Public Health Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Majoring in public health at the bachelor's degree level will give you the basic knowledge and skills in the field to pursue a career in a variety of settings. Read on to see the jobs you may be qualified for, plus additional training or requirements you may need. See what the job outlook is and what you could earn. Schools offering Public Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Public Health Majors?

Public health encompasses many specialty areas, including epidemiology, policy, environmental health, health education and global health, among others. With a bachelor's degree in public health, you can seek immediate entry-level employment in any of these areas. You may choose a career in administration, policy development, research, teaching, community outreach or health services. The area you concentrate on within your program will likely determine your career path. The following chart gives an overview of what you may need for two common job options:

Health EducatorEpidemiologist
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Master's degree
Key Responsibilities Analyze community health needs, teach people about health topics and health management Collect community health data and investigate disease problems and how to solve them
Licensure/Certification Required Certification may be required Voluntary certification
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 12%* 6%*
Median Salary (2015) $51,960* $69,450*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Do Jobs in Public Health Entail?

Many private and nonprofit organizations - such as hospitals, corporate wellness programs, health maintenance organizations, nursing homes and pharmaceutical companies - hire public health professionals. In a hospital or other medical facility, you might work to promote community health programs, such as those concerning parenting, cancer prevention or fitness. You may also work for government agencies, such as the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps - part of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services - or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Additional employment opportunities are available in private research and development organizations, as well as areas of business.

Many public health majors pursue careers in health education. Health educators often work for state departments of health to develop new programs and distribute information and educational materials to the public. You could also become a public health social worker in a health care facility or nonprofit organization to help communities deal with disease and illness. Other job titles you can hold are health policy practitioner, public health management analyst, epidemiologist, health planner, health program analyst and public health consultant.

What Will I Need in Addition to My Degree?

Requirements vary according to the type of occupation you pursue. For instance, public health social workers must meet the licensing, certification or registration requirements in their state of practice. Most states require a minimum of two years supervised experience to become a licensed clinical social worker and be eligible to work in a social service agency or department.

If you want to become a health educator, you may consider earning the Certified Health Education Specialist credential administered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. In fact, some states require health educators working in public health departments to be certified. In addition to a bachelor's degree, you must pass an examination covering basic health education responsibilities to be eligible for certification. There are many occupations in the public health field that do not require certification or licensure; however, obtaining professional credentials or an advanced degree may help you move up in your line of work.

What Is the Job Outlook like?

Graduates holding public health degrees have many career paths available to them and, therefore, typically enjoy good job prospects. For instance, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for epidemiologists are expected to grow as fast as average speed compared to all occupations from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). Epidemiologists will continue to be needed in developing countries to help ward off disease and improve quality of life. Though competition in this field can be high, a generalized approach to epidemiology can help increase job prospects.

Health educators will also see faster than average job growth over this same period. With rising health care costs, health educators will be needed to teach people how to make healthy lifestyle choices to avoid costly medical procedures and treatments. Public health jobs will also grow with the continued rise in global population.

How Much Can I Expect to Earn?

Salaries for public health professionals vary by industry, occupation, level of education and experience. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for epidemiologists was $69,450, and the median annual wages of health educators were $51,960 in May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Salaries also vary considerably within each specialty area of public health.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Public health is a big field with a lot of potential jobs. Working as a therapist or counselor is a common option for public health graduates, as these positions allow you to contribute positively to a community's health on an individual level. Counselors and therapists may work privately or in schools or other organizations.

Others may prefer to work as registered nurses, who work directly with patients to provide care. Nurses may also work to educate the public about health and safety, such as campaigns to promote hand washing, flu shots, and vaccinations.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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