The health of the American people is a subject of growing concern. Not only can infectious diseases spread quickly through a population as densely packed as many modern-day Americans, but bad habits and addictive behaviors can lead to the spread of other public health concerns. Smoking, nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise and poor dietary habits are just a few of the many problems which afflict millions of people today, and which represent an ever-growing concern for millions more. Public health professionals work to combat these issues through research, medical services, environmental services, and public education.
The following five jobs represent some of the fastest-growing opportunities in the public health sector. They provide generous initial compensation, and offer considerable room for advancement, while fostering the use of skills which might later be applied across a number of different career paths.
Epidemiologists work to curtail the spread of infectious diseases among a population. They help to develop and distribute vaccines, and develop strategies to ensure that medical services are able to reach rural or isolated locations as needed. They serve in a practical capacity, as well as in an educational one, helping to educate the general public about the nature of those diseases which are threatening to reach outbreak proportions at any given time. Less famously, but just as importantly, epidemiologists work with “infectious behaviors” and other advanced psychological concepts, combatting everything from drug addiction to violent trends.
The healthcare administrator helps to coordinate and prioritize medical services within a clinic or similar organization, or within a given department in a larger enterprise (such as a hospital network, a government bureau or a university). The work of the healthcare administrative happens behind the scenes: they are responsible for ensuring that everybody receives the treatment they require, and that this happens in a timely fashion. A master’s degree in either healthcare administration or public health is the most common qualification for this position.
A bachelor’s degree in public health, or in any one of a number of related fields (such as biology, chemistry or engineering) will help you stand out as a viable candidate for an environmental analyst position. As an environmental analyst, your job is to assess the damage after environmental catastrophes, project cleanup strategies and costs, and evaluate the potential impact of various environmental events on human health. Environmental analysts also assist in the enforcement of OSHA regulations, ensuring that safety standards are met with regard to health risks faced on the job.
Mental Health Counselor
Many people are put off by the idea of visiting a psychiatrist, psychologist, or other high-level mental health professional. By comparison, visiting a counselor feels less like a diagnostic process; instead, it comes across almost like life coaching. Many people find it easier to work through their problems with the assistance of a counselor — someone who is able to listen, offer constructive advice, and help them overcome specific challenges that they find themselves being slowly overwhelmed by. Counselors who work with government or nonprofit agencies are often able to reach individuals who may have no other means of accessing basic mental healthcare.
Many organizations dedicated to maintaining and improving general public health employ a range of medical officers (or specialists, depending upon the specific organization). A medical officer may be drawn from a wide range of medical or administrative specialties. Examples of fields which employ medical officers include emergency response, behavioral sciences, microbiology, and epidemiology. Medical officers engage in research and development for organizations like the CDC, but are just as likely to be found in a communications role.
More Information is Available
Public health is of tremendous importance to any society, and the professionals who work to maintain it often provide a number of skilled functions behind the scenes. For more information about jobs in public health, check out the official careers page for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.