Graduates of public health programs can find a range of jobs in both the private and public sectors.
CIVIC-MINDED individuals who are eager to enter a service career should think about pursuing a public health degree.
Public health is an academic discipline that focuses on preventing and mitigating disease outbreaks, such as the coronavirus pandemic, and confronting systemic health challenges that affect multiple people at once, such as environmental pollution.
Though there are numerous aspects of public health that college students can concentrate on, one similarity among all the specializations is the mission to optimize community health outcomes, experts say.
In contrast to clinical health care providers like physicians or pharmacists, public health professionals do not concentrate on the health of a specific individual, since they are primarily concerned with collective well-being, explains Dr. Robert W. Amler, dean of New York Medical College's School of Health Sciences and Practice.
"In public health, the focus is not so much on treating people when they are sick, but assuring the conditions in which they can be healthy," Amler says. Numerous factors are essential for optimal health, including access to clean water and workplace safety measures, Amler adds.
Big-picture thinking skills and data analysis competencies are extraordinarily valuable in public health, since the field involves identifying factors that have the most significant influence on population health, according to experts. Another desirable quality for professionals in this field is a creative and strategic mindset, since public health workers are often asked to propose solutions to major problems like the opioid crisis.
Cheryl Healton, dean of the New York University School of Global Public Health, suggests that a public health job can be very meaningful and satisfying because it allows someone to provide significant assistance to a large number of people.
"I've very rarely met anybody in public health who wasn't happy with their career," says Healton, who has a doctorate in public health. She adds that it's rare for individuals employed in the public health sector to leave before they retire unless they decide to pursue an unconventional personal interest, such as the desire to become a novelist.
The Significance of Public Health Work
People typically become public health workers because they are keenly interested in helping others and improving society, Healton says, adding that there is something deeply rewarding about the conviction that "you left the world a better place."
She notes that public health initiatives have an enormous impact on everyday living, since these initiatives ensure that people can perform routine tasks safely. "Public health is affecting your life in so many ways before you have your lunch. You wake up, you brush your teeth and you don't die from it. You turn the tap on and you drink a glass of water. You don't die from that either. You have breakfast. You don't have food poisoning, and on and on. ... It's the most omnipresent, invisible field imaginable."
Public health degree recipients say the COVID-19 outbreak underscores the value of their training, as they play a vital role in fighting the spread of disease. These public health professionals note that the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated a shortage of public health workers, and they say newcomers would be welcomed in the profession.
"There is no time like the present" to enter the public health field, Dr. Sylvia Owusu-Ansah, a physician with a master of public health degree, says.
"With the repercussions of COVID, we're going to need more public health specialists in developed and developing societies," says Owusu-Ansah, an assistant professor of pediatrics and the emergency medical services medical director for UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "We're trying to restructure our society (and) restructure our health care system."
Experts say one public health concentration that is particularly relevant nowadays is epidemiology, a branch of medical science that involves the study of disease patterns and health trends within a particular population. Epidemiologists can make informed predictions and recommendations about prevalent illnesses.
David M. Claborn, a public health scholar with a doctorate in public health, says he hopes the COVID-19 crisis will spur curiosity about public health science.
"The nation's experience demonstrates the need for good and complete data in the establishment of public health policy," says Claborn, director of the master of public health program at Missouri State University. "This need will require people who understand how to collect reliable public health data and how to analyze and interpret that data correctly. An emphasis on advocacy without an understanding of the underlying science can result in well-meaning but dangerous policy."
Branches of the Public Health Field and Types of Public Health Careers
Aspiring public health professionals who pursue a degree in this subject typically have multiple tracks as options, observes Bethann Wittig, an MPH student who expects to receive her degree from Rutgers University in New Jersey this year. According to Wittig, the following fields are areas where students can gain expertise:
* Environmental and occupational health.
* Health education and behavioral science.
* Infectious disease.
* Public policy.
* Global health.
* Maternal and child health.
Public health school grads can fill a variety of positions, including "scientists, behavioralists, managers, leaders, coordinators and educators," Wittig wrote in an email. "Public health professionals are needed in government, public, private, academia and non-profit settings."
Public health sector experts note that it is common for people in this field to work for governments at the local, state, federal and multinational levels. Public health professionals may also work for private nonprofit and for-profit organizations that relate to the health care system, ranging from advocacy organizations to pharmaceutical corporations.
Salaries for people with public health credentials vary widely depending on what field they specialize in and what type of employer they work for, experts say. Kristi Mitchell, a public health professional with an MPH degree who is based in the District of Columbia and is pursuing a doctorate in public health at George Washington University, says a public health salary could range from under $60,000 to more than $200,000.
Amler at the New York Medical College identified the following examples of public health jobs:
* Health educator.
* Public health adviser.
* Public health nurse.
* Program director.
* Environmental health scientist.
* Industrial hygienist.
* Health administrator.
* Health economist.
* Health analyst.
* Medical administrator.
* Health director.
* Health commissioner.
* Minister of health.
* Surgeon general.
Dr. Tista Ghosh, a physician and public health professional based in Denver, suggests that aspiring public health workers choose a career that aligns with their personality. Public health workers who focus on infectious disease need to enjoy the adrenaline rush of coping with crises and surprises, alongside the thrill of quickly resolving pressing problems, says Ghosh, senior medical director with the Grand Rounds digital health company.
Many individuals in the public health sector are subject matter experts on chronic diseases like diabetes, work that necessitates a focus on long-term results. "You need a more steady personality and a patient personality in order to stay with it, because you're not going to get a short-term reward," Ghosh says. "You're not going to fix the obesity epidemic in a month."
Public Health Degree a Plus but Not Required for Public Health Jobs
Experts note that it is possible to work in the public health space without a public health degree, and that a variety of mathematical, social science, policy and professional degrees are relevant to public health.
"Public health is a very diverse field, and many people with different training can find a home in a public health career," says Dr. Charlene Brown, a physician who has medical and public health degrees.
"It just matters what their interest is, what their passion is and what skills they bring to the table," explains Brown, the CEO and founder of CaregiverJobsNow, an online job marketplace for health care professionals.
Mitchell, practice director with the Center for Healthcare Transformation at the Avalere Health consulting firm, says co-workers have degrees in fields besides public health, like public administration and public policy. Graduate school is not mandatory in the public health field, she adds.
Nevertheless, individuals affiliated with public health schools say that a degree in the field is highly marketable.
Carol Gee, a former administrator with the public health program at Emory University in Georgia, says the program's alumni found a variety of fascinating career opportunities. For example, Emory public health students went on to jobs at insurance companies, Planned Parenthood, the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Gee says.
David Simmons, an associate professor with both the school of public health and the department of anthropology at the University of South Carolina, says alumni of the school's undergraduate public health program who want to go straight to the workforce tend to get desirable jobs relatively quickly. They are also usually competitive candidates for grad schools if they choose to apply, he says.
Simmons – who completed a National Science Foundation postdoc at Harvard Medical School in the Department of Social Medicine, Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change – says public health programs are becoming increasingly popular, most likely because "it is an incredibly exciting field to be in." He notes that public health's interdisciplinary approach makes it attractive to a wide range of students, from those with a passion for math to those with an interest in natural science or social science.
"The toolkit that public health provides you for understanding complex phenomena is something you won't find most other places," he says. "And so I encourage students to go into public health, because it's a practical discipline to go into. Most public health majors don't have problems finding jobs."Source:Web