Vast changes in American health care and great leaps in technology have converged in recent years to position the public health industry for transformative growth. Partnerships and collaborations in the field of public health present unique opportunities to lead health care into its future.
Public health careers span the spectrum from one-on-one interaction to comprehensive data-driven analysis and from local levels to global leadership in health policy and management. Public health professions are involved in research, epidemiology, education and outreach, occupational safety, environmental science and emergency preparedness.
The United States employs about 100,000 health educators, community health workers, and epidemiologists in traditional public health settings, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – and the first two categories are each poised for 21 percent growth by 2022. Additionally, an increasing number of professionals trained in public health principles are now finding jobs in diverse medical and business fields. The array of employers for which public health professionals work spans from the government to new and exciting avenues in business and charity.
Here we take a look at some of the major public health employers in the U.S. today.
Center for Disease Control (CDC)
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the country’s go-to federal agency for all things involving public health. It employs researchers, scientists, doctors, nurses, economists, communicators, educators, technologists, epidemiologists, toxicologists, public health advisors and many other professionals. Its mission is to respond to disease outbreaks, ensure the safety of food and water, protect against environmental hazards, prevent injuries and ward off other public health threats, from leading causes of death to bioterrorism.
The CDC is often at the forefront of analyzing health data in order to understand how health events affect specific populations of people and to offer interventions that protect them from those threats; formulating guidelines and recommendations for both influential decision-makers and everyday citizens; and providing up-to-date training, disease tracking and laboratory services to state and local public health departments so that the United States can always respond quickly and effectively to health threats.
Overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC currently employs more than 15,000 people in 170 different occupations. Around 80 percent of the CDC’s employees hold a bachelor’s degree or higher, with nearly 50 percent holding advanced degrees. The CDC headquarters is in Atlanta, GA, but there are 13 additional offices operating in strategic locations nationwide.
State and Local Public Health Departments
Comprised of the individual state and local health departments nationwide, this sector employs more than 4000,000 people nationwide and is responsible for promoting public health through a variety of programs, policy initiatives and research. Many state and local health departments are paired with the local social services division. These agencies work together to address the population’s physical well being, as well as environmental and behavioral health issues.
Local employees, administrative staff at state-level agencies and elected officials on legislative committees deal with some of the same tasks and fill similar roles as the CDC – just on a smaller scale. They issue birth and death certificates; monitor diseases; assure safe food and water; plan for, investigate and respond to outbreaks and emergencies; administer immunization, nutrition and prevention programs; decipher data on trends; implement reforms; and measure and report on quality standards.
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Headquartered in Bethesda, Maryland and an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, the NIH is responsible for health related and biomedical research. It is comprised of 27 individual institutes and centers and currently employs over 18,000. More than 80 percent of the NIH’s $30 billion annual budget goes to 300,000 medical research personnel who work at some 2,500 universities and research institutions. This funding enables explorations that have led to the development of the MRI, understanding of how viruses can cause cancer, insights into cholesterol control, knowledge of how the brain processes visual information and the life-changing work of 144 Nobel Prize winners.
The NIH is also charged with communicating its discoveries to patients, families, scientists, industry, teachers and students, health professionals and the press. Persons with a strong interest in science, laboratory or clinical research, administration, policy or executive careers may find the career of their dreams with the NIH. In fact, the NIH was recently ranked the number one ideal U.S. employer in the natural sciences by Universum Global.
College and university professors educate students interested in public health careers and prepare them for real world situations. Constantly learning, instructors in health sciences blend research and education to teach patient care and the current standards of such to individuals poised to join this ever-growing workforce. Like many public health employers, those in the academic setting hire from all aspects of the industry, including health care providers for clinical trials, scientists, researchers, analysts, policymakers, economists, bioethics experts, administrators, managers, information technologists, and instructors versed in each diverse field of public health.
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Hospitals and Medical Facilities
In the evolving world of health care, public health-trained executives are being called upon to manage complicated integrations of medical care, scientific advancements, novel wellness programs and more, be it at a hospital, long-term care facility or home health agency. Administrative expertise in policy development, finance, economics, marketing, long-range planning, management, applied science, information technology, and stewardship of human and fiscal resources are all in demand.
Social workers, too, are utilized at medical facilities to coach and facilitate patients’ other health care-related needs, connecting them with counseling services, helping expand and strengthen their social support network, and coordinating needs for medicine, therapy, nursing and other programs and services.
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Managed Care Organizations
Even health insurance plans are involved in public health initiatives. Managed care and health service delivery organizations have access to large and rich databases of health information. They use this data to identify trends and launch specifically tailored health promotions, disease prevention programs and conduct outreach to underserved populations.
Similarly, modern accountable care organizations aim to improve quality of care and decrease costs through a population health management approach borrowed from the pubic health perspective. Professional public health analysts, managers, leaders and educators are required to guide such organizations beyond simply treating diseases to ultimately preventing avoidable sicknesses, eliminating unnecessary care and improving health and wellness.
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The philosophy of corporate responsibility has become popular in recent years among large corporations. This has led to greater private sector involvement in developing health care policies as well as discovering, developing and manufacturing pharmaceuticals that target specific health issues identified by public health leaders.
Whether they hire public health professionals within their companies or develop strong relationships outside their walls, businesses are connecting with thought leaders, public agencies, community organizations, public health associations and schools. There are also opportunities for consultants to serve as liaisons between public health professionals and the worksite wellness initiatives they endeavor to establish.
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In a global, interconnected world, international organizations play an important role in unifying the overarching goals of the public health industry. At the opposite end of the spectrum, finely focused niche organizations passionate about specific diseases, health issues or populations make critical contributions as well.
Depending on the convictions and interests of public health students or professionals, fulfilling jobs are available within numerous consumer advocacy organizations and voluntary health agencies.
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This government agency and public health organization alliance offers an extensive listing of public health jobs, career planning resources and opportunities for fellowships and internships. There are links to nearly 30 other job sites for agencies, associations and societies plus more than 40 specific websites that detail fellowship or internship opportunities.
Operated by the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health, this website is billed as the preferred job search engine for graduates of accredited public health schools. It offers career options for everyone, from the mathematics and modeling-heavy fields of epidemiology and biostatistics to the more people-centric health administration and community health sciences.
Representing its members, the 2,700 local health departments across the United States, NACCHO brings hundreds of health care job openings to one place. The leader, partner, catalyst, and voice for local health departments also offers career resources that include access to customized learning content, tips, resume services, career coaching, social networking and reference checking.
Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health offers a national listing of open public health jobs. The website is updated daily and is searchable by city, class, country, date, industry, organization, state and title.
This resource center from the American College of Healthcare Executives lays out the trends, settings, career pathways, skill sets, strategies and resources for aspiring health care executives. In addition to the wealth of useful content, it offers a job center, listing of postgraduate fellowships, and a few scholarship opportunities.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services is the principal agency tasked with protecting the health of Americans. The site provides users with information on education and training programs, job opportunities and a great deal more.