Do you want to help communities achieve better health?

A career in public health is a great way to tap into this passion, giving you a platform to create programs and initiatives that enhance the well-being of vulnerable populations. While interests in this field can range from epidemiology to policy-making, developing public health skills is crucial.

It’s important, however, to understand what skills are important to effective public health today. With over 50 percent of U.S. public health workers aged 40 and over, there's a pressing need for new professionals to meet the new demands of the industry—such as pandemic response and environmental health risks.

According to a 2024 job posting report, skills like environmental health and safety, emergency response, and regulatory compliance become more prevalent in public health job postings, while mathematics, clinical trials, and biostatistics skills declined.

Public Health Skills Trends

If you’re interested in becoming an expert in the field, here’s an overview of the top public health skills you should develop.

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Top Specialized Public Health Skills

While public health professionals aren’t clinical professionals, they still need a variety of specialized skills that can help them effectively serve their communities.

Top Specialized Skills of Public Health Professionals

1. Community Health

Community health is evaluating the needs and challenges of communities and developing programs and policies to manage them. Using health assessments, public health professionals are able to improve health equity by addressing disparities in healthcare access and patient outcomes in underserved communities.

Understanding community health also helps professionals encourage healthy lifestyles by educating the public on available resources and ways to incorporate more wellness practices into everyday life.

2. Public Health Principles

Understanding the principles of public health is essential to effectively assessing, planning, and implementing strategies that promote and protect the health of populations.

As a multidisciplinary skill, it often encompasses a wide range of competencies, such as health education and advocacy. As a result, an understanding of public health can help professionals make more informed decisions about health, improve communication strategies with communities, and design public health programs that are more likely to resonate with underserved populations.

3. Data Analysis

Data collection enables specialists to assess public health trends, gain important health insights, and make informed decisions about health needs across different populations. They often rely on data to identify risk factors, disease patterns, and strategies for intervention.

“I think every student coming out of an MPH program—including ours—needs to have an understanding of data analytics and assessment,” says Dr. Jocelyn Mullins, Assistant Professor in Regis College’s Master of Public Health degree program. “Even if they don't perform the data analysis, we give students the skills to at least understand how to apply those results in their work.”

4. Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is a holistic approach to public health that examines the interconnected systems that shape health conditions. It recognizes healthcare as a complex system consisting of various stakeholders, processes, and environments that influence each other.

It’s an important skill because it studies the various factors that can affect wellbeing, such as:

  • Biological determinants
  • Economic and cultural factors
  • Community environment
  • Geographic location

“Students need to be thinking across all of the different systems, whether that's social, community, healthcare—all things that impact public health,” Mullins says.

5. Epidemiology

Epidemiology is the study of health conditions' patterns and impacts on populations. By leveraging the statistical and research methods of epidemiology, public health professionals are able to analyze risk factors, design preventive strategies, and measure the effectiveness of health interventions.

Top Common Public Health Skills

While specialized skills are important, common skills are often high up on an employer’s job posting because these competencies speak to your ability to be an effective professional.

Top Common Skills of Public Health Professionals

1. Communication

Strong communication skills are essential to engaging with diverse audiences and promoting better health behaviors. Public health advocates need to find effective methods of reaching communities to ensure they embrace intervention efforts.

As a result, communication is an important competency to develop. In fact, our analysis of employment data shows that communication skills are required in 35 percent of public health job postings.

Communication skills appear in 35% of public health job postings

Within health organizations, professionals need to communicate goals and challenges to other collaborators. This is why students in Regis’ MPH degree program learn about how to convey public health information to stakeholders in several ways.

“We ask students to communicate in different ways,” Mullin says. “In the course I'm currently teaching, students write scientific abstracts to communicate with colleagues and a public health blog post that effectively communicates their results to the public.”

2. Leadership and Management

To develop as leaders, public health professionals need the capacity to guide and inspire others through effective strategies and solutions for complex health challenges. Leadership in this field often goes beyond individual expertise, rather it requires strong cross-functional collaboration.

Through strategic leadership and effective stakeholder engagement, public health professionals can spearhead transformative changes that can make a huge difference in the community.

3. Research

The ability to design, conduct, and analyze scientific studies is crucial for professionals who want to gain the most accurate data-driven insights.

Public health research goes beyond theories and assumptions. It combines the human experience of communities and objective data that would otherwise be incomplete. By approaching public health problems with an investigative mindset, health professionals can successfully implement evidence-based policies.

4. Problem-Solving

Public health roles are always focused on solving complex problems in underserved communities, such as community health resources, chronic diseases, and health equity.

To tackle these challenges head-on, public health professionals need to be able to gather information from diverse sources and evaluate the impact of possible solutions with a multidisciplinary approach.

“For example, students take what they’ve learned in social and behavioral health and use it in our epidemiology courses,” Mullins says. “We give the students real-world data sets and ask them to create research questions that incorporate issues of health equity and social determinants of health or environmental health. So we get students really thinking about current public health questions, and how to answer them.”

5. Advocacy

Advocacy is awareness of public concerns and investment in creating solutions that address the needs of populations without minimizing their best interests. Public health professionals aid in policy development and often serve as the voice of the populations they represent.

As advocates, it’s important to be aware of public opinions and the factors influencing health behaviors. By recognizing the gaps in health education and coverage, public health professionals can develop sustainable ways to promote community well-being.

How to Develop Your Public Health Skills

Prioritizing public well-being is essential for creating healthy, resilient communities. Future advocates can prepare by developing public health skills through valuable field experience with an advanced degree like Regis College’s Master of Public Health (MPH) program.

“We teach exclusively with the goal of developing excellent public health practitioners,” Mullins says.

Prospective public health advocates can also specialize in epidemiology or health policy and management at Regis, offering more advanced skills development that can be leveraged to pursue competitive roles.

If you want to know more about the MPH program, contact an admissions counselor to get answers about enrollment, curriculum, or entry requirements.

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