Public health is a growing field that encompasses a broad range of career possibilities and differs from traditional medical jobs in two very different ways: First, public health is concerned with prevention and management of diseases rather than treatment of them. Second, public health looks at entire populations and the best ways to keep the community healthy rather than focusing on the health of a single individual. Professionals in the public health field can work in research, a specific health program or implementation of public health policy.
Public health policy is a specialized area that collects information about possible health risks and works to implement legislation on the state and federal level to minimize those risks. Recommendations of procedures and practices may also fall under the jurisdiction of public health policy. Professionals in this area must be well versed in current legislation regarding public health and comfortable working with data.
Some entry-level public health jobs are obtained through associate degrees in public health or related fields of study, but many careers will require a four-year degree in a related field, such as biology, mathematics or environmental science. While some positions may hire with an associate or bachelor’s degree, many will require a graduate degree for advancement.
Even if a graduate degree is not an application requirement, those who have master’s degrees and doctorates in public health will have a competitive edge over those who do not. It is also important to pursue a degree from a college or university accredited in public health studies.
Those working in the field of public health policy have a wide variety of tasks on a daily basis, including:
In some cases, public health professionals work in the area of emergency preparedness, a topic that has received additional attention in recent years. Due to an increased need for policy in this area and others, the field of public policy is an expanding one, with many current job opportunities available.
Salaries in the field of public health can vary widely based on the area of specialization, location of employment and amount of education. The annual salary range averages around $33,000 – $63,000. In addition to the increasing availability of employment opportunities in this field, many find that public health is a rewarding career choice that allows them to help others by implementing policies that are a positive step toward better health in the general population.