Public Health Careers

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. 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’re wondering if public health is a good career and are considering pursuing a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, you may be interested in learning what you can do with your degree and how many unique career options are available to you — from bioterrorism researcher to tropical disease expert. Explore a few of the unexpected professions that may be associated with a public health degree and learn why a public health degree is important.

Jobs You Can Get With a Public Health Degree

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 good 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 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 online MPH degree program might be a perfect fit.

Learn more about MPH@GW's one year MPH program.

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 public health career 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. An online MPH program will better prepare you to step into this leadership position.

HIV Specialist

Since the 1980s, HIV/AIDS has been a global concern, and it 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 that prepares you 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 work with community organizations. An MPH degree provides 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.

Biostatistician

Individuals with a public health degree are important to government agencies, universities and other health research organizations that need people to analyze all that data collected by researchers in the field. This 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.

Bioterrorism Researcher

The threat of bioterrorism is a reality in today’s world. 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 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. 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, an online public health master’s could be the perfect educational addition to your veterinary degree due to its emphasis on health communication and public health biology.

Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists investigate and track the origins and spread 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. If this public health career interests you, an online master’s in public health might be right for you.

Learn more about GW’s epidemiology elective course option.

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

If you’re an expert planner and enjoy bringing people together to protect the public, you may consider a public health career in emergency preparedness. These coordinators are educated about the potential health threats a community might face in order to create and implement appropriate plans for dealing with a public health emergency. Earning an MPH prepares coordinators to work with governments, hospitals, schools and other large organizations to carry out health initiatives while writing and managing 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. 

Health Informatics and Health Information Technology Professional

The health care industry is more data-driven than ever. Data is now abundantly available, and new technologies are emerging that provide accessible and digestible information. As a result, the need for public health professionals in health information technology (IT) is on the rise.2 This includes health informatics and analytics managers who can use their knowledge in public health to organize and manage large amounts of generated data. An online master’s in public health can provide you with the foundation you need to excel in this role.

Environmental and Occupational Health Professional

Professionals in environmental and occupational health work to better understand the impact that various environmental and occupational hazards may have on human health. If you are passionate about occupational health and human safety, earning an MPH online can prepare you to create healthy and helpful workplaces, free of dangers and hazards in a sustainable environment. Organizations such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration may look to employ individuals with a knowledge of environmental and occupational health.  

Public Health Policy and Management Professional

NGOs, private health care organizations and government officials are looking for people who can determine influential policies and establish creative strategies to improve public health. Earning an online public health master’s degree prepares you to strategize, formulate and enforce initiatives needed to enhance health in today’s complex health care system. Take the steps toward earning your MPH and learn to develop transformative policies that contribute to advancement. 

 

How to Get a Public Health Degree

Many universities have programs, both on campus and online, that offer degrees in public health. Make sure to do your research in order to find a program that both is reputable and meets your future career plans. Determining your career goals is a great way to ensure you’re pursuing a degree that’s right for you.

Learn More About MPH@GW

The Washington, D.C., campus is located at the nation’s hub of health policy. The George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health (SPH) is the No. 12-ranked public health school in the country.3

MPH@GW offers students part-time or full-time completion tracks with the option to earn your degree online in as little as 12 months. Students also have the opportunity to customize their curriculum and specialize in various public health disciplines. 

Fully accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), MPH@GW empowers students to advance their public health career online from a top-ranked school³ without the burden of relocating.

Become a public health leader with the
online MPH program from GW.

1U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook. Accessed July 2019.Return to footnote reference

2U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Quarterly. Accessed August 2019.Return to footnote reference

3U.S. News & World Report, Best Public Health Schools. Accessed July 2019.Return to footnote reference