Are you a creative thinker and a tenacious problem-solver with a passion for health and wellness? Do you have sharp analytical, public speaking, and writing skills? Are you culturally sensitive and comfortable interacting with many people from diverse backgrounds?
If you can answer an emphatic “Yes!” to these questions, a career in Public Health may be the path for you. If you’re eager to have a significant and lasting effect on the health and well-being of the people in your community — or communities of people a continent away — consider becoming a public health professional.
What is Public Health?
The CDC Foundation defines public health as “the science of protecting and improving the health of people and their communities.” In contrast to clinical professionals, such as physicians and nurses, who treat people after they sustain an injury or illness, public health professionals focus on preventing injury and illness. They do this through:
- Researching disease and injury prevention
- Implementing educational programs that promote healthy lifestyles
- Recommending policies and public health initiatives to protect individuals, families, communities, populations, and societies
- Administering services to individuals and communities
- Detecting and responding to infectious diseases
- Working to limit health disparities by promoting healthcare equity, quality, and accessibility
Public Health Initiatives
Public health programs can have an immediate effect on a community’s health and well-being as well as making a positive impact on future generations. Think about how many people you know who are healthy today thanks to:
- Vaccination programs
- Restrictions on the use of tobacco
- Motor vehicle safety laws
- Clean air and water standards
Public health initiatives also improve and extend the lives of millions globally, leading to increased life expectancies, worldwide reductions in infant and child mortality, and eradication or reduction of many communicable diseases.
Public Health offers, as further proof, these successful initiatives of the last century:
- Eradication of smallpox on a global scale
- Establishment of international nuclear test bans and environmental accords
- Founding of an HIV/AIDS coalition in Africa
- Extension of the average American lifespan by 30 years
Public Health Careers
The future looks very bright for public health professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Employment Projections: 2016-26 Summary states: “Employment in the health care and social assistance sector is projected to add nearly 4.0 million jobs by 2026, about one-third of all new jobs. The share of health care and social assistance employment is projected to increase from 12.2 percent in 2016 to 13.8 percent in 2026, becoming the largest major sector in 2026.”
There are many rewarding positions you have access to with just a bachelor’s degree. Let’s look at a couple areas.
Health Educators and Community Health Workers
Put your Bachelor of Science in Public Health to use by educating people about the behaviors that promote wellness. As a health educator, you would also develop and implement strategies to improve health. Your work environment might be a governmental agency, nonprofit organization, university, hospital, physician’s office, or private business. The BLS reports a median annual wage for health educators was $53,940 in 2017.
As a community health worker, your position would find you collecting data and discussing health concerns with members of specific populations or communities, such as the homeless, the previously incarcerated, or substance abusers. In 2017, community health workers averaged $38,370 annually.
The BLS projects employment of health educators and community health workers to grow 16 percent from by 2026. This increased demand, especially within governments, healthcare providers, and social services providers, will be driven by “efforts to improve health outcomes and to reduce healthcare costs by teaching people healthy behaviors and explaining how to use available healthcare services.”
Medical and Health Services Managers
Also called healthcare executives or healthcare administrators, these professionals are found in medical facilities, such as hospitals or nursing homes, as well as in group medical practices. They plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services and are responsible for ensuring their facility complies with changes in healthcare laws, regulations, and technology.
The BLS notes that most medical and health services managers have at least a bachelor’s degree before entering the field, along with work experience in an administrative or clinical role in a medical facility. However, master’s degrees also are common.
The median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $98,350 in 2017, and the BLS expects the field to grow 20 percent by 2026. The aging baby-boom population coupled with the tendency for people to stay active into later years should result in an increased demand for healthcare services. And the medical industry will need qualified managers to oversee the organization and staffing of these additional healthcare facilities.
Public Health at JWU
According to JWU Professor Cara Sammartino, PhD, a degree in public health from Johnson & Wales University is versatile and will give students the tools they need to be successful in their careers.
“I always tell my students that I do have real-world experience and I know what employers want,” she explained. “And they want individuals who really have the cognitive capacity to use data to make strong decisions. In healthcare that’s so important because so much money is involved.”
Are you passionate about improving the health of people regionally, nationally, or globally? An online Bachelor of Science degree in Public Health from Johnson & Wales University can help position you for success in a healthcare industry career. Learn more by completing the “Request Info” form on this page, calling 855-JWU-1881, or emailing: onlineadmi[email protected].