What Are Popular Career Options in Public Health?

Professionals working in public health can help improve health care programs, make them more accessible, and raise public awareness of health care issues. Read on to learn more about career options in this field. Schools offering Public Health degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Popular Public Health Career Options

Public health is the promotion and maintenance of ideas, procedures and processes that help to keep the public healthy, stop diseases from spreading and promote a healthy environment. Public health careers can include nursing, health education, social work and health services management.

Important Facts About Public Health Careers

Nursing Health Education Social Work
Median Annual Salary (2018) $71,730 $46,080 $49,470
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth 16% growth 16% growth
Key Skills Emotional stability, communication, and organizational skills Instructional, problem-solving, and interpersonal skills Empathy, time-management, and organizational skills
Similar Occupations EMT, Physician Assistant, Dental Hygienist Epidemiologist, Dietitian, Career Counselor Rehabilitation Counselor, Substance Abuse Counselor, Community Health Worker

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


As a nurse, you work as part of a health care team and typically provide initial care to patients. You may check vital signs, assess medical conditions or injuries, offer basic first aid and answer patients' questions. You may record your findings and present them to a doctor. Your main duties generally include monitoring patients' conditions and educating them on current or upcoming procedures.

To work as a nurse, states frequently require candidates to hold a minimum of an associate's degree in nursing. You could also complete a diploma program offered through a hospital to gain basic nursing education. If you want to work in a specialty area of nursing, such as pediatrics, education or oncology, or if you want to advance your career, you can earn a bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. Licensing is mandatory in all states and generally requires graduating from a nursing program and completing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).

Health Education

As a health educator, you'll teach the public about diseases, health conditions and living healthy. In this position, you'll likely work with groups or individuals to spread awareness about how to stay healthy. You may pass out contraceptives to help prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases or teach a group about healthy eating. It's your job to keep the public informed to reduce the occurrences of epidemics and increase the overall well-being of the community.

A bachelor's degree in public health can prepare you for an entry-level position as a health educator. Some employers require experience in the field, which you can get through an internship program or volunteering. To advance in this profession, you'll usually need a graduate degree in health education. It's common for employers to require continuing education that keeps you up-to-date on policies, procedures and information within the public health field.

Social Work

Career options as a social worker can include working for schools, government agencies or mental health facilities. As a social worker, you help people who may be disadvantaged due to their economic situation, age, disability or mental health status. You might help an individual find the proper health care services, offer information about assistance programs or counsel someone who is having problems. Advanced positions in this field can involve creating policies, programs or legislation to help spread awareness, offer assistance or protect disadvantaged segments of the population.

To enter this field, you can earn a bachelor's degree in social work or a related field, such as psychology or sociology. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that positions in schools or health care institutions usually require a minimum of a master's degree (www.bls.gov). All states have some type of licensing or certification requirements for social workers. Typically, states require a degree in the field and work experience to qualify for licensing or certification.

Health Services Management

Health services management includes careers where you manage a health care facility and monitor the delivery of medical care. This is an administrative position, and you may have a title such as hospital administrator or healthcare executive. You typically oversee daily activities, watch budgets, monitor patient care and implement policies. Your primary duty is often to manage employees and services within a facility.

According to the BLS, careers in health services management usually require a master's degree in public administration, business administration or health service administration. In some smaller facilities, a bachelor's degree may be the minimum required education. It's possible to gain employment with some employers, such as individual physicians, with less education and significant experience in the field. A license is required in every state if you work in a nursing care facility, and some states mandate licensure if you work in an assisted care facility.

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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