Public Health Careers in 2021 - Best Value Schools

Public Health Careers in 2021

February 18, 2021 | Staff Writers

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Public health is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on protecting and improving the overall health of communities and the people within. It’s a heavily scientific field that looks to educate the community and promote healthy lifestyles through research and the development of healthcare policies that promote better living. 

At its highest level, public health has to do with detecting, preventing, and responding to infectious diseases, researching said diseases, and coming up with protocols that protect the community in general from current and potential future diseases, health conditions, and even injury. One of the most recognizable bodies in the public health sector is the CDC (Centers for Disease Control). 

Even though public health is as broad a term as it can get, public health professionals can be defined as people who try to prevent problems from occurring or recurring through the systematic implementation of educational programs, conducting research, administration of public health services, and the recommendation of policies that will help make communities safer. These communities can be as small as a tiny village in a third world country or as big as an entire region on the globe. 

This is in sharp contrast with clinical health professionals such as doctors and nurses who tend to focus on treating individuals with specific diseases and injuries. Some doctors and nurses are public health professionals, just as some public health professionals are doctors and nurses. This is all dependent on the individual’s educational specialty. 

For example, a doctor working with the CDC to study and research infectious diseases doesn’t necessarily treat patients daily despite having the qualification to do so. This kind of professional has used their background and educational qualification in medicine to further their public health career. 

A community health worker studying to be a nurse isn’t necessarily a clinical health professional as of yet but can use their education in nursing to be a better community health worker (public health officer). 

What Do Public Health Professionals Do?

As mentioned, public health is a multidisciplinary field. Therefore, the answer to this question depends on the graduate’s specialty. Professionals falling under the umbrella of a public health program work in a wide variety of environments that could encompass private corporations, nonprofit agencies, and almost any industry with anything to do with human health and safety. 

However, to narrow it all down here is an assortment of some of the most prevalent public health career options based on an amalgamation of specialties:

Biostatistics

A biostatistician is a professional who gathers data, designs statistical studies, and analyzes the data gathered to give recommendations based on the data collected and their findings. Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 25% of biostatisticians are employed in institutions such as universities, colleges, insurance companies, or government agencies, both local and state. 

In fact, 20% of all biostatisticians are employed by the federal government in departments such as the U.S Department of Commerce, Health and Human Services, Agriculture, or the CDC. Big players in the private sector employ about 15% of all biostatisticians as essential scientific research and development personnel. 

Environmental Health Professionals

Much like public health, environmental health is a wide field with most professional specializing in specific areas within the field. These are professionals who work to improve public health by properly identifying, tracking, and addressing any environmental risk factors. 

Most professionals in this field are specialized and focus on addressing specific risk factors such as reducing air, soil, water, radiation, or noise pollution. One of the most important duties of environmental health professionals is protecting our food supply. 

Disaster Management & Emergency Preparedness

A huge percentage of public health professionals work in Disaster Management & Emergency Preparedness. Local and state government bodies employ many in this capacity. Some work for the private sector in companies that deal with high-risk environmental sectors such as exploration, oil, and mining. 

Disaster Management & Emergency Preparedness professionals also have employment opportunities in nonprofit agencies, healthcare institutions, as well as institutions of higher learning such as colleges and universities.

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are often referred to as “Disease Detectives” because it’s their job to investigate the cause of diseases, identify any people who might be at risk, and give recommendations on how to control the disease outbreak. Epidemiologists typically work in a lab. They are often employed by hospitals, institutions of higher learning such as colleges and universities, local and state government departments, as well as some private-sector corporations such as pharmaceutical companies in research and development departments. 

As mentioned, public health encompasses a very wide field, and some professionals who fall under its umbrella aren’t entirely trained in public health. For example, public health lawyers are primarily lawyers who have specialized in public health or environmental law. 

While these professionals aren’t exactly public health specialists, they still count as part of the public health sector because they help protect the environment, which helps to better the overall health and safety of the communities. 

There are also other common public health areas where trained professionals could work in administration, health program design, health education, nutrition, toxicology, nursing, and research. In short, public health is a growing health care field that could soon cover every facet of human interaction. 

What Are the Highest Paying Jobs in Public Health?

There are many different options at your disposal as far as having a successful public health career is concerned. These opportunities span the entire spectrum from entry-level jobs that don’t pay very well to extremely lucrative and prestigious careers that pay handsomely. 

However, it should be noted that like it is with almost every career, the top end of the spectrum calls for extreme specialization and high education levels. You will more than likely need to have a degree at the very least if you are to get a high paying job in public health. 

Furthermore, the kind of salary you could earn depends on the employer, your geographical location, the cost of living in your area, and the kind of responsibilities bestowed upon you by your qualifications. For that reason, it’s important to note the kind of educational qualification you would need to attain any of the top paying public health jobs that are mentioned here. 

Bachelor of Public Health (BPH)

A bachelor’s degree in public health isn’t necessarily a requirement for you to become a public health official, but it is a welcome and highly beneficial option. This is mostly because most career public health professionals take a master’s degree in public health and all you need to qualify for that is a degree in any health-related field such as nursing, health administration, informatics, etc. 

However, if you are looking to specialize in a public health field, then starting your journey at the bachelor’s degree level is a great foundation that will help you build-up to the master’s or even doctoral level. 

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Similar to a BPH, a Master of Public Health degree isn’t an exact requirement to work in this field. However, it is an excellent addition to your resume and an avenue through which you can land a high paying job in both the private and the public sector. 

Like the field itself, there is a wide variety of options as far as concentrations and specialization go for those looking to pursue an MPH program. You could choose to specialize in Global Health, Epidemiology, General Public Health, Community Health, Environmental Health, and a host of other options. The alternatives available to you will depend on the school you choose and the specialty you want to explore.

Doctor of Public Health

A Ph.D of Public Health is a terminal degree in this field and is necessary for those looking to venture into either teaching college students about public health or delve much deeper into research. At this level, you have a host of high paying positions and consultancy opportunities at your disposal. 

The good thing is that some universities and colleges offer bachelor’s degree programs in public health and related fields online. As is the case with pretty much every other sector, the highest paying jobs in this sector depend on your attainment of these qualifications and a host of other available certificates and on-the-job training opportunities as a health educator. 

Highest Paying Jobs in Public Health

In this list, you will find some of the best-paying jobs in public health, as well as an explanation of what the jobs entail, what qualifications you will need to be considered for employment, and approximately how much you would make. 

Note that the figures mentioned are dependent on a few factors, such as your location, company of employment, and your negotiating skills. This is to say that the amounts indicated indicate what most professionals within that specific field make. It could be higher or lower on a case by case basis.

1. Computer and Information System Manager in Healthcare

Average median pay per annum: $146,360

Educational requirements: Minimum of Bachelor’s degree

In the healthcare industry, a Computer and Information System Manager is someone who is tasked with planning, coordinating, and directing computer-related activities in the organization. 

They are also known as “Clinical Informatics Specialists.” They are solely responsible for determining and implementing exactly what the healthcare organization needs regarding information technology infrastructure and goals. They may also install new hardware, resolve software issues, and develop actionable plans to ensure that the organizations computer systems and medical record keeping are safer, systematic, and as effective as it is efficient. 

Educational requirements for a Computer and Information System Manager 

You would need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer and information science. If you intend to specialize in health informatics, then a Master’s in Healthcare Informatics would be the way to go. Your coursework should focus on healthcare systems, data analytics, health informatics, database design, implementation, and IT strategies and management. 

Public Health Salary & Wages

The more digitized the world gets, the higher the demand for highly qualified and specialized IT managers who know healthcare informatics. As such, the median salaries for professionals in this field is about $142,530 but could go as low as $87,480 or as high as $208,000 depending on the employer, your specialization, and experience. 

2. Public Health Attorney

Average median pay per annum: $122,960

Educational requirements: Minimum of Professional or Doctoral degree

As a public health lawyer, you would work closely with national, state, or local government officials to develop policies, regulations, and laws that protect and elevate public health standards. You could also be called upon to advocate for victims of public health disasters stemming from the contravention of set public health or environmental laws by unscrupulous companies and organizations. 

Educational requirements for Public Health Attorneys

To qualify as a Public Health Attorney, you must complete a J.D (Juris Degree) from an accredited law school recognized by the American Bar Association. You should be prepared to complete seven years of full-time study after graduating from high school. That’s four years of undergrad study and three years of law school. To specialize in public health, your coursework would need to focus on health law. 

Public Health Salary & Wages

A Public Health Attorney’s median salary is about $122,960 but could go as low as $59,670 and as high as $208,000, depending on your employer and skill as an attorney. 

3. Medical and Health Services Managers

Average median pay per annum:  $100,980

Educational requirements: Minimum of Bachelor’s degree

A Medical and Health Services Manager is a professional who is tasked with supporting a department of physicians or a clinic by coordinating and directing health services. Their main job is to ensure that the healthcare services at their specific workplace are as efficient and of the highest quality possible. 

As a Medical and Health Services Manager, your day to day duties would include billing, scheduling, and representing the team you manage at meetings with the board or government bodies. 

Also commonly referred to as Healthcare Administrators, these professionals typically work at healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, clinics, ambulatory services, and any institution that offers medical or healthcare services to the public. 

Educational requirements for Medical and Health Services Managers

Healthcare Administrators need to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, but most hold a master’s degree. The coursework should mostly focus on health economics, accounting, strategic planning, budgeting, and hospital organization and management. You might also require certification and licensure by the specific state in which you work. 

Public Health Salary & Wages

Healthcare Administrators earn a median salary of about $100,980 but could go as low as $58,000 and as high as $182,600 depending on their qualifications, experience, skills, and employer. 

4. Biostatistician

Average median pay per annum: $91,160 

Educational requirements: Minimum of Master’s degree in Public Health

A statistician is an integral part of any public health research team. This is the professional who is tasked with designing the experiments, coming up with the questionnaires or surveys, and collecting the data to give the team insight on people and health. 

As a statistician, you would be expected to do more than collect the data; it will be your duty to analyze it and create a coherent report explaining the impact your findings will have on the study or research parameters. 

Most statisticians work with the government, research and development departments, and healthcare, although you can find work in many other fields. Biostatisticians specifically use statistical tools to carry out comprehensive research on topics related to biology and medicine. This would include studies such as looking into the effects of a new drug or examining the causes of diseases. 

Educational requirements for Statisticians

You can get some entry-level jobs with a bachelor’s degree in statistics, but the best ones often require at least a master’s degree in the same. Your coursework will mostly include statistics and mathematics. To get a good-paying job in the public health sector, you should go for a master’s degree in statistics and pair it with sociology, biology, or any other public health course. 

Public Health Salary & Wages

The median salary for biostatisticians stands at around $91,160 per annum. However, this sector enjoys remarkable job growth, and depending on the employer, especially those who work for big pharmaceutical companies, the pay varies wildly. It could go as high as $146,770 or more. 

5. Environmental Scientist

Average median pay per annum: $71,360 

Educational requirements: Minimum of Bachelor’s degree

An environmental scientist is a professional who works to protect both the environment as well as human health. They do this by collecting data, development planning, and sharing information with the concerned government bodies, employers, or communities. 

Their main focus is on land reclamation to counter pollution or coming up with regulations that restrict soil and air pollution. Many environmental scientists work for the government (state and local) and double up as consultants. 

Environmental scientists spend most of their time in the lab or in their offices with a little bit of fieldwork required to collect data and monitor conditions. 

Educational Requirements for an Environmental Scientist

For entry-level jobs such as research assistant or field analyst, you will need a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as biology, environmental sciences, public health, chemistry, or engineering. However, if you want to hold a more advanced position, you will need a master’s degree. 

It’s advisable to focus on a few subjects such as geology, biology, physics, etc. You could also go for more specialized courses such as fluid mechanics, waste management, computer modeling, and data analysis.

Public Health Salary & Wages

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Environmental Scientist is about $71,360. However, that figure varies wildly and can range from $42,810 all the way to above $124,760 depending on the specific employer, education qualifications, and experience. The government is one of the highest-paying employers, closely followed by the consulting and engineering industries.

There are many other public health career options, such as:

  • Social and Community Service managers: $67,150 per annum
  • Emergency Management Director: $74,590 per annum
  • Health and Safety Engineer: $91,410 per annum

You could also go the doctoral degree way and become a highly paid consultant, a lecturer, or a widely sought after researcher. 

Why is Public Health an Important Career Choice?

Whenever most people make a career choice, they look at a couple of things: the intrinsic values of choosing a certain career and the extrinsic values of doing the same. Perhaps the most important of these are intrinsic values. This is where people answer questions such as: do you do what you love? Would you do it even if you weren’t getting paid, and how long until you can’t stand walking into the office anymore. 

While the answers to these questions might be what guide you towards your specific career, extrinsic values such as the pay, future job prospects, and work environment are all things that keep you going back to work every day. 

When it comes to the public, how important your career depends on which path you take. As already mentioned, public health is an extremely wide sector with lots of work opportunities for those who want to delve into it and those who are qualified to do so. 

While trying to be as general as possible, here are some reasons why choosing a career in public health could be both important and rewarding for you: 

Job Growth Opportunities

Public health is a field that enjoys excellent job growth (well above the national average). This is because the world is trying as much as possible to encourage environmental responsibility across the globe. Our health is directly tied to our immediate environment, the kind of healthcare we have access to, and the policies that determine our lifestyles. 

Public health workers deal with the wellbeing of all human beings. And for as long as human beings continue discovering new diseases, researching and searching for cures to the old ones, trying their best to preserve our world, there will always be jobs and high demand for public health professionals or community health worker.

Job Security

Job growth and job security are very closely tied to one another. Provided you have the prerequisite educational qualifications; the experience you gain from your day to day work makes you invaluable in this sector. 

You Could Improve Your Community

Of course, this depends on the specific path you take in your public health career. Community health is a big part of public health and professional public health experts. For instance, a public health nurse, a physical therapist, and other public health specialists play a big role in ensuring that their community remains healthy and safe. 

Even those who work in technical fields, such as environmental scientists and healthcare managers, have a role in ensuring that the lives of the people around them are somehow made better thanks to their profession. 

You Can Help Improve Global Health

As a public health specialist, whether you are a researcher, a nurse, or a statistician, you have an opportunity to positively impact global health with your work and research. 

Professional Benefits

For the most part, expert public health professionals get employed by the government and extremely well-funded corporations that provide them with good salaries and some of the best perks. You could get comprehensive insurance policies, PTO, and other career benefits that wouldn’t necessarily be available, at least not to the same degree, in other sectors. 

Immediate Employment

Thanks to the fact that this sector enjoys excellent job growth prospects and high demand, graduates with degrees in public health and related studies get wonderful opportunities for employment with the best industry leaders or the government and do so almost immediately after graduation. 

As is to be expected, these prospects get better, the higher your academic qualifications. master’s degree holders are highly sought after in this field, and even if you aren’t interested in full-time employment, there are lucrative consultation contracts you could take up on your own accord. 

Finally, the biggest reason why a career in public health is important is that you are doing something worthwhile, something that directly impacts the people around you, and that you have a chance to make things better in a public health program.

There are very few things in this world quite as important as human health. As a public health professional, your job (depending on your specialty) will be directly tied to improving human health, and that is as worthwhile as it gets.

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