In the multidisciplinary field of public health, career paths are as varied as human beings and the contagions that affect us. Think of your questionable food truck lunch or your commute through some mode of mass transit. Public health threats are lurking all around.
But public health jobs go beyond food poisoning and the spread of influenza. For example, a gunshot wound may be an isolated incident, or it may be part of a larger problem in a particular geographic area. Same for cyberbullying. A single incident might be linked to a global trend.
Unlike medical professionals, who focus on treating disease and injuries, public health experts contribute to wellness through analysis, planning, and prevention.
Earning a master’s in public health (MPH) can take as little as two and as many as five years, depending on your status as a full-time or part-time student. Most programs require prerequisites of college-level statistics, computer science, and biology. Specializations include health policy and management, analytics, and community health.
Whether your training enables you to author books, study bioterrorism, or become a lobbyist, with a public health degree you are guaranteed to make a positive difference for a large group of people.
Disaster Preparedness Coordinator During times of war or “acts of God" (events outside of human control such as tornadoes or floods), a disaster preparedness coordinator is ahead of the curve when it comes to public health. The job is mostly office-based and requires the ability to assess a community’s current weaknesses and potential risks. When a disaster strikes, be it an earthquake or a bioterrorism attack, disaster preparedness coordinators take leadership roles in gathering supplies and preparing a plan of action.
If you choose this career, you can expect to earn over $75,000 a year, and according to data gathered by PayScale, top earners break into six figures.
Epidemiology Research Analyst Another compelling public health job is that of an epidemiology research analyst—basically, a disease detective—who studies outbreaks in order to prevent future epidemics. The job market for epidemiology is predicted to increase 9 percent by 2026. The work is important. Diseases like measles, which were once considered extinct, are now back. As an epidemiology research analyst, the ability to interpret data is extremely important to understanding and eliminating the threat of disease.
A master’s in public health (or a related field) is the minimum requirement for becoming an epidemiologist research analyst. With an MPH degree, you can find jobs in hospitals, universities, and government organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). According to PayScale, epidemiologist research analysts earn over $90,000 a year on average.
Health Informatics Specialist If you enjoy a technical rather than a hands-on approach, you could be part of this important emerging field in public health. As a health informatics specialist, you would maintain the security of your agency’s computer network, and provide analytics to formulate effective responses to public health issues. Health informatics specialists work in healthcare facilities, government agencies, and insurance and medical software companies. Salaries range from $40,760 to $91,021 per year, with a median income of $61,141.
Public Health Administrator As a public health administrator, you could work in a number of settings including hospitals, think tanks, and governmental agencies. In addition to assessing community health issues, public health administrators develop programs, hire staff, write grants, manage budgets, and engage audiences—meaning you need to possess strong communication and public speaking skills. An MPH degree is preferred for this influential career.
If healthcare leadership is your passion, you are well suited to be a public health administrator and can expect your salary to fall between $41,000 and $98,000 per year, with a national average of $65,000.
Public Health Lobbyist If you’re a persuasive public speaker, a career as a public health lobbyist is worth strong consideration. Public health lobbyists are gifted in explaining complex issues and often serve as key advisors to local, state, and national legislators who are deciding on healthcare bills. This job requires excellent research skills and an understanding of the law, both of which can be developed through an MPH program. Depending on where you work and for how many hours, you could earn a very high salary as a public health lobbyist.
PayScale puts the average pay for lobbyists at $72,000 per year, and although the Department of Labor does not share compensation data for lobbyists, those with government experience report earnings of up to $300,000 a year.
As you can see, there are a variety of public health jobs available, and a master's degree will prepare you for these fast-paced, hands-on career paths. You’ll perform analysis, contribute to reports, and deliver presentations, all in response to public health dilemmas and in service of preventing a future crisis. No matter which career path you choose to pursue, your work will be crucial to the overall wellness of your community.
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