The public health field is an exciting, rewarding way to help your community. In this field, you might find yourself working in an office to track an epidemic, visiting elementary schools to teach healthy behaviors to children or spraying mosquito repellant from the back of a truck. Because public health is so diverse, it can be hard to know if you need an advanced degree to work in the field.
What Exactly Is Public Health?
So many potential jobs fall into the field of public health that it can be hard to understand exactly what the term means. Generally speaking, public health is concerned with keeping populations healthy; medicine, by contrast, seeks to keep individuals healthy. Public health can encompass so many different behaviors: Hanging mosquito nets, designing walkable cities, creating advertising campaigns for healthy behaviors or handing out condoms are all aspects of the public health field.
Working for the government offers security and excellent benefits, but can you work a government job in public health without an advanced degree? Sometimes you can; for example, local governments might hire entry-level workers to spray insecticides, reach out to homeless populations or work the registration desk at a free clinic. You can find jobs like this on your city or state government's website. If you want to advance, you'll almost always need a bachelor's or master's degree.
For example, the United States is home to the world's best public health institution, the Centers for Disease Control. Professionals at the CDC travel the world fighting infectious diseases and protecting America's health. It's possible for you to work at the CDC as a low-level administrator, but the most common jobs all require at least a bachelor's degree. Plus, like with most government jobs, you'll earn more money with an advanced degree.
Back To School?
Public health degrees tend to be more focused than traditional, non-professional degrees. Your classes will be tailored to your career interests. A master's of public health lets you choose which field you want to specialize in; for example, if you want a job tracking diseases, you can study epidemiology. Likewise, you could concentrate on social health if you want to work in the non-profit industry or global health if you want to work internationally. The Department of Defense even offers a program for military members wanting to lower battlefield casualties. If you go back to school for a public health degree, you won't find yourself stuck taking English Literature or Calculus. Your classes will be interesting and relevant to your unique interests, and almost every School of Public Health offers part-time and full-time degree options.
For a lifelong career in public health, you will need an advanced degree. However, you can start working in an entry-level position and earn your degree while you work. With online and part-time classes, it's easier than ever to get your advanced degree for your career in the public health field.