To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “The first wealth is health.” This quotation is appropriate for the field of Public Health- the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals. More importantly, public health is everyone’s health. Most people don’t understand what public health is or how it impacts their daily lives. Those who work in public health have careers ranging from water quality investigators to epidemiologists. Whether your interest be social work, research, management, or field work– public health has a niche for you.
Public health is a fast-growing industry that constantly needs new professionals. You can find a variety of career positions within this industry that you can work in, depending on your interests and skills. Some people only get a bachelor’s degree in this field, but the best careers are for those who hold a master’s degree in public health, or MPH.
1. Director of Industrial Hygiene
The Industrial Hygienist may be involved with the assessment and control of physical, chemical, biological or environmental hazards in the workplace or community that could cause injury or disease. Physical hazards may include noise, temperature extremes, illumination extremes, ionizing or non-ionizing radiation, and ergonomics.
Industrial Hygienists work to minimize exposures through the implementation of controls. The preferred method of control is the elimination of the chemical, which can sometimes be achieved by the substitution of a less hazardous material. Another method to reduce exposure is the use of an engineering control, such as a laboratory hood or other enclosure that isolates the chemical from the worker. In some cases an administrative control, such as the rotation of workers through a position to minimize the exposure to any single worker, is implemented.
Median Salary: $111,000
2. Hospital Administrator
Hospital administrators are responsible for the smooth operation of daily hospital activity. They manage the daily operations of a hospital and they supervise staff. An administrator must direct and coordinate departments to formulate specific goals and to reach organization-wide goals. They liaise with regulatory bodies, the press, the community and scientists. Hospital administrators also set budget goals and costs for service as well as direct fundraising and fees for special cases. They interact and work with physicians, nurses, orderlies, assistants, lawyers, ethicists and patients. As such, administrators must be professional and aware of who they are interacting with at all times. This is to ensure the most efficient working environment for physicians as well as the most comfortable environment for patients.
Median Salary: $97,000
3. Director of Municipal Water Treatment Plant
A director of a water treatment plant deals with all of the functions of a water treatment as it pertains to public health. This includes water storage, treatment and delivery. They oversee the operations of a waste water treatment plant to ensure compliance with regulatory procedures and reporting practices. Other duties may include:
- Oversees sampling and testing systems, and the functionality of pumps, conveyors, blowers, and other equipment.
- Stays abreast of federal, state, and local regulations and environmental guidelines.
- Collects data about treatment and performance to identify areas for improvement
- Negotiates with equipment vendors to ensure daily operations
Median Salary: $79,000
4. Healthcare Consultant
Healthcare consultant handle a number of responsibilities for clients, including conducting research to identify problems, researching possible solutions to the problem, observing and talking with employees and managers, writing reports, and conducting meetings with clients to share solutions. They are typically employed by large and/or private healthcare organizations. They work with their clients who, in most cases, are managers of various companies; in some cases, they work with the employees of the assigned organization for observation or research purposes.
Some personal abilities that are important for healthcare consultants include the ability to:research and analyze data, think critically, work independently, communicate well verbally and in written form, use basic computer applications, explain and communicate data and statistical findings to clients, and present solutions with confidence.
Median Salary: $76,000
5. Radiation Safety Specialist
A radiation safety specialist or officer develops, implements and monitors environmental and safety programs in a variety of public health-related facilities to make sure they are compliant with all federal, state and local laws. Job duties can include control of hazardous materials, emergency preparedness, radiological safety and prevention of accidents.
They generally work in laboratory environments and may be on their feet and walking frequently throughout the day. They are responsible for ensuring that radiation safety and environmental compliance are met by all levels of the organization, and developing plans and procedures to meet these goals. They will also perform on-the-job audits at laboratories throughout the organization and bioassays and leak-testing to ensure safety standards are met.
Median Salary: $75,000
This is the analysis of data and its application to health care. Public health professionals focusing on biostatistics use models to track the health of a population and identify trends. They may be involved in clinical trials, genome projects and spatial studies which seek to determine how geography can affect health and risk factors. Informatics is a related field that may focus more on surveillance and the collection of data for prevention and public health promotion rather than its application in research.
This specialty may be best for those who enjoy numbers and have an aptitude for math. The American Statistical Association notes on its website that biostatisticians should have excellent career opportunities in academia, industry and government.
Median Salary: $71,500
7. Public Health Advisor
These advisors provide and manage health education programs that help individuals, families, and their communities maximize and maintain healthy lifestyles. Collect and analyze data to identify community needs prior to planning, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating programs designed to encourage healthy lifestyles, policies, and environments.
Other duties may include:
- Develop and present health education and promotion programs, such as training workshops, conferences, and school or community presentations
- Design and conduct evaluations and diagnostic studies to assess the quality and performance of health education programs
- Develop operational plans and policies necessary to achieve health education objectives and services
- Supervise professional and technical staff in implementing health programs, objectives, and goals
- Collaborate with health specialists and civic groups to determine community health needs and the availability of services and to develop goals for meeting needs
Median Salary: $65,000
8. Infection Control Coordinator
An infection control coordinator or officer spends much of the time doing surveillance of medical problems and reports in a public health setting. They manage public health programs, including statistical analysis, health care planning, surveillance systems, and public health improvement. Other duties may include:
- Consult with and advise physicians, educators, researchers, government health officials and others regarding medical applications of sciences, such as physics, biology, and chemistry.
- Plan, administer and evaluate health safety standards and programs to improve public health, conferring with health department, industry personnel and physicians.
- Plan and coordinate studies to investigate disease, preventive methods and treatments.
- Monitor patient diagnoses, review medical conditions during patients’ hospital stay
- Ensure doctors and nurses care does not spread disease, thus affecting public health
Median Salary: $65,000
9. Director of Environmental Health
Environmental health is the branch of public health that is concerned with all aspects of the natural and built environment that may affect human health. Environmental health and environmental protection are very much related. Environmental health is focused on the natural and built environments for the benefit of human health, whereas environmental protection is concerned with protecting the natural environment for the benefit of human health and the ecosystems.
As of 2015 the World Health Organization (WHO) website on environmental health states “Environmental health addresses all the physical, chemical, and biological factors external to a person, and all the related factors impacting behaviors. It encompasses the assessment and control of those environmental factors that can potentially affect health. It is targeted towards preventing disease and creating health-supportive environments. This definition excludes behavior not related to environment, as well as behavior related to the social and cultural environment, as well as genetics.”
Median Salary: $64,500
This is the science that studies the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions in defined populations. It is the cornerstone of public health, and informs policy decisions and evidence-based practice by identifying risk factors for disease and targets for preventive healthcare. Epidemiologists help with study design, collection, and statistical analysis of data, and interpretation and dissemination of results (including peer review). Epidemiology has helped develop methodology used in clinical research, public health studies, and, to a lesser extent, basic research in the biological sciences.
Epidemiologists are often employed by government agencies such as local health departments, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, they may also find jobs with international organizations or private companies such as pharmaceutical companies. Some epidemiologists work independently as consultants.
Median Salary: $63,100
11. Nonprofit Executive Director
Executive Directors for non-profits are leaders of their organizations. They are often viewed as the primary representative of the organization. They represent the organization in much the same fashion as a CEO in the corporate world. Executive Directors also have day-to-day control of the organization are responsible for basic functions. Chief among their responsibilities is communication both inside the organization and to the public.
Communication is the single biggest responsibility an executive director needs. While some of this can be tied in with day-to-day functioning, it is a much bigger responsibility in and of itself. Program awareness for the public and new ideas concerning the organizations direction that needs to be communicated from the board to the general staff and specifics regarding a fund-raiser all of this needs to be communicated effectively and clearly to each individual party. It’s not just about sending emails, it’s about talking to people and giving them not just the information it is about communicating the ideas that go with the info.
Median Salary: $61,000
12. Public Health Nutritionist
A nutritionist in public health is a registered dietitian that coordinates and implements nutrition policies and programs for various local, state, federal and even international public health organizations. Many public health nutritionists will give customized health information to individuals and specific groups. For instance, some dietitians and nutritionists could teach patients in poor communities about high blood pressure, and how to prepare more healthy foods with less sodium. Other public health nutritionists could work with at risk communities with health problems about how to plan a diet for their families that has less sugar and fat.
Median Salary: $53,000
13. Public Health Nurse
A public health nurse holds a specialty position in nursing that is involved less in the day-to-day care of patients and more in education of individuals, families, groups, and communities regarding health and risk factors. The public health nurse typically works for a larger health care provider, or they may work as part of a government agency. They work to not only educate groups about physical and mental health, but also work to identify potential at-risk individuals or groups to reach out to and advocate for.
These nurses also help with developing education and awareness programs for groups related to preventive care. The nurse creates presentations and gathers educational materials, so they must possess excellent written and verbal communication skills.
Median Salary: $51,000
14. Clinical Trials Analyst
A clinical research or trials analyst works on medical studies designed to measure the effectiveness of a drug, medical device, or process on the human body. Clinical research is often conducted in a hospital, medical facility, or laboratory, and research analysts work alongside professionals within the medical field.
The title of clinical research analyst is broad, and the role can vary from employer to employer. Generally, the job entails working with physicians or scientists who oversee the clinical research. Research analysts may also interact directly with patients by screening them as potential candidates or collecting data needed for the study. In all tasks, the clinical analyst must follow strict safety and privacy protocols, as well as federal regulations and any other measures meant to protect the privacy of research participants. They generally report their progress to the clinical research manager in their department.
Median Salary: $50,000
15. Public Health Social Worker
Like other public health specializations, this area includes a focus on the social influences impacting a population’s overall health. However, social and behavioral health workers may have a greater emphasis on understanding how individual thought processes can affect health. For example, psychology, psychiatry and social work are all important components of this specialization. Workers may further focus their career on specific health concerns such as obesity, mental health or substance abuse.
In this endeavor, the public health social worker assesses and treats patients and their families in understanding and coping with emotional and social problems. Additionally, they provide advocacy and resource services for patients.
Median Salary: $48,000
16. Health Educator
Part public health and part public relations, degree programs for this concentration focus on communication skills and marketing practices. Health promotion specialists may be employed by schools, community organizations and the government to spearhead efforts to encourage health lifestyles. Their job duties may be diverse and include creating and implementing wellness programs, developing marketing campaigns, completing grant applications and working with a team to formulate a comprehensive response to a health concern or crisis.
Workplace health promotion is one area of focus within this specialty. The primary concern is the prevention and the intervention to reduce health risks by the employee. Work site health promotion programs (also called “workplace health promotion programs,” “work site wellness programs,” or “workplace wellness programs”) include exercise, nutrition, smoking cessation and stress management.
Median Salary: $45,800
17. Clinical Research Coordinator
Clinical research coordinators make sure that all members of the research team are in compliance with rules and regulations that must be followed during the process of conducting a clinical trial, including informed consent. They must also ensure that the materials and supplies used in the trial are kept safely before and during the trial, as well as all documents recorded during the trial period. Clinical research coordinators work with the companies funding the clinical trials to set a budget for the research. They also recruit patients and subjects, maintain a high level of patient care, and submit findings to the company or organization once the study is finished.
These professionals have to not only apply for and attain the grants and funding for the research; they must also figure out an amount for the funding they require. Cost analysis is a large part of this job, as the coordinator must put together a budget that includes how much the research will cost, as well as payroll, travel (for both professionals and subjects), supplies, technology (including internet, fax, and telephone costs), pharmacy costs, and other costs that will affect the budget of the trial.
Median Salary: $45,000
18. Public Health Officer
While biostatisticians and informatics professionals are largely concerned with collecting and analyzing hard data, public health officers take a more holistic look at public health. Their work involves considering the many dynamics that may be at play influencing the overall health of a particular community or region. To do their jobs well, community health specialists may take courses in sociology, political science and biology.
These individuals may work for nonprofit organizations, military, local and state government agencies, as well as federal agencies.
Median Salary: $42,200
19. Water Quality Investigator
A water quality investigator investigates various water problems and issues that afflict communities in various towns, states, counties and other designated geographical areas. They will often deal with various water measuring instruments and machines to treat and test water. They also monitor operating conditions with the local water supply with assorted meters and gauges.
Typical duties may include:
- Conducts on-site investigations and inspections, to ensure compliance to city codes and federal, state, and/or local regulations relating to waste water rules and regulations
- Gathers evidence, testifies, and assists in the prosecution of offenders of city, state, and/or federal codes related to wastewater rules and regulations
- Investigates illicit discharges to the storm and sanitary sewer systems
- Issues summons and complaints against violators
Median Salary: $41,000
20. Nonprofit Coordinator
Non-profit program coordinators or managers are found in all fields, from human services organizations and academic institutions to political and environmental groups. The job of the program manager at a non-profit is to ensure that the program he oversees is successfully meeting its mandate and ensuring that the funding to maintain that success is continually forthcoming. A non-profit program manager’s job description reflects the characteristics and qualities that are needed to meet those requirements.
The primary responsibility of a non-profit program manager is to manage the day to day activities of the program, which involves creating and managing program content and initiatives. The program in question could be a small, local non-profit that may support only a part-time manager position or an international program that requires full-time oversight and a higher skill level. If the program has additional staff, it is the program manager’s responsibility to supervise those employees, along with volunteers.
Median Salary: $37,000
Some occupations in the public health profession require only an Associates degree such as the working in the water treatment industry. However, one’s prospects are broadened by the completion of at least a Bachelor’s degree. The better paying jobs are available to those who have obtained a Master’s degree, as mentioned in the Overview of this piece.
Some of the career choices require specialty degrees, such as the Registered Nurse accreditation to be a Public Health Nurse.
The United States employs about 100,000 public health professionals. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics the overall job growth is expected to be between 10 and 21 percent through 2022, depending on the public health field. It has been reported that America will need an additional 250,000 public health workers by 2020.
An increasing number of professionals trained in public health principles are now finding jobs in diverse medical and business fields. The array of employers for which public health professionals work spans from the government to new and exciting avenues in business and charity.