What can you do with a master's degree in public health?

  • Public health professionals work to prevent disease and illness.
    Public health professionals work to prevent disease and illness.

    What can you do with a master's degree in public health?

    Doctors step in when people get sick, but public health professionals are the heroes in the background working to prevent those illnesses in the first place. As such, it’s an ideal industry for those interested in scientific research and health education who also have a passion for bettering the social, economic, environmental and physical health of their communities.

    If you choose to follow this fruitful career path, here are some of the job titles you can pursue after earning a master’s degree in public health:

    These public health professionals are savvy researchers and analysts, studying diseases and infections to understand and monitor the causes, patterns, epidemics and treatment possibilities. After drawing conclusions from the data, epidemiologists share detailed reports with policymakers and health care professionals. As such, they play a vital role in reducing public health risk, preventing harmful outbreaks and controlling the spread of diseases, working at various institutes, research organizations, public health departments and pharmaceutical companies.

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the median annual pay for epidemiologists is $69,660. The Bureau also predicted a favorable job outlook for epidemiologists, with the government and hospitals among the top employers of these research analysts.

    Health care administrator
    This managerial role involves overseeing a team of health care employees, often in hospitals, clinics, research labs, physician practices or other health care facilities and wellness centers. Responsibilities include coordinating services, managing health programs and budgets, working with health equipment suppliers, advising on public policies and ensuring patients receive quality care. An extensive knowledge of health care laws, regulations and technology helps these administrators direct positive and compliant changes within their facility, practice or department.

    These medical and health services managers earn an average salary of $98,350, according to data from the BLS. You’re in luck if this career path interests you, as the Bureau further predicted a fast employment growth rate, with more than 72,000 of these roles added to the workforce between 2016 and 2020.

    Health counselor
    Depending on their area of expertise, these counselors help patients who suffer from physical, mental, developmental, emotional, behavioral or other health problems. They often recommend treatment programs, refer patients to specialists services and evaluate health progress.

    Counseling roles that public health graduates can pursue include:

    • Substance abuse counselor
    • Behavioral disorder counselor
    • Mental health counselor
    • Addictions counselor
    • Rehabilitation counselor
    • Genetic counselor
    • Social worker
    • Community health worker
    • Occupational therapist
    • Marriage and family therapist

    As people continue to seek these services, job outlook for a career in health counseling is promising. As far as wages go, here are some recent average salaries from the BLS:

    • Rehabilitation counselors: $34,860
    • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder and mental health counselors: $43,300
    • Health educators and community health workers: $45,360
    • Marriage and family therapists: $48,790
    • Occupational therapists: $83,200

    Various employers seek these types of public health professionals, such as hospitals, private practices, academic institutions, corporate businesses, prisons and community health centers.

    Health and safety engineer
    Public health engineers plan, design, develop and monitor machinery, equipment, chemicals, products and systems that are safe for public use. They also use their combined medical and engineering expertise to identify and correct hazards, investigate accidents, analyze employee safety programs, install safety devices and implement health and safety regulations.

    Public health engineers can specialize in a certain area, including:

    • Fire prevention and protection
    • Product safety and compliance
    • Systems safety
    • Construction safety
    • Management, scientific and technology services
    • Industrial hygiene

    Data from the BLS predicted normal job growth rates and estimated mean annual wages of $88,510 for health and safety engineers.

    Registered nurse
    RNs work side by side with doctors to provide quality patient care. Among their responsibilities are: recording symptoms and medical histories, monitoring patients, handling test results, operating medical equipment, monitoring medication and treatment programs and consulting with physicians. Nurses also tend to fall into a support role, offering sympathetic and emotional assistance for patients and their loved ones. Nurses can also choose to work with specific patient groups, such as public health, addiction, cardiovascular conditions, genetics, rehabilitation and critical care.

    Working for hospitals, doctor’s offices, home health services, clinics, schools and other care facilities, RNs earn an average of $70,000 each year, according to the BLS. Employment is also projected to grow 15 percent from 2016 to 2026, which is a much faster rate than most occupations.

    More career options
    PayScale compiled more of the common job titles for graduates with a Master of Public Health and their average salaries, which included:

    • Program coordinator: $45,255
    • Clinical research coordinator: $49,106
    • Research associate: $54,203
    • Registered dietician: $56,739
    • Program manager: $58,669
    • Infection control practitioner: $66,562
    • Healthcare consultant: $79,202
    • Environment health and safety manager: $89,878

    No matter which path you choose to pursue, the first step to boosting your résumé is earning your Master of Public Health degree. These public health careers can also be stepping stones to more advanced medical practice positions that require an even more advanced degree. With the right education, you’ll have the qualifications to make a positive impact within the public health sector.

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