Highest Paying Degrees in Public Health — Majors & Careers

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Before we dive into the most lucrative public health degree paths and the careers they lead to, it is important to note the various options available. Unlike many other medical careers, one can enter into a public health career with just an Associate’s degree–and it is even possible to land some entry level positions without any specialized degree. To be considered for mid-to-high level positions however–those with the most seductive salaries and compensation packages–one must have a more competitive resume. 

Building a competitive resume is not always about earning the highest level degree possible. In many cases, employers evaluate candidates based on their specialization and unique skill sets. The public health field is in constant flux with ever-changing demands of its professionals which set the climate for competition in the job market. 

The realities of COVID-19 demonstrate this point. The public health industry has been tested during these trying times and the resulting landscape is something any prospective public health professional will want to play close attention to–particularly the trends with long-lasting implications. In this article we will break down these implications and the current climate of the job markets in the public health industry, as well as how to identify the most promising and lucrative opportunities. 

Before we dive in to the highest paying degrees in public health, consider these resources if you have additional questions:

DegreeQuery.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Most Common Specializations in Public Health

For the most part, the most popular and most promising public health careers will be based on one of the degree specializations listed below. And as a general rule, the public health industry rewards professionals for pursuing specialization. So if you are interested in targeting the most lucrative opportunities in your own career, then you will be best-served by establishing professional specialization. 

Establishing a professional specialization is also a great method for distinguishing yourself in the context of a competitive job market. We’ll look more deeply at how to properly evaluate different specialization tracks in the context of individual career goals in the next section, but for now let’s take a look at the most common public health specializations to consider.

  • Biostatistics
  • Biostatistics is the field of public health that is most concerned with developing statistical models for biological factors and variables underlying health concerns. 

  • Child & Maternal Health
  • Child and maternal health is the sector of public health focused on exploring communal systems of child-rearing, child-bearing, and the support of mothers in the context of improving outcomes and maintaining high standards of health and comfort throughout these phases. 

  • Community Health
  • Community health is the subspecialty within public health wherein professionals look at health issues through the lens of community systems and organizations–ranging in scope from localized community groups to large regional communities. 

  • Environmental Health
  • Environmental health is the specialization within public health concerned with the overlaps between man and nature, and how to leverage the latter to facilitate health and wellbeing in groups of people. 

  • Epidemiology & Infectious Disease
  • Epidemiology is the public health specialization wherein professionals investigate the causes and consequences of infectious diseases–across varying contexts of local or global considerations. These professionals use a variety of skills and methods to carry these inquiries through to fruition. 

  • Global Health
  • Global health is a subspecialty of public health that carries out inquiries on a global scale. Investigations are primarily concerned with establishing cause-effect interactions between micro and macro public health systems, particularly in the context of international factors. 

  • Health and Human Services
  • Health and human services professionals work on the administrational side of the industry and work at the heart of countless organizations to safeguard the public’s health. This specialization can manifest in vastly different forms depending on the particular objectives of a given position.

  • Nutrition
  • Nutrition is the focus of public health professionals who work to facilitate peoples’ health through ensuring dietary needs are met, and that systems are in place to comfortably facilitate the meeting of these needs. 

  • Occupational Health
  • Occupational health professionals work on the corporate-end of public health, working closely with employee groups to ensure that working conditions are safe, comfortable, and conducive to the pursuit of health and overall wellbeing. 

  • Social and Behavioral Science
  • Social and behavioral science is the subspecialty of public health where professionals employ a multi-disciplined approach, including behavioral psychology, anthropology, and social science. 

A Snapshot of the Public Health Industry

The public health industry is based on two primary tenets: firstly, developing and employing technology to facilitate health in the world’s communities, and secondly, researching and developing new models for understanding the health of the world’s communities. Given that these two tenets are based on ever-changing technology, markets, and standards of health, the public health industry is constantly evolving.

For this reason it is immensely important for perspectives of the industry to have a solid understanding of the current industry’s climate in order to capitalize on opportunities in the job market, as many of the most lucrative opportunities present in response to current market trends. This can be quite the undertaking to sift through current trends, but that is exactly what this section is for–so let’s break down the most important aspects of the public health industry and where it stands in 2021.

Public Health & COVID-19

COVID-19 has caused rapid changes and evolutions in the public health industry. Most notable among these is the rapidly growing demand for outreach and support in developing countries. In times of trial and tribulation like those faced in a world impacted by COVID-19, developing countries lean on developed countries to counteract the worst of the risks and dangers.

Similarly, the markets surrounding tests, mask-making, and epidemiology are experiencing tremendous growth and worldwide support. Because metrics of job market performance might not currently reflect these trends it’s important to identify these macro-level developments in order to predict future opportunities. 

Digital Business 

Even before COVID-19, countless industries were trending toward digitalization of business operations. And in response to quarantining and lockdowns, the public health industry has hurtled forward in digitalization practices. This has spurred notable growth in the following sectors of public health: digital consulting, telemedicine, digital research, and digitalized community outreach and education. 

This trend has been an excellent enabler for globally-minded public health operations. In 2021, you do not necessarily have to travel the world in order to engage in an international public health career. In fact, it is entirely possible to do so from the comfort of your own home if you so desire. 

Nationality & Public Health

While the overall trajectory of the public health industry has been trending towards globalization and integration of international collaboration, COVID-19 has had some counterintuitive impacts. Specifically in America, the pandemic has revealed the pitfalls of over-reliance on overseas markets for critical healthcare infrastructure. 

As such, it is important to note that there is growing support for domestic manufacturing operations in healthcare and public health. Similarly, there is growing recognition of the need for continued community outreach on American soil–whereas industry trends had previously pointed toward more support of outreach in developing nations. Prospective professionals will find these markets to be bursting with opportunities in coming seasons. 

Public Health Degree Paths

In weighing your options for pursuing the highest paying careers, it is important to first identify the different in-roads to the job market. Each student and professional will need to weigh the trade-offs and opportunity costs associated with investing the time, money, and effort in a degree program. 

The trade off here is that the time spent in a degree program could be spent building real-world experience in the job market. Like any career, professionals will be able to earn higher salary potential by building more professional experience and bolstering one’s resume; but likewise graduates of public health degree programs will see pay-bumps as well. 

And of course some career paths are gated behind minimum education requirements, or behind specializations that are most reasonably earned through a specialized degree program. Independent students may want to consider striving for the best of both worlds–by enrolling in a public health degree program designed for working students, so that one can simultaneously earn a degree while holding full-time employment in a targeted industry. 

It is also important to note that students interested in pursuing doctoral education will want to begin knocking out their prerequisites as early as possible. In this case, it would be most time-effective to skip an Associate’s and to enroll directly in a Master’s after graduating from a Bachelor’s program. 

So let’s break down your options: 

  • An Associate’s degree in Public Health

    • Typically completed over 1-2 years
    • Trades a specialized focus for a sufficient, generalized introduction to foundational concepts
    • Online degree programs available
    • Specialized tracks are available but are less common
    • Can be an excellent segway into top-tier Bachelor’s of Public Health programs if one’s high school performance was substandard. 

  • A Bachelor’s degree in Public Health 

    • Typically completed over 2-4 years 
    • Students will be able to choose from generalized curriculums that prepare students for a variety of career paths, or from specialized programs that prepare students to succeed in niche job market
    • Many top-tier online degree programs are available 
    • Many degree specializations and niche concentrations are available 
    • Many public health careers require at least a Bachelor’s, which is also a required degree for enrollment in a Master’s program.

  • A Master’s degree in Public Health 

    • Typically completed over 1-2 years 
    • At the graduate level, public health program curriculums are typically more focused and specialized
    • Many top-tier online degree programs are available at the graduate level
    • Many degree specializations and niche concentrations are available 
    • Some of the most lucrative careers in public health require a Master’s of Public Health degree, which is also typically required for enrollment in a doctorate program

  • A Doctorate degree in Public Health 

    • Typically completed over 1-2 years 
    • At the doctorate level, curriculums are highly specialized
    • Fewer online doctorate level programs to choose from
    • Specializations are foundational aspects to each doctorate program
    • Some of the most prestigious careers in public health require–or are benefited by–a PhD of Public Health

  • Graduate certificates in Public Health

    • Completed in time frames from just a few weeks to one year
    • Graduate certificates are usually targeted at specialized area 
    • Many online graduate certificate programs are available 
    • Graduate certificates can be an excellent method for building specialization in key subject quickly and affordably–to supplement a degree program, or advance one’s career

The Most Lucrative Careers in Public Health

Whether you choose to invest in a degree or not, everyone wants to know whether their life’s career will be a good match for them–and let’s be honest, financial security is a major part of that. And in the case of investing in an advanced degree, graduates need the confidence that they will see a sufficient return on their investment. Thankfully, it is fairly common for public health careers to offer entry-level salaries of $60,000 to $70,000–much larger than national averages.

With that in mind, let’s dive into some of the most lucrative careers in public health (data has been provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics):

Medical & Health Services Manager

Public health managers work at the top-end of their industry, and oversee the organizational aspects of public health oriented businesses. These professionals might oversee a research facility, manage community outreach specialities, or oversee regional state-funding of medical centers. As is the case with many managerial positions, professionals can earn some formidable salaries with some excellent prospects of upward mobility. 

  • Bachelor’s degree required (Healthcare Management, Public Health Administration)
  • Less than 5 years work experience required 
  • 422,300 jobs in 2019
  • 32% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Average salary of $111,520 per year

Healthcare Administrator

Healthcare Administrators specialize in bringing the business side of public health operations to fruition. These professionals work in a managerial capacity to oversee a variety of business functionalities and employ a wide array of skills to bring success to their organization. Administrators are tasked with organizing schedules, assigning professional responsibilities to other employees, and ensuring an organization’s paperwork is up to date. 

  • Bachelor’s degree required (Public Health, Public Administration)
  • Less than 5 years work experience required 
  • 422,300 jobs in 2019
  • 32% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Average salary of $99,730 per year

Top Industries for Healthcare Administrators 

  • Government                                             $111,520
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private           $110,430
  • Outpatient care centers                       $95,320
  • Offices of physicians                       $91,600
  • Nursing and residential care facilities $86,820

Environmental Scientist

Environmental scientists are professional scientists who specialize in the collecting of data relating to the overlaps between human communities and the environment. Like epidemiologists, these professionals can work in an array of environments, ranging from fieldwork to laboratory work. Given the growing concerns about global warming, pollution, and diminishing natural resources, this field receives continued interest and growth year after year. 

Learn more about the 5 best careers in environmental science

  • Bachelor’s degree required (in Environmental Science, Public Health)
  • No work experience required 
  • 90,900 jobs in 2019
  • 8% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Average salary of $71,360 per year

Top Industries for Environmental Scientists 

  • Federal government, excluding postal service                       $102,910
  • Engineering services                                                       $73,410
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $70,590
  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals           $68,190
  • State government, excluding education and hospitals           $65,180

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Health and safety specialists and technicians specialize in compliance and safety standards for a variety of operations and protocols. These professionals work in virtually any industry where employee or customer safety is a concern. They work closely with insurance specialists and business managers to ensure standards are met and laws are abided in matters of safety. 

  • No specific degree required; Public Health Degree advances earning potential
  • Less than 5 years work experience required 
  • 122,600 jobs in 2019
  • 4% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Median salary of $70,480 per year

Top Industries for Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians 

  • Manufacturing                                                                   $74,820
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private                                             $74,600
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $73,210
  • Government                                                                             $72,870
  • Construction                                                                             $72,840


Epidemiologists are experts at predicting, preventing, and mitigating infectious diseases. These professionals can work in the field, collecting data and carrying out outreach initiatives, or they can work in laboratories to test samples, cultivate data, and delve into research inquiries. Due to COVID-19, the field of epidemiology has experienced massive support and interest in 2020 and 2021–meaning that opportunities in this field are more abundant. 

  • Master’s degree typically required (Public Health, Epidemiology)
  • No work experience required 
  • 8,000 jobs in 2019
  • 5% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Median salary of $70,990 per year

Top Industries for Epidemiologists 

  • Scientific research and development services                   $99,770
  • Hospitals; state, local, and private                                         $81,810
  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals          $68,410
  • State government, excluding education and hospitals          $64,380
  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools         $62,440

Public Health Advisor / Public Health Educators

Public health advisors and public health educators work under the umbrella of spreading valuable information to further the cause of public health interests. These professionals work either as consultants and advisors to guide the operations of clients or organizations; or they work as educators who engage in community outreach or who act as instructors in the classroom.

  • No required degree; Public Health degree advances earning potential
  • Less than 5 years work experience required 
  • 127,100 jobs in 2019
  • 13% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Average salary of $68,000 per year

Top Industries for Public Health Advisors / Public Health Educators 

  • Hospitals; state, local, and private       $64,680
  • Government                                       $57,410
  • Outpatient care centers                 $52,360
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional, and similar organizations           


  • Individual and family services       $42,710

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers oversee a variety of service-based operations, organizations, and other services. Managers in these positions are typically tasked with overseeing multiple teams of outreach professionals, organizing community events, and managing administrational responsibilities relating to the parent-organization. The exact responsibility profile for this position can vary wildly though, and the particulars will depend on the scope and objective of a specific job.

  • Bachelor’s degree required (Public Health, Community Service)
  • Less than 5 years work experience required 
  • 175,500 jobs in 2019
  • 17% job growth from 2019 to 2029
  • Average salary of $67,150 per year

Top Industries for Social and Community Service Managers

  • Local government, excluding education and hospitals $85,550
  • Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional           $70,830
  • Nursing and residential care facilities                       $62,020
  • Individual and family services                                 $61,920
  • Community and vocational rehabilitation services $60,180

Highest Paying Degrees in Public Health: Key Takeaways

There are some clear takeaways from the above-listed data. Foremost among which is that professionals can pursue many lucrative careers with a bachelor’s degree. This is an excellent selling point for the public health industry, since most medically-minded fields require advanced education (Master’s degree or above). 

Similarly, even in careers which typically require at least a bachelor’s degree, students have flexibility in choosing which degree they wish to earn. This opens the door to opportunities for building specialization, which empowers students to pursue personal aspirations without sacrificing financial viability. 

The final major takeaway to note is that–for the most part–public health careers see a tremendous boost in financial viability when they are located in the federal or governmental sector. So for those who want to maximize the earning potential of their public health degree, it can be tremendously beneficial to build expertise in working with federal infrastructure.