Career Paths in Public Health

If you want to work in the health sector and aren't sure where to start, a career in Public Health might be ideal! Have a look at some of the options!

Want to make the world a better place? Public health professionals can be found doing everything from identifying diseases to creating public policy. With an interest in the biological or social sciences and a Master’s in Public Health, coupled with a passion for solving problems and helping people, you can plan a career in public health that keeps you in your own community or can take you to just about any distant region in the world.

Jobs in the field are more than plentiful. The World Health Organization reports an estimated shortage of 7.2 million public health workers, with that number expected to nearly double in the next twenty years. Growing populations and environmental challenges call for dedicated people with the skills and compassion to contribute to real time, real world health.

According to the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, the most popular career paths in public health are:

1. Biostatistics and Informatics

Team of doctors working on laptop in medical office

Biostatistics is the subset of statistics that analyzes data and its application to health care. Using models to track the health and identify trends in populations, public health professionals in this field may be involved in clinical trials, genome projects, and studies to determine how geography affects risk factors in populations.

The related field of informatics focuses more intently on surveys and collection of data for disease prevention and the educational aspects of public health rather than research applications. Online degree programs now have classes specifically focusing on biostatistics for this reason.

Jobs in these related areas are available in academia, industry and government, and in addition to biostatisticians and health informatics specialists, also include positions as medical and health service managers.

2. Community Health

While biostatisticians and informatics professionals generally concern themselves with hard data, community health specialists have a wider view. Their work takes into consideration the diverse dynamics that influence the overall health of a specific community or larger region, and may call into play specialties like sociology and political science.

Careers in community health may focus on initiating wellness programs, doing educational outreach, or creating resources that promote healthy living. Often this work is done in underserved and vulnerable communities, working for governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations.

3. Epidemiology

Laboratory personnel testing and checking specimens

Bringing together aspects of biostatistics and community health, epidemiology is the basic science of health care. Epidemiologists study the causes and spread of diseases and develop strategies to control if not eradicate them. Along with interpreting data, epidemiologists work to understand the socio-economic, educational, and other interrelated factors that can endanger public health.

Epidemiologists may work for governmental agencies on a local level (like a city health department) or on a national level (like the Centers for Disease Control), or may be employed by international organizations or by pharmaceutical and other private companies. There are even opportunities to work as independent consultants.

4. Environmental Health

Environmental factors, both longstanding and emerging, are a significant cause of disease, disability, and mortality. The World Health Organization lists poor water quality and sanitation, vector-borne diseases, poor indoor air quality, toxic substances, and global environmental change as key elements in these serious risks to public health. Environmental health specialists focus on these and other factors as they study populations and do outreach to teach prevention and mitigation strategies.

Working in this field, environmental scientists, investigators, and engineers are generally employed by governmental agencies and nonprofit organizations devoted to environmental concerns.

5. Global Health

Globe and stethoscope

While there are certainly areas of need in the United States, there’s an extreme deficit of public health efforts in many other parts of the world. Field work in this specialty combines research and public outreach with efforts to modernize public health policies and improve access to care.

Nonprofit and governmental agencies are the primary employers of global health professionals, although the staffs of some private companies also include experts in the field. Regions with the most employment opportunities include developing countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East as well as South America and some island nations.

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Would you consider one of these jobs? What appeals to you the most? Your thoughts and comments below please...




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