International Public Health

Malaria, the spread of HIV/AIDS and natural disasters are just a few of the many international public health concerns. To learn more about the education you'll need to address these concerns and develop programs for the public and private sectors, read on.

Is International Public Health Right for Me?

Career Overview

As a general field, public health is concerned with preventing disease and improving the quality of life by reaching beyond healthcare to address undelying economic and social issues. On an international scale, this can translate to working in poor and developing countries to halt the spread of infectious disease. International public health workers may also provide resources in the aftermath of natural disasters, design economical strategies for healthcare delivery and develop educational programs to increase awareness within vulnerable communities. This field may be especially appealing to people who are service-minded and have strong leadership, research and analytical abilities.

Career Options

Careers in public health are varied and may correspond to your area of specialization. International public health professionals often work in development, education and outreach, consulting and research. Common employers include relief agencies, ministries of health, schools and research institutions. You could also be employed in a medical facility or work for a government agency, like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Additional opportunites may be found with international public health groups, private community-based organizations or social service agencies. Some positions might require spending time abroad or in areas with high concentrations of disadvantaged and medically underserved populations.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected a much-faster-than-average increase in jobs for medical and health services managers and health social workers nationwide from 2012-2022. A faster-than-average growth in employment was expected for health educators during the same 10-year period. As of May 2013, the BLS reported that healthcare social workers earned a median annual salary of $50,820. At that same time, the median annual salary for health educators was $49,210, while medical and health services managers earned $90,940 (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Work in International Public Health?

Educational Requirements

As an aspiring international public health professional, you'll have access to a variety of public health degree options. While associate's degrees can be found, a bachelor's degree in public health or a closely related field is usually required to obtain an entry-level position in the field, as reported by the BLS. According to the Association of Schools of Public Health, many public health jobs require an advanced degree, such as a Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Health Science (MHS) or Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH). Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) programs are also available (www.whatispublichealth.org).

Depending on your particular career objectives, you may consider earning a dual degree, such as a Master of Business Administration and MPH in Global Health (MBA/MPH), Master of Social Work and MPH (MSW/MPH) or MSPH and Peace Corps Master's International (MSPH/MI). Some schools offer combined bachelor's and master's degree programs that can be completed in just five years. Regardless of the type of degree program you choose, look for public health schools accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health. If you want to work as a social worker, it's important to note that you'll need to earn a license after completing your master's degree and around 3,000 hours of supervised work experience.

Curriculum

In an international public health degree program, you'll likely take courses in biostatistics, global trade, epidemiology and public policy. You'll also study infectious and chronic disease, program management, environmental health and disaster science. Additional requirements include a field practicum and training in research methodology. Professional organizations offer ongoing opportunities for professional development, such as the Certified Health Education Specialist credential offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (www.nchec.org).

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