Preventive Medicine and Community Health

A career in preventative medicine and community health involves promoting good health and disease prevention among large populations. Learn about job options, education programs, employment outlook and salaries for this field.

Is Preventive Medicine and Community Health for Me?

Career Summary

Preventive medicine and community health focuses on promoting human health and reducing health risks through disease prevention, education and other public health services. This interdisciplinary field combines aspects of public health administration with the medical field. Preventive medicine is one of 24 recognized specialties by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS).

Employment Possibilities

This broad field yields a variety of job opportunities. You might work in public health administration, lobbying for policy changes, or get a laboratory job researching the properties of disease. With the right medicine training, you might work as a medical doctor specializing in clinical preventative medicine. As a clinician, your focus could be on identifying and reducing health risks or implementing immunization programs.

Salaries and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for community health workers are projected to increase by 25% between 2012 and 2022 (www.bls.gov). Physicians can expect to see growth of 18% during that same period. As reported by the BLS in 2013, community health workers earned a median annual salary of $34,610. As a public health specialist, you might expect to earn between $31,799 and $79,529 per year, according to PayScale.com in July 2014. The median annual salary for physicians working in preventative medicine was $190,000, also reported by PayScale.com.

How Can I Work in Preventive Medicine and Community Health?

Education Information

The type of training you need to work in preventative medicine and community health depends upon the type of job you want to pursue. Bachelor's degree programs in public and community health are available and can lead to work as a community health worker or public health specialist. Many research positions are likely to require at least a master's degree, though.

Many schools offer Master of Public Health (MPH) programs designed for physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers interested in preventive medicine and community health. Some schools also offer dual degree programs that allow you to earn both your Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) and MPH in as little as five years. Public health doctoral programs are available as well.

Graduate Studies

On its own, a master's degree program in public health is likely to require two years of full-time study to complete. You'll need a bachelor's degree for entrance, but it doesn't necessary have to be in public health. You might take courses in environmental health, toxicology, social and behavioral theory, health policy, health promotion, epidemiological methods, biostatistics and medical ethics. You may also be required to complete a research thesis or applied capstone project, as well as a supervised public health experience. Many schools offer specializations in areas such as health policy management, social sciences, behavioral sciences and epidemiology. Some schools allow you to earn an MPH online.

Residency Programs

If you want to work in preventive medicine, you'd need to complete the necessary medical training to become a physician. You'd then be qualified to complete a preventive medicine residency program. After completing a residency program, you could work in clinical practice, but you might also find jobs in industry, education or government health agencies.

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