Public health professionals work to prevent disease and injury and promote good health for individuals, communities and entire nations. They face challenges related to complex health issues including infectious diseases, environmental health hazards, public safety and equal access to health care.
The scope of public health is broad. Public health professionals come from a variety of educational backgrounds and represent a wide spectrum of disciplines. Some of the specialist professions that pertain to public health include administrators, researchers, nurses, physicians, nutritionists, social workers, biostatisticians, epidemiologists, teachers, legislative advocates and environmentalists.
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Public health jobs can be found in both the public and private sectors. Graduates of public health programs are employed by local, state and federal health departments. Public health professionals are also employed as researchers by government laboratories and university systems. Non-profit organizations employ public health professionals in a variety of capacities including health policy, advocacy and research. In the private sector, public health professionals are employed by pharmaceutical companies, insurance companies and other companies that have an interest in public health.
The U.S. Department of Labor predicts that job growth in public health will exceed growth in most other occupations in the coming decade. The public health career outlook is very good due to the growing demand for health professionals to address global health issues such as pandemic diseases, bioterrorism, pollution and starvation. An increased awareness of preventable health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse has brought an increased demand for professionals who can implement and manage public education and prevention programs. The aging U.S. population is also fueling the growth in public health jobs.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a Master in Public Health (MPH) is a standard requirement for advanced and management-level positions in public health. The MPH degree is a professional degree that’s geared towards practice rather than an academic career. Graduates of MPH programs are prepared to work as public health practitioners in health departments, hospitals, managed care facilities, international health agencies and consulting firms as well as community, state and national health organizations. The MPH degree gives job candidates a competitive edge over other professionals while providing a solid theoretical foundation in public health.
Those who are pursuing a degree or have a degree in social work, nursing, law, business, public policy, medicine or dentistry can enhance their standing in the field of public health by earning a dual MPH degree. Many MPH programs offer accelerated tracks for students who hold advanced degrees in other fields. Even if their career is in another field, an MPH degree will enhance their understanding of public health principles and help them apply these principles to their practice.
Despite the wide diversity of public health job descriptions, all public health professionals are focused on the same goal—improving the quality of life for everyone. They help children thrive and work to prevent suffering by providing critical services in local, regional, national and international communities. In addition to providing challenge and stimulation, public health jobs offer a high level of personal fulfillment.