Starting Your Career in Public Health

Want to make a difference in the world? Who doesn’t? That’s why many students go into a career in Public Health. But, it’s not a cakewalk, like you might expect. It requires a good education, and dedication - the kind of dedication most students frankly don’t have.

Get Yourself A Good Education

You’ll need training in a health-related profession. While it’s not specifically designed to prep you for a career in public health, an undergraduate degree in nursing and medicine do include public health content. And, they can help you better understand the industry you’re about to go into.

You will also be in a position to comment intelligently about issues that you’ll regularly be faced with. A nurse with a BScN qualification makes up a large part of the public health workforce, so don’t discount it as a legitimate route to take.

You could also go for a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and health studies. These types of programs give you training with a broader scope than just the public health education. And, many institutions will offer programs like these that prep students to work in public health as inspectors or environmental health officers.

A master’s degree is the next logical step. Most universities in the US offer a variety of nursing programs at different degree levels, so students are able to specialize to the skill set they require. Larger colleges tend to offer more programs and more variety, but are not the only options. This small nursing college in PA, for example, offers accelerated, online and weekend options for students interested in pursuing a bachelors, masters or doctorate nursing degree.

There are three types of master’s programs that are common amongst these groups:

The research-oriented programs, the professional programs, and the course-based programs.

The research-oriented programs are for students who are wanting careers in research and they usually provide instruction in the generation, analysis and dissemination of new knowledge.

Professional or practice-oriented programs give students broad mastery of subjects like epidemiology, biostatistics, disease control and health promotion. As a student, you’ll learn to organize, analyze, communicate, and apply evidence.

Finally, a course-based or “non-thesis” degree is not research oriented but also doesn’t meet the practicum requirement of a professional-based program.

A doctoral degree is the next step up from masters.

And, if you just want the certification, you can opt for the Certification for JHSC - part 1.

Getting Your Degree: What Jobs Do You Qualify For?

Once you’ve nailed the education, you can go out there and get yourself a good job. And, there are many a good job to be had (fortunately). many public health jobs do require a graduate degree in public health, so don’t be afraid to aim high. It’ll probably be necessary.

But, once you’ve gotten that degree, the world is your oyster. You can get jobs like:

  • Community development specialist

  • Health policy analyst

  • Health promotion specialist

  • Environmental health specialist

  • Biostatistician

  • Epidemiologist

  • Health care manager

  • Research assistant

  • Infection control officer

  • Medical health officer

  • Clinical trials analyst

  • Survey statistician

  • Community development specialist

  • Health policy analyst

  • Health promotion specialist

  • Environmental health specialist

  • Research data coordinator

These jobs have a wide range of job duties and responsibilities. And, they’re also fun. Think about it. If your job was to assess and monitor health status and risk factors in populations, and you really enjoyed that line of work and find it rewarding, then you can do that.

Other jobs will require you to help provide access to appropriate and effective healthcare. So, if healthcare is a hot button issue with you, you can plunge yourself right into the middle of it. You can live it each and every day.

But, let’s say you like research. You can spend your entire day researching factors that lead to or prevent disease. That’s a real job. Isn’t that amazing?

Some jobs let you work all day analyzing public health data and applying qualitative methods to assess causes of poor health. For a number-cruncher enthusiast, this is a dream job.

Almost regardless of the type of work you get, you can almost always be assured of advancement, too. That’s because most jobs in public health get you in at a ground level, and then give you a ladder for advancement into management positions. Benefits packages tend to be unbeatable, and the pay isn’t always the highest but you won’t be poor or starving, either.

Finding and hiring healthcare professionals

There are a number of job boards who specialize in a range of healthcare positions. These resources are a good point of reference for anyone looking to see what is available and to find a suitable position that matches their talents and qualifications.

The healthcare industry is continuing to grow and this is understandably creating an increase in demand for healthcare professionals. Whilst this is not an endorsement for the recruitment firms mentioned, you should find that their focus is more specialize on the industry, so they would make a good starting point.


To sum up, being in the public health sector takes dedication, hard work, and a good education. But, if you’re willing to stick to it, you can make it. And, more than that. You can make a difference in other people’s lives, which is why you’re thinking of going into this industry in the first place.

Joe Woodward has a background working in the health industry. Keen to inspire more young people to enter the health care industry, whatever that path might look like, he has started to give talks and write articles on career options.