Students are not limited to one degree to pursue a career in the field of public health. This post will present some of your options. But first…
What is Public Health?
As the name implies, it is the science of protecting and promoting the health of individuals in a community. Tasks involve educating society on the perils of drug addiction and alcohol abuse. Public health sets safety standards for workers and implements public school nutrition programs. Another aspect of their services entails the prevention of injuries and being advocates for indoor air quality.
Public health officials at the state level use biostatistics to analyze trends in risk behaviors, smoking, and physical activity. The conclusions generated from the study of statistical data are shared with state legislators to promote a healthier lifestyle for the population.
Further information and articles are available at the American Public Health Association (APHA) site. Their Public Health Newswire offers free access to reports on binge drinking, Ebola vaccine, measles in Europe, and medical device safety, as examples. The APHA has student memberships that can save you $20 when you opt for online access only to the American Journal of Public Health.
You can begin your academics with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health either as a resident or online student. Some schools offer both formats, for example, Kent State University’s B.S. in Community-based Public Health. This program focuses on addressing health disparity issues, healthy behaviors, and methods to promote a healthier community.
A Bachelor of Science degree typically requires courses in biology and chemistry. Biology may include physiology, genetics, and the structure of organisms (morphology). Chemistry studies the periodic table, gases, energy, and molecular structure. A course in epidemiology is beneficial as it provides an understanding of disease transmission, disease processes, and disease causation.
A Bachelor of Arts is an option, although the curriculum mirrors the B.S. degree. You can expect to take classes in cell biology, human physiology, genetics, immunology, and epidemiology. Not all of these are requirements, but they could be included in your choice of concentrations. An example is the B.A. program at Miami University’s College of Arts and Science offers two areas:
- Human Disease and Epidemiology
- Health Policy and Administration
A Bachelor of Science in Community Health prepares graduates for work in government agencies, hospital settings, wellness programs, and community health organizations. The program at the University of Maryland School of Public Health stresses the importance of science. The curriculum includes anatomy, molecular and cellular biology, epidemiology, physiology, principles of biology, and biostatistics. The science courses support your education in health behavior, community-based research, public health practice, and methods in health.
Closely associated with the Community Health specialty is a Bachelor of Science in PH with a concentration in Community Health Education. The degree affords graduates career opportunities in the same areas as those mentioned in the previous paragraph. Graduates of the program at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro are eligible to become Certified Health Education Specialists (CHES). Qualified candidates must pass a 165 multiple-choice questions exam conducted by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC).
Students who prefer to work in an administrative position may consider the B.S. in Public Health in Health Services Administration. The coursework in the program at Kent State University teaches you to analyze local and national public health systems, evaluate their effectiveness, and assess the ethical and legal issues of healthcare.
Those who want a broader perspective of healthcare could enroll in a global health concentration. Kent State also offers this specialty in its public health bachelor’s degree. You explore the biological and sociological concerns of major global health problems. Examples are HIV-AIDS, health inequities, environmental and educational health, and nutrition. You study these examples at the national and international levels in the public sector. Integrated into the curriculum is a study abroad experience that also requires taking one of five languages (Arabic, Spanish, French, Russian, or Chinese).
A Bachelor of Science in Community Health provides the knowledge and skills for graduates to become a community health specialist, health advocate, health services manager, or social services director. The latter is a specialty area of public health involving adoption services, welfare services, social services, and community health services. Many of the standard sciences exist in the program at Arizona State University’s Edson School of Nursing and Health Innovation.
The ASU curriculum includes microbiology, statistics, human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology (the study of the functional changes due to disease). To function effectively in a public administrative role, courses also consist of an introduction to psychology, public speaking, leadership, social change, communication with communities, and ethics for the health care professional.
The examples above illustrate that you have degree choices in the field of public health. Additional possibilities you should investigate are environmental health, healthcare administration, community advocacy and social policy, and family and human development.