Public health is a rewarding field that involves protecting and improving community health through education, the promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research in disease prevention. Population-based prevention programs have led to major advances in public health, and the healthcare industry is placing greater emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention. Offering a breadth of areas to explore, there has never been a more exciting time than now to pursue a public health degree. Read on to learn more about public health programs and what they entail.
Types of Public Health Programs
Available Degree Levels
You can get a degree in public health at the associate’s, bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral level. An associate’s or bachelor’s degree may qualify you for entry-level positions in public health.
Importance of Graduate Education
The Master of Public Health (MPH) degree is the most widely recognized credential for leadership roles in public health. If you aspire to pursue high-level roles in state, federal, and international health organizations, earning an MPH degree is essential. Doctoral degree programs in public health are typically designed for students who already have an MPH degree and want to work in academia, policy analysis, research or leadership.
Prerequisites for a Degree in Public Health
Undergraduate Degree Prerequisites
The admissions requirements for associate’s and bachelor’s degree programs in public health are usually a GED or high school diploma, minimum required GPA, and minimum required SAT/ACT scores. It takes two years to earn an associate’s degree in public health, and four years to earn a bachelor’s degree,
Master’s Degree Prerequisites
Master’s degree programs in public health typically require students to have a bachelor’s degree, minimum required GPA, minimum required GRE or MCAT scores, and letters of recommendation. They can be completed in one to two years.
Doctoral Degree Prerequisites
The admissions requirements for doctoral degree programs in public health are usually a master’s degree in a related field, minimum required GRE or MCAT scores, a minimum required GPA, and letters of recommendation. A doctoral program can take three to five years to finish and usually requires the completion of a research dissertation.
Curriculum at Public Health Schools
Subjects that students in public health schools study include epidemiology, administration, environmental health, and behavioral health. Areas of concentration that students may pursue include behavioral science, health promotion, gerontology, global health, survey research methodology, maternal and child health, and women’s health, among others. The following are courses that public health students might be required to take:
- Introduction to statistical thinking
- Applications in epidemiology & public health
- Fundamentals in clinical trials
- Biologic basis of disease in public health
- Policy & management
- Social & behavioral approaches to health
Job Prospects in the Public Health Field
Types of Public Health Careers
Graduates of public health degree programs qualify for a broad range of rewarding careers in both the public and private sector on the localized or international level. Fields that public health professional work in include health policy, health advocacy, health research, occupational safety, healthcare communications, behavioral science, and health education, among others. Potential jobs that a public health graduate could pursue include:
- Community health worker
- Reproductive health specialist
- Public health inspector
- Health communications specialist
- Public health information officer
- Health promotion program coordinator
- Health educator
Salary and Job Outlook for Public Health
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of health educators and community health workers is projected to grow at a faster than average rate of 21% from 2012 to 2022. Employment for epidemiologists should grow 10%, which is about as fast as average. In 2012, community health workers received a median annual wage of $34,620, health educators earned $48,790, and epidemiologists earned $65,270.
Pursing a Public Health Degree
Public health students bring a wide variety of experiences and backgrounds to the table, but one thing they all have in common is the desire to make a difference. If you are looking to work in a diverse and dynamic field that offers a wide range of job opportunities and great personal fulfillment, start working towards your public health degree now.
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