Public health is a healthcare specialization focused on promoting health literacy and reducing rates of injuries and diseases. While an ER doctor treats patients who are already suffering from medical problems, a public health professional works to prevent those medical problems from arising in the first place.
If you have an interest in this field, you may be wondering what types of careers you can pursue with a postgraduate public health degree. The following jobs represent just a few of the possibilities.
If you’re interested in a job in the public health field that doesn’t involve providing direct patient care, you might enjoy working as an epidemiologist. Epidemiologists specialize in investigating the patterns and causation of diseases and other medical conditions. They are sometimes called “disease detectives.”
As an example, imagine there is an outbreak of food poisoning in Arizona. An epidemiologist will collect and analyze data to try to figure out the source of the problem. Once that source is identified, the epidemiologist will communicate those findings to the public to prevent additional cases of food poisoning.
Many epidemiologists work in pure research roles, while others perform public health advocacy work, typically for nonprofit companies. You can pursue positions in this field with a master's in public health, and some professionals choose to earn a medical degree although it is typically not required.
Health Informatics Specialist
A career as a health informatics specialist is another option for those with a master’s in public health. A relatively new field born of the increased use of digital tools in healthcare, health informatics sits at the intersection of healthcare and information technology. Health informatics specialists deal with health data collection, analysis, storage and retrieval on a daily basis to help improve patient safety and quality care.
Health Services Manager
Some graduates with advanced public health degrees go into management and administration. One role to consider is that of health services manager. Professionals in this role typically work in hospitals, nursing homes, group medical practices and other healthcare facilities. They are responsible for the planning, implementation and coordination of the facility’s activities.
Examples of specific tasks include:
- Developing the objectives of the department or facility
- Identifying ways to improve the efficiency and quality of healthcare services, patient care and patient outcomes
- Developing a budget and managing the finances
- Maintaining department or facility records of the available healthcare services
- Liaising with medical staff and other administrators
Some health services managers are heads of departments within hospitals, while others serve as head of an entire facility. Although it may be possible to become a health services manager at a small facility with just a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree is generally the preferred qualification for this role.
If you’re interested in a career in the public health field that would allow you to provide consistent, direct patient care, you might consider becoming a registered dietitian (RD). RDs assess nutritional needs, develop meal plans and provide nutritional counseling for interested patients.
This career is a good option for individuals who have earned a bachelor’s degree in the health or nursing field, as it’s necessary to have a solid academic background in biology, chemistry, anatomy and physiology when working as a dietitian. However, you do not need to become a registered nurse (RN) to become an RD.
Instead, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree in a relevant field, such as public health, and complete an internship that has been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Education in Nutrition and Dietetics (ACEND). Usually, an exit exam is required for successful completion of an accredited internship. After that, you’ll need to pass the board exam to receive national board certification. Some states additionally require RDs to obtain licensure, so make sure to check the official requirements for the state in which you plan to practice.
Applying for Jobs in Public Health
After looking at the job options in the public health field and discerning what most interests you, the next step is to find open jobs and apply for the kind of position you want. Because this may seem like a daunting task, here are five tips to guide you in the right direction when it comes to applying for jobs in public health.
1. Set time aside to search
Finding and applying for jobs can be a very time-consuming task, so make sure to set enough time aside for a thorough review of job openings. After finding some jobs that sound interesting to you, tailor your resume to each job so your application stands out, even if it takes a bit longer than applying with a generic resume.
2. Apply, apply, apply
There are countless online resources available to everyone that can help you find the perfect job. Many websites with job listings also have a feature that allows you to apply easily to similar jobs once you have submitted your resume. It’s always best to give yourself as many opportunities for interviews as you can, in case you end up not liking the company or the people you interview with.
3. Try to find an internship or work opportunities while earning your degree
If you are still earning your degree or planning on earning it, take advantage of your school’s resources to find an opportunity to get your foot in the door in the public health field. Talking to your professors and other faculty at your school may also present opportunities you might not find on your own.
4. Talk to public health professionals you know
Ask professionals from your local clinics or other people you may know in the public health field about possible job openings or how they got their jobs. This will not only broaden your search but also help you build a network of connections in public health.
5. Find volunteer opportunities
Volunteering in public health can be a great way to expand your network and meet professionals in the field, as well as others who share interests with you. It's possible you may meet someone this way who has the perfect job for you.
You can prepare to take on 21st-century challenges in public health by earning your Master of Public Health degree at Grand Canyon University. The rigorous curriculum explores timely topics, such as infectious disease outbreaks, the principles of epidemiology and environmental impact on health. Click the Request Info button at the top of your screen to begin working toward your future.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.