Public health problems aren’t solved by one person. In many cases, the best solutions are developed in multidisciplinary approaches. Public health professionals often work with elected officials, law enforcement, emergency responders, and medical professionals. Each expert shares knowledge to benefit the group.
Many problems are solved by people making small differences and small discoveries that lead to breakthroughs in research, education, healthcare, public policy, and disaster preparedness. Daily work that sometimes may not seem productive leads to big things for the public health field and consequently the world.
To contribute to the public health field in meaningful ways, those who hold masters of public health (MPH) degrees need employers to hire them. Here are some of the jobs that best suit MPH degree holders’ interests and training.
Epidemiologists study the movement of diseases through a population. They investigate how diseases spread and how they can be slowed down. They provide information to medical professionals who develop treatments for those infected by an epidemic and vaccines for those who have not been infected.
Epidemiologists look at data and try to figure out what it means and where trends are heading. If a disease is spreading across a geographic area, will it continue moving in its current direction? If an age group is experiencing an increase in incidents of an illness, why is this group affected disproportionately?
Public health leaders need solid data to make decisions. Unless they have staff who can tell them what their data means, the data is useless. This is where biostatisticians come into play.
For the offbeat sorts who love statistics and public health, a job as a biostatistician can provide engaging data science work. As businesses, nonprofits and governmental organizations have collected more and more data, the professional skills involved in organizing, interpreting, and analyzing large data sets have become more and more valuable.
Some people love the thrill of an emergency. That’s why some people become police officers, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters. Other people like to help people in similar ways but don’t want the adrenaline rush emergency responders to crave. Researchers contribute to the public health field through scientific inquiry rather than by responding immediately to crises.
Researchers often are epidemiologists and biostatisticians as well. However, researchers are fully devoted to testing hypotheses; they strive to discover scientific facts and apply those facts to the world around them. Other public health professionals use researchers’ work as foundations for their own work. For example, public health educators use scientific research to develop public awareness campaigns and training curricula.
Public Health Educator
Public health educators inform the public about public health issues and help individuals take action to protect their own health, their families’ health and their communities’ health. For example, a public health educator specializing in HIV/AIDS develops flyers, brochures, and training curriculum for HIV/AIDS patients, their families, and the community.
These educators make small differences each day by helping people take responsibility for their own health. They gain satisfaction when their efforts influence the behavior of others.
Health Care Administrator
While many people who run hospitals are physicians and accountants by trade, others have backgrounds in public health. This education and experience are helpful in running hospitals and clinics because these operations are called upon in public health emergencies to triage patients and collect public health data.
Additionally, hospitals and clinics are highly regulated. There is always someone looking over a hospital administrator’s shoulder. MPH holders are well-suited to lead compliance efforts because they have gone through the rigors of graduate school and because they have a passion for keeping people healthy.
Whether in business, nonprofits, or government, public health organizations need policy advisers to help them understand the laws, regulations, and policies governmental organizations impose upon the public and on businesses such as food manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and natural gas producers. Graduate degrees like an MPH prepare people to write and analyze public policies.
Executives need the expertise of policy advisers. After understanding policies for themselves, policy advisers then explain the policies and recommend actions for executives and their organizations.
Congressional staffers perform many functions for members of Congress in both their Capitol offices and district offices. Congressional committees also employ staffers. Sometimes, members and committees look for people to fill positions related to particular policy areas.
Members interested in public health and committees dealing with public health employ staffers with expertise in public health. MPH holders are well-positioned to compete for these positions.
Staffers start at the bottom of the ladder, but if they can hang on for a few years, the natural turnover among Capitol Hill staffers creates opportunities for advancement. With expertise in a policy area and a reputation for hard work, there’s no telling how far an MPH holder can go in Washington. The Hill, federal agencies, and lobbyists need people like this.