Public health has been central to civilization since the establishment of permanent settlements. As human beings began to live in close contact with livestock and each another, their potential to invite disease increased dramatically. Newly immobile populations came in contact with accumulated waste, insect and rodent infestations, and unsanitary conditions, all leading to widespread illnesses. Reliance on individual crops led to nutrient deficiencies, compounding already-daunting problems.
Over the millenia, human beings have advanced public health knowledge and practice through hard-learned lessons, ingenuity, and technological advances. Today, scholars can access the culmination of that knowledge in the form of public health education. Those who pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) can attain an expert-level understanding of the discipline, leading to compelling career paths for public health professionals in virtually every niche of the public and private sectors.
What jobs can you get with a master’s in public health? This article explores that question; it covers the following topics:
Public health covers many topics: health standards, epidemiology, substance abuse, sanitation, self-harm, reproductive health, environmental health, mental health, social inequities, vaccinations, and more. In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that there are more than 170 public health job categories. A Master of Public Health prepares students for employment in all of them. The degree provides this flexibility by offering concentrations, empowering students to specialize in varied public health subjects.
You’ll need a bachelor’s degree to apply to an MPH program, though it doesn’t have to be in a related field. Most programs demand prerequisite undergraduate courses that you’ll have to complete (either in college or during a bridge program) before starting graduate school. They typically include biochemistry, human anatomy, microbiology, and nutrition.
Once accepted to an MPH, you’ll complete coursework in:
MPH programs typically take two years to complete, though those with professional experience can sometimes accelerate this process. In addition, you can choose to earn your degree online in programs like University of Tennessee – Knoxville‘s Online Master of Public Health, allowing you to tailor your studies to suit your schedule and learning needs.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that there are more than 170 public health job categories, and a Master of Public Health prepares students for employment in all of them. This degree can open doors to excellent career opportunities in the private and public sectors. (
An MPH in Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Health Services Administration, or Health Policy and Management will provide a much more marketable set of skills and help you qualify for some of the highest-paying public health jobs. One of the best things you can do to maximize your earning potential after graduating with an MPH is to enroll in a program that has strong post-graduation job placement rates and high alumni salaries. If you don’t see either of these metrics on a school’s website, reach out to the admissions office directly to ask for more information. ( )
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Public health exerts a broad reach into nearly all aspects of our lives. A public health degree opens opportunities to various careers in population health research, policy, and implementation. Some of the more popular and prominent public health jobs are listed below.
Epidemiologists study infectious disease outbreaks: where they happen, how they happen, and how they affect the population. In addition, they are responsible for designing response strategies, which include monitoring vaccine uptake and effectiveness and tracking viral variants as they emerge. In addition, epidemiologists contain and respond to known diseases and predict and prepare for future outbreaks. Epidemiologists sometimes work in the field, most often during a breakout. However, most spend their time in laboratories, which is particularly necessary when working with dangerous pathogens. Epidemiologists in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $103,000 per year.
Public health advisors perform their work in many spheres. They act as conduits among stakeholders such as government agencies, private sector entities, and nonprofits. They craft and implement policy and public health programs around sanitation, food safety, healthcare deserts, urban development, and similar issues. They also facilitate outreach to ensure that information and resources deploy where needed. Public health advisors in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $74,000 per year.
Biostatisticians practice healthcare informatics, gathering and assessing data to form conclusions around such important health-related topics as disease rates, the effectiveness of medications, chemical toxicity, lifespans, and surgical side effects. They also work in the private sector analyzing product safety and in agriculture using biostatistics to advise on topics such as ecology, the genetics of livestock, irrigation, fertilization, crop yield and quality, and pest control. Biostatisticians in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $89,000 per year.
Environmental health scientists focus on such environmentally related public health topics as chemical saturation, water contamination, hazardous waste disposal, and air pollution. They gather samples and analyze risk factors and data rooted in the natural sciences; they then form action plans for dealing with problems like localized pollution and develop initiatives to inform the public about (and pressure authorities on) health-related issues through education and advocacy. Environmental health scientists in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $67,000 per year.
Toxicologists determine and categorize the dangers of substances, whether chemical or biological. Toxicologists set such parameters as acceptable daily intake, data that is crucial to pharmacologists. In an environmental context, they investigate instances of contamination to determine the cause, severity, and effect on natural surroundings and inhabitants. In a forensic context, they sample bodily fluids to ascertain what substances are present and what role they may have played in the subject’s condition. Toxicologists in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $94,000 per year.
Public health educators practice under the awning of such institutions as government agencies, health service organizations, and nonprofits. They create and enact educational programs to inform the public about factors affecting their well-being such as diet, exercise, and environment. Together with community health workers, they also participate in initiatives encouraging people to live healthier lives. Health educators in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $69,000 per year.
Occupational health and safety specialists are responsible for surveying workplaces to make sure that they measure up to standards established by the government or industry. The task includes evaluating workplace practices, equipment, and the general environment. They perform their duties when an accident has occurred to determine its cause and issue a report assessing whether it was an isolated incident or part of an ongoing problem requiring intervention. They engage proactively, offering instructional programs that teach workers how to make their workplaces safer. Occupational health and safety specialists in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $79,000 per year.
Healthcare systems are exceedingly complex. Health organizations will continue to need guidance on delivering quality care at affordable prices that don’t overburden insurance providers or individuals. Health services managers provide this service. They craft business models for healthcare to improve quality and efficiency, and play watchdog to ensure organizations comply with current laws. They also help organizations establish pragmatic goals for the future. Health services managers in the U.S. earn a median salary of about $94,000 per year.
A Master of Public Health can open doors to excellent career opportunities in the private and public sectors. In addition, having this degree can lead to a healthy increase in salary. But the real reward for these experts in public health? MPH holders have the opportunity to give back to people by improving what’s arguably their most important asset: their health.
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