There is strong interest in the 21st century in public health. Generally, it is now understood that engaging in aggressive preventative care measures in communities can prevent many health care problems in the future. Preventing health care issues later in life is important because it can lead to longer life, and also reduce overall healthcare costs of society.
The increased focus on public health and preventative care means that job demand for many public health professions are on the rise. For example, job demand for health educators and community health workers is going to increase by a healthy 13% by 2024.
But for those who are just getting their foot in the door in a public health career, what are some of the best entry level jobs to choose? We have done the research, and these three entry level public health jobs are a good bet that we list below. Some of them require only a high school education, while others require a bachelor’s degree.
After you have gained some experience in these related positions, you may choose to earn an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a public health or health care field so that you can get more advanced public health-related work.
Social and Human Service Assistants
Social and human service assistants offer many types of client services in public health, social work, psychology, and rehabilitation. They often work to support families going through health and personal crises. Also, social and human service assistants work with other social workers and public health workers to help their clients locate community services and benefits.
Some of the common duties of this entry level public health worker are:
- Determine the type of public health or social services assistance is needed, such as access to food banks, health care, prenatal care, etc.
- Work with the clients and other public health and social workers to develop an effective manner of treatment
- Research various public health and social services, such as food stamps or Medicare and Medicaid, that the clients may be able to receive
- Assist the clients to apply for various assistance programs available for the public
Social and human service assistants can have many different job titles; some include clinical social worker aide or assistant, public health service assistant, human service worker and case work aide.
Their primary work is to assist their clients to find public benefits and services that lead to a better life and health. In addition to connecting these people with public benefits or services, they often follow up to ensure that they are getting the health and social services that they need. These workers often will work closely with public health community workers and managers, social workers and psychologists.
The job outlook for social and human service assistants is quite strong, with 11% more jobs expected by 2024. This is being driven in part by more people having access to health insurance. More people going to have their health care needs to be addressed will lead to more seeking public health and related services.
Also expect more need in the area of drug addiction treatment, as many drug offenders are getting treatment programs rather than jail time. The median salary is $31,800 in this field.
You may benefit from earning a certificate or degree in human services, social or health services to get started in this field, but you only need a high school education to get started in some positions.
Becoming a social worker can be a good entry to a public health career because they work with clients to help them deal with their daily problems. Many of those problems are related to health care, public health and social services.
Social workers have most of the following duties, normally:
- Find people and communities that need health and social support
- Assess the needs of the clients and determine the best support networks available to help them, which could be public health, health care, employment or social services
- Assist clients in adjusting to the changes and challenges they face, which can include health problems, illness, unemployment or divorce
- Respond to various crisis situations such as health emergencies, mental health problems, and child abuse
- Follow up with clients to ensure that they are getting the social services that they need to live better and healthier lives
There are many types of social workers and they deal with many types of people and situations. Social workers frequently work with communities, children, those with disabilities, and also those who have serious health problems and addictions.
Many social workers also work closely with community groups and organizations, as well as policy makers so that new programs can be offered that can help the community for a social or health perspective. This type of work is closely related to public health work, and many social workers eventually earn their Master of Public Health or MPH and continue to work in advanced positions in the public health field.
Some of the types of social worker you may work as in a more entry level position are:
- Child and family social worker
- School social worker
- Mental health or substance abuse social worker
You also may choose to work as a clinical or healthcare social worker, but this work requires you to earn a master’s degree in social work.
The job outlook for social workers is good, with 12% demand increase expected by 2024, and the median salary is $46,890. You need to earn your bachelor’s degree in social work to become a social worker. Then you can transition into public health later after you gain experience.
Health Educator or Community Health Worker
Another excellent entry level position for public health is that of health educator or community health worker. Health educators provide education to the public and the community about how to live healthier. They promote wellness above all else. Health educators also develop and implement plans to boost the health of the community and of individuals. Many health educators eventually move onto higher level public health positions.
A community health worker is a vital link between the community in need, the health educator and other social service and healthcare workers. They come up with and implement new and innovative ways to enhance the health of the community. Community health workers often collect public health data and talk about serious public health problems with certain parts of the community. Health educators and community health workers often work closely together on public health projects.
Health educators work in two major areas:
- Public health departments: They are often responsible for administering public health campaigns that may include proper nutrition, stress management, and immunizations. They may come up with marketing and public relations material that higher level public health managers use every day. Health educators may work with health care and public health professionals to devise new policies that better support public health.
- Healthcare facilities: A health educator may work with a single patient or their family. They must educate patients about their illness or disease, and any treatments that they need. Some of these workers can be called patient navigators; they assist patients in learning about various health insurance options and direct clients to social service and public health resources, which can include support groups or home health services. These professionals also help to administer health screenings that may have a major impact on public health.
Community health workers must have an excellent understanding of the needy communities they are serving. They will often work very closely with the public health issues occurring on the ground, collect data and information about the problem and talk about public health concerns with those in need.
Job demand for both health educators and community health workers will be strong in the coming years, with 13% increase in demand by 2024. This field is being driven by the desire for governments and health care companies to reduce costs and improve outcomes by focusing on preventative care. Median pay in this field is $53,070, but entry level pay may be closer to $30,000.
This entry-level position in public health usually requires a bachelor’s degree in health education or health promotion. Some employers want you to have a Certified Health Education Specialist certification. Community health workers may only have a high school diploma, but you may need a one year certificate program as well.
- Social and Human Service Assistants. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved by https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-and-human-service-assistants.htm#tab-2
- Social Workers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved by https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm#tab-2
- Health Educators and Community Health Workers. (2015, Dec. 17). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/health-educators.htm#tab-2