7 Public Health Careers (+ How to Get Started)

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Jobs in public health are in-demand and can be a fulfilling way to earn a living. Here’s how to get started.

[Featured Image]: A man in blue scrubs, working in a hospital, analyzes information on his computer.

Public health is a discipline concerned with the health of the population, especially as it pertains to government regulation and support. This career path involves making decisions around hygiene, epidemiology, and disease prevention. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic heightened awareness of the important role that public health professionals play in fostering a safe and healthy society. 

Overall, jobs in health care are expected to increase 16 percent from 2020 to 2030 [1]. Public health differs from other health careers in that it focuses on protecting and promoting health in populations, rather than on diagnosing and treating individual patients. Both types of health care jobs will be in high demand in the coming years.

Learn more about the 10 essential public health services: 

Learn more about the 10 essential public health services

Why pursue a career in public health?

Some people are drawn to public health for reasons other than just money. They might pursue this career to help address health regulations and policies at a broader level and have a positive impact on local or global governance. The pandemic highlighted the importance of health education and preventative health measures, exposing inequities and flaws in these systems.

In education, public health is commonly offered as a master’s in public health (MPH), which can lead to many types of public health careers. Having a master’s can give you a boost in salary and an opportunity to pursue advanced job opportunities.

Learn more: What Is Public Health? Your Career Guide

Salary and job outlook

While there is a wide range of career options in public health, you can expect to earn an average of $88,580 to $93,910 in the US, particularly in administrative or management roles [2]. With 2.6 million new jobs expected in the next decade, health care is considered the fastest-growing employment sector in the US [1].

7 emerging public health careers

There are many potential roles in this rewarding career path. Here are some emerging public health careers to choose from. Each one of them is growing as fast as or faster than the average employment growth, which is projected at 7.7 percent [3]. The salary information below is for occupations based in the US.

1. Medical and Health Services Manager

As a medical and health services manager, you’re responsible for planning and coordinating services in a health care facility, department, or medical clinic for doctors and nurses. You’ll have to stay up-to-date on changes to health care regulations, laws, and new technologies. This role may involve training staff, developing team goals, and monitoring budgets and performance, so it requires good organizational and communication skills.

  • Median salary: $101,340 [4]

  • Job outlook: 32 percent growth (much faster than average)

  • Typical requirements: Bachelor’s degree, though a master’s is also common, with work experience in hospital administration.

2. Biostatistician

A biostatistician is driven to answer pressing questions in public health and medicine using statistical analysis. They might research what causes cancer, whether a new prescription drug works, how harmful certain chemicals are for the body, or how long a pandemic will last. Using data like disease rates or genetic information, they design clinical trials to evaluate drug or patient outcomes. If you enjoy applying statistics and math to global health, this can be a lucrative path for you.

  • Median salary: $96,280 [5] ($145,170 is the average salary on Indeed [6])

  • Job outlook: 33 percent growth (much faster than average)

  • Typical requirements: Bachelor’s degree at minimum, while master’s and doctorate degrees are often required

Read more: What Is a Biostatistician?

3. Health care consultant 

Health care consultants are a specialized version of management consultants or business analysts, hired by health care organizations to focus on examining a medical or pharmaceutical company to improve production, supply chain, and other lean management methods. Using data analysis, you’ll work with the company to prescribe ways to make it more efficient. You’ll often be a contracted employee or independent contractor.

  • Median salary: $93,000 [7]

  • Job outlook: 14 percent growth (faster than average)

  • Typical requirements: Bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level positions, while an MBA or a specialized master’s (such as MPH) will help accelerate your career.

4. Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists investigate patterns and causes of diseases, injuries, and disorders in society. They work to reduce their occurrence and risk with research, education, and health policy, so they might work in governments, in the private sector with health insurance or pharmaceutical companies, or in non-profit organizations. Epidemiologists typically specialize in areas such as maternal health, infectious diseases, environmental health, genetics, emergency response, or mental health. You might consider epidemiology if you feel strongly about one of these subjects.

  • Median salary: $78,830 [8]

  • Job outlook: 30 percent growth (much faster than average)

  • Typical requirements: At least a master’s degree in public health or related field, in addition to a bachelor’s degree. Some jobs might require a doctorate’s degree in epidemiology or medicine.

5. Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

As an occupational health and safety specialist, you’ll collect data and analyze different types of workplace environments to make sure they’re following health and safety regulations correctly. You’re expected to inspect workplace environments and equipment, write up reports, and educate workers with training programs. This can be a great opportunity for someone who is organized and enjoys routines, rule enforcement, and interacting with others.

  • Median salary: $74,870 [9]

  • Job outlook: 7 percent growth (as fast as average)

  • Typical requirements: Bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, biology, or a related field. Some roles may require a master’s in industrial hygiene or health physics.

6. Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers typically oversee teams that provide public services, so those who specialize in public or global health would be involved in health advocacy. You’ll be involved in managing projects and designing programs that address health for a particular group, such as children, or those experiencing homelessness or drug abuse. Skills needed for these roles include communication, analysis, problem-solving, and time management.

  • Median salary: $74,000 [10]

  • Job outlook: 15 percent growth (faster than average)

  • Typical requirements: Bachelor’s degree in public health, social work, or related field

7. Health Education Specialist

Health education specialists teach people about wellness and how to be healthy. They devise strategies to improve well-being by assessing the needs of individuals and communities, educating them about health, and advocating for public health reform. Health education specialists might work in health care facilities, non-profits, and public health departments to advance society’s knowledge of good health practices.

  • Median salary: $48,860 [11]

  • Job outlook: 17 percent growth (much faster than average)

  • Typical requirements: Bachelor’s degree in health education or related field

Explore public health with Coursera

Earn a master’s degree in public health to fast-track your career in addressing the world’s biggest health challenges. Choose from the Master of Public Health from the University of Michigan, the #2 public school of public health, or the Global Master of Public Health from Imperial College London, one of the world’s top 10 universities.

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Healthcare Occupations, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/home.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

2. Public Health. “Top Paying Jobs in Public Health, https://www.publichealth.org/top-paying-jobs-public-health/.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

3. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment Suggestions - 2020-2030, https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/ecopro.pdf.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

4. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Medical and Health Services Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

5. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Mathematicians and Statisticians,   https://www.bls.gov/ooh/math/mathematicians-and-statisticians.htm." Accessed August 5, 2022.

6. Indeed. “Biostatistician salary in United States, https://www.indeed.com/career/biostatistician/salaries.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

7. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Management Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/management-analysts.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

8. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Epidemiologists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/epidemiologists.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

9. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-health-and-safety-specialists-and-technicians.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

10. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Social and Community Service Managers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/social-and-community-service-managers.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

11. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm.” Accessed August 5, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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