A Public Health Career has many diverse Pathways, offering a wide range of challenging opportunities for professionals from a variety of backgrounds. Public health practitioners are employed in both the public and private sectors through government agencies, universities, nonprofits, health care organizations and corporations. The issues addressed by a Public Health Career includes controlling infectious diseases, reducing environmental hazards, improving occupational safety, preparing for emergencies, educating the public about behavioral health and promoting equal access to health care.
Public Health Career
The Association of Schools and Programs for a Public Health Career describes several different graduate degree programs as relevant for Public Health Careers, including the MPH degree (Master of Public Health), MHA degree (Master of Health Administration) and the D.Ph. (Doctor of Public Health). These professional degrees are specialized for public health settings and satisfy the academic requirements for most public health careers. The Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH) and Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health (PhD) are academic degrees that generally prepare students for academic and research careers.
Public Health Careers
Individuals with a variety of interests, skills and professional backgrounds are suited for a Public Health Career job, including health care professionals, researchers, scientists, social workers, administrators, lawyers, environmentalists and teachers. The common denominator among all public health professionals is a desire to serve others and to improve the health of local, national and international communities.
The full spectrum of public health career pathways can be broadly grouped into the following five categories.
1. Health Policy
Careers in public health policy involve the legislative and regulatory side of public health. Some of the challenges addressed by policy planners include control of environmental hazards, the regulation of emerging scientific technology and health rights of the homeless, elderly and uninsured members of the population. Health policy job settings include regulatory agencies, advocacy groups, corporations, public and private foundations, consulting firms and think tanks. Either an MPH or MPP (Master of Public Policy) qualifies an individual for a career in health policy, but those with an MPH may have an edge since they will have a deeper grounding in the core disciplines of public health.
2. Biostatistics and Epidemiology
Biostatisticians and epidemiologists investigate the causes and treatment of disease and the patterns of disease transmission. Careers in this area seek to reduce the occurrence of disease through research, education and health policy. Most epidemiologists and biostatisticians are trained scientists with at least a master’s degree in public health or a related field. They are employed by federal government agencies such as the CDC, state and local health departments, private laboratories, research institutions, hospitals and universities.
3. Health Communication
A Career in Public health problems become increasingly complex, there is a growing need for communication and education specialists in schools, hospitals, advocacy organizations, legislative bodies, government health agencies and nonprofit health organizations. Public health issues such as the AIDS epidemic and health issues such as the rising cost of health care create an ongoing need for professionals who can educate the public about preventative health solutions. A greater awareness of the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices has led to an increased need for public health professionals to teach communities about behaviors that promote wellness.
4. Planning, Implementation and Evaluation
A Public Health Career can be found in every type of health organization. In addition to planning, implementing and evaluating programs that address public health threats, administrators are often responsible for developing policies and practices to improve health. Their expertise may include public health law, finance, marketing, communication, health information management, community relations, human resources and a variety of other business and management skills.
5. Public Health Biology
A Career in Public Health biology is concerned with the biological and molecular context of public health. Careers in this area focus of the role of the immune system in the health of populations, including immune responses to pathogens and vaccination strategies. Studying the effects of human behavior, genetics and the environment on the human body is another aspect of this career path, encompassing substance abuse, mental health issues, obesity, malnutrition and environmental conditions. Professionals who work in the area of public health biology are employed by government agencies and private companies; they may have a medical degree or a degree in biology, microbiology or environmental science as well as an MPH or other type of public health degree.