Public Health Careers

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, public health professionals work in a wide range of services including infectious disease control, health problems of the children, older adults and the medically under-served, chronic disease management, health monitoring and surveillance, environmental/occupational safety, and emergency preparedness. The Public Health program prepares students for a wide variety of management and planning career paths in health care and disease prevention. These positions can be found in business, government, education, nonprofit, and health organizations. Continued study at the graduate level is also an option.  However, here is our Top 25 Public Health Careers List.

Top 25 Public Health Careers

Emergency Preparedness and Bioterrorism Coordinator

Emergency preparedness and bioterrorism coordinators are responsible for building the capacity of local health departments and their workforce to respond to existing and emerging bioterrorism and other health threats. Specific duties may include enhancing health department capacity to respond to bioterrorist attacks, stockpiling vaccines and drugs, supplying the public with necessary protective measures or treatments, establishing communications programs, educating and training public health and health care professionals and the general public in emergency response, and preparing educational materials.

Engineering Technician

Engineering technicians are employed primarily at county health departments, and assist in sanitary engineering work. They may inspect construction projects, make and check engineering computations, prepare portions of written reports, assist with the review of water system plans, and conduct field and laboratory tests. They may be expected to use various computer applications and laboratory equipment.

Engineers – Public Health, Sanitary and Environmental

Employing science and engineering graduates from a variety of disciplines, environmental health programs offer meaningful and satisfying careers helping protect people and communities from public health risks. They provide an attractive variety of work assignments and settings, and ample opportunity for professional development and advancement. State positions and most county jobs offer excellent fringe benefits including subsidized health insurance coverage, reasonable and flexible work hours, generous amounts of leave time, and unrivaled pension plans. In combination, these factors allow science and technology graduates to experience gratifying careers while enjoying an enviable quality of life.

Environmental Health Careers

Employing science and engineering graduates from a variety of disciplines, environmental health programs offer meaningful and satisfying careers helping protect people and communities from public health risks. They provide an attractive variety of work assignments and settings, and ample opportunity for professional development and advancement. State positions and most county jobs offer excellent fringe benefits including subsidized health insurance coverage, reasonable and flexible work hours, generous amounts of leave time, and unrivaled pension plans. In combination, these factors allow science and technology graduates to experience gratifying careers while enjoying an enviable quality of life.

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Epidemiologist

Local public health epidemiologists are essential for the detection, control, and prevention of major health problems. Epidemiologists are “disease detectives” who investigate outbreaks and control their spread. They study a variety of factors to determine disease causes, risks, populations at risk, and prevention. They also participate in surveillance activities and consult on scientific and technical issues. Epidemiologists may specialize in a certain area, such as infectious diseases or maternal and child health, but at the local level are often involved in a variety of issues. Recent surveys of the local public health workforce indicate that there is a significant shortage of epidemiologists available to local and public health agencies.

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HIV Training Assistants

HIV Training Assistants are involved in developing educational programs. This is a technical and paraprofessional position responsible for assisting in all phases of HIV/AIDS training, including record keeping, developing training materials, assisting HIV counselors with pre/post test counseling services and recruiting, training and supervising peer educators.

Local Public Health Director/Commissioner

Local commissioners of health and public health directors are responsible for protecting the health and safety of county residents. These individuals exercise important powers under Public Health Law and lead local agencies responsible for preventing and responding to epidemics and the spread of disease, protecting against environmental hazards, promoting healthy lifestyles, helping communities respond to disasters, and working with community partners to assure access to high quality health services. In recent years, local public health leaders have been asked to take on emerging and complex health issues such as bioterrorism preparedness, epidemics or threatened epidemics like West Nile Virus and SARS, planning for pandemic influenza, and addressing the surge in chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and asthma.

Local Public Health Educator

Local public health educators make up about 10% of the local public health workforce (2001). They promote and improve health by teaching individuals, families, groups and communities how to assume responsibility for addressing health and health care issues. Health educators provide expertise in shaping messages about the health issues affecting their communities, including both communicable and chronic diseases. They use teaching, communication skills and knowledge about their communities to improve health knowledge, attitudes and skills to achieve individual and community behavior change to improve health status.

Medical Investigator

Medical Investigators conduct investigations on homicides, suicides, sudden, unexpected natural or accidental deaths. They may also conduct investigations into alleged misconduct by physicians and physician’s assistants. Their duties include developing investigative plans; conducting interviews of investigative targets, complainants and witnesses; obtaining medical records and other documents pertinent to investigations; arranging for medical and/or legal review of documentation; conducting background checks; and preparing summary reports and oral presentations useful to the Office of the Medical Examiner. Medical Investigators also photograph appropriate content of the scenes, take fingerprints of deceased persons, examines the body, gather samples of relevant materials at the scene of death to be used for toxicological examination, and testifies in court and administrative proceedings.

Outreach Worker

An Outreach Worker conducts interviews, intakes and screenings of clients to discern needs and makes referrals to appropriate agencies or contact persons. They disseminate information on available programs and services, and perform various clerical duties. They assist supervisory staff and visit clients in their homes to assess their needs or identify potential problems. They also serve as advocates for clients and help to bring about desired or necessary corrective action, or will assist in locating necessary help from their community to ensure that a service is provided. They also will assist clients and their families in crisis situations, and makes necessary referrals.

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Public Health Adviser

A Public Health Adviser is responsible for advisory and technical work involving all phases of public health communicable disease investigation. Typical work activities may include personally interviewing persons reported as infected with or exposed to communicable disease; participating in planning and estimating operational and administrative needs for carrying out blood testing and case finding programs or public education; advising on and/or installing systems of clinical records to permit the collection of data for statistical analysis, program evaluation, therapy evaluation, and medical research studies; and keeping informed of new techniques and their suitability for adaptation to local programs as to progress of communicable disease control programs with and outside the area of service.

Public Health Business Manager, Fiscal Services

Public Health Business Managers are responsible for overseeing operations of the fiscal office including the development and implementation of systems for the efficient maintenance of accounts and preparation of financial records and reports. They supervise and coordinate management information systems that pertain to State and Federal compliance of regulations, and attend regular training seminars for the compliance of such regulations. They must coordinate their policies and practices with relevant and appropriate public health program staff and supervisors, under the direction of the local public health director or commissioner. They must ensure that fiscal policies and practices support the work of the public health agency in the delivery of services to the community.

Public Health Dental Hygienists

A dental hygienist performs prophylactic dental work such as cleaning, polishing and applying sodium fluoride to teeth. They perform examinations and may chart dental defects. Dental Hygienists may implement dental health surveys, provide educational materials on maintaining good oral health, and educate patients on the relationship between diet and oral health, proper selection of a toothbrush, or techniques on brushing and flossing.

Public Health Dentist

Public Health Dentists focus on preventing and controlling dental diseases and promoting dental health through organized community efforts. Public health dentists promote oral health by assessing the oral health needs of the community, developing and implementing oral health policy, and providing programs and services that address oral health issues.

Public Health Information Officer

A Public Health Information Officer ensures that consistent information is provided on request and that all information releases are accurate, consistent and timely; writes and/or coordinates and reviews all relative information releases and serves as the single dissemination point for all agency information. The Officer also coordinates as necessary to ensure that affected publics receive accurate, consistent and timely information to allow them to make decisions to reduce their health risk.

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Public Health Inspector

Employing science and engineering graduates from a variety of disciplines, environmental health programs offer meaningful and satisfying careers helping protect people and communities from public health risks. They provide an attractive variety of work assignments and settings, and ample opportunity for professional development and advancement. State positions and most county jobs offer excellent fringe benefits including subsidized health insurance coverage, reasonable and flexible work hours, generous amounts of leave time, and unrivaled pension plans. In combination, these factors allow science and technology graduates to experience gratifying careers while enjoying an enviable quality of life.

Public Health Nurse

Public health nurses (PHN) comprise the largest group of public health professionals local health departments. Public health nurses work with individuals, groups, families and populations to improve the overall health of communities. They help plan and implement public health programs, provide instruction to individuals, families and other groups regarding health issues, arrange for immunizations and health screening, and are involved in helping to contain the spread of disease in communities. A national survey conducted by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) indicates that the supply of public health nurses is declining and employment trends indicate that the decrease will continue.

Public Health Nutritionist/Dietitian

Public health nutritionists are registered dieticians who coordinate and implement nutrition policies and programs for the health department. They may be involved with programs such as the special supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), the Food and Nutrition Program (FAN) and the Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP). Public health nutritionists also design and carry out programs in the general community to promote physical fitness and nutrition.

Public Health Physician

Public health physicians provide medical diagnosis and patient care, conduct teaching and research and serve as program managers. Preventive medicine trained physicians work in primary care settings and managed care organizations, in public health and government agencies, in workplaces and in academia.

According to the American College of Preventive Medicine, the work of public health or preventive medicine physicians is focused on the population rather than individual practice, that is, on “assuring the availability of essential public health services to a population using skills such as leadership, management and education as well as clinical interventions.”

Specialists in preventive medicine are uniquely trained in both clinical medicine and public health. They have the skills needed to understand and reduce the risks of disease, disability and death in individuals and in population groups.

Public Health Planner

Public health planners assess the health needs of certain populations and communities, analyze and evaluate programs and policies, and use this information to develop plans to carry out public health objectives. Public health planners may conduct research projects and investigative studies, compile and document data and information, and develop recommendations and reports related to certain issues. Public health planners are often responsible for integrating the needs and diverse focus areas of different public health divisions and professionals, as well as for securing funding and resources. They write proposals for and manage grants, and work closely with local, state, and federal government entities and with community agencies. Public health planners may develop and advocate for public health policies within and outside of the local health department.

Public/Environmental Health Technician

Under the direction of sanitarians and other environmental health professionals, technicians promote public health by conducting inspections and preparing reports that document compliance with the Public Health Law and the State Sanitary Code in settings such as: restaurants, children’s camps, hotels, campgrounds, swimming pools, bathing beaches, water and sewage treatment systems. Technicians may also assist with investigations of illness outbreaks, children’s camp injuries, and environmental conditions conducive to childhood lead poisoning, and may respond to public health nuisances, indoor air violation complaints and public health emergencies. They also may conduct reviews of written plans related to operation, construction design, and facility corrections.

Public Health Sanitarian

Sanitarians promote public health by conducting environmental health inspections and related activities for settings such as food service establishments (restaurants), children’s camps, hotels, campgrounds, swimming pools, bathing beaches, water and sewage treatment systems, hospitals, long term and adult care facilities, and diagnostic and treatment centers. Their work includes: determining compliance with the Public Health Law, the State Sanitary Code and Medical Facilities Codes; preparing inspection reports that cite violations, document deficiencies, and recommend improvements; and reviewing written plans related to facility operation, construction design, and facility corrections. Sanitarians may also conduct investigations of illness outbreaks, children’s camp injuries, environmental conditions conducive to childhood lead poisoning, or chemical exposures, and they respond to public health nuisances, indoor air violation complaints and public health emergencies.

Public Health Specialist

Public Health Specialists apply professional, technical and managerial expertise to evaluate the impact of environmental contamination on public health. Activities include investigating and assessing human exposure to hazardous chemicals, evaluating remedial activities, and communicating health assessments. Public Health Specialists are asked to interpret complex environmental and health data and recognize the issues and concerns of government agencies and members of the public.

Public Health Support Staff

Public Health - Knowledge into Action

Local health departments handle a wide variety of ongoing and emerging health and community issues and require committed support staff, such as secretaries, accountants, stenographers and typists to ensure that daily operations run smoothly. Support staff play an important role in communicating with the public, maintaining databases, safeguarding confidentiality, filing and retrieving essential information during regular public health work and especially during emergencies.

Radiological Health Specialist

Radiological Health Specialists (RHS) apply professional and technical expertise to protect the public’s health by controlling and monitoring radiological emissions. Radiological Health Specialists inspect facilities that use X-ray and other radiation-producing equipment; inspect and monitor facilities using radioactive material; provide training to local health personnel and certified radiation equipment safety officers; investigate radiological accidents and emergencies; conduct studies of newly developed radiation-producing equipment, and address questions and research information on non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation.

Hopefully this list gives you some great ideas for future public health careers.  It should be noted that there are many additional jobs and career paths for public health students.

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