What Can You Do With A Public Health Degree?

It’s no surprise that after the pandemic, interest in public health programs has soared. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the critical and important role of public health in everyone’s day to day wellbeing. Public health is a degree and career track that offers students and practitioners the opportunity to make big health differences.

Rather than treating individual patients with one-off issues, public health degrees and career paths focus on health issues that impact large populations of people all the way up to national and even international scales.

If you’re interested in learning more about public health and studying it, here’s what you can do with a Public Health degree.

What is public health?

First, what is public health anyway? Well, to start, it’s a very broad field of study. The American Public Health Association defines it as the promotion and protection of the health of people and communities in the places where they live, learn, work, and play. Public health also works to empower individuals and communities to manage their own illnesses and disabilities.

In contrast to medical staff like doctors and nurses who treat patients once they become sick, public health is focused on preventing people from becoming sick or injured in the first place. Public health largely works to promote health by encouraging and enabling healthy behaviors and discouraging unhealthy behaviors.

What do public health majors study?

If you’re wondering what a Public Health major is, take a look at what Public Health majors study. While each Public Health degree program will be different at each school, in general public health students study how the conditions in the places where people live, work, and play impact their health outcomes. Public Health majors learn, through both qualitative and quantitative methods, to uncover these conditions and craft interventions to address and improve them.

Is public health a good major?

Whether or not a Public Health degree is a good major depends on your interests and ideal career path. If you’re more interested in working with patients one on one in a clinical setting, a Public Health major might not be for you. But if you’re more interested in healthcare on larger systemic levels like community and country levels, then a Public Health major could be a good field of study for you.

What are examples of public health degree jobs?

Has the question of “what can I do with a Public Health degree” been on your mind? Consider exploring some of the most common career paths and job roles of students who graduate with a Public Health degree.

Five common Public Health degree jobs and Public Health degree careers include:

  • Community health specialist. Community health specialists typically manage specific illnesses and people’s exposure to them. In roles like these, Public Health majors can expect to work closely with epidemiologists and other disease specialists.
  • Research assistant. Another popular career track for Public Health degree holders is becoming a research assistant who works in labs, often at colleges or research institutions. Research assistants help with everything from recruiting participants to conducting research and analyzing data.
  • Public health administrator. Most public health administrators focus on executing non-clinical community outreach programs and initiatives. Many of these efforts are education focused and serve to increase awareness of pertinent public health threats such as lead poisoning.
  • Environmental health officer. The work of environmental health officers often includes leading epidemiological research in response to public health emergencies. Environmental health officers work broadly across health and safety fields and can include industrial hygienist work.
  • Public policy writer. Naturally, public health has a public component to it. Public health is often guided by the laws of the countries, states, and municipalities that govern it. Therefore, policy writing is a common field that public health degree holders get into, especially if communications is your strong suit.

As you can see, the career paths for Public Health degree holders are as broad as the field of study itself. Of course, national and international institutions like the CDC and the WHO employ a large number of public health professionals. Public Health degree holders are also often employed by public health systems like the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services in the United States.

Salaries for Public Health degree holders

One of the central questions on any student’s mind these days is about potential earnings. Naturally, students interested in studying public health are curious about the salaries of public health degree holders. Like most industries, there’s a range of jobs and salaries that Public Health majors pursue. Some of the highest paying jobs for Public Health degree holders include:

  • Health education specialists earn a median annual salary of $60,600 and up to $102,480 on the high end.
  • Natural sciences managers earn a median annual salary of $137,900 and up to $202,910 on the high end.
  • Health and safety engineers earn a median annual salary of $99,040 and up to $150,720 on the high end.
  • Epidemiologists earn a median annual salary of $78,830 and up to $130,050 on the high end.

Public Health degree requirements

The requirements for Public Health majors are different at every university and college. However, most institutions nest public health within a broader liberal arts education, which means that Public Health students can expect to study a wide range of subjects with an emphasis on writing. Many modern programs also focus on power and social justice as critical elements of public health outcomes. Because data is deeply relevant, Public Health majors can expect to study biostatistics as well.

At Butler University, our Public health program is multi-disciplinary and explores the scientific, social, cultural, and human dimensions of public health. We equip our students to critically analyze public health approaches on all levels with a focus on health inequities.

If you’re ready to start your journey towards a Public Health degree and impactful career path, request more information today!