Career paths in public health are widely varied, with some jobs requiring only a bachelor’s degree in public health. However, to hold higher-level positions in more complex roles, a graduate degree is the preferred degree level. In making a decision of what area of public health and what public health degree to pursue, students should investigate what level of education needed for their desired position within the field. For those who want to pursue more specialized areas of public health, they may need to pursue a specific degree in their area of interest.
Associate’s Degree in Public Health
These two-year programs serve as an introduction to the field of public health, often covering only the basics of public health and may include general goals of public health works. Coursework may touch on state, federal and international laws. Most public health careers require more advanced degrees but an associate degree may suffice for some entry-level and administrative support positions and associate degrees credits can often be applied toward a bachelor’s degree
Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health
A bachelor’s degree is considered the basic degree for careers in the field of public health and can lead many career options for graduates including social services, public health agencies in health education and environmental health. At the bachelor’s level, students are often given the opportunity to explore multiple specializations within the public health field. Public health schools may offer a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts to its students.
Master’s Degree in Public Health
A master’s is the most common graduate degree required for higher level positions in the public health field with curriculum required five areas of study including: Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Environmental Health Sciences, Health Services Administration and Social and Behavioral Sciences. Most MPH degrees take an average of two years to complete although some specializations may be offered as one-year programs.
Doctor of Public Health
The highest level of education in the field of public health is the doctorate of public health. Students enrolled in these programs are required to complete an intensive course of study to prepare them to for careers in upper management and academia.
Public Health Education
Public health touches upon almost every aspect of life and those with an education in public health have an opportunity to work in wide variety of settings including:
- The Public Sector in Government jobs that can include disaster preparedness, health department administration or public nursing
- Non-profits in careers focusing on the health disparities in populations including minorities or mothers
- Academia focusing on research or teaching students enrolled in public health-related degree programs
- In the private sector in insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, in consulting or health care facilities.