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Public Health Undergraduate Degree Programs

Learn about the program options available for undergraduate public health students. Find out the courses typically offered in these programs as well as career options.

What Are Public Health Undergraduate Degree Programs?

Undergraduate degrees in public health include Associate of Applied Science in Public Health, Associate of Science in Public Health, Bachelor of Science in Public Health Sciences and Bachelor of Science in Public Health. Associate's degree programs typically take two years to complete and are relatively uncommon. You're far more likely to find bachelor's degree programs in public health, which usually take four years to complete. While associate's degree programs in public health aren't typically available online, you may be able to enroll in a bachelor's degree or bachelor's degree-completion program in public health online, as long as you have access to a computer with reliable, high-speed Internet access.

Whether you enroll in an associate's or bachelor's degree program, your studies will generally approach communal medical concerns from two perspectives, natural science and social science. While associate's degree programs don't usually allow for a significant level of specialization, bachelor's degree programs may allow you to choose a program that concentrates on a clinical, hands-on approach such as public health hygiene or environmental health, or a program that concentrates on social sciences like public health administration or education.

Degree Levels Associate's and bachelor's degree
Online Availability Online associate's programs not typically available, but some schools offer bachelor's-level programs online
Common Courses Chemistry, ethics, healthcare administration, statistics, nutrition
Possible Careers Activist, public health administrator, policy advisor, journalist, health inspector (some occupations require graduate education)
Median Salary (2018) $69,370 (for all occupational health and safety specialists and technicians
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth (for all occupational health and safety specialists and technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Classes Will I Take?

Class requirements will vary according to not only the degree level you choose, but also your concentration within it. Regardless of the program you enroll in, your curriculum will usually include coursework in biology, chemistry, ethics, research methodology, public health education and community services, epidemiology, biostatistics and communicable diseases.

While pursuing a bachelor's degree in public health with a concentration in social science, such as public health education, you will learn how to analyze statistical information. You'll learn how to construct and implement public health policies as well as education and intervention efforts. You may take courses such as mass media and healthcare, healthcare administration laws and ethics, healthcare organization and nutrition.

As a bachelor's degree student pursuing a concentration in the natural sciences such as industrial hygiene or environmental health, you'll gain an understanding information collection and evaluation methods, research and statistics. You may participate in an internship, in addition to taking classes such as microbiology, organic chemistry, occupational health and industrial hazards.

What Can I Do After Graduation?

Depending on the degree you earn and on how far you want to take your study of public health, you may transfer from an associate's degree program into a 4-year program in public health and complete your bachelor's degree. With a bachelor's degree, you may choose to pursue a graduate program in public health. If you'd rather join the work force, you could pursue entry-level positions in the private and public health sectors. Some careers will require master's or doctoral degree study for entry.

You could get a job as a health policy advisor, public health administrator, environmental health speaker, public health journalist or public health activist. You may find employment working for local public health department laboratories or on staff with a corporation in a job like public health inspector, industrial health inspector or environmental scientist in-training.