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What Can You Do With a Public Health Degree?

Student speaker at Dornsife commencement 2019

The Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health offers a variety of on-campus and online degrees and certificates that can lead to different jobs in public health 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 Can You Do With a Public Health Degree? 10 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 Dean Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, told 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) Epidemiology

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.

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.

4) 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.

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) Infectious Disease

Those working in infection prevention and control have hands-on roles in healthcare settings, working to ensure patient safety and safe environments.

Infectious disease careers typically require a Minor in Infectious Disease or Certificate in Infectious Disease Prevention at a minimum. An MS in Infection Prevention and Control opens up even more options for career advancement.

7) 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 testing, vaccines, or treatment for vulnerable populations. Population health scientists typically need a master's degree such as an MS in Epidemiology or MPH in Urban Health.

8) 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.

9) 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).

10) 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:

Job Title Career Median Salary
Epidemiologist $81,390
Health Education Specialist $62,860
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $78,980
Community Health Worker $48,200
Health Service Manager $110,680
Occupational Health and Safety Specialist $77,580
Research Analyst $83,640
Social and Community Service Manager $77,030
Statistician $104,110

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2023 data

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 in the field of public health, there are many potential jobs to pursue with various kinds of employers including:

  • Health systems
  • Hospitals
  • Nonprofits and foundations
  • Community organizations
  • Health centers
  • Universities
  • 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 Dean Gina Lovasi, PhD, MPH, to Fortune Education.

Overall employment for many public health occupations is growing. For example, health educators are seeing a faster-than-average job outlook between 2022 and 2032, growing at 7%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Epidemiologists and biostatisticians are seeing a much faster-than-average job outlook between 2022 and 2032, growing at 27-30%, 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, Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, 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. "Coming in and wanting to address inequities is a theme that I hear really strongly from our students," Dr. Lovasi told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Amy Carroll-Scott, PhD, MPH, associate professor and chair of the Department of Community Health and Prevention, offered her thoughts on 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

Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health 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 Philadelphia's first school of public health to earn accreditation 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.

Viewbooks to learn more about Dornsife's public health programs
Explore our public health program viewbooks to learn more about undergrad, master's and doctoral programs at Drexel.

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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Collage of alumni

Outstanding Dornsife Alumni to Celebrate 25 Years

In recognition of the School’s 25th anniversary, 25 outstanding alumni were highlighted in the Dornsife SPH Magazine Vol. 25.

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