1. Career Advice
  2. Career Path
  3. Consider these 5 public health careers in different sectors
Consider these 5 public health careers in different sectors

Consider these 5 public health careers in different sectors

Artwork by: Antonina Kasyanikova

  • What is a public health career?
  • Why should someone pursue a career in public health?
  • Is working in public health stressful?
  • What are five high-paying careers in public health?
  • 1. Biostatistician
  • 2. Medical and Health Services Manager
  • 3. Healthcare Consultant
  • 4. Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
  • 5. Public Health Nurse
  • What are some important examples of public health achievements?
  • Key takeaways

Public health careers can help people and bring about meaningful change in our society. In this article, we present five public health careers and discuss whether a career in this field is right for you.

In the age of Covid-19, the awareness of public health has never been higher. While we saw healthcare workers lauded on the news daily, we as a society became more aware of the need to care for the public on a wide-scale. A career in public health means job growth and myriad opportunities, but it differs from the front-line care that most of us encounter in our daily lives. Public health is continually changing and adapting to the needs of people around the globe, because instead of working with patients one-on-one, diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions, public health professionals work on a larger scale, striving to solve the health issues of groups on a community level.

In this article, we’ll discuss what it means to work in a career in public health, including: 

  • What does a career in public health look like?

  • Is a public health career worth it? Is working in public health stressful?

  • What are the five highest-paying jobs in public health?

  • What are the greatest achievements in public health?

What is a public health career?

As the name suggests, public health is a field focused on the health of a population, including how it relates to governmental policies and assistance. Someone who works in public health makes determinations about the best way to handle issues regarding epidemiology, disease prevention and management, and general hygiene. As we saw in the Covid-19 pandemic, public health professionals work towards advancing a secure and healthy population via education, research, and preventative training to safeguard the health of communities. In general, public health professionals track and respond to outbreaks of disease, as well as work towards promoting healthy lifestyles, studying how to prevent disease and injury, and seeking the causes of racial and economic disparities in health care.

Why should someone pursue a career in public health?

While many careers in public health provide good salaries, people also often enter the field with the desire to "do good" for their communities. This involves tackling health policies and regulations on a wider scale to have a positive effect on governmental policies at home and abroad. This can make a career in public health “worth it” on both a personal and professional level.

Other factors to consider are:

  • Job opportunities. Per the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare is one of the fastest-growing employment sectors in the U.S., with an estimated 2 million new positions projected between 2021 and 2031. 

  • Personal growth and fulfillment. Many people find working to improve people's lives to be satisfying on a personal and professional level.  It also provides a variety of global cultural experiences that allow you to grow as a human being and learn more about the world around you.

  • A wide variety of fields. Public health experts work in many settings including medicine, social work, government, and beyond. With so many fields to choose from, you’ll be able to find a career that meets your personal and professional goals.

Is working in public health stressful?

To be blunt, yes, especially after several years of Covid response. Providing care to the general public can be stressful and challenging, and if not managed properly, can have a detrimental effect on your well-being. In a 2021 study of more than 26,000 state, local, territorial, and tribal public health workers, 53% reported symptoms of at least one recent mental health issue. Pandemics, as well as natural disasters, can be incredibly stressful for healthcare workers in all fields, as they provide care to people dealing with the disaster while managing the effects on their well-being. 

There are ways to manage stress, however, including finding time to rest, doing breathwork or meditation, eating healthy, and taking time off. 

Expert Tip

Don’t let the possibility of stress discourage you from working in public health. Per Alexis Hanson, DNP, FNP-C, who serves on the faculty of the Purdue Global School of Nursing, “Everyone experiences stress…it becomes a concern when it develops into chronic stress.” Find a way to balance your well-being with working towards the greater good.

What are five high-paying careers in public health?

If you’re ready to make a positive impact on your community, locally or globally, there are a wide variety of potential roles in public health, with various salaries, education requirements, and responsibilities. However, the following five public health careers offer some of the highest salaries in the field, as well as above-average projected growth rates.

1. Biostatistician

Projected job growth (2021-2031): 31%

Median Salary as of 2021: $96,280


Biostatisticians perform statistical research in medicine, biology, and public health, such as whether a new drug works, what causes cancer and other diseases, and how long a person with a certain illness is likely to survive. They also work in tandem with other professionals such as epidemiologists, medical researchers, and clinicians to provide evidence-based resolutions to public health challenges. They may work for a university, the government, pharmaceutical companies, or hospitals. A bachelor's degree is usually the minimum requirement for this position; advancement might require a master's or doctorate.

2. Medical and Health Services Manager

Projected job growth (2021-2031): 28%

Median Salary as of 2021: $101,340

A medical and health services manager oversees and coordinates services in a hospital/health care facility, medical department, or clinic. This position requires knowledge of ever-changing healthcare regulations, technology, and laws. A medical and health services manager may hire and train new staff, establish departmental budgets, and oversee professional development. This position often requires a masters' degree and work experience in hospital administration.

3. Healthcare Consultant

Projected job growth: (2021-2031): 11%

Median salary as of 2021: $93,000

Healthcare consultants are management consultants who specialize in improving production, supply chain, and lean management methods for healthcare organizations, utilizing data analysis to increase efficiency. Entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree; an MBA or MPH will be required for career growth.

4. Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Projected job growth: (2021-2031): 5%

Median salary as of 2021: $74,870

Occupational health and safety specialists collect data on workplace environments and analyze whether or not they’re following required health and safety regulations. They perform inspections of equipment and workplace environments, write reports, and train workers in the proper health and safety requirements. If you like being organized, interacting with a variety of people, and establishing routines and rule enforcement, this might be a career path for you. A bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, biology, or a related field is required; roles with more responsibility will require a master’s degree in industrial hygiene or health physics.

5. Public Health Nurse

Projected job growth (2021-2031): 6%

Median salary as of 2021: $77,600

Instead of working in a hospital ward or doctor’s office, public health nurses offer care and education to communities and groups. This includes making health information available and accessible, educating about vaccinations, or providing prenatal training. Along with general nursing duties, public health nurses may also work with government agencies to administer health program budgets or work on behalf of a community to campaign for improved health services for marginalized or underserved groups. The minimum education requirement is an associate’s degree in nursing (along with any licensing requirements), but many employers prefer to hire nurses with a master’s degree.

Expert Tip

The highest-paid U.S. public health workers earn, on average, anywhere from $88,580 to $93,910 (or higher), although they are generally in administrative or management-level positions. However, there will be plenty of job opportunities, as overall employment in the healthcare field is projected to increase by 13% from 2021 to 2031, according to the BLS.

What are some important examples of public health achievements?

A career in public health is more than just a pandemic response. The work they do affects all aspects of our lives, and historically they've been responsible for increasing overall lifespan and implementing vital safety regulations that have saved countless lives. For example, in the 14th century, public health workers helped contain the plague known as the “Black Death,” which killed anywhere from 75–200 million people. In the 19th century, England passed a law called the “Public Health Act” which incorporated sanitation strategies such as improving sewers, providing clean water, and establishing a medical officer in every town. This reduced the incidence of diseases such as smallpox, diphtheria, typhus, cholera, and tuberculosis, potentially saving millions of lives (the U.S. followed suit twenty years later). Changes in public health policies have increased the average lifespan for Americans by 25 years since 1900. 

The public health field still has a lot of work it can do to improve life in the 21st century. From epidemiology, social and behavioral health, and environmental and occupational health, to research and health policies, the goal of public health is to improve the quality of life for all people, regardless of geography, economic status, or race. It involves both research and implementation of policy. It allows professionals from a variety of disciplines to discover and resolve the causes of serious, complex health issues and work together to create functional, workable solutions.

To find the perfect Public Health job for you, check out our Job Search tool on Career.io!

Key takeaways

  1. Public health is a field focused on the health of a population, including how it relates to governmental policies and assistance. 

  2. A public health professional makes determinations about the best way to handle issues regarding epidemiology, disease prevention and management, and general hygiene. 

  3. Benefits of working in public health include a variety of job opportunities, personal growth and fulfillment, and the chance to work in a wide variety of areas.

  4. Many jobs in public health are well paid, with average salaries over $75,000 per year.

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