Public Health Career Overview: Job Options, Education & Salaries

The complete guide to majors in public health, careers and advancement opportunities.
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Public Health Career Facts


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), public heath refers to all organized measures to prevent disease, promote health, and prolong life among the population as a whole. Whereas doctors and physicians in your community focus on individual patients, a Public Health job focuses on entire populations.

When you watch the news or see online ads, you see campaigns for safer drinking water, recognize tobacco is a health hazard, speak of dangers of drunk driving, and public needs for safer and healthier foods. A Public Health official and their team are usually the driving force behind the research, campaign and proposed solutions.

Public Health is a broad term and encompasses a wide variety of jobs. Some Public Health roles are Public Health Administrator, Community Nurse, Restaurant Health Inspector, and Social Workers to name a few.

The Healthcare industry is a growth industry and the job prospects are positive for years to come according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

A Public Health Career requires you to earn a at least a 4-year degree. Depending on your passion, the pay scales vary widely from $44k to over $100k.

Public Health and Technologist Careers

Once you get your degree from an accredited university, what career potential should you pursue? Do you pursue a Health career that pays the most or do you pursue a career you are passionate about? In the Public Health field there is usually something for everyone. One of the largest employers for Public Health graduates is the Center for Disease Control (CDC) but many rewarding private jobs exist also. 

Some of the in-demand public health positions are:

  • Environmental Scientists
  • Health and Safety Engineers
  • Healthcare Administrators

Some other public health careers available to graduates are:

  • Clinical Research
  • First responders
  • Restaurant inspectors
  • Health educators
  • Scientists and researchers
  • Nutritionists
  • Community planners
  • Social workers
  • Epidemiologists
  • Public health physicians
  • Public health nurses
  • Occupational health and safety professionals
  • Public policymakers
  • Sanitarians

Steps to Becoming a Public Health Professional

The pay scale for Public Health is higher than average in the healthcare industry and that means a degree is required. A bachelor degree is the minimum requirement for most of these roles.

Potential employers look at many factors in the hiring process and here are steps to a career in Public Health:

  • Complete a bachelor degree program in Public Health
  • Earn key industry certifications from associations and take a voluntary certification test from National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE)
  • Gain additional experience by attending key conferences and joining industry organizations along with subscribing to medical and healthcare publications

Public Health Education: Degrees and Programs

A typical school curriculum for a Bachelors degree is 120 credit hours from an accredited university. Tuition costs will vary at different universities depending on factors such as living in state or out of state, public or private school and how long it takes you to finish.

One sample state college estimated taking 15 hours for 2 semesters including tuition, books, supplies, room and board, transportation, and other miscellaneous fees would be about $23,500 and a non-resident about $38,000 for the same two semesters. On average, private college tuitions will be much higher.

If a career in Public Health and Policy is interesting to you, most employers require a Masters degree. After you receive your bachelors in a health related curriculum, a typical Masters degree in Public Health is 80 hours credit hour curriculum.

Check with your school on exact courses and requirements which are much different depending on your exact career path.

Click our “Find Schools” button to view public health programs in your area and online.

A sample of courses required for a Masters in Public Administration would be:

  • Statistical Reasoning
  • Environmental Health
  • Communications Primer for the Public Health Sciences
  • Tools of Public Health Practice
  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Population Dynamics and Public Health
  • Problem Solving in Public Health
  • Academic & Research Ethics
  • Foundational Principles of Public Health
  • Biologic, Genetic and Infectious Basis of Human Disease
  • Psychological and Behavioral Factors that Affect a Population’s Health
  • The Social Determinants of Public Health
  • Globalization and Health: A Framework for Analysis
  • Principles of Negotiation and Mediation for Public Health Professionals
  • Application of Negotiation and Mediation for Public Health Professionals
  • Collaborating Across Sectors to Improve Population Health
  • Children in Crisis
  • Policy for Vulnerable Populations in the U.S.
  • Capstone Course
  • Goals Analysis Plan requirement
  • Practicum requirement
  • Completion of Inter-professional Education Event

Public Health Salaries

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has detailed statistics on specific Health job roles which vary state by state.

According to the BLS, the median wage for a Community Worker is $44,080 and on the high end a Public Health Administrator is over $101,000 annually.

A person with a Bachelor degree can expect a salary from $40k to $60k whereas a Masters degree range is typically over $60k.

Public Health Job Growth

The future is very bright for Public Health job growth. Public Health jobs are a natural growth area because of the growing population and advancements in science. Public policy from the government on health care has also shifted and more individuals have coverage from insurance entities and are frequenting the doctors office more often.

Public Health Job Duties

Public Health promotes a healthy environment for all individuals which is a broad topic. There are many different roles a degreed Health Care person performs which have different job descriptions depending on if you are scientist or an administrator.

A typical job description for a Public Health Administrator is:

Public Health Job duties:

  • Performs senior-level managerial work and provides direction and guidance in strategic operations and planning.
  • Establish and build a strategic plan, establishing goals and objectives developing policies; reviewing guidelines, procedures, rules, and regulations.
  • Plans, assigns, and supervises the work of others.
  • Works with minimal supervision.
  • Assists the Executive Commissioner in the planning, development, and operation of Health and Human Services agencies and programs.
  • Oversees and establishes goals and develops the standards for attaining agency and program goals.
  • Provides consultation and direction to agency executive and senior staff to accomplish agency objectives.
  • Works with functional groups and divisions in organization to develop performance metrics and dashboards.
  • Plans and develops the coordination of policies and guidance that affect the Health and Human Services system and affected staff members.
  • Develops and oversees implementation of agency-wide long-range and short-term plans.
  • Represents the Executive Commissioner at legislative workgroups, sessions and hearings.
  • Responds to legislative inquiries and other requests for agency information.
  • Participants in agency-wide strategic communications efforts.
  • Participates in Executive Management staff performance evaluations.
  • Performs other duties as assigned by the Executive Commissioner.
  • Manages projects and special initiatives.

What personality traits are helpful?

Public Health professionals play a critical role in assisting Doctors, Physicians, and Technologists in the care of patients.

Here are some traits that can help you succeed:

  • Excellent communication skills
  • Understand health issues
  • Understanding of state and local governments
  • Teamwork oriented
  • Ability to problem solve
  • Sound technical skills
  • Excellent problem solving skills

If you love the challenges and are passionate about health and have a passion to help people in need, the Public Health role maybe the fulfilling career for you. Click the blue “Find Schools” button to see colleges and universities that may fit your needs.

Public Health Career Overview: Job Options, Education & Salaries

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