What Can You Do With a Public Health Degree?
The Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health offers a variety of on-campus and online degrees and certificates that can lead to different public health-related career options or continued education opportunities.
What is Public Health?
The field of public health focuses on improving the health of communities and populations.
Dornsife alum Valerissa C. Baker, MPH '15, told Dornsife SPH Magazine about the analogy that encouraged her to pursue a career helping to address the needs of marginalized communities:
"Working in medicine and public health are like dealing with forests and trees. Medical practitioners address each individual tree’s needs, while public health practitioners address the problems of the whole forest.”
Added Velton W. Showell IV, MPH '18, in the school's alumni feature: "At its core, public health allows you to use your skill set to advocate for others and affect change in something bigger than yourself."
What Are Different Careers in Public Health? 9 Potential Career Paths
There are many paths to a fulfilling career in public health after obtaining a certificate or degree, and Drexel Dornsife's location in Philadelphia offers job opportunities for public health graduates in Pennsylvania and beyond.
Public health practitioners come from a variety of diverse backgrounds. Many find their way to their career through a combination of inspiring classes, encouraging mentors, community volunteering, and meaningful work. Some transition into public health from other careers.
“By enrolling in an MPH program, doors open to you. You get the skills to make a difference once you step through those doors. You’ll get a broad base of understanding in the field, and the flexibility to carve out your own identity," Dornsife's Associate Dean of Education Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, tells Fortune Education in What You'll Learn in a Master's of Public Health Program.
If you’re currently wondering, “What jobs can I get with a public health degree?," below are a few areas that present opportunities and may be of interest. See ASPPH’s areas of study for a complete list, and see STEM designated programs for a list of possible STEM careers in public health.
1) Community Health
Community health workers have expertise navigating medical, public health, and other related systems (e.g., housing, employment, benefits programs). Community health specialists typically require at least a bachelor’s degree such as Dornsife's BS in Public Health.
For individuals looking to pursue an advanced degree in the social and behavioral sciences, Drexel Dornsife offers an MPH in Community Health and Prevention and PhD in Community Health and Prevention.
2) Data Science and Statistics
Data scientists, biostatisticians, and public health analysts use their computational and statistical training to analyze and interpret data to solve real-world public health problems.
A BS in Health Data Analytics can launch your career, with expanded opportunities after earning an MS in Biostatistics or MS in Epidemiology.
3) Environmental Health
Environmental scientists identify and answer important questions about how the physical environment and the workplace influences human health. Researchers study topics such as air pollution, drinking water and sanitation, occupational health and safety, climate change and infectious diseases.
Entry-level environmental health specialists need at least a bachelor's degree, with additional paths for those with an MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health or MS in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences.
Epidemiologists study trends and patterns of disease transmission and outcomes, including which characteristics put individuals, populations, and communities at higher and lower risk. Both infectious disease epidemiology and social epidemiology are relevant and important workforce needs.
An MS in Epidemiology or an MPH in Epidemiology is typically required for epidemiology positions, while an PhD in Epidemiology provides additional advancement and research opportunities.
5) Global Health
Global health and international development are growing areas in which practitioners work on issues that affect the world’s population. Examples of issues include communicable disease, malnutrition, water and sanitation, chronic disease, injuries, environmental health challenges, and reproductive health, and maternal and child health.
The focus is often on designing, implementing, and evaluating programs in underserved communities in the United States and abroad and on proposing and applying ethical, sustainable approaches.
Entry-level global health specialists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree such as a BA in Global Public Health, with broader research, policy, and program management opportunities with a graduate degree such as an MPH in Global Health or MS in Global Health.
6) Health Administration
Individuals in health administration have the training and expertise to supervise health workers and coordinate support for vulnerable populations and communities. Most health administrators have an advanced degree such as a Master's in Public Health (MPH).
7) Occupational Health
The field of occupational health science studies workplace issues and hazards, which includes working conditions, injury prevention, industrial hygiene, environmental exposures, and health and safety.
Occupational health addresses strategies for preventing, controlling, and managing risks in order to protect the health of workers. Occupational health careers typically require a bachelor's degree at a minimum, and an MPH in Environmental and Occupational Health or MS in Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences open up other career options.
8) Population Health or Urban Health
Population health and urban health scientists analyze factors that influence the health of populations. They think critically about how to develop effective and sustainable solutions. One example would be developing solutions to improve access to COVID testing, vaccines, and treatment for vulnerable populations. Population health scientists typically need a master's degree such as an MS in Population Health Sciences or MPH in Urban Health.
9) Public Health Education
Public health educators partner with communities to assess health problems, propose solutions to issues, and support the health of communities locally, nationally, and globally. An MPH is often required for public health education positions.
How Much Do Public Health Majors Make?
While salary can range across industries and vary based on education level and experience, here is the median annual wage for certain undergraduate and Masters in Public Health careers within in the field of public health:
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2021 data
||Career Median Salary
|Community Health Worker
|Environmental Scientists and Specialists
|Health Education Specialist
|Medical / Health Service Manager
|Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
|Social and Community Service Manager
Employers of Public Health Graduates
There are many employment opportunities for individuals who pursue a degree in public health. Whether you pursue an undergraduate, MPH, MS, Doctoral degree or certificate, there are many potential jobs to pursue with various kinds of employers including:
- Health systems
- Nonprofits and foundations
- Community organizations
- Health centers
- Private sectors like biotechnology and pharmaceuticals
To learn more about what Dornsife alumni are doing with their public health degree, read a Q&A with 25 outstanding DSPH alums from the anniversary issue of our school's magazine.
Job Outlook for A Degree in Public Health
“The last couple of years, public health has become more salient as an option for many students,” said Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, Dornsife Associate Professor of Urban Health and Associate Dean for Education, to Fortune Education.
Overall employment for many public health occupations is growing. For example, health education specialists and community health workers are seeing a much faster-than-average job outlook between 2021 and 2031, growing at 12%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Epidemiologists are seeing a much faster-than-average job outlook between 2021 and 2031, growing at 26% according to BLS.
And jobs in infectious disease are in demand as the field faces formidable staffing shortages.
Skills Gained With a Public Health Degree
"You get the skills to make a difference once you step through the doors,” says Dr. Lovasi of a public health degree at Drexel Dornsife. “You’ll get a broad base of understanding in the field, and the flexibility to carve out your own identity."
Foundational skills gained with a degree in public health include:
- Data collection: Concepts and tools of public health data collection
- Project implementation: Planning, assessing, and evaluating projects
- Communication: Examining the concepts of public health-specific communication
- Analytical skills: Concepts and applications of statistics
- Leadership: Acquiring skills that lead to changes in public health organization
- Global perspective: Understanding public health issues of global concern
"Skills such as communication and interpersonal intelligence are as important as the technical skills," says Reneé H. Moore, PhD, Research Professor and Director of the Biostatistics Scientific Collaboration Center.
Is Public Health a Good Career Path?
A career in public health offers the ability to have a direct impact on community health and improve people’s livelihoods.
Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, associate professor and chair of the Department of Community Health and Prevention, explains why a public health career is collaborative, dynamic, and meaningful:
“Public health is the field – both in research and in practice – that works across disciplines in a truly collaborative way.
People can't be healthy if they don't have stable housing or enough nutritious food to eat, and so the solutions require collaboration, curiosity, and creativity.
And your colleagues will be passionate.”
Pursuing Your Public Health Degree with Drexel Dornsife
Dornsife is at the forefront of research that addresses many public health challenges we face today here in the City of Philadelphia and also all over the world.
Drexel Dornsife was the first accredited school of public health in Philadelphia by CEPH in 2000 and was most recently reaccredited in 2022 for another seven years.
The school's mission is driven by three key
things: a commitment to Philadelphia and to cities all over the world; the belief that social justice lies at the root of improving health; and the firm conviction that we must use our skills to create a world that is healthier for all.
Whatever your chosen plan of study or career path, Dornsife will provide you with the knowledge, skills, and experience to lead public health into the future so you can truly make a difference.
If you are interested in learning more about Drexel Dornsife’s public health degree programs, or to learn what jobs you can get with a public health degree, request more information to speak with a member of our admissions team.
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