Public health careers provide opportunities to improve many lives at a time
This field encompasses hundreds of job titles, specialties, and subspecialties.
If you watch TV shows like Grey’s Anatomy or have friends who are training to become nurses, doctors, or other clinical professionals, you might think the only health care careers available are those focused on meeting individual patient needs. They're the jobs that tend to get the most airplay, literally and figuratively. But behind the scenes are health care professionals who make their own critical contributions in the sometimes overlooked but important world of public health careers.
Public health addresses the health care issues of communities, particularly populations that might be deemed "at risk" for certain diseases or conditions. Health promotion and disease prevention are at the core of public health, and professionals in the field tend to focus on one of three broad activities, according to the Association of Schools of Public Health (ASPH):
- Assessing and monitoring the health of communities to pinpoint existing and potential health problems and set health priorities.
- Working with government and community leaders to develop policies to address identified health problems and priorities.
- Ensuring that all people have access to quality, cost-effective healthcare, particularly as it relates to health promotion and disease prevention, and continually evaluating that care's effectiveness.
Public health careers
These three missions encompass hundreds of job titles, specialties, and subspecialties. You'll never be able to learn about all of them, but you can get a basic idea. Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these are the types of careers you can explore within the 11 core areas of study in public health as defined by the ASPH:
Health services administration
What you’d do: Health services managers and administrators coordinate health services, education, and/or policy in settings such as hospitals, clinics, managed-care organizations, and public health agencies.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree in health administration, health management, nursing, public health administration, or business administration, though many employers require a master’s degree.
What you’d make: Managers earn a median of $98,350 per year.
Find health care administrator jobs on Monster.
What you’d do: Biostatisticians use statistical procedures and mathematical methods to analyze public health problems, programs, and research efforts.
What you’d need: Typically, a bachelor’s degree in biostatistics, statistics, or math is required, though many biostatisticians have a master’s degree.
What you’d make: Mathematicians and statisticians earn a median of $84,760 per year.
Find biostatistician jobs on Monster.
What you’d do: Epidemiologists investigate the causes and patterns of disease and disability among populations.
What you’d need: A master’s degree in public health (MPH) or a related field is common.
What you’d make: $69,660 per year
Find epidemiologist jobs on Monster.
Health education and behavioral sciences
What you’d do: Professionals in this specialty area study how psychological, sociological, anthropological, and even political concerns can affect public health.
What you’d need: Requirements vary depending on the branch of behavioral science you choose to pursue, though many require advance degrees.
What you’d make: $64,510 per year
Find behavioral science jobs on Monster.
Environmental health sciences
What you’d do: According to the ASPH, half of those who work in public health careers focus on this specialty. Environmental health scientists examine factors in the natural environment (air, water, and land) that affect people's well-being.
What you’d need: At least a bachelor’s degree in a natural science or science-related field.
What you’d make: $69,400 per year
Find environmental science jobs on Monster.
What you’d do: Specialists in this area look for ways to improve health and health standards in developing countries around the world.
What you’d need: Most specialists earn a minimum of a master’s degree in international or public health.
What you’d make: $69,660 per year
Find global health jobs on Monster.
Biomedical and laboratory practice
What you’d do: Bacteriologists, microbiologists, biochemists, and others in this subspecialty develop laboratory techniques to help diagnose and treat diseases and other conditions affecting people's health.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree in your specialty is the starting point, though many candidates earn a PhD in order to conduct independent research.
What you’d make: Salaries vary depending on your specialty. The median annual salary for a microbiologist is $69,960; the median annual salary for a biochemist is $91,190.
Find biomedical jobs on Monster.
What you’d do: Nutritionists teach people how to eat well to stay healthy and/or manage a particular disease.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree, plus state-issued license.
What you’d make: $59,410 per year
Find nutritionist jobs on Monster.
Public health practice
What you’d do: These generalists take the principles of epidemiology, biostatistics, behavioral science, and environmental health right to the people—the "public" of public health—to teach health promotion and disease prevention.
What you’d need: It depends on your specialty, though a bachelor’s degree is common for entry-level jobs.
What you’d make: Health educators earn an annual median salary of $45,360.
Find public health jobs on Monster.
Maternal and child health
What you'd do: These health practitioners study the often complex and unique public health problems affecting women and children.
What you’d need: A master’s degree is commonly required.
What you’d make: According to PayScale, the average annual salary is $54,000.
Find maternal child health jobs on Monster.
Occupational safety and health
What you’d do: These specialists identify potential health and safety hazards in the work environment and focus on preventing and/or controlling them.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety or in a related scientific or technical field.
What you’d make: $67,720 per year
Find occupational safety jobs on Monster.
Start your career path here
If you would like to make a difference in the health of hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people, then public health may be just the career remedy you need. Could you use some help getting started? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume—each tailored to the types of public health jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day, looking to fill top jobs with qualified candidates, just like you. Additionally, you can sign up for job alerts to be emailed to your inbox so you can be among the first to apply.