Public health is a rewarding career that offers stability, growth, and countless opportunities to make a difference in the lives of others. The work that public health professionals do to educate populations, promote health and wellness, and inform policy is an essential aspect of the healthcare system that has a tremendous, and often immediate, impact on the communities that they serve.
For many professionals pursuing a career in public health, a major factor underlying this decision is a passion for helping those in need.
“For me, the most rewarding part is actually having a direct impact in the community. The work of public health has a direct and often immediate impact. Say you’re involved in a disease outbreak or a water project—you get to see the results of these things fairly quickly and that's often rewarding,” says Dr. Richard Pulice, Professor for Regis College’s Public Health Program.
For those looking to break into the field or take the next step in their careers, pursuing or completing a bachelor’s degree in public health is one way to develop the skills and experience needed to unlock opportunities for career growth.
If you are considering earning a bachelor’s degree in public health, one of the biggest questions you’re likely asking yourself is: What can I actually do with this degree?
According to Dr. Leslie Mandel, Associate Professor and Director of Regis College’s Public Health Program, “You’re not limited with public health.”
Here’s a look at the top careers available with a bachelor’s in public health, as well as average salaries and career outlook for the field.
Students who complete their bachelor’s degree in public health have a wide variety of career options available across different settings like hospitals, non-profit organizations, doctor’s offices, and government agencies. Some of the most popular job titles for these professionals include:
Community health workers perform a variety of functions such as educating community members about healthcare access, collecting data, and conducting community outreach. This position typically requires at least a high school diploma or associate degree.
Similar to environmental specialists, environmental sanitarians work to improve health and safety within an environment. These professionals identify risks and enforce health and safety regulations in settings like businesses, hospitals, restaurants, and the general environment.
Health educators work to educate community members about healthy behaviors and healthcare access in an effort to improve overall health outcomes. Health educators work in healthcare facilities, schools and colleges, non-profit organizations, and other settings.
Public health investigators work to identify cases of communicable disease, trace transmissions, and provide prevention education. Their work often involves interviewing patients and gathering data to evaluate the spread of disease within the community, especially during outbreaks.
Environmental specialists work to understand the unique ways in which the environment impacts human health. They leverage this understanding in order to improve the health of the community by working to address environmental concerns such as waste management and pollution.
Public health researchers conduct research surrounding various public health trends, risk factors, solutions and so on. This research is often used by other public health professionals and healthcare providers, and to inform public health policy.
7. Public Health Advisor
Public health advisors collect, interpret, and present data to inform policies and public health programs, as well as provide guidance within an organization and those that it serves.
The job opportunities available to public health professionals depend in part on their geographic location. Some of the top public health careers in the Merrimack Valley, for example, include health educators, community health coordinators, and public health advisors.
According to PayScale, professionals who hold a bachelor of arts (BA) in public health make an average annual salary of $56,000 per year; however this can vary depending on position, experience, and geographic location.
Here’s a look at the national average salaries for each of the positions listed above:
Community Health Worker: $40,360 per year
Environmental Sanitarian: $44,768 per year
Health Educator: $55,220 per year
Public Health Investigator: $56,342 per year
Environmental Specialist: $62,961 per year
Public Health Researcher: $64,252 per year
Public Health Advisor: $67,046 per year
If you already have an associate degree in public health or a related field, keep in mind that completing your bachelor’s degree can allow you to seek more advanced positions with increased earning potential. Additionally, a bachelor’s degree can act as a stepping stone to a master’s in public health (MPH), which is often required for the most advanced positions in the field.
As a field, public health is growing quickly to meet the healthcare needs of communities and populations throughout the country. In fact, employment of community health workers and health educators, two popular careers in the field, is expected to grow 11% from 2018 to 2028—more than twice as fast as the average growth for all occupations.
Major events like the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have also underscored key public health issues and are expected to lead to an increase in demand for skilled public health professionals.
“Now we’re seeing an expansion of need [for public health professionals] and even once things get calmer related to the current pandemic, I think we’ll be seeing public health roles expanding,” Pulice says.
Mandel agrees that this will have a direct impact on the demand for public health professionals, noting the importance of public health policy, research, and funding during this challenging time.
“I think public health will be in the spotlight because I think there will be more funding for public health in the future, which naturally means more jobs,” Mandel says.
Public health is a promising and rewarding career choice for many. To help you decide if earning a bachelor’s in public health is right for you, consider your personal and professional goals and evaluate how completing your degree will help you achieve those goals. If you do choose to further your education, it’s also important to find a program that fits your unique needs and will support you in pursuit of those goals.
Regis College, for example, offers flexible programs including a degree completion program which allows students to convert their existing associate degree into a bachelor’s in public health. Regis’ public health programs are also focused on hands-on learning and real-world experience to give students the skills they need to be successful in the field. In addition to field experience, industry-aligned faculty, many of whom are active in the field, are able to bring their unique knowledge to the classroom everyday and share the experiences they’ve had throughout their careers with students.