There are a number of professional jobs that fall under the category of public health. Public health involves disease prevention, environmental stewardship, promoting healthy lifestyles and keeping food safe. Each state has a department in charge of public health activities and counties within those states have health departments that implement local public health initiatives. Some of the main career areas in public health include nursing, environmental health, health education, epidemiology, and nutrition.
The salaries for those who work in the field of are fairly competitive especially for those who have some experience. Public health nurses earn a median salary of about $57,000 per year. However, nurses with less than a bachelor’s degree may earn a lesser salary. Those with master’s degrees who work as nurse practitioners may substantially exceed the median. Public health nutritionists earn a median salary of $47,000 per year. A public health educator with several years of experience will earn around $45,000 per year as a median salary, but this depends on the geographical location, with those in rural areas earning less than their urban counterparts. Epidemiologists earn a median salary of $65,000 per year. Epidemiologists usually work in large health departments and at the state level. Environmental health specialists earn around $43,000 as a median salary if they have some experience.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Job Description and Outlook
Public health nurses engage in a variety of duties. Some focus exclusively on childhood immunizations, others work in clinics that provide family planning and treatment of sexually transmitted infections. Public health nurses may work in prenatal clinics serving pregnant women. Public health nurse practitioners may see patients who would normally see a physician. Nursing is a field that continues to have a good employment outlook in spite of an economic downturns, so public health nursing will continue to be an area with employment potential.*
Public health nutritionists evaluate nutrition habits of children and adults. Public health departments administer the federally funded Women Infants and Children program (WIC). The program provides vouchers for nutritious food items like 100% fruit juice, cheese and milk. Those families on the WIC program receive counseling and evaluation from a public health nutritionist. Public health nutritionists also counsel individuals on healthy eating and weight management issues. The current emphasis on reducing obesity in children and adults, along with the increase in type 2 diabetes means that opportunities in public health nutrition will continue to grow.*
Health educators who work in the public health sector are responsible for promoting healthy lifestyles. They plan and implement educational activities that help people prevent diseases. Public health educators also work with community groups and coalitions to address emerging health needs and health disparities among minority groups. Public health educators provide direct education and often work with youth to address issues such as substance use, sexual activity and other risky behaviors. Health care reform efforts will include preventive activities such as health promotion, therefore expect the positions in this field to grow.*
Epidemiologists in the public health field work to determine the causes and distribution of diseases. They also help health departments and other health agencies develop strategies to prevent the spread of diseases. Epidemiologists work in larger health departments and at the state level. They are experts in managing data related to chronic and communicable disease. Epidemiologists take the lead in investigating communicable disease outbreaks. They study patterns and trends to determine how diseases spread. In a global environment where the threat of biological weapons looms large, the work of epidemiologists and the need for more people with expertise in this field will continue to grow.*
Environmental health specialists provide routine restaurant inspections and handle issues related to food safety at the local level. They also provide guidance concerning ordinances related to septic systems, water quality, and other health issues related to the environment. This public health field offers excellent job prospects due to the regulatory nature of the field.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Training and Education Requirements
Public health careers require some level of education beyond high school diploma. For the positions mentioned,
most require at least a bachelor’s degree in the field. A registered nurse can enter the field with a two-year degree or a three-year diploma. Most professionals the in public health field will have undergraduate course work in biological sciences, chemistry, psychology, sociology, and algebra. All public health professionals are required to participate in periodic professional development activities such as conferences and workshops.
Nurses who work in public health are required to be licensed by a state board. This license is obtained through examination. A nutritionist can become licensed through state and national certification program and can attain certification as a licensed nutritionist and/or registered dietitian. Health educators have the option of becoming certified through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. In most states Environmental health specialists go through a certification or registration process.
The American Public Health Association is an umbrella organization open to those who work in public health. The organization has various subgroups that address the professional development needs of individuals in the previously discussed public health professions.
Most popular careers in Health:
- Medical Assistant
- Medical Billing and Coding
- Medical Transcriptionist
- Pharmacy Technician
- Health Administration
- Medical Sonographer
- Dental Assistant
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