Public health is a field that plays a crucial role in promoting and protecting the health of populations worldwide. As we have seen recently, public health is essential in responding to pandemics and other health crises. With the growing importance of public health, there has been an increased demand for professionals in this field. If you are considering a career in public health, there are many opportunities to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 13% from 2021 to 2031. Among these new healthcare jobs, public health careers can also see a significant increase.
This blog post examines various public health careers that offer opportunities to make a meaningful impact, from disease prevention to policy advocacy, and inspire you to consider a career in public health.
1) Community Health Worker
Community health workers (CHWs) play a crucial role in the public health workforce by providing essential services to communities that face significant health disparities. They act as a bridge between healthcare providers and the community by offering education, advocacy, and support services. As members of the communities they serve, CHWs have a unique advantage in understanding their populations’ cultural and linguistic needs.
To become a CHW, a high school diploma or equivalent is typically required, but pursuing a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) degree can help individuals advance in their careers and take on leadership roles. By obtaining an online master of public health degree, you can comprehensively understand public health theory, research, and practice. It also enables specialization in community health, health policy, epidemiology, and biostatistics.
MPH graduates can pursue various career paths, including leadership positions in community-based organizations, healthcare systems, and government agencies, with the potential for higher salaries and more significant opportunities for career advancement than those with only a bachelor’s.
Epidemiologists are an essential part of the public health workforce, playing a crucial role in identifying and controlling outbreaks of infectious diseases and preventing chronic illnesses. They specialize in studying disease patterns, identifying risk factors, and designing and conducting studies to understand disease occurrence better.
Epidemiologists collect and analyze data on disease incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates and work with healthcare providers, public health officials, and other stakeholders to develop and implement effective disease prevention and control strategies.
Epidemiologists also play a vital role in developing and implementing public health policies and guidelines to promote public health and prevent disease.
3) Environmental Health Specialist
Environmental health specialists are responsible for monitoring and assessing environmental conditions that could impact human health, such as air quality, water quality, and food safety. They work to prevent disease spread by investigating illness outbreaks and inspecting food and water sources.
One of the primary roles of environmental health specialists is to ensure compliance with environmental regulations. They work with government agencies and private companies to ensure they follow environmental health rules. They may also provide guidance and education to businesses and communities to help them understand and comply with these regulations.
Environmental health specialists also play an essential role in responding to natural disasters and emergencies. They may work to assess and manage hazardous materials or provide guidance on how to clean up safely after a disaster.
4) Public Health Nurse
Public health nurses (PHNs) aim to improve the health and well-being of communities through education, support, and various interventions. As a PHN, you can significantly impact the lives of underserved individuals and families facing health disparities.
Public health nurses collaborate with other healthcare professionals, community leaders, and policymakers to develop and implement health promotion programs and disease prevention strategies. You will conduct health assessments, provide immunizations, screen for infectious diseases, and educate individuals and families on healthy behaviors and lifestyle choices.
PHNs also play a vital role in disaster preparedness and response, ensuring that communities are ready for emergencies and providing care and support during and after disasters. They work in clinics, schools, community health centers, and government agencies and can specialize in areas such as maternal and child health, infectious disease control, or environmental health.
To become a PHN, you need a nursing degree and a license to practice nursing in your state. Additional training and certifications in public health or community health nursing may also be required.
5) Health Communications Specialist
Health communications specialists develop and implement communication strategies to educate the public about health issues and promote healthy practices. As a communications specialist, you will create and disseminate health messages through various channels such as social media, public service announcements, brochures, and websites.
You will work closely with healthcare professionals, policymakers, and community leaders to develop messages that resonate with the target audience and inspire them to take positive actions for their health. Your work may include the following.
- Addressing vaccine hesitancy
- Encouraging healthy eating and physical activity
- Promoting the importance of regular health screenings
As a health communications specialist, you can influence public attitudes and behaviors, ultimately leading to improved health outcomes and a healthier population.
6) Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
Occupational health and safety specialists ensure that workplaces are safe and healthy for employees. They play a critical role in preventing workplace injuries and illnesses by identifying potential hazards, developing and implementing safety programs, and training employees on safe work practices.
These professionals work in various industries, including manufacturing, construction, healthcare, and government. They are responsible for conducting workplace inspections, investigating accidents, and developing and implementing policies and procedures to prevent future incidents.
7) Global Health Specialist
Global health specialists address health issues and improve health outcomes globally. They work to prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases, improve access to healthcare and healthcare infrastructure, and promote healthy behaviors and lifestyles worldwide. Some challenges with this career path include facing complex health issues, cultural and linguistic barriers, and limited resources.
To pursue this career, individuals typically need a solid public or global health background, a master’s degree, and experience working in a global health setting. They should also have strong communication, leadership, and critical thinking skills and the ability to work effectively in multicultural and diverse backgrounds.
Pursuing a career in public health can significantly impact people’s lives and the community. The jobs mentioned above are just a few examples of the diverse range of professions in public health. By working in these roles, you can contribute to preventing and controlling diseases, promoting healthy behaviors, and creating policies that improve public health outcomes.