Public Health Degree Career Paths


Leaders And Managers: Program Managers & Health Officials

Public Health Careers: The World Needs You

With many public health leaders approaching retirement age, theres a significant need for leaders and managers in public health, especially within government health departments. If you have strong management and leadership skills, as well as training in public health, public administration, or healthcare, a role in public health administration and leadership may be a possibility for you.

Program managers are early-career and mid-level professionals who are responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating public health programs, and their role can include managing people, projects, and budgets. At the more senior level, health officialslike health commissionersmight manage an entire health department, oversee public health strategy, speak to the media, provide guidance to elected officials, or declare a health emergency.

Program managers must have good interpersonal, managerial, analytical, and organizational skills and also have strong knowledge of the subject matter for the program theyre running. For example, a manager of a maternal/child health program should have some knowledge of health issues affecting newborns, new parents, and kids. Many program managers have an MPH degree. Health officials frequently have an MD and MPH, or other similar qualifications, and generally have years of experience along with excellent communication, leadership, and strategic thinking abilities.

Why Consider A Public Health Career

Healthcare careers are in high demand. People will always need health services, so health professionals will always be required. The demand for healthcare workers has continued to increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, this health crisis has further highlighted the vast inequities that exist in healthcare services across different populations in the U.S.

COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of health education and preventative health measures. According to Parchment, “The poor state of the public health climate was highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic everything from the management of preexisting conditions to the health disparities between races and ethnic orientations was under a microscope for the public to see.”

With many positions requiring only a bachelor’s degree, pursuing public health careers may appeal to many learners. Furthermore, as Parchment points out, “A key benefit of working in public health is its flexibility. The skills and knowledge of this field can be practiced within any sector, for any industry, in any part of the world.”

Although a career in public health can be beneficial, professionals working in a different field may wonder if it is too late to change careers. Fortunately, with the growth of distance learning, preparing for a new career while continuing to work full time has become more accessible for many people. A career change that can provide a higher salary and/or more fulfilling work may be worth considering.

Top Sectors You Can Work In With An Mph

Students who graduate with an MPH have the opportunity to work for various employers in the public, non-profit, education, and private sectors.

While some positions in these sectors may only require a bachelors degree, most employers prefer an MPH degree from a CEPH accredited program. In order to advance in your career, an MPH is almost always preferred. Most MPH programs take two years to complete and are offered both on-campus and online. Today, more and more students are turning to online programs due to flexibility, advanced technology, and quality of coursework.

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Top Skills Learned With A Public Health Degree

Even if youre not sure which public health career you want to pursue, its important to understand the core skills and professional qualities you stand to learn in a public health degree program. According to The Public Health Foundation, core competencies were developed over 20 years by representatives of public health organizations and the schools that offer degrees. These competencies ensure that each public health professional has the knowledge and skills needed to make an immediate and lasting impact in their field. Heres a rundown of these competencies, with a few additional skills that colleges often teach and employers often ask for.

Virtually all public health professionals across the wide range of careers depend on effective written and verbal communications to succeed. For example, health educators depend on communicating clearly with their students. Health program designers and evaluators must present their proposals in straightforward, comprehensible terms.Health informatics professionals may have to translate data and jargon-heavy findings for their target audience.

I Depending on the role and agency, you may be required to measure public health conditions and existing program resource or to recognize data integrity or gaps in quantitative and qualitative findings.Analysts measure the characteristics of a population-based problem in public health and support the development of programs that address the issues.

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Food And Water Quality Assurance

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One of the most important aspects of human health is the food and water that is consumed. Working in this field can allow you to play a large role in the investigation of food or water quality issues, provide oversight of food and water packaging facilities, and provide good quality products to the community in which you serve.

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Potential Career Paths In Public Health

In essence, the higher the degree of pursuit, the more specialized education in public health may become. A highly specialized degree program can influence which sector of employment the graduate is most appropriately suited for, as well as how much salary can be earned. You may consider viewing our guide to what you can do with a public health degree.

What Jobs Can You Get With A Public Health Degree

A public health degree can open the door to many rewarding career opportunities at nonprofits, government agencies, and private companies. Some graduates work in the community as educators or nonprofit agency administrators. Advanced degrees in this field can lead to research or medical practice careers in the healthcare industry. Some graduates pursue public health policy careers in government. See below for descriptions of popular and emerging public health careers.

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What Defines A Ceph Accredited Program

The Council on Education for Public Health is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit schools of public health and public health programs.

CEPH accreditation focuses on the quality of an institution and their programs. Each review takes several months to complete, and ensures that the institution is meeting the proper standards and quality of education. A CEPH is one of the most sought after accreditations, therefore graduates who hold degrees from a CEPH accredited program are highly regarded to employers. Visit for more information.

Bachelor’s Degree In Public Health

Public Health: Careers

A bachelor’s degree usually takes four years to complete and provides a solid and broad background of information and training in the public health discipline. In addition to allowing for a well-rounded education due to general education credits, the bachelor’s degree serves as the basis for an entry level public health career or the first step in getting a graduate degree and working in a more advanced public health field.

Many public health programs offer opportunities for specialization within the public health field. Some options include public health delivery, healthy behavior and occupational and environmental health. Regardless of a concentration, students may expect to take some of the following courses:

Health Disparities

This course reviews the differences in health among various population groups based on sex, race, culture and other factors.

Skills Learned:

    • Familiarity with common nutrition issues within the public health context
    • Knowing the effect nutrition and diet have on disease and overall health
    • Understanding the implications of diet on human development

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Social And Behavioral Health

The final common area of study in the field is social and behavioral health. Like other public health specializations, this area includes a focus on the social influences impacting a populations overall health. However, social and behavioral health workers may have a greater emphasis on understanding how individual thought processes can affect health. For example, psychology, psychiatry and social work are all important components of this specialization. Workers may further focus their career on specific health concerns such as obesity, mental health or substance abuse.

Behavioral health careers are expected to see faster than average growth during the next decade. Demand for social workers is expected to increase 12 percent from 2020-2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Meanwhile, according to BLS jobs for mental health counselors should increase 23 percent during that same time period. For some of these positions, states may have additional education or licensure requirements beyond a public health degree.

Professionals working in the realm of social and behavioral health include the following.

  • Psychiatric Nurse

Doctor Of Public Health

The highest level of education conferred in the field of public health is the DrPH. To earn a doctor of public health, students must complete an intensive course of study which will prepare them to fill positions in upper management and academia. University professors and researchers may be required to have a doctoral degree while in other management and administrative positions it may be preferred.

In-Demand Skills of PH Graduates

Students earning a public health degree learn more than just the fundamentals of their field. They also acquire skills that easily transfer to jobs even outside the umbrella of public health.That can make this a smart field to enter at the undergraduate level even if a student isnt sure they want to continue to a masters degree in public health. In the event they choose not to continue on in their field, they can still use these skills to find employment in another industry.

Here are four of the most common skills taught in public health degrees.


Regardless of their employment setting, public health professionals spend much of their time communicating. That communication may occur in one-to-one conversations with clients and team members or it could be on a larger scale, such as the creation of public service campaigns. The following degree courses help students acquire and hone strong communication skills:

  • Health Literacy, Challenges and Strategies
  • Introduction to Persuasive Communication
  • Public Health Communication and Marketing

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Substance Abuse Behavioral Disorder And Mental Health Counselors

Average Annual Salary: $48,520 per year

Estimated Job Growth by 2030: 23 percent

Responsibilities: These counselors advise patients who suffer from alcoholism, mental health issues, drug addiction, eating disorders, or other behavioral problems. They evaluate patients health, recommend treatment programs, and refer clients to other services, such as job placement organizations and support groups.

Top Public Health Jobs

Discover your health career this year

School Health Educator

These professionals familiarize K-12 or college students with important health and wellness information. School health educators may visit classrooms, speak at assemblies, or work in school health clinics. This job usually involves creating programs or materials that promote exercise, proper nutrition, and safety.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Both nonprofit and for-profit workplaces take steps and implement protocols to protect employee safety. Occupational health and safety specialists examine workplace equipment and practices to ensure compliance with safety regulations and standards. Daily activities may include training employees to follow safer practices and protocols.


Biostatisticians use computer science and statistics to identify and interpret biological data. Usually working in teams, biostatisticians plan and perform studies on phenomena such as disease transmission. These professionals may study human, plant, or animal health. They can work for corporations, research foundations, or government agencies.

Social and Community Services Manager

These managers oversee community workers, programs, and organizations. Community services managers in the public health field evaluate the effectiveness of related projects and programs. These professionals may also participate in staffing, training, and scheduling activities. Possible public health specializations include homelessness, mental health, and domestic violence.

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Pursuing A Public Health Degree

Although it is possible to secure a public health job with a bachelors degree, many high-level opportunities require a Master of Public Health degree.

A masters in public health prepares those working in the field of public health to deliver professional services which address a variety health issues, all while maintaining an understanding of several cultural settings and backgrounds.

Online MPH programs, like the one offered through The Chicago School, make it possible for individuals to obtain a postgraduate public health degree completely virtually.

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.


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.

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Health Policy And Law

Just like any other field that deals with the public, public health is under various restrictions and laws that must be abided by in order to continue operations. If you choose to specialize in this field, you can be a part of the ever-changing policy and law development commission that works hard to ensure that the rights and liberties of the public are protected from harm.

Do I Also Need An Mph

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A masters in public health is not required for the careers listed above, but many public health workers hold an MPH, since the advanced degree offers more opportunities in the field. With GMercyUs 4+1 MPH program, you can earn both a Bachelor of Science in Public Health and a Master of Public Health in just five years.

Learn more about getting an MPH degree in our What Can I Do With a Masters Degree in Public Health article.

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Public Health: Many Career Paths With One Degree

If youre thinking about getting a degree in public health, then you might be wondering what type of degree you should go for. The great thing about getting a degree in public health or a related field like biology or health sciences is that any degree can set you on a pathway for success. Whether or not you continue your studies depends on what type of position youre looking to get it.

Heroes In Lab Coats: Public Health Scientists

Many types of scientists can work on public health issues including laboratory scientists, virologists, microbiologists, immunologists, vaccine researchers, and geneticists. If you love science and enjoy working in a research or laboratory setting, becoming a public health scientist might be a great career path for you.

Your job duties will vary greatly depending on the area of research you choose to focus on. For example, a virologist designs and runs laboratory experiments on viruses, ensures their research accurately follows lab protocols and procedures, and may invent new techniques to grow cell cultures or analyze them. They might work on projects like sequencing the DNA of COVID-19 so we can track emerging variants to see if some are more contagious than others.

At a senior level, public health scientists working at a university may also apply for research grants and teach or mentor junior scientists and students. At a more entry level in laboratory science, you might find research assistant jobs with a bachelors degree in biology or a related field, but if you want to eventually conduct your own research or find a higher-level job, you will need advanced education, generally a PhD. At all levels, youll need strong scientific knowledge, patience, attention to detail, an understanding of standard lab practices and regulations, and strong analytical and writing skills to succeed in the field.

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Top Locations For Public Health Jobs

BLS state and area data indicate that the bulk of epidemiologists work in state or local government. California employs the most epidemiologists, followed by Texas and Washington state. Washington epidemiologists earned the highest mean wage in 2020 at $113,900 per year.

California also employs the most health education specialists, dieticians, and nutritionists. Texas, New York, and Florida are also among the top five states that employ health and nutrition educators and medical and health services managers. Top-paying states for many public health professions include Washington, D.C., New York, and California. Public health professionals who live and work in large metropolitan areas tend to earn the highest salaries.

Employers For Public Health Careers

Texas Masters in Public Health (MPH) Degree

Immense growth is expected for jobs in the public health field over the next ten years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects about 11 percent more jobs to open between 2018 and 2028 for educators in health and community health workers, alone. Medical and business fields are also opening more for public health graduates.

Some potential employment pathways for public health graduates include:

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How Do I Get A Degree In Public Health

Entry requirements and specific content for public health degrees differ greatly depending on the studying institution. It’s important therefore to check with institutions prior to making an application. To view a list of example areas of study relevant to public health and where to find out more, please visit the complete university guide website.

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