A rapidly growing field, public health aims to prevent disease, promote wellness, and prolong lives. While some professionals work with individuals, the CDC Foundation defines the practice as "protecting the health of entire populations."
From water treatment supervision to health education practices to setting industry standards for safe working practices, professionals in public health are involved in all the core functions and essential services required for thriving, healthy communities. Careers in the field are notoriously demanding, but public health workers enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that they have a positive impact on the communities they serve.
5 Career Opportunities in Public Health
Opportunities abound in public health. Many promising positions center on research. Others primarily involve inspections or education. All offer a competitive salary for those with the passion and education needed to serve others effectively. Common career paths include:
1. Health Educator
As its name implies, this career track involves alerting the public to the many behaviors people can adopt to promote personal wellness. These professionals will do everything from working on education efforts to institute smoking cessation programs to setting up vaccination delivery systems to fight pandemics. Beyond this, however, health educators also assess and respond to the specific health concerns present in the communities they serve. They ensure that local training programs are accurately tailored to provide the greatest possible benefit.
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that health educators and community health workers earned mean annual wages of $48,140 as of May 2020. Those with the highest pay were typically employed by hospitals and government entities.
2. Clinical Research Associate
Clinical researchers and research associates play a supportive role in the research process. They can be involved in everything from testing biotechnological products and drugs to organizing control groups for clinical trials. Many organize supplies and collect test results. Attention to detail is critical, especially as research associates must abide by strict safety and privacy regulations.
Based on data from PayScale, the average clinical research associate earns an annual $67,214. Opportunities for advancement could include eventual careers as research leads or coordinators.
3. Health Policy Analyst
Often employed by federal or state agencies, health policy analysts conduct comprehensive research to address concerns and opportunities related to current public health initiatives. Many also serve on committees or task groups that assist in developing, reviewing, and adjusting public health policies. Ultimately, they ensure that initiatives have a positive impact on targeted communities.
To succeed, analysts must possess strong research and written communication skills. Competence in public speaking may also prove critical, as many health policy analysts present their findings to lawmakers. PayScale reports an annual average salary of $64,127 for health policy analysts.
Communicable diseases present a huge risk for the American population. The sooner their sources can be determined, the sooner dangerous outbreaks can be addressed. Epidemiologists play a critical role in determining how such outbreaks emerge—and how they can be contained. They delve into a variety of seemingly unrelated factors, such as living arrangements, diet, and hygiene. Many also examine the role of genetic influences and other factors that make certain individuals more susceptible to disease.
Graduate-level education is typically required for entry into this field, although applicants equipped with a Bachelor of Science in Public Health may sometimes secure entry-level positions. Pay largely depends on education and experience. PayScale highlights average annual earnings of $65,183.
Typically employed by state and regional public health divisions, sanitarians are responsible for monitoring and enforcing local sanitation initiatives. Many conduct health and sanitation inspections at restaurants, hotels, adult care centers, and other facilities that serve the public. Following these inspections, they report their findings in detail, and, if warranted, cite violations. PayScale reports that the average sanitarian earns $46,458.
Preparing for a Career in Public Health: Pursuing the Right Degree
If you dream of working in public health, you'll want to gain the appropriate skills and knowledge well in advance. You are far more likely to make your mark in this competitive field if you secure a degree from a respected program.
Ideally, your education will involve a blend of theoretical knowledge and hands-on application. Likewise, you should develop advanced communication and technological skills, which could later grant you a significant edge in your job search.
University of the Cumberlands offers a variety of academic programs that focus on or relate to public health. Top options include:
Associate of Science in Public Health
The Associate of Science in Public Health is ideal for busy adults with a strong need for flexible education options. This online program covers a variety of key topics, including nutrition, substance abuse, environmental health, and more. Students who graduate from this program can immediately take on a variety of promising career opportunities—or continue on their academic journey as they pursue a Bachelor of Science in Public Health.
Bachelor of Science in Public Health
The Bachelor of Science in Public Health builds upon the foundation developed through University of the Cumberlands' related associate program while adding courses in human anatomy and epidemiology. An available internship track grants students hands-on experience in the field. Regardless of whether they complete the optional internship, students enrolled in this program can expect to secure the advanced knowledge needed for success in a variety of clinical and education-oriented public health positions.
Associate of Applied Science
Dedicated to the practical application of science, University of the Cumberlands' Associate of Applied Science delves into a variety of relevant opportunities in the interest of preparing students for success in technical fields. While a variety of concentrations are available, the public health track appeals most to those seeking to balance broad-based transferable skills with targeted career competencies. Students who complete this program can seamlessly transition into the four-year online Bachelor of Applied Science.
Bachelor of Applied Science
Similar in many respects to the Associate of Applied Science program, University of the Cumberlands' Bachelor of Applied Science offers a Public Health concentration intended to prepare students for success in a number of demanding positions. Popular among those who have already obtained their associate degree, this program equips students with a broad range of skills that can be applied in a variety of technical fields. Students involved in the Public Health track also emerge with an in-depth understanding of community and environmental health.
If you are looking to pursue an undergraduate or graduate degree, look no further than University of the Cumberlands. We offer the bachelor’s and master’s degree programs you need to make an impact for your community and your career. With professors who have years of real-world experience in the same field they are teaching, very competitive tuition rates, and a sense of honor in everything we do, why look any further? See what UC can do for you by contacting an admissions counselor for more information.