. Public health is largely centered around prevention The goal of public health professionals being to identify and act on the root cause of a certain health issue so that education and other forms of prevention reduce the threat. The root cause of a health issue may be found in legislation, behavior, neighborhoods, etc.
For example, a public health professional might see that a lack of exercise and limited options for obtaining healthy food are driving the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States. After having identified these factors, a public health professional would work to intervene in particular communities by campaigning for after-school physical activities and healthy food street vendors.
There are a number of career options for public health professionals, depending on the type of work they would like to do. Public health professionals may work in your local health department or for a larger government organization like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Annual salaries for public health professionals are very wide-ranging, as job opportunities are very diverse. In most cases, salaries will depend on the specific industry a public health professional enters and the amount of schooling he or she has obtained. Although there are a wide range of public health jobs, the most prestigious jobs require a minimum of a Master in Public Health (MPH) or a Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH).
- Epidemiology: The goal of epidemiologists is to track diseases over time. If a disease occurs in greater numbers than usual, epidemiologists work to create some type of intervention that will get the disease under control. Epidemiologists do things like help develop medicine to deal with tropical diseases or vaccines for H1N1.
- Health Policy and Management: With health care reform at the forefront of issues in the United States, the field of health policy is incredibly important. Public health professionals in this field work to ensure that health care gets delivered fairly and in a way that we can afford.
- Nutrition: Countless deaths around the world could be prevented by ensuring that people receive adequate nutrition. Public health professionals in nutrition have this ultimate goal.
- Environmental Health: Arsenic poisoning from wells, hazardous chemicals released from oil spills, air pollution from heavy traffic in NYC; these and many more are issues addressed by public health professionals in environmental health.
- Biostatistics: Biostatisticians work to make sense of the numbers collected from public health research. They work to see if there are any significant trends that we should notice.
- Health Teachers: People interested in public health and working directly with children should consider becoming a health teacher. These educators will help the youth stay healthy, and will cover topics like sexual health, allergies, smoking (and how to quit), nutrition, skin care, and more.
- Bachelor's Degree: 4 years to complete
- Master's Degree: 2 to 2 1/2 years to complete
- Doctoral Degree: 5 years to complete
There are an infinite number of career possibilities in public health. To get to those, however, you must obtain the proper education. In public health, as in most other fields, the more schooling you receive, the more job opportunities you will have after you graduate. For your education experience to mean something to potential employers, however, your school must be accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health.
A bachelor's degree in public health is the minimum degree you should obtain if you hope to work in the field of public health. This degree will expose you to issues like global health and infectious diseases. While pursuing this degree, you might also be introduced to the history of public health, starting with the father of modern epidemiology, John Snow.
A graduate degree in public health, such as a master's degree, is something you should obtain if you hope to advance your career. While pursuing this degree, you should have exposure to epidemiology, health policy and management, biostatistics, environmental health, and nutrition, no matter what your focus. A master's degree in public health will take approximately two years to obtain and will require that you acquire some real-world experience in public health.
If you would like to reach the top of the public health educational ladder, you should consider pursuing your Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) or your Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). The former degree is generally obtained by those who would like to work as public health practitioners, while the latter degree is obtained by those who would like to remain in academia.
Although not required for obtaining work in public health, the Certified in Public Health (CPH) exam administered by the Association of Schools of Public Health allows you to prove your knowledge of the core elements of public health. The test is administered only one time each year.
The salaries for public health professionals are wide-ranging. For health educators in particular, the median annual wages in May 2008 were $44,000. Of those health educators surveyed, the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,260. If you earn an MPH or above, you will be on the higher degree of the earning spectrum. On the other hand, if you choose to stop at your bachelor's degree you might be earning about the same as the lowest 10 percent, or $26,210. (BLS)
Like salary, job outlook will depend on what position within public health that you seek. However, using healthcare educators as an example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts employment to grow by 18 percent from 2008 to 2018. Health educators are increasingly needed because of the rising cost of healthcare all over the world. People must learn how to live healthier and therefore, avoid costly illnesses down the road. (BLS)
If you would like to work with individuals rather than populations and are willing to devote extensive time to your education and training, you should consider becoming a physician. With this career, you will often have someone's life in your hands. If you aren't quite ready to take on the responsibility of a physician, you could also consider working as a physician assistant.
Work as a registered nurse, just as work as a public health professional, requires extreme compassion. A career as a registered nurse will allow you to make others comfortable while you are helping them to improve.
If you would like to be responsible for the effective functioning of a healthcare organization, you might consider work in healthcare management. This career is for those who possess strong leadership and decision-making skills and who believe that healthcare should be delivered fairly and widely. Healthcare management professionals work in public health departments in addition to a number of other facilities.