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Which of these public health career paths is right for you?

By Stephanie L

Updated April 27, 2021 Updated April 27, 2021

Sponsored by University of Louisville – School of Public Health and Information Sciences (SPHIS)   

From epidemiology to environmental health, public health policy to global health management, a public health degree can equip you with the specialised knowledge you’ll need for a rewarding and successful career. 

Public health graduates are in high demand among a wide range of employers all over the world. At the University of Louisville’s School of Public Health and Information Sciences, many public health graduates have gone on to pursue career paths spanning various sectors and organisations. 

Here are just some of them, including the average annual salaries in the US according to data from the U.S. Bureau Labor of Statistics and PayScale.  

Epidemiologist  

Average annual salary: $70,990  

Where you can work: Public and private sectors, including health departments for local and state governments, in hospitals, universities or colleges 

An epidemiologist studies and investigates the causes, effects and patterns of diseases in the general population. Depending on whether you work in research or clinical epidemiology, your roles and responsibilities will vary accordingly.  

Master of Public Health graduate Brittany Saltsman is a senior epidemiologist at the Kentucky Department for Public Health. She says learning about historical pandemics and their impact on society during her studies was what sparked her interest in epidemiology. 

She said: “I have always felt passionate about educating and empowering my community to make the best possible decision and my role in public health has let me do that.” 

Encouraging figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics sees expected job growth in epidemiology to grow by 5 percent between 2019 and 2029.  

Public health adviser 

Average annual salary: $46,910  

Where you can work: Organisations in the public and private sectors, including local or state government agencies 

Public health advisers – also known as public health practitioners, health promotion specialists or health education specialists – offer support, practical advice and guidance on matters that involve improving public health-related activities and/or services.  

The role of a public health adviser can vary greatly depending on their area of expertise. For example, they may support healthy lifestyle programmes, by advising people on healthier eating, encouraging exercising, or persuading them to stop smoking. Some play an important role in national and local health campaigns and produce strategies to promote government public health initiatives. 

A relevant bachelor’s degree is usually necessary to work as a public health adviser, while a master’s degree and several years of experience may be required for higher-level positions. It has been projected that an additional 17,000 employment opportunities in the field will be generated by 2029. 

Natalie Middaugh is a community health programme manager in Kentucky which involves “overseeing the organisation’s community health focused work, primarily around initiatives related to mental health and substance use disorders”.  

Natalie studied the BA in Public Health and Master of Public Health with a concentration in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences and talks about how much both her degrees have played a critical role in her career.   

“From grant writing to survey development, to coalition building, to communication campaigns, SPHIS prepared me to utilise these skills in an academic and real-world setting,” she said.  

Public health academic 

Average annual salary: $69,538  

Where you can work: Academic setting in universities, colleges or non-profit organisations 

The duties and responsibilities of a public health academic vary according to the specific role, but will typically involve either performing research and teaching or supporting the discipline of academic public health.  

Public health academics may set up research investigations to address specific public health issues. Others collaborate with policy makers and global health partners to assist in the development of solutions for public health challenges. Or, at a more senior level, they can teach public health practice and theories. 

Dr Duke Appiah is a Master of Public Health graduate and PhD in Epidemiology. He talks about how access to faculty with diverse levels of expertise during his studies at SPHIS allowed him to gain a wealth of knowledge in different areas of public health that “opened several doors of opportunity” – one of which was becoming Assistant Professor and Master of Public Health Programme Director at the Department of Public Health at Texas Tech University.  

Biostatistician 

Average annual salary: $77,082 

Where you can work: Government agencies, educational institutions, research laboratories, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies

Biostatisticians work as academics in the biomedical field and support all three ‘domains’ of public health – health improvement, health protection and healthcare public health.  

Biostatisticians conduct statistical analyses to interpret complex data and information from a wide range of sources to help identify and monitor the effects of treatments, environmental conditions, and other factors on living things. They work closely with medical professionals and policy makers to provide high-quality intelligence services and recommendations for protocol or data management changes.  

A career as a biostatistician usually requires a relevant master’s or doctoral degree and experience, before progressing to senior level as you acquire more specialised training.  

What’s more, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment opportunities in this field to grow by a massive 33 percent between 2019 and 2029 – much faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. 

Health policy analyst  

Average annual salary: $62,426 

Where you can work: For (and with) local or national government institutions, non-profit organisations and community groups  

Health policy analysts (sometimes known as health policy specialists or public health policy analysts) are at the forefront of public health. They use advanced statistical modeling to identify and analyse data relating to the potential short and long-term effects of existing policies across various demographics.  

Health policy analysts also assist in the development of new and existing strategies, initiatives and programmes in consultation with leaders from various public health organisations, government institutions and research labs. 

Natasha DeJarnett studied the Master of Public Health and joined American Public Health Association's Centre for Public Health Policy in Washington D.C. as an environmental health policy analyst. In her role, Natasha provided governmental, workplace and community policy makers with the best available research and practice relating to various matters such as chemical exposures and climate change.

“Environmental health is important because it’s all around us. It’s the air we breathe, it’s the water we drink, and I think in terms of public health, it’s one of the areas where we are able to have the most impact,” she said. 

Natasha is now working as an assistant professor at the University of Louisville Division of Environmental Medicine. 

Healthcare administrator 

Average annual salary: $69,845 

Where you can work: Various institutions and organisations, including, hospitals, nursing homes, doctors’ surgeries, dentists and community centres  

The duties and responsibilities of a healthcare administrator vary depending on the area they specialise in, but will typically involve being responsible for the day-to-day, financial and strategic running of a healthcare organisation while liaising with staff and partner organisations.  

There are many healthcare administrative roles within health services, including performance and quality management, strategic management, resources and budget management, people management, and project management.  

After graduating with a Master of Public Health and working as an administrative assistant at the University of Louisville Division of Infectious Diseases, Ellen Madden secured a full-time position at the University of Louisville hospital as a project manager.  

She was responsible for leading and coordinating committees involving patient data and experience, nursing satisfaction and general hospital operations and staffing. 

Ellen is now a clinical operations business analyst at one of Kentucky's leading healthcare systems which oversees more than 40 clinics and hospitals in and around Louisville, Kentucky. 

This article was originally published in April 2021 .

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Written by

As the Head of Sponsored Content for TopUniversities.com and TopMBA.com, Stephanie creates and publishes a wide range of articles for universities and business schools across the world. She attended the University of Portsmouth where she earned a BA in English Language and an MA in Communication and Applied Linguistics.

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