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Public health employees work to prevent the spread of disease and keep the population as healthy as possible. These professionals, from nurses to lawmakers, are committed to improving the quality of people's lives within the communities they serve.
Although any healthcare profession can be rewarding, public health offers a unique set of advantages for employees. If you are still weighing your career options or are considering a career change, check out these seven reasons why public health could be the best choice for you.
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Top Reasons to Work in Public Health
To learn more about the advantages of working in public health, we spoke to two professionals currently working in the field. Michael Mittelman, OD, MPH, MBA, is the president of Salus University, and Caleb Gray is a physiotherapist and founder of Click Physiotherapy. Together, they offer the following insights into why now is an excellent time to enter the field of public health.
1. Variety of Career Opportunities
The term "public health" encompasses various careers, roles, and responsibilities, many of which are high-paying jobs. "There are myriad opportunities for those who pursue a public health degree," says Dr. Mittelman. "They can include epidemiology, biostatistics, health education, health policy, public health advisor, environmental health positions, public health nurse, health engagement specialist, and community or global health specialists, among others."
The field of public health helps create conditions in which people can live their healthiest lives possible. Whether you want to provide direct patient care as a doctor or nurse, foster community engagement as an organizer or planner, or provide support through social work or communications, there is an opportunity in public health.
2. Job Stability
In today's rapidly changing world, job stability is a concern for many.
Although public health is not immune to the changing world and must evolve to meet new challenges, the field provides considerable job stability. Gray notes that individuals who find permanent positions in public health enjoy a level of job security not found in other fields. "Public health jobs are very stable, and when you manage to get a permanent position, it's very hard to lose that," he says.
3. Increasing Demand
The COVID-19 pandemic has influenced nearly every aspect of life, including the demand for additional workers in certain fields.
The pandemic has put unprecedented pressure on public health programs, creating a surge in demand for employees. However, many local health departments and agencies face staffing shortages brought about by an aging workforce, staff turnover, and concerns about worker safety. As a result, there is a high demand for workers in public health. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects faster than average employment growth for epidemiologists, health educators and community health workers, and social and community services managers between 2019 and 2029.
The ongoing pandemic has also increased interest in public health positions, with more people pursuing a degree in the field. The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) reports that applications to public health graduate programs increased 20% for the 2020-2021 academic year. Many schools and students note that COVID-19 and the desire to "do something" about the spread of the virus spurred interest.
4. High Job Satisfaction
Despite some challenges inherent in public health, 82% of workers reported job satisfaction, according to a survey by the de Beaumont Foundation.
Gray notes that he's enjoyed many advantages of working in public health, including the chance to collaborate with a team of like-minded professionals. The varied job opportunities, making a difference, and leadership positions are also cited as sources of job satisfaction.
5. Opportunity for Advancement
Dr. Mittelman reports that public health offers professionals the chance to advance within their field, especially when they hold an advanced degree. "Many public health programs will allow students to specialize," he says. "Having an advanced degree in public health will help make job candidates more competitive when pursuing these very rewarding jobs."
Caleb Gray also notes that a graduate degree is beneficial when seeking management or leadership positions. "My director of physiotherapy has her master's in public health, which helped her obtain that position. If you have aspirations for management or project work, then this will help indeed."
6. Ability to Influence Health Policy
Many people enter public health because they want to influence the well-being of their communities and the world at large. One way this happens is through developing and informing public health policy.
As Dr. Mittelman points out, "Having a public health degree with a concentration in health policy, epidemiology, or environmental health gives you the credibility and knowledge to assist governmental agencies in establishing health policies." He notes that this is instrumental in responding to health emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, and also in routine policies concerning vaccinations, health and wellness strategies for diverse populations, and local disease tracking, among other functions.
7. Make a Positive Impact on the Lives of Others
Making a positive difference in the lives of others drives many people to a career in public health, whether they work directly with individuals or on a broader scale to develop health policies and programs. According to the de Beaumont Foundation survey, 95% of public health workers believe the work they do is important.
Dr. Mittelman also points to the ability to make a difference as a deciding factor for many people choosing to enter the field. "Through global and community health engagement activities, you can help developing countries, or even rural communities in the U.S., develop effective public health measures that prevent disease and positively impact the quality of life."
Read More: Is a Public Health Degree Worth It?
Start Your Public Health Journey
Public health is a dynamic, evolving field with a wide range of career options that share a common goal: promoting and protecting community health and ensuring the best possible quality of life for everyone.
If you are considering a rewarding career in public health, your journey begins with earning the right degree. Start by reviewing some of the top online programs for a master's in public health to launch your career.
Meet Our Contributors
Michael H. Mittelman, OD, MPH, MBA
In 2013, Dr. Mittelman became the sixth president in the 100-year history of Salus University. Dr. Mittelman earned a bachelor of arts degree from Jacksonville University in 1975. In 1980, he earned his doctor of optometry (OD) degree from the Pennsylvania College of Optometry (PCO) at Salus University, later earning a master of public health degree (MPH) from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. In May 2019, he earned an MBA from the Fox Business School, Temple University.
After a 33-year career, Dr. Mittelman retired from the U.S. Navy with the rank of rear admiral (Upper Half), having served as deputy surgeon general of the Navy. In June 2019, Dr. Mittelman was inducted into the National Optometric Hall of Fame of the American Optometric Association.
Caleb Gray is the principal physiotherapist and founder of Click Physiotherapy. He is a titled member of the Australian Physiotherapy Association (APA). Gray worked to achieve both a bachelor of physiotherapy and a master's in musculoskeletal physiotherapy through the University of Queensland.
He has a wealth of experience in sports physiotherapy and chronic conditions by working in both public and private physical therapy. Gray has co-authored research and lectures on ergonomics at the Queensland University of Technology. His passion is helping people achieve their best, whether that means being able to hang the washing out or running in a marathon.
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