12 Jobs You Didn’t Know You Could Get With a Public Health Degree
Whether you want to travel the globe or transform your neighborhood, public health is an issue that affects us all. Communities need experts to study the spread of diseases, help them prepare for emergencies and implement policies that promote good health, and many of these experts have a master’s degree in public health. The job outlook for careers in public health is projected to grow1 at a rate well above the national average through 2026.
If you are considering pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, you may be interested in learning how many unique career options are available to you — from bioterrorism researcher to tropical disease expert. Let’s take a look at a few of the unexpected professions that may be available to you with a public health degree.
Career Paths in Public Health
Public Health Lawyer
The public health field needs passionate legal minds whose knowledge and guidance can protect and improve the health of the public and help create sound policies. Public health lawyers can be essential advocates in court for people who’ve been hurt by pharmaceutical companies, poor public health practices, exposure to harmful environmental factors or other types of harmful care. Sometimes people pursue a law degree and a master’s degree in public health simultaneously, while others earn a law degree first and supplement it later on with another graduate degree.
Tropical Disease Expert
If you enjoy studying nature and traveling to remote locations, you might consider becoming a tropical disease expert. These experts, who earn a medical degree along with a degree in public health, work in the field with new patients or in a lab creating a vaccine. They help prevent tropical diseases from spreading through monitoring, prevention and response. They also often work for government agencies in large cities to evaluate potential risks and establish plans to minimize local infectious outbreaks.
Public Health Journalist
If you have a background in writing or communications, you might find that public health journalism is a great career fit for you. Publications need writers and reporters who can translate the latest public health research into understandable prose for the general public. Hospitals and health organizations also produce a lot of written content for the public, and they want to make sure it’s up to date and easy to understand. If you want to take time off from your beat for a year to strengthen your focus on public health issues, an accelerated one-year MPH program might be a perfect fit.
Nongovernmental Organization Director
If you are a born leader who is passionate about the health of your community or the world, then you may consider a job leading a nongovernmental organization (NGO). NGOs often take the concerns of everyday people and ensure that their input is heard through global advocacy efforts, such as bringing concerns to governments, promoting political participation and monitoring human rights issues. NGO directors might work on specific public health issues in their communities, or they might travel frequently doing international work, depending on the focus of their organization. Directors need great people skills, but they also must have the ability to balance a budget to keep their organization running strong.
Since the 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been a global concern and continues to warrant attention as organizations fight to end this epidemic. As part of these efforts, HIV specialists play an important role in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV. If you’re dedicated to developing a skill set to prepare yourself to work with individuals with HIV, then you might find that your local hospital, public health clinic or other nonprofit could benefit from your expertise. While HIV specialists are required to have medical degrees, an MPH could assist in collaboration with other practitioners and your work with community organizations. An MPH degree may provide you with unique insight into social and behavioral determinants of health as well as public health communication, making you a more well-rounded practitioner who is better equipped to effect change.
Government agencies, universities and other health research organizations need people to analyze all that data collected by researchers in the field, and that person is often a biostatistician. These statistical experts’ predictions and conclusions help to inform public health policies. They often work in government or private research organizations, and their work assists in the public health policy decision-making process. If you love getting lost in data and are inspired by the search for facts, this might be a great career in public health.
The threat of bioterrorism is a reality in today’s world, and governmental and private organizations need researchers who can prevent and address potential hazards, such as anthrax or viral hemorrhagic fevers. While most bioterrorism researchers work in laboratories run by various government agencies, others work at educational institutions or for private organizations. Research positions typically require additional degrees in the biological sciences, but coursework in an MPH program can also help prepare bioterrorism researchers to organize and analyze data and communicate their findings to policymakers.
Health Care Administrator
While some people pursue a more specialized career field after earning a master’s in public health, others may find that their skills in leadership and management make them a qualified candidate for a position as a health care administrator. Administrators help run hospitals, public health clinics, nursing homes and doctors’ offices. They might oversee a particular department or work their way up to running an entire organization. Earning your MPH can uniquely prepare you to become a health care administrator by educating you about the U.S. health care system, management approaches to public health and the implementation of health promotion programs.
Public Health Veterinarian
Generally, when you think of the veterinary profession, you only consider the role that veterinarians play in keeping all animals safe and healthy – but veterinarians can also contribute to the well-being of the human population. Many animal diseases can affect human health as well, and public health veterinarians often work in government agencies and hospitals to protect human health and prevent injury. If you love learning about animals but are also interested in health at the macro level, a master’s in public health could be the perfect educational addition to your veterinary degree due to its emphasis on health communication and public health biology.
Epidemiologists investigate and track the origins and spreads of diseases and other public health threats. They might work in a laboratory or a hospital, and often they perform research out in the field to better understand the pattern of a disease. Many future epidemiologists choose an MPH degree program as their educational foundation, where they learn how to design an epidemiological study and how to analyze biostatistical data.
Emergency Prepardness Coordinator
If you’re an expert planner and love bringing people together to protect the public, then you might consider a career path in emergency preparedness. These coordinators need to be educated about the potential health threats a community might face so that they can create and implement appropriate plans for dealing with a public health emergency. Coordinators might work with governments, hospitals, schools and other large organizations, and an MPH degree program can teach you to plan and implement public health initiatives as well as write and manage emergency preparedness policies.
Public Health Professor
If you want to help make future generations just as passionate about public health, you might want to consider a career in academia. Public health professors educate the next generation of biostatisticians or health care administrators, lecturing and conducting research within a university setting. As the field of public health grows, more and more educators will be needed to teach and expand knowledge in the field, and an MPH can help you do that.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm↑
Citation for this content: MPH@GW, George Washington University's online Master of Public Health program