Although public health nurses have been around for many years, many people are unfamiliar with the term public health specialist. Public health specialists are trained professionals who focus their careers on developing conditions where people can be healthy. They work to make their communities as healthy as possible. With communicable diseases more prevalent than ever before, public health specialists are very much in demand to help keep the communities health and informed of possible health hazards.
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What is Public Health?
Public health is the science of improving and protecting the health of people and the communities in which they live. Public health professionals do this by researching diseases and illnesses; detecting and preventing infectious diseases; finding ways to decrease health disparities and promoting healthier lifestyles. Public health consists of five main areas.
• Environmental health – This deals with water and air pollution, the safety of the food supply and disease prevention.
• Biostatistics and informatics – These public health specialists use mathematics and statistics to analyze public health problems.
• Health services administration and policy – These public health professionals develop, coordinate and analyze policies while researching the financial end of health services.
• Health promotion and health communication – This area includes health behaviorists who have a thorough understanding of health in communities, families and the entire population.
• Epidemiology – These public health specialists monitor the distribution of diseases, the seriousness of the disease and the best ways in which to prevent the diseases.
Types of Public Health Specialists
Just as there are various areas of public health, there also several types of public health specialists. While a public health nurse may be the professional that typically comes to mind when we think of public health specialists, there are several areas in which public health specialists might wish to pursue. Here are a few different types of public health specialists.
• Health and Safety Engineer
• Environmental Scientist
• Healthcare Administrator
• Medical and Health Services Manager
• Health Educator
How to Become a Public Health Specialist
A candidate interested in a career as a public health specialist should have at least a bachelor’s degree in public health. Those who are interested in leadership positions typically choose a master’s degree in public health with a focus on whatever area of public health the individual wishes to pursue. Positions such as health survey researcher, advanced health educators, and epidemiologists require graduate degrees. In addition to completing coursework, public health students also complete a supervised internship in a public health setting.
Obtaining work experience in public health is also very beneficial to candidates, especially if they’re interested in leadership or high-level positions. The candidate should also gain experience in the area in which he or she wishes to work for a career.
Career Outlook for Public Health Specialists
Public health specialists have a very good career outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that health educators and community health workers should see employment growth of 16% during the years 2016-2026. This should result in about 137,700 new jobs created in this field. As of May 2017, health educators earned a median wage of $53,940. Wages can vary a lot in this field because the field offers so many different occupations.
Working as a public health specialist can be very challenging and rewarding. What could be more rewarding than playing a part in preventing illnesses and helping a community remain as healthy as possible?