The health of an entire community can be affected by anything from the common cold to infectious diseases, diabetes, addiction, and everything in between. While healthcare providers like doctors and nurses are often focused on treating these issues, public health professionals work to promote health and wellness in order to prevent them from occurring.
The nature of this work makes public health professionals an invaluable asset to the community, and the demand for experts in the field has grown as a result. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of health educators, one of the most popular positions in the field, is expected to grow 11 percent from 2018 to 2028—must faster than the average for all occupations.
While virtually all communities have a need for public health professionals, the job outlook for these careers is especially bright in certain areas, including those in Massachusetts, and specifically the Merrimack Valley.
“Public health is a major focus in the Merrimack Valley, ranging from cities such as Lawrence and Lowell to the towns of Andover and Methuen,” according to Kelly Golden, Associate Dean of Student Affairs and Enrollment at Regis College.
As a result, there is no shortage of employment opportunities for people interested in the field living in the area.
“There are a number of agencies that work with local hospitals to support the diverse needs of these communities,” says Golden. “For example, the Mayor’s Health Task Force in Lawrence connects educators and researchers to larger health centers such as the Greater Lawrence Family Health Center and Lawrence General Hospital as well as smaller mental health and substance abuse clinics.”
Here, we explore some of the most attractive career opportunities in the Merrimack Valley.
“Community health worker” is a general term that can encompass various specific job titles. Despite their titles, these professionals work within their communities to educate residents about the importance of healthcare and how they can access the services they need. This role also involves collecting data for health educators and providers, as well as conducting outreach programs.
The positions that fall under the community health worker category are generally entry level positions which require at least a high school diploma or associate degree and on-the-job training.
Community health workers earn a national average salary of $36,890 per year.
Health educators are focused on improving health outcomes and by teaching the people in their communities about healthy behaviors and the healthcare services that they have access to. By acting as a liaison between the community and healthcare professionals, health educators are able to promote wellness and help patients receive the care that they need.
There are many types of organizations which employ health educators such as healthcare facilities, schools and colleges, nonprofits, public health departments, private businesses, and more. Health educators typically need at least a bachelor’s degree, and many employers prefer candidates that have passed the Certified Health Education Specialist exam.
The average salary for health educators is $46,080 per year.
Community health coordinators are responsible for creating community-based health and wellness programs in order to address and prevent health issues and improve outcomes. These professionals can work in a variety of settings including schools, government agencies, and healthcare facilities and their daily duties are mainly focused on planning, implementing, and monitoring community health programs.
Community health coordinators typically have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a health-related field, as well as relevant experience in the field. It is important to have strong communication skills and it is not uncommon for professionals to become Certified Health Education Specialists.
Community health coordinators earn an average annual salary of $44,994 per year.
Public health analysts are professionals who specialize in the analysis of public health matters in order to provide effective solutions to community health issues. Professionals in this role are often charged with conducting and analyzing research, as well as reporting their findings to medical providers and other key players.
A bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field is often required for this position. It is also important for these professionals to have strong analytical and interpersonal skills in order to effectively conduct research and convey their findings.
Public health analysts earn an average national salary of $61,404 per year.
Public health administrators work to ensure that patients and community members have the necessary information to make informed health decisions. These professionals often work for local government or hospitals, as well as other healthcare institutions. Depending on the setting in which they work, public health administrators often attend community events, give health-related presentations, and work to ensure that patients are well-informed.
Due to the nature of their work, public health administrators must be skilled communicators in order to effectively work with patients, community members, healthcare professionals, and government officials. To become a public health administrator, candidates are usually required to have at least a bachelor’s degree in public health or a related field.
The national average salary for public health administrators is $64,952 per year.
Public health advisors are responsible for providing support and guidance on public health issues both to those within their organization and those that the organization serves. Much of their work involves analyzing data to inform policy and health programs. As such, they must be able to collect, interpret, and present the results both internally and externally.
Many organizations will require public health advisors to have at least a bachelor’s degree, although larger organizations or higher-level positions often require a master’s in public health in addition to experience in the field.
On average, public health advisors earn $68,000 per year, however those with advanced education and experience can earn up to $100,000 per year or more.
Healthcare Administrators, also called medical and health services managers, are charged with planning, directing, and coordinating medical services. This role typically entails managing an entire facility, department, or practice, including developing goals and objectives, recruiting and training staff, and working to improve the efficiency and quality of services.
As a managerial role, it is important that healthcare administrators have excellent communication and organization skills, as well as a strong knowledge of health administration practices. It is possible to become a healthcare administrator with a bachelor’s degree; however, a master’s degree such as a master’s in public health is also common and often preferred by employers.
The average annual salary for healthcare administrators is $99,730 per year.
The field of public health offers countless opportunities for professionals to make a difference in the lives of others. From advanced titles like healthcare administrator to entry-level positions like community health worker, each role in the field has the ability to make a positive impact on the health of their communities.
In regions like the Merrimack Valley where public health is a growing priority, there are a number of ways that people can step into these roles and build impactful careers. Advancing your education in the field is one of the best ways to build the skills and experience you need to position yourself as a promising candidate for these competitive jobs.
Regis College’s bachelor’s completion program in public health, for instance, allows students with previous college credit or an associate degree to earn their bachelor’s degree so that they can take the next step in their career. Regis’ program is focused on hands-on learning and provides students with the opportunity to gain field experience while obtaining their degrees.
“Students in public health have the opportunity to serve as interns at different sites, positions that and often lead to full-time jobs,” notes Kelly Golden.
For example, recent graduate Kayla Cutter was able to secure an internship at VinFen in Lowell, and now serves as a program director for a group home.
“My internship, which led to a full-time position, helped with that,” she says. “I realized how much I enjoyed using my skills and knowledge to help people.”
Olivia Paquette, another graduate of the program, who now serves as an outreach coordinator at a women’s residential recovery program, had a similar experience. Paquette says, “Class projects and internships helped me explore further what I already had a sense of what I was interested in. The professors shared more about what they did [in their careers] and told me about certain opportunities.”
If you’re considering a career in public health, completing your degree or converting your associate degree to a bachelor’s degree can give you the skills and experience you need to excel in the field and give you a competitive edge in the job market.
Interested in learning how completing your bachelor’s degree can advance your career? See how a BA in Public Health from Regis College can help you get ahead.