Impact

Discover public health career paths, salaries and top employers in the field

Achieve

Learn about public health degree levels, top programs and distance learning alternatives.

Explore

See if a career in public health is right for you, and find valuable information and resources.

Impact

Public Health: Making a Global Difference

What exactly is public health? While doctors diagnose and treat patients individually, public health professionals do so on a grander scale. For example, a doctor may work with a patient to minimize the physical effects of a sexually transmitted disease (STD). A public health professional specializing in epidemiology might coordinate with community leaders to stop the spread of that very same STD. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the nation’s premier public health agency, the philosophy is simple: find out what’s making people sick and killing them, and then do the things that work to protect them and make them healthier.

During the 20th century, the average lifespan worldwide increased by 30 years. Twenty-five of the years can be attributed directly to advances in public health. These advances fall into three main categories: health, disease and safety.

Health

Safer and Healthier Foods: Contaminated food, milk and water cause many infections, including typhoid fever, tuberculosis, botulism and scarlet fever. Initiatives to ensure safer and healthier foods have resulted in significant decreases in microbial contamination. The discovery of essential nutrients and their roles in disease prevention has been instrumental in reducing nutritional deficiency diseases such as goiter, rickets and pellagra in the United States.

Healthier Mothers and Babies: From 1915 through1997, the maternal mortality rate declined to less than 0.1 reported deaths per 1,000 live births, and the infant mortality rate fell to 7.2 per 1,000 live births. Environmental interventions, improvements in nutrition, advances in clinical medicine, increased access to health care, better disease surveillance and monitoring, and higher standards of living contributed to these remarkable declines.

Family Planning: Family planning health includes smaller family size and longer interval between the birth of children; increased opportunities for pre-pregnancy counseling and screening; fewer infant, child and maternal deaths; and the use of barrier contraceptives to prevent pregnancy and transmission of human immunodeficiency virus and other STDs.

Tobacco as a Health Hazard: Smoking is the leading cause of preventable disease in the U.S. Recognition of tobacco use as a health hazard has resulted in restrictions on cigarette advertising, consumer education campaigns and initiatives aimed at reducing the population’s exposure to environmental tobacco smoke.

Disease

Immunizations: Since 1900, smallpox was eradicated through vaccinations. Vaccines have been developed or licensed against 21 other diseases, including polio and measles, dramatically reducing the incidence of infections and deaths.

Control of Infectious Diseases: Public health action to control infectious diseases in the 20th century were based on the 19th century discovery of microorganisms as the cause of many serious diseases, such as cholera and tuberculosis. Improvements in sanitation and hygiene, the discovery of antibiotics, and the implementation of universal childhood vaccination programs, all contributed to infectious disease control.

Declines in Death from Heart Disease and Stroke: Heart disease and strokes together account for approximately 40 percent of all deaths in the United States. Since 1950, age-adjusted death rates from cardiovascular disease (CVD) have declined 60 percent, representing one of the most important public health achievements of the 20th century.

Fluoridation of Drinking Water: Fluoridation of community drinking water is a major factor responsible for the decline in tooth decay during the second half of the 20th century. The history of water fluoridation is a classic example of clinical observation leading to epidemiologic investigation and community-based public health intervention.

Safety

Motor Vehicle Safety: Motor vehicle safety initiatives focus on protecting occupants and educating drivers and pedestrians. Seat belts, child safety seats, public awareness about the dangers of drinking and driving and stricter laws and law enforcement are all results of public health efforts.

Workplace Safety: Public health efforts have led to physical changes in the workplace, such as improved ventilation and dust suppression in mines; safer equipment; development and introduction of safer work practices; and improved training of health and safety professionals and of workers.

While many of these important initiatives are ongoing, the 21stcentury brings with it new public health challenges. Predominant among these are “diseases of comfort,” such as those caused by obesity and physical inactivity, a major focus of public health today. Many experts agree that major advances in public health improvement over the next decades will come not from new medical findings or cures, but from the development and application of population-based prevention programs.

Careers in Public Health

The overall impact of public health professionals on global health and wellness is clear. Yet those in the field who make the difference do so in many different ways. Public health careers come in myriad shapes in sizes, from policy and legislation to research and community outreach. Some of public health’s most notable careers include the following:

Career Salary Tool

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Bakersfield 2012 MEAN PAY $29,940 per year
Chico 2012 MEAN PAY $32,020 per year

Related CAREER SALARIES

Public health professionals have solid earnings potential in a wide range of field-related occupations. While exact salary varies by education, experience and location, the following ranges provide a glimpse into what you can earn in one of these related careers.

Achieve

School Search Tool

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Total Results: 2253
SCHOOL NAME CITY, STATE STUDENT POPULATION SCHOOL TYPE TUITION PROGRAM TYPE PROGRAMS
University of Phoenix-Online CampusPhoenix, AZ307,871Private, 4-year$9,216Campus
Associate
  • Sport and Fitness Administration/Management
  • Health Information/Medical Records Technology/Technician
Bachelor’s
  • Hospital and Health Care Facilities Administration/Management
  • Health Information/Medical Records Administration/Administrator
  • Long Term Care Administration/Management
Master’s
  • Health Teacher Education
  • Health/Health Care Administration/Management
  • Nursing Education
Doctorate
  • Health/Health Care Administration/Management
Ashford UniversityClinton, IA74,596Private, 4-year$9,648Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Sport and Fitness Administration/Management
  • Health and Wellness- General
  • Health/Health Care Administration/Management
Master’s
  • Health/Health Care Administration/Management
Arizona State UniversityTempe, AZ72,254Public, 4-year$9,208Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Foods Nutrition and Wellness Studies- General
  • Conservation Biology
  • Kinesiology and Exercise Science
  • Health and Physical Education/Fitness- Other
  • Public Policy Analysis- General
  • Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences- Other
Master’s
  • Foods Nutrition and Wellness Studies- General
  • Health and Physical Education/Fitness- Other
  • Public Policy Analysis- General
  • Health/Health Care Administration/Management
  • Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences- Other
Doctorate
  • Education Policy Analysis
  • Health and Physical Education/Fitness- Other
Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA64,096Private, 4-year$18,562Both
Bachelor’s
  • Sport and Fitness Administration/Management
  • Kinesiology and Exercise Science
  • Public Health Education and Promotion
Master’s
  • Sport and Fitness Administration/Management
Master’s - ONLINE
  • Master of Public Health - Health Promotion
  • Master of Public Health - Nutrition
Miami Dade CollegeMiami, FL63,736Public, 4-year$2,483Campus
Associate
  • Health Information/Medical Records Technology/Technician
Lone Star College SystemThe Woodlands, TX63,029Public, 2-year$960Campus
Associate
  • Health Information/Medical Records Technology/Technician
  • Medical Administrative/Executive Assistant and Medical Secretary
Houston Community CollegeHouston, TX63,015Public, 2-year$744Campus
Associate
  • Health and Physical Education/Fitness- General
  • Health Information/Medical Records Technology/Technician
University of Central FloridaOrlando, FL58,465Public, 4-year$4,426Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Health/Health Care Administration/Management
  • Health Information/Medical Records Administration/Administrator
Master’s
  • Conservation Biology
  • Sport and Fitness Administration/Management
  • Health Information/Medical Records Administration/Administrator
Doctorate
  • Conservation Biology
Ohio State University-Main CampusColumbus, OH56,867Public, 4-year$9,168Campus
Bachelor’s
  • Human Nutrition
  • Sport and Fitness Administration/Management
  • Kinesiology and Exercise Science
  • Health Information/Medical Records Administration/Administrator
  • Dietetics/Dietitian
Master’s
  • Human Nutrition
  • Ecology
  • Hospital and Health Care Facilities Administration/Management
  • Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences- Other
Doctorate
  • Human Nutrition
  • Ecology
  • Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences- Other

DEGREES IN PUBLIC HEALTH

Many certificates in public health are designed for working professionals who want to advance their undergraduate education, but who may not be ready to earn a master’s degree. Physicians, nurses, nutritionists and veterinarians may be prime candidates.

A bachelor of science in public health prepares graduates to work in public, private and non-profit sectors, helping to improve the quality of life of individuals and communities. Typical places of employment post-graduation include government health agencies, medical care services and educational institutions.

A master’s degree in public health, or MPH, offers a wide range of options for students interested in advanced study. In addition to a general master’s degree program in public health, many colleges and universities allow students to blend their MPH with other specialties, such as a master’s in business administration (MBA) or a master’s of science in nursing (MSN).

A doctorate in public health is the highest degree one can earn in the field. The degree tends to attract students who have earned a master’s in public health and want to enter public health leadership or university research.

Earning Your Public Health Degree Online

Public health professionals protect the health of local, national and international communities. From promoting seatbelt use to monitoring pandemics, they impact our daily lives in both large and small ways. The federal government’s Healthy People 2020 initiative calls for an increased number of trained public health professionals to meet current and future demand. Opportunities in the field continue to expand, as do options for earning credentials online.

Students can earn an online public health degree from either a traditional college or one that is fully online. There are also options to enroll in blended programs where some of the coursework is completed online and some in a classroom. Certain programs allow students to combine the coursework of a bachelor’s and a master’s, enabling them to earn both degrees in less time.

Advantages of earning a public health degree online include:

  • Flexibility

    Online learning can be done whenever it fits the student’s schedule. This is particularly beneficial for those who wish to work while in school.

  • Options

    Students have options for earning their degree on a full- or part-time basis. Programs can be tailored to best fit the student’s timetable.

  • Connectivity

    Many online students report forging strong connections with their professors and peers.

  • Cost Savings

    While tuition is usually the same for online programs as for classroom-based ones, students can save money on expenses related to commuting, childcare and even room and board.

Online Public Health Degree Success

Students who are successful in the pursuit of an online public health degree often share certain characteristics. Like classroom learners, online students need to have self-discipline, good time management skills and stay on top of their schoolwork. Being comfortable with technology is also a requirement. Students need to be at ease communicating and interacting with other people without face-to-face contact.

Online Public Health Degree Accreditation

Whether online or classroom-based, the public health degree program you choose must be accredited. An accredited college or degree program has been assessed by an independent agency and found to meet certain quality standards. The college accreditation process ensures your education investment is protected. It weeds out fly-by-night schools and diploma mills focused on making a profit rather than on education. Accredited colleges will not accept credits from non-accredited institutions, an important consideration for those considering a master’s or who want to transfer to another school. And, very importantly, only accredited colleges and universities qualify for federal financial aid funds.

Traditional colleges that offer online degree programs usually receive accreditation from one of six regional accrediting agencies. Online schools may earn further accreditation via the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). In addition, schools have the option of seeking accreditation for their public health programs from The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Before enrolling at a college or majoring in public health, make sure each educational option you vet carries the proper credentials.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Public Health Degrees

Q:

Are online public health degree programs accepted by employers?

A:

Most definitely. Even top universities today offer online degree programs where students earn the exact same diploma as those learning on campus. It’s often impossible for employers to tell how a degree was earned. As long as the online degree program has the proper accreditation, employers will accept the degree.

Q:

What types of public health degrees are available online?

A:

Online public health degrees are available at every level – associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral. Online certificates in specific public health areas are also offered.

Q:

Is an online public health degree easier to complete than a classroom-based program?

A:

No. Online degree programs carry the same accreditation as in-person programs. Some online courses can even more rigorous than their classroom-based counterparts due to the time management and self-discipline involved.

Q:

Are there opportunities to earn practical experience or study abroad through an online public health degree program?

A:

Whether online or classroom-based, most public health degree programs require some sort of practical experience. Because the field has such global implications, study abroad experiences are also encouraged. Online public health degree programs work with students on an individual basis to ensure they gain field experience through internships, study abroad opportunities, or service learning projects.

Q:

Are scholarships available to students pursuing online public health degrees?

A:

Students pursuing online public health degrees are eligible for the same local and national scholarships as those students pursuing classroom-based degrees. In addition, most schools offer their online students scholarships based on merit or financial need.

Explore

Is a Career in Public Health Right for You?

The work of public health professionals varies greatly, depending on their area of expertise. On a given day, an epidemiologist might spend hours in a lab trying to identify the tipping point of a pandemic. A public health educator might hold a class on prenatal nutrition for expectant mothers. And a policy maker might testify in front of Congress about the need for childhood immunizations.

PERSONALITY QUIZ

While their jobs are very different, public health professionals tend to share a core set of traits and skills. Take the following quiz and see if you have what it takes for a career in public health.

  • 1. Do you want to make a difference on a large scale?
  • 2. Do you enjoy working in community settings?
  • 3. Are you comfortable working with people from other cultures?
  • 4. Do you like to evaluate and solve problems?
  • 5. Have you ever thought about being a doctor or a nurse?
  • 6. Do you enjoy working with and analyzing data?
  • 7. Do you constantly remind people to wash their hands?
  • 8. Are you practical and methodological?
  • 9. Are you a good project manager?
  • 10. Are you results-oriented?
  • It looks like a career in public health may not be a great fit. However, you may possess the attributes necessary to succeed in other health-related careers.

    It looks like you possess some of the skills, traits and interests shared by today's most successful public health professionals. However, you may need to develop certain areas during your education or training to maximize your effectiveness in the workplace.

    It looks like you have many of the attributes found in today's top public health professionals. A formal degree program can help you hone those skills and launch a lucrative career.

Top Employers in Public Health

Public health professionals can find employment opportunities in both the public and the private spheres. In the public sector, nearly one-quarter of all public health employees works for local, state or federal government agencies. On the private side, hospitals and non-profit institutions account for a majority of the remaining openings. Let’s take a more detailed look at some of today’s most notable public health employers.

Scholarships and Grants

Public health students have a wide range of funding options available to help defray the cost of their degree program. Read about and find scholarships, grants, assistantships and other free money sources specific to the field.

A Guide to Pre-Professional Experience

In career fields such as public health, experience goes a long way. But relevant experience can be tough to build when a full-time student. Learn the keys to gaining marketable, professional experience in public health before graduation.