5 Best Areas to Specialize in Public Health

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Many students and professionals who seek an exciting career that is personally and financially rewarding are choosing public health in America today. Public health is a growing, important field for people who truly care about the greater good of humankind.

Public health simply is the art and science of creating healthy communities via education, research and the promotion of healthy ways of living.

Millions of people around the world today are alive because of advances in public health, including vaccination programs, motor safety laws, tobacco restrictions, clean air and water programs, and family planning. Public health work is very important because it affects the health of human beings around the world. It addresses critical health issues that improve the lives of individuals, families and entire communities.

MPH Degree Overview

If you are considering a career in public health, you will usually need to earn at least your Master of Public Health degree, or MPH. The MPH degree is considered the entry-level degree for most public health professionals. It combines the study of physical, biological, psychological, economic and social conditions that affect human beings.

The curriculum for a typical MPH degree analyzes the nature and context of common public health problems, and also the behavioral, sociocultural and political issues that cause these problems.

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As you are considering a public health degree, there are several major specialities that you should consider. The majority of MPH programs will require that you choose a concentration early in your education:

Behavioral Science and Health Education

A public health career in behavioral science and health education will teach you to improve public health by encouraging others to choose healthy lifestyles. For example, you could work on community-wide health education efforts on many health topics, such as nutrition, fitness and injury and disease prevention.

If you choose a public health focus on behavioral science and health education, you could work in these types of efforts:

  • Helping to halt the spread of many sexually transmitted diseases with public health education efforts. These could include HIV/AIDS and cervical cancer.
  • Help youth to recognize and avoid the many dangers of having sex without proper protection, as well as the dangers of alcohol and drug abuse
  • Cut down obesity and many of the health problems that relate to it
  • Improve life quality for senior citizens

With an MPH degree in behavioral science and health education, you could work as a health educator or a community health worker. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the employment in this field will rise by 13% by 2024, which is faster than average.

Biostatistics

Biostatistics is a specialty of public health that applies statistical theories and mathematical principles to many types of research, such as in medicine, biology, environmental science and public health.

Public health statisticians must use mathematical and scientific methods to determine the causes of diseases and injuries and to identify major health trends and challenges in communities in the US and around the globe.

A biostatistician with an MPH could do research that estimates the number of deaths from drunk driving or gun violence, for example. You also could work in these areas:

  • Analyzing how effective new vaccinations are for flu
  • Analyzing the different risk factors for cancer and heart disease
  • Planning new health care interventions
  • Explaining various biological phenomena

If you enjoy collecting data and analyzing it with scientific and statistical methods, this could be a good public health speciality for you.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that the general field of statisticians will grow by 34% by 2024, with a median salary of over $80,000. So, the field of statistics in the public health space should be a growing opportunity for a public health professional with a specialty in biostatistics.

Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a very important specialty in public health. You are asked to look into the cause of diseases and to prevent them from spreading. An epidemiologist is essentially charged with helping to prevent a disease from spreading and getting worse and becoming an epidemic in some cases. Epidemiology is about studying and controlling disease and injury patterns in all human beings.

Epidemiologists perform fieldwork to see what is the cause of injury and disease, what risks there are and how to stop further incidences. Epidemiologists have to understand the social and demographic trends that stem from injury and disease. The discovery and containment of major disease outbreaks, such as avian flu, often are due to the work of epidemiologists with a degree in epidemiology or related field.

You will use statistical analysis in this field, but you also must account for other factors: heredity, environment and behavior among them.

The field of epidemiology will see 6% job growth by 2024, according to BLS, and a median salary of $69,000 was typical in May 2015.

Environmental Health

Environmental health public health professionals are very important for improving public health by focusing their efforts on identifying and addressing many environmental risk factors that can give rise to many diseases and health conditions. Human genetics and physical surroundings can give rise to many serious health problems, such as cancer, asthma, and food poisoning.

Environmental health is a very complex and multifaceted profession that covers chemistry, toxicology, and engineering, as well as others. Environmental health scientists collaborate and rely on many other science professionals, such as biologists, chemists, physicists, and meteorologists.

Environmental health scientists should see at least an 11% job growth increase by 2024. It is believed that increased public interest in the many dangers that are facing the environment today are driving more jobs in the field.

It is thought that much of the growth in jobs for environmental health scientists will be in private consulting companies. These organizations help their clients to monitor and manage environmental problems and to comply with EPA regulations.

The median salary for environmental health scientists was $67,500 as of May 2015.

Health Services Administration

A public health professional in health services administration combines business, science, and policy to manage human and financial resources that are needed to provide good public health delivery of services.

Some of the things that you may work on in this field are to manage databases in a public health clinic, develop a new budget for a local health department, or create good public health policies for a health insurance company.

People who work in health services administration can work in several specialties:

  • Marketing
  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Organization
  • Planning
  • Policy Analysis

BLS reports that the overall field of medical and health services managers will grow by 17% by 2024, so there will be a good increase in the need for effective managers in the medical and health-related fields. This should include public health as well.

It is believed that the higher demand should create more need for doctors, public health nurses, health care facilities and public health facilities as well.

Robert Sanchez
Written by Robert Sanchez
Robert Sanchez is HealthGrad.com's Chief Editorialist. Robert Sanchez has over 10 years experience in the Healthcare field and more recently has become an avid writer advising on career and job topics in this exciting field.

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