If you’re passionate about the health of the general population—perhaps in response to the COVID-19 pandemic—then you might want to consider a career in public health. In order to qualify for this career path though, you’ll first need to earn a degree in public health. By learning more about the public health sector and the types of courses you should look for in potential curricula, you can ensure the program you choose is the right fit for you and your career goals.

What Is Public Health?

Public health is described as the prevention and protection of families and communities from diseases through collective organized effort, education, and healthy lifestyle choices. A good way to remember the key facets of public health is to remember the “Five P’s”:

  • Population-based: Public health looks at groups of people as a whole, rather than the individual.
  • Prevention: One of the main goals of public health is to improve the population’s health by preventing major health issues.
  • Promotion: As such, public health tends to promote good health, rather than treat the effects of bad health (although this is included). Some preventative measures that they promote are exercising regularly, eating nutritious and balanced meals, getting vaccinated, amongst other actions.
  • Protection: Public health comes with policies and regulations, which serve to protect the population.
  • Preparedness: Finally, public health aims to prepare the population for potential crises such as disasters, severe illnesses, and pandemics. This is why educating people is such a big part of public health work.

If this sounds like something that aligns with your interests, then perhaps a public health degree is the right fit for you!

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What Does the Bachelor’s in Public Health Curriculum Entail at Regis College?

Once you’ve decided that a public health degree is in your future, it’s important to find a program that intrigues you. While each curriculum will vary depending on the program’s focus and flexibility, most public health curricula typically cover every area of public health to some degree. At Regis College, these areas are:

  • An Introduction to Public Health
  • Introduction to Epidemiology
  • Global Health
  • Environmental Health
  • Public Health Policy
  • Social Determinants of Health
  • Leadership and Management

Public health curricula also try to touch on the ten essential public health services—a framework that outlines how public health aims to protect and promote health in the population. The ten essential services are categorized under three big umbrellas:

  • Assessment
  • Policy Development
  • Assurance
10 Essential Public Health Services (CDC graphic)
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Retrieved from 10 Essential Public Health Services.

As you can see, the center of the ten essential services is equity. Public health services are focused on the health of a community and population, therefore equal access and opportunity to maintain and protect the health of others is a fundamental belief in this line of work. This is often reflected in public health courses.

Public health curricula also generally include internships, which ensure future public health professionals are prepared with real life experience before entering the field.

Important Public Health Curriculum Considerations

As you explore various public health programs available to you, there are certain facets of each curriculum you’ll want to consider. Here are five things you should consider when choosing what program is right for you.

1. What are your career goals?

Within the public health sector, health professionals can choose between a clinical health or non-clinical career path. Keep this in mind as you explore a degree in public health since it often dictates what program best fits your career goals.

For example, a Bachelor of Arts in Public Health typically leads to a non-clinical role since the curriculum is not as hard science-based. While some masters-level individuals on a clinical path in public health typically also pursue an MPH (Master of Public Health). Some programs have curriculum tracks within their BA in Public Health program that have a clear path to an MPH program. This might be something to research further once you know what your goals are post-graduation.

2. What are the prerequisites for each program?

It’s common for health-related degrees to have a number of prerequisites to even apply to their program—public health is no exception. Many times, these course requirements revolve around the basics of related math and sciences, but these can vary depending on the program you choose. Although each program is different, most public health curricula will include prerequisites in biology, physiology, anatomy, statistics, and other similar courses.

3. Do you meet the GPA requirements?

It should come as no surprise that GPA requirements are an important factor to consider when looking at higher education programs. Make sure you’re familiar with the requirements for the programs you’re interested in. Take this one step further and make sure that you feel confident you’ll be able to uphold this standing as well. GPAs fluctuate, so make sure you’re doing everything you can to stay on top of your goals.

4. What is the school’s mission?

While many prospective students of postsecondary institutions base their enrollment decisions on data like alumni networks, financial assistance options, and faculty directories, a school’s mission is not often referenced. Public health may be one of the few degrees in which the school’s mission is an essential factor in the decision process when choosing a program.

Since public health professionals are charged with helping people, how schools embody this belief will most likely be an important point of consideration as you look at different public health programs. For example, the Regis College mission, “Caring for the near neighbor,” encapsulates the social justice aspect of public health and is often enticing to students who want their education to mimic what they hope to practice in the field.

5. Does the program practice real-world integration?

Public health is all about family, community, and the general population. So make sure you find a program that integrates current health events with the various health-related issues your community faces to ensure you receive a well-rounded health education.

Regis College courses focus on integrating the community into the curriculum to ensure students have a better understanding of how these concepts apply in real-world scenarios. Look into public health programs, like Regis, to see how this type of curriculum can set you up for success after graduation.

Next Steps to Becoming a Public Health Professional

Public health can be an exciting field of work with countless paths for you to take. While there are different kinds of public health curricula and programs, it’s important to find the best fit for you and your career aspirations.

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