Online Master of Public Health programs can present various career paths for aspiring public health professionals, but selecting the perfect route can take time and effort. With many options available, some graduate students struggle to find a direction that aligns with their interests and skills after earning a bachelor’s degree. Luckily, MPH degree holders can use several strategies to help simplify the process of selecting an accredited graduate school and securing a fulfilling profession.
First, it’s important to reflect before committing to a particular concentration. Prospective graduate students wondering what they can do after earning an MPH degree can choose to pursue any of a variety of public health careers. Individuals who know they are interested in earning a Master of Public Health degree should develop a baseline understanding of different roles in the public health field.
Pursuing a Career After MPH Graduation
Public health professions can fall into two broad categories based on their core skills, education, and the type of work they perform: researchers and administrators. Although these classifications overlap in their concern for positive community health outcomes, the everyday responsibilities of public health researchers markedly differ from the administrative tasks policymakers and advocates oversee. There is, of course, a symbiotic relationship between these career paths, as one could not achieve results without the active support of the other. The following career options are specific roles within the field of public health.
Careers in Public Health Research
After earning an MPH, individuals can pursue careers within the scope of public health research. Public health researchers work, collect, and analyze data on specific threats to the overall well-being of the general public and develop actionable solutions to the toughest health challenges. By understanding public health issues and trends, researchers can design scientific studies that generate new perspectives and inform future disease-prevention strategies. This subfield can suit professionals who prefer hands-on working environments and investigative tasks, such as:
- Creating detailed research procedures and reports
- Probing into community health trends in small and large populations
- Assessing environmental hazards by visiting disaster and outbreak sites
- Uncovering the root causes of health disparities and epidemics
Many public health researchers split their time between laboratory and field assignments, as visiting real-world environments presents the surest way to unearth the source of tropical diseases, illnesses, and injuries.
In terms of salary, most public health research positions come with an above-average pay rate, especially roles that require travel to remote or dangerous regions of the world, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While it’s true that some professionals risk their health and safety on a regular basis, plenty of employment opportunities do not involve a significant personal risk.
Epidemiology is a branch of public health that investigates the causes and distribution patterns of infectious diseases, environmental injuries, and other pressing health problems. Epidemiologists analyze different population segments to understand where tropical diseases and noninfectious illnesses originate, how they spread, and what treatment methods can mitigate their impacts on the general public. Individuals in this profession largely focus on developing science-based disease-prevention strategies that can stop epidemics before they grow out of control. The information they gather and analyze can help improve clinical and medical practices around the world and create new treatment methods that health practitioners can use to mitigate future outbreaks. Epidemiologists perform a range of different tasks, such as:
- Collecting and studying blood samples and other bodily fluids
- Observing how diseases spread through populations and environments
- Conducting descriptive studies on infectious and chronic diseases
- Directing public interviews and surveys on general and specific health topics
- Analyzing historical data to create actionable epidemic models
Three specific epidemiologist careers include:
- Nutritional epidemiologists explore the science of public health and seek to understand the relationship between people’s diet and their health.
- Chronic disease epidemiologists study chronic diseases and disorders and seek to find treatment options.
- Molecular epidemiologists research the genetics of diseases in specific populations to understand how they are formed and transmitted.
Employment opportunities for epidemiologists exist in city and state governments, medical foundations, and large organizations such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. Epidemiologists have a median annual salary of $70,990, according to BLS data from May 2019, with those in hands-on research positions being at the high end of the earnings range.
Biostatisticians have some overlap with the work and education of epidemiologists, though they typically operate with a much wider scope. This public health role analyzes data and statistics from medical research studies and clinical trials to draw specific conclusions and make predictions about health-related issues. Although fieldwork is relatively common, most individuals work in office settings. This career field investigates everything from the prevalence of mental health conditions to the effectiveness of accepted medical treatments and medicines. For example, biostatisticians often evaluate the impact of pharmaceuticals on patients and at-risk populations, which helps health specialists develop effective methods for treating cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and more. Some of their daily responsibilities include:
- Using statistical techniques to assess risk factors for common health issues
- Aggregating massive volumes of scientific data for large-scale analysis
- Creating new methods for genetic, genomic, and neuroscience research
- Designing comprehensive studies and biological experiments
- Monitoring clinical studies and interpreting the results
The rapid evolution of data-gathering technologies and techniques has created a substantial demand for biostatisticians in almost every employment sector, according to a press release from Kolabtree. While some individuals choose to secure a specialized degree in biostatistics, public health programs can also provide the targeted education opportunities that can contribute to graduate students’ occupational success.
After earning an MPH degree, individuals may secure a position in biostatistics with a government agency, pharmaceutical company, or nonprofit group such as the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute. These jobs have a median annual salary of $91,160 as of May 2019, according to BLS data for all statisticians.
Environmental specialists leverage their knowledge of the natural sciences to study the interrelationships between the environment and human health. Individuals in this career field seek to understand these health challenges in totality and create solutions that can reduce human suffering and the loss of life. Environmental specialists regularly restore contaminated land and bodies of water, assess the impact of new construction projects, and advise industrial manufacturers against the use of harmful chemicals and substances. Some of their core responsibilities include:
- Collecting air, soil, water, and food samples for scientific study
- Developing data collection methods for research projects and investigations
- Analyzing samples, surveys, and data records to assess environmental threats
- Crafting prevention, control, and restoration strategies for pollution
- Evaluating the causes and effects of common health-related hazards
Environmental specialists typically work in laboratory and office environments, though many individuals prefer the hands-on field assignments that put them in direct contact with the environmental risks they study. While every organization, government agency, and industrial enterprise has its own salary levels, health specialists in this occupation have a median annual salary of $71,360 as of May 2019, according to the BLS.
Careers in Public Health Administration
Health policy and management careers in public health administration are another route individuals can take after earning an MPH degree. Public health administrators utilize the research data generated by health scientists to develop comprehensive outreach campaigns, government policies, and education programs that turn information into action. Experts in this field directly engage with the general public, urban and rural populations, and even their local community to translate complex health issues into easy-to-understand concepts. Public health administrators rely on their strong communication skills, leadership abilities, and management experience to oversee nonclinical operations in public and private sector health care organizations, medical facilities, and nonprofit health organizations. This career path can appeal to public health professionals who are passionate about working with people and enjoy problem-solving activities, such as:
- Coordinating treatment programs and health care operations
- Managing cross-channel media campaigns and education-focused projects
- Crafting solutions-focused legislation in partnership with government officials
- Communicating with the general public about health issues and environmental risks
Public health administrators spend most of their time in office or facility settings or in their local community, although their work usually involves close collaboration with a variety of disparate institutions. When it comes to compensation, individuals in this career field tend to focus on their passion rather than monetary gain, but there are plenty of opportunities to secure an above-average pay rate. The following are four common careers in public health administration:
Public Health Analyst
This career field is a sort of hybrid between research and administration roles, as public health analysts regularly collaborate with scientists and policymakers on social work and large-scale health campaigns. Individuals in this line of work often engage at the local, national, and global levels to foster greater awareness of environmental hazards, chronic health issues, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, and mental health challenges. Public health analysts review programs and policies to evaluate their effectiveness and identify new strategies for promoting positive health outcomes. Some of their day-to-day responsibilities include:
- Assessing the impact of existing health and wellness initiatives
- Gathering relevant research data to support ongoing education campaigns
- Educating government officials and the public about various health care issues
- Creating impactful content to generate community interest in important health topics
- Writing detailed reports that provide actionable policy recommendations
Public health analysts can pursue a number of specialized career paths depending on their occupational goals, technical skills, and background in education. Health professionals in this field can find employment opportunities at hospitals and health facilities, government agencies, nonprofit consulting firms, and more.
Medical and Health Services Manager
Another career individuals can pursue after earning an MPH degree is that of a medical and health services manager. This administrative role is essential to the daily operations of medical facilities, which play a significant role in the health and well-being of every community. Medical and health services managers plan, direct, and coordinate the delivery of health care resources, often across an entire facility or clinical department. Individuals in this space work alongside physicians, surgeons, nurses, and laboratory technologists to ensure their practices align with industry standards. The position’s core duties include:
- Managing clinical personnel and health care services
- Developing sustainable operating goals and objectives
- Remaining compliant with laws and regulations
- Monitoring budgets and departmental spending
- Overseeing new treatment methods and medicine programs
Medical and health services managers usually work in office settings at medical facilities, hospitals, private sector clinics, or treatment centers. This career path is one of the higher-paid professions in the public health space, with a median annual salary of $100,980 as of May 2019, according to the BLS
Health educators promote healthy behaviors by actively engaging with members of their communities through hands-on learning experiences, social work, and informational resources. This profession acts as a link between the general public and health care experts, developing targeted strategies to educate people about nutrition, exercise, chronic illnesses, mental health, and environmental risks. Health educators work alongside other public health experts to collect data, distill complex research, and create tailored content to help reduce health disparities in every underserved community. Individuals in this career field oversee a number of essential outreach activities, such as:
- Evaluating the effectiveness of health programs at the local, state, and federal levels
- Helping the public understand what health care services are available
- Teaching people how to manage existing health conditions
- Designing education programs, materials, and events focused on health topics
- Advocating for improved health resources and community support
This career field is filled with passionate educators who enjoy working with local communities, and they also find roles at universities, nonprofit organizations, and public health departments to teach health and wellness classes. The BLS reports the median annual salary for health educators is $55,220 as of May 2019. This salary can vary across job locations, with the top 10% of health educators earning more than $98,680.
Occupational Health and Safety Specialist
Another career option for individuals who have earned an MPH degree is that of an occupational health and safety specialist. Professionals in this occupation ensure the connection between workplace environments and public health administrative regulations. This role is essential for the safety of individuals working in a variety of work locations, from construction sites to restaurants. Occupational health and safety specialists make sure that the factors of work environments, such as ventilation, equipment, and electric wiring, meet the required standards and do not have a negative impact on workers. The position’s core duties include:
- Examining workplace environments and equipment according to government standards
- Inspecting workplace duties and practices of managers and employees to see if they correspond with regulations
- Introducing new or more effective workplace procedures in various situations
- Investigating accidents in order to understand what went wrong and identify hazards
- Implementing new safety measures to prevent accidents from happening
According to the BLS, 22% of occupational health and safety specialists work in government positions. Most professionals in this occupation work full time and spend a lot of time traveling to different job sites. As of May 2019, the median annual salary is $70,480.
Pursuing a Higher Level of Public Health Education
No matter where your interests take you, a high-level online MPH program can help you secure a meaningful career and build upon your bachelor’s degree education. While an MPH is not considered a terminal degree, graduates often dive right into full-time roles rather than pursuing additional education opportunities. Most public health graduate tracks cover an array of relevant topics in their core curriculum, providing exposure to different subject areas, but selecting the right MPH program can make a world of difference. Individuals interested in this career field should look for colleges and universities that have accreditation, offer hard skills training, and supply graduate students with real-world work experience.
Start Earning Your MPH Degree
An online Master of Public Health can provide full-time students with the knowledge and experience they need to build a successful career in public health. The program at Regis College includes foundational coursework in biostatistics, epidemiologic methods, social and behavioral sciences, and health ethics and law. The courses prepare students for a wide range of possible career paths and help guide their passion for community health and wellness.
If you are interested in working in the field of public health and are wondering, What can I do after earning an MPH degree? explore how an MPH degree can help prepare you for any of a variety of careers. Online MPH majors at Regis College can choose from two distinct concentrations, Epidemiology and Health Policy and Management, and have access to career services that can support their transition into the workforce following grad school. Learn more about how an MPH can help you pursue your ideal career in the field.