Public Health Careers: Salary Info & Job Descriptions

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Are you considering pursuing a career in the field of public health? Get solid information on education requirements, salary and job growth and more here.
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Career Options in Public Health

Public health careers can be found in many disciplines. The public health field offers several career paths, including health educator, epidemiologist and medical and health service manager. Here is more info on these careers at a glance:

Health Educators Epidemiologists Medical and Health Service Managers
Career Overview Inform the public about health prevention Research why public health issues arise Coordinate health care services at a facility or organization
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree, some positions require master's degree Master's degree, some positions require doctoral degree Bachelor's degree, some employers prefer master's degree
Program Length Four years for bachelor's degree, two years for master's degree Two years for master's degree, six years for doctoral degree Four years for bachelor's degree, two years for master's degree
Additional/Other Training Internship Not applicable Not applicable
Certification and Licensing Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. Not applicable State-by-state licensing
Experience Requirement Not applicable Possible medical background May vary by employer
Job Outlook for 2014-2024 Faster than average (12%) growth for all occupations* Fast as average (6%) growth for all occupations* Faster than average (17%) growth for all occupations*
Mean Salary (2014) $55,260* $74,120* $103,680*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Health Educators

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), health educators are professionals who supervise and promote disease prevention for communities, students or groups. Health educators may work at schools, health care facilities, municipal or state public health departments or health care non-profits. They outline disease prevention programs and go into communities to implement these programs. Using feedback regarding these programs, they assess whether to continue them or make amendments. Health educators are typically mobile, doing both office and field work. Many health educators may work nights and weekends.

Requirements

Many entry-level positions in public health require a bachelor's degree. Academic programs for this career may include public health or health education and include courses in human development, psychology and a foreign language. Internships are recommended to provide experience at health education firms.

Below is a sample of sector job posts from December 2012:

  • A California medical center wants to hire a CHES-certified health educator. The candidate needs to have a bachelor's degree in public health and at least two years of professional experience, and be fluent in Spanish. The candidate must demonstrate that he or she can work in groups and conduct research with other people or independently.
  • A Utah university hospital needs a health educator to work on the hospital's health promotion programs. The health educator needs to attend conferences and present new material regarding health education. The health educator also recruits volunteers to help with health education programs associated with the university hospital.
  • A Virginia health care company needs a health educator. Responsibilities for the position include reaching out to communities across Virginia and establishing targeted education programs to help those communities. The candidate must have a bachelor's degree in health education and some experience with teaching.

Standing Out

The BLS outlines two ways to stand out from competitors. One is to earn a master's degree. An advanced degree is beneficial for all jobs and some state or federal public health jobs require it. The second way to stand out is to seek certification through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, Inc. (NCHEC). The NCHEC provides the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification, which is often required by many health education firms. Eligibility for the CHES certification examination includes holding an undergraduate or graduate degree in health education or public health.

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists are researchers who study how public health issues arise and what methods can best minimize health risks. Epidemiologists utilize data such as medical research, interviews, statistical data on diseases and other variables to determine public health issues. They draft policy solutions to solve these issues. Some areas epidemiologists are concerned about include infectious diseases, chronic illnesses, maternal and children's health, substance and drug abuse and health problems that occur from environmental effects. Epidemiologists work for private and public enterprises such as governments, pharmaceutical manufacturing, universities or health care facilities. The BLS notes that epidemiologists often work in labs or out in the field and interact with people, situations that can exposure them to dangerous materials or diseases.

Requirements

Most firms hire epidemiologists who hold a master's degree in public health or epidemiology. Graduate programs in epidemiology include courses on statistics, biology, policy analysis and survey design. Graduate courses emphasize how to conduct surveys and research projects and extrapolate important medical data from these projects.

Below is a sample of sector job posts from December 2012:

  • A medical group in California needs an epidemiologist to study why diseases and health variations are distributed in a certain way within a given population. The epidemiologist also needs to suggest ways to counter these health trends. The candidate must have a master's degree in health administration.
  • A North Carolina pharmaceutical research company needs an epidemiologist to work as a main researcher on medical literature and help direct research teams with pertinent epidemiological information. The candidate must have a master's degree in epidemiology and at least five years of experience.
  • A Massachusetts health care company needs to hire an epidemiologist. The epidemiologist for the company will be one of the main researchers for a government-funded program. The epidemiologist will investigate how certain medications help particular populations with specific health issues. The candidate needs a doctorate degree in epidemiology and five years experience.

Standing Out

Top epidemiological positions in research or academia require doctoral degrees. The doctoral program may take up to six years to complete, requiring a dissertation based on original research.

Medical and Health Service Managers

Medical and health service managers are the head administrators at health care facilities or clinics. These managers direct their health care organizations and adapt them to changing trends in medical service, care or technology and public health issues. In smaller organizations, medical and health service managers work closely with doctors and medical staff about the services their facilities are providing to the community. Medical and health service managers typically work in office settings at hospitals, clinics, health care facilities or nursing homes. Irregular hours may be common and many managers work weekends, late shifts or overnight.

Requirements

The BLS states that medical and health service managers usually have a bachelor's degree in health administration. Health administration is an interdisciplinary field of study that combines health care policy, management, accounting, medical ethics and health information systems. There are program concentrations in settings such as nursing home management or mental health clinic management.

The BLS adds that all states require licenses for medical and health service managers who work at nursing care facilities. Requirements and credentials for licenses vary by state, but most require candidates to earn a bachelor's degree and pass a licensing examination.

Below is a sample of sector job posts from December 2012:

  • A California health clinic needs a clinic manager to organize shifts for staff and direct clinic operations ranging from banking to maintenance. The candidate needs at least three years of managerial experience and a bachelor's in business or health administration.
  • An Iowa family practice clinic needs a medical service manager. The manager must monitor all activity at the facility, including physicians, staff and finances. The candidate must have three years of health administration experience.
  • A Massachusetts reproductive health clinic needs a health services manager. The candidate should have two years experience in health administration and have a bachelor's degree. Duties for the position include directing staff, outreaching to the community and analyzing the fiscal health of the non-profit.

Standing Out

Obtaining a master's degree in health administration or public health may qualify you for an advanced position or promotion.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Regulatory Science
      • Master of Science in Regulatory Science
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    2. Herzing University

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    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
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    3. Ashford University

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    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Public Admin
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    4. Regent University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Government - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Business Administration - Healthcare Management
      • Master of Public Administration - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management
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      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Psychology
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    5. Saint Joseph's University

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      • MS - Health Admin
      • MS - Health Admin Informatics
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    6. University of the Southwest

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    Master's
      • MBA - Healthcare Management
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    7. Northcentral University

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    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
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    8. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
    Master's
      • MS in Nursing: Public Health
      • MBA: Health Systems Management
      • MS in Health Care Administration
      • Master of Public Administration - Health Care Management
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      • BS in Health Care Administration
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    Certificate
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    10. Colorado Technical University

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    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Health Care Management and Leadership
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      • MS - Healthcare Management
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      • BS - Business Administration - Health Care Management

Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Regulatory Science

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Project Management and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Public Safety Leadership
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Public Safety Leadership

What is your highest level of education?

Ashford University

  • B.A. - Public Admin

What is your highest level of education?

Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Healthcare Leadership
  • Master of Arts in Government - Healthcare Policy and Ethics
  • Bachelor of Science in Healthcare Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS - Health Admin
  • MS - Health Admin Informatics

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of the Southwest

  • MBA - Healthcare Management

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Northcentral University

  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • EdD in Organizational Leadership - Health Care Administration
  • MS in Nursing: Public Health
  • BS in Health Care Administration

What is your highest level of education?