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What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health? (30 In-Demand Career Options)
Written By: Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Public health can be defined as that branch of health care that deals with the promotion of health for populations rather than for individuals. In all likelihood, you will live longer than either of your grandparents. You may be inclined to attribute that fact to improvements in medical care. Strictly speaking, though, that’s not true.
The average life expectancy for an American in 1920 was 54 years; by 2020, life expectancy had increased to 79 years. Experts tell us that this gain in life expectancy has less to do with medical advancements than it does with public health achievements such as clean water, safer and healthier food, the control of infectious disease, safer workplaces, the recognition that smoking tobacco can be hazardous and similar implementations.
Public health focuses on prevention rather than treatment; it is as much concerned with the furtherance of well-being as it is with the eradication of disease. Often, this furtherance is overseen by regulatory agencies that have been deputized by local, state, and national governments.
If you’ve been wondering, “What can you do with a master’s in public health?”, this article will answer your question, so please keep reading. The truth is that a graduate degree in public health can prepare you for a myriad of remunerative and rewarding professional opportunities.
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What Is an MPH Degree?
Very few colleges and universities offer undergraduate degrees in public health. Most entry-level jobs in the field require, at a minimum, a Master’s in Public Health (MPH). An MPH degree typically focuses on one of five core disciplines:
the study of the incidence and distribution of diseases and other health-related events within populations.
• Environmental Health:
the study of the way natural and manmade environments impact human health.
the development and application of data manipulations as they pertain to medicine and biology.
• Health Policy and Management:
the administration and coordination of health care delivery systems, including hospital networks, hospitals, clinics, skilled nursing care centers, and other medical facilities.
• Social and Behavioral Health:
the study of how human behavior affects decision-making and group interactions.
Some schools offer additional concentrations within these core disciplines such as community health, health education, maternal and child health, health communication and promotion, health disparities and minority health, and global health.
Your educational background as an undergraduate can help you determine which public health core discipline is the best fit for your talents and interests, as well as what you can do with a Master’s in Public Health once you graduate. A math or science undergraduate major will provide you with a leg up if you decide to go into epidemiology, environmental health, or biostatistics. Sociology, anthropology, or psychology can provide you with a strong foundation for social and behavioral health. Business administration, economics, or a background in science are all good preparations for an MPH with an emphasis in health policy and management.
What Exactly Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health Degree?
Public health is a multidisciplinary degree that intersects with a-number-of different sectors, including health care delivery, business, law, technology, pharmacology and others. A master’s degree in public health also enables you to work in a huge number of professional environments, including federal, state and local agencies; hospital networks and other health care facilities; health maintenance organizations; community agencies; nonprofits; universities; research organizations; consulting firms and private foundations.
What can you do with a public health degree? The answer is that an MPH opens the door to such a diverse array of professional opportunities in such a variety of sectors that you can do practically anything.
What Can You Do with a Master’s in Public Health? – (30 In-Demand Career Opportunities for MPH Degree Graduates)
One of the great advantages of earning a Master’s of Public Health degree is the growth anticipated in the field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for epidemiologists is projected to increase by 5 percent over the next decade, the demand for health educators by 11 percent and the demand for public health managers by 18 percent. Other public health-related occupations show similar demand in coming years.
The 30 positions listed below will give you a preliminary answer to the question, “What can you do with a master’s in public health?” Note that some of these jobs require more educational or professional training that an MPH alone. The salary figures represent average amounts based on data from Ziprecruiter.com; for each position, there is a salary spread that depends upon an employer’s specific resources.
1. Public Health Educator - $42,540 Salary per year:
Public health educators can work for community agencies, local governments, and schools. They are charged with presenting health-related information in a simple and compelling enough manner to persuade the people they’re teaching to change bad health-related habits.
| Hourly || $20.45 |
| Annual || $42,540 |
2. Public Health Administrator - $74,188 Salary per year:
Public health administrators manage public health organizations. Their responsibilities are often related to the organization’s public mission; for example, they may assess population health issues, educate the public about these issues, and execute outreach campaigns. Public health administrators also perform duties that support the organization internally such as the oversight of budgets, the writing of grants, and the management of staff.
| Hourly || $35.67 |
| Annual || $74,188 |
3. Community Service Manager - $48,981 Salary per year:
Community service managers supervise social service programs such as homeless shelters, food pantries, community mental health programs, and community-based substance abuse programs. In addition to planning initiatives that heighten public awareness of the community work their agency does, they also oversee budgets, write grants and funding proposals, and administer staff.
| Hourly || $23.55 |
| Annual || $48,981 |
4. Health Care Consultant - $68,801 Salary per year:
Health care consultants are freelance experts who are commandeered by health care facilities to identify problems and come up with efficient and workable solutions to those problems. They summarize their findings in reports. They may be called upon to create cost-benefit analyses. Health care consultants are also often called upon to create instructional manuals and other informational documents. Frequently, they have been employed previously as public health administrators.
| Hourly || $33.08 |
| Annual || $68,801 |
5. Clinical Research Coordinator - $50,604 Salary per year:
Clinical research coordinators work on clinical drug trials. They’re responsible for making sure that research scientists follow protocols. They also negotiate budgets with the pharmaceutical companies sponsoring the trials and recruit the patients who participate in the trials.
| Hourly || $24.33 |
| Annual || $50,604 |
6. Epidemiologist - $89,398 Salary per year:
Epidemiologists can work for governments, health care providers, or universities. Their jobs involve data analysis: Sometimes this is data they’ve collected themselves through fieldwork, but often it’s data collected by others. They’re looking for underlying patterns that pertain to the incidence and distribution of diseases and systematic injuries.
| Hourly || $42.98 |
| Annual || $89,398 |
7. Biostatistician - $118,078 Salary per year:
Biostatistics is a specialized branch of statistics that collects and analyzes data pertaining to living organisms. Biostatisticians most often work for governments, universities, health care facilities, or for the research and development arms of commercial companies. They design experiments and surveys to collect information, and then they write reports, summarizing their findings. Often biostatisticians focus on questions pertaining to medicine and biology.
| Hourly || $56.77 |
| Annual || $118,078 |
8. Pharmacoepidemiologist - $127,313 Salary per year:
Pharmacoepidemiologists are epidemiologists who specialize in the intersection between epidemiology and pharmacology. They work for state and federal agencies, and universities as well as for pharmaceutical companies. They’re charged with analyzing statistics that measure the ways in which medications have the potential to improve the health of the general public. While some pharmacoepidemiologists hold MPH degrees, many have gone on to earn doctorates in the public health field.
| Hourly || $61.21 |
| Annual || $127,313 |
9. Health Information Technician - $35,113 Salary per year:
Health information technicians review patient records for hospitals and other direct health care providers. They organize and analyze patient data primarily for insurance reimbursement purposes but also to track patient outcomes.
| Hourly || $16.88 |
| Annual || $35,113 |
10. Public Health Project Manager - $79,496 Salary per year:
Public health project managers are charged with planning, organizing, and directing the completion of projects designed to enhance the health and well-being of specific populations or communities. Like all project managers, PMs specializing in public health must evaluate the project’s progress, offer regular updates to project stakeholders, manage budgets, manage staff, and make staff assignments.
| Hourly || $38.22 |
| Annual || $79,496 |
11. Health and Safety Engineer - $72,195 Salary per year:
Health and safety engineers participate in designing protocols that help ensure employees in factories and other industrial and commercial environments are protected from injury. This can involve testing equipment, identifying occupational hazards, educating employees about existing regulations, and investigating accidents.
| Hourly || $34.71 |
| Annual || $72,195 |
12. Environmental Scientist - $53,671 Salary per year:
Environmental scientists are typically employed by state or local governments, but many also go on to do consulting. They’re often involved in land reclamation projects following a pollution event. They collect data, participate in data analysis, and help draft regulations that combat air, soil, or water pollution.
| Hourly || $25.80 |
| Annual || $53,671 |
13. Industrial Hygienist - $72,580 Salary per year:
This job typically requires an undergraduate degree in chemistry or engineering as well as an industrial hygiene specialization in public health. Industrial hygienists are responsible for ensuring that a building or a product complies with all regulations so that the company the director is working for passes all health and safety inspections. This means they must periodically review all machinery, equipment, employee safety programs, and employee educational requirements.
| Hourly || $34.89 |
| Annual || $72,580 |
14. Industrial Waste Director - $59,746 Salary per year:
Industrial activities produce waste products that can be hazardous. Hazardous waste includes materials that may be toxic, flammable, corrosive, radioactive, or reactive in some other potentially dangerous way. Industrial waste directors develop plans to deal with hazardous wastes that align with local, state, and federal regulations pertaining to the handling, storage, and disposal of such substances. These professionals typically work for private companies, but a few work for government agencies.
| Hourly || $28.72 |
| Annual || $59,746 |
15. Emergency Management Director - $80,772 Salary per year:
Emergency management directors are charged with planning a community’s disaster response. This disaster response must anticipate hazards and minimize the risk to the public at large. In addition to developing a community disaster plan, emergency management directors are often responsible for leading the disaster response and coordinating with the other public and private agencies that play a key role in disaster response.
| Hourly || $38.83 |
| Annual || $80,772 |
16. State or Federal Environmentalist - $81,222 Salary per year:
Environmentalists are hired by government agencies to identify environmental risks that pose a threat to members of the general public. They may perform experiments in laboratory situations to determine the severity of the threat, and they may also collect data in the field to determine the extent of the threat. Environmentalists also play an important role in planning. This position typically requires an undergraduate degree in a hard science like chemistry or biology.
| Hourly ||$39.05 |
| Annual || $81,222 |
17. Public Health Attorney - $70,959 Salary per year:
Public health attorneys are legal professionals who advise governments on public health standards those governments are considering legislating as laws. Public health attorneys also file legal actions on behalf of governments against private citizens and businesses that violate public health laws. To qualify for this position, you must have a J.D. degree and pass your state bar in addition to earning your MPH.
| Hourly ||$34.11 |
| Annual || $70,959 |
18. Public Health Officer - $94,466 Salary per year:
Public health officers work within organizations to promote those organizations’ community health agendas. Typically, a public health officer will need a medical or related health degree in addition to an MPH. Public health officers can work with nonprofits as well as with local, state, and federal agencies. They are also found in the military where they oversee food services, sanitation, and related issues on military bases.
| Hourly ||$45.42 |
| Annual || $94,466 |
19. Research Assistant - $42,811 Salary per year:
Research assistants analyze clinical data and survey data in laboratories that are dedicated to research into public health issues such as water pollution, air pollution, or the spread of infectious diseases.
| Hourly ||$20.58 |
| Annual || $42,811 |
20. Hospital Administrator - $92,526 Salary per year:
Hospital administrators plan and coordinate the provision of services within a health care delivery facility. They often focus upon specific clinical areas or practices within the larger facility. They are responsible for making sure their administrative area is in full compliance with all relevant public health-related laws and regulations. They supervise staff when it comes to matters of public health, and they may also be involved with making the delivery of services more efficient.
| Hourly ||$44.48 |
| Annual || $92,526 |
21. Infection Control Practitioner - $91,607 Salary per year:
Infection control practitioners work in hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care facilities where nosocomial infections pose a serious threat. They are charged with the monitoring, investigation, and ultimately the prevention of infectious diseases within these environments. They are almost always health care professionals such as physicians or nurses who also possess a Master’s degree in Public Health.
| Hourly ||$44.04 |
| Annual || $91,607 |
22. Health Policy Analyst - $76,668 Salary per year:
Health policy analysts typically work for government agencies, nonprofits, and corporate consulting firms. These professionals are charged with evaluating health care laws and assessing how existing organizational policies can be brought into better compliance with those laws. Health policy analysts who work for governmental agencies contribute to revising laws or drafting new ones; often this involves meeting with advocates, citizen activists, and other stakeholders who will be impacted by the proposed legislation.
| Hourly ||$36.86 |
| Annual || $76,668 |
23. Public Health Lobbyist - $67,077 Salary per year:
Public health lobbyists are hired by organizations to persuade government officials to enact legislation that will support that organization’s public health-related goals. They frequently participate in congressional hearings and town meetings at the local, state, and federal level. They also manage marketing campaigns that are designed to influence public opinion.
| Hourly ||$32.25 |
| Annual || $67,077 |
24. NGO Director - $71,650 Salary per year:
NGO stands for “non-governmental organization.” The designation is used most often to describe a nonprofit agency that addresses a pressing social or political cause in an international setting. NGO workers are frontline participants in the communities they serve, and travel is often a regular requirement of their jobs.
| Hourly ||$34.45 |
| Annual || $71,650 |
25. International Aid Worker - $44,643 Salary per year:
International aid workers are NGO foot soldiers. They act as first responders in areas of the world that are affected by natural disasters, war, pandemics, or mass migration. An MPH is not a requirement for this position, but it does help people pursuing this occupation understand the broader context of what they may be dealing with.
| Hourly ||$21.46 |
| Annual || $44,643 |
26. Public Health Veterinarian - $72,853 Salary per year:
Public health veterinarians focus on preventing the transmission of animal diseases, particularly those that can also infect human beings. They work for government agencies as well as for health care facilities. They are generalists whose jobs often overlap with the functions of epidemiologists, pathologists, and researchers. This position requires a Doctor of Veterinary Science degree as well as an MPH.
| Hourly ||$35.03 |
| Annual || $72,853 |
27. Public Health Professor - $67,477 Salary per year:
At the college and university level, a public health professor typically holds a Ph.D. in his or her specialty, but many public health instructors at the community college level have MPH degrees. These professionals are charged with awakening enthusiasm in their subject area among individuals who may very well become the next generation of public health professionals.
| Hourly ||$32.44 |
| Annual || $67,477 |
28. Behavioral Scientist - $79,770 Salary per year:
Behavioral scientists examine health-related social patterns and decision-making within communities. They study human habits that relate to health and wellness and ways that maladaptive behaviors can be changed. The position generally entails a doctorate in a field such as psychology, anthropology, or sociology as well as an MPH. Many behavioral scientists are employed by teaching institutions.
| Hourly ||$38.35 |
| Annual || $79,770 |
29. Health Communications Specialist - $60,942 Salary per year:
Health communication specialists do public relations work in the field of public health. They disseminate materials to the public regarding the mission of the agency they work for and how adherence to agency guidelines can result in happier, healthier lifestyles. Alternatively, they may work for pharmaceutical companies publicizing the result of clinical trials or other groundbreaking research. An undergraduate degree in journalism or communications is not mandatory for this position, but it can be useful.
| Hourly ||$29.30 |
| Annual || $60,942 |
30. Medical Writer - $102,603 Salary per year:
In a sense, medical writing is a specialized type of technical writing except that medical writers develop health-related content. Medical writers often collaborate with physicians, scientists, and other health professionals. They’re employed by government agencies, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and contract research organizations, and they produce whatever materials their employers need, be those materials journal manuscripts, educational materials, press releases, company newsletters, or medical reports. They must be sure that the structure of the content they produce complies with regulatory or journal guidelines.
| Hourly ||$49.33 |
| Annual || $102,603 |
Believe it or not, the positions discussed above only represent a fraction of the many opportunities available to graduates who may be asking themselves the question, “What can you do with a master’s in public health?” Coursework in the five public health core disciplines is designed to provide you with sophisticated analytic and communications skills. Additionally, an MPH can also be extremely useful as a complementary degree, working in tangent with medical, legal, or veterinary training, that can help you establish yourself as an expert within your own professional niche.
Pattie Trumble, MPP, MPH
Pattie Trumble is a nurse who worked in both California and New York for many years as an emergency room nurse. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of California, Berkeley, and an Associate Degree in Nursing from the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing. After 10 years of providing direct care, she went back to school and earned concurrent Master’s degrees in both public policy and public health from the University of California, Berkeley. Thereafter, she worked for various public health agencies in California at both the community and state levels providing economic and legislative analysis.