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Blog>Guides>Careers in Public Health: How to Make a Career Change in 2023

Careers in Public Health: How to Make a Career Change in 2023

Article index


  • Learn what you can expect from a career in public health

  • Explore different career options in this field

  • Find out the requirements and skills needed to start a career in public health


Public health professionals are dedicated to improving the quality of life in their communities. They engage in research to study events and conditions affecting the human population. And they aim to share essential health information that enables people to live healthier lives.

A public health professional's relevance in modern society was wildly apparent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Subsequently, there’s a renewed interest and increased demand for public health professionals. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates a job growth of 12% for health education specialists and community health workers — two occupations at the forefront of public healthcare. However, it's not just those two; similar rosy outlooks have been projected for other health-related professions.

These multiplying career opportunities have renewed a common interest in public health. Are you a high school student looking forward to a career in public health? Or maybe you’re hoping to make a career switch to the public health field. In either case, our guide will provide you with insight to kick-start your career.

What Is Public Health?

Public health is a professional field concerned with ensuring the safety and health of communities while administering health care services to improve global health.

As opposed to medicine, which focuses on and administers care to one individual at a time, public health addresses the needs of groups and communities. Therefore, the majority of the activities of public health professionals occur outside hospitals and clinics.

One primary duty of public healthcare workers involves preventing health issues or outbreaks that affect the public through adequate research on contagious diseases. They champion health promotions — educating communities on safe health practices, hygiene, mental health, and general community health.

Additionally, they carry out advocacy that may influence government health policy. Public health officials work closely with the government, aid organizations, and private health agencies.

How to Start a Career in Public Health

You can fast track your career in public health today by following the below steps.

Research the Different Types of Careers in Public Health

Your first step toward a career in this field involves adequate research. At this stage, you need to constructively evaluate yourself regarding whether you meet the requisite qualifications to be a public health personnel. These include education, professional experience, and soft skills (well-spoken, empathetic, people-oriented, etc.).

As a student, you can undergo mentoring through your high school or college career counselor. A counselor can use your motivations and personality to guide you toward the most appropriate path. If you’re switching careers, you can also pay for the service of career coaches.

Furthermore, you can take the initiative and seek out different public health officials for informal chit-chat or interviews. People already in the field can give unique insights to help you decide if this path is suitable. If you don’t know any public health workers, ask your family or friends to introduce you to one of their acquaintances.

However, first-hand experience as a public health volunteer is the best way to clarify your career path in the field. Humanitarian groups and other nonprofit organizations like the American Red Cross are always open to volunteers. They’re the best place to get a feel for which public health career excites you the most. Part of your inquiries should also include the availability of jobs in your field of interest.

Pursue the Right Education

Like most professional careers, you’ll need the appropriate education to kick-start your public health career. A bachelor of science degree in public health (B.SC/BPH) from a CEPH-accredited school gets you started. CEPH — the Council on Education for Public Health — is the body that oversees accreditation.

Suppose you have medical certification or a bachelor’s degree in a related field. In that case, you can skip the school of public health education. Instead, you can go for a Master of Public Health (MPH degree) in a CEPH-accredited school. Your area of specialization will be limited, though. For instance, if your related field is environmental health, you can take up a career in public health education but not epidemiology.

Get Experience With an Internship or Volunteer Work

When you undergo an internship or volunteer in public health roles, you gain valuable work experience that may help you decide on a career path. Such roles can add credit to your college application and fast-track your career. Furthermore, you gain valuable lessons in leadership and communication skills.

Humanitarian groups, like the Red Cross, present an excellent source of experience for entry-level public health applicants. Your local health department is another place to find quality experience relevant to your career.

Don’t Stop Learning

The profession is changing rapidly, and only by continued learning can you advance your career. Joining professional organizations helps you connect with your peers, stay ahead of new information, and expose you to new opportunities in an ever-changing field.

Key professional organizations you can join include:

  • The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)

  • The American Public Health Association (APHA)

  • The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH)

However, one certification you should look out for is the Certified in Public Health (CPH) certification overseen by the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) under CEPH guidance. This certification boosts your expertise from a professional perspective and makes you more competitive. You also earn higher wages.

Other certificates you can leverage are:

  • Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) administered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC)

  • Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REHS/RS) offered by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA)

What Are the Different Types of Public Health Careers?

The field of public health encompasses many career options. While this is not a comprehensive list, below are some of the careers in the highest demand. We’ve also provided the median salaries for each, as estimated by the BLS.

Health Educator

Health educators enlighten the general public on available healthcare opportunities and how to leverage them when needed. Additionally, they instruct groups on child health and wellness — helping them adopt healthy lifestyle choices, like maintaining proper hygiene.

A young man instructs some older people with a paper board in a library setting.

Health education specialists are at the tip of the public health profession. Their role requires excellent communication skills. As a health educator, sharing the same background with the communities you hope to address will ease outreach for you. The median salary for health educators is nearly $50,000, according to the BLS.

Check out health education jobs near you

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) specialists ensure that workplace safety practices are enforced. They work extensively to collect health information on workplace procedures and possible hazards. The occupation requires quick decision-making and analytical skills.

An occupational health and safety officer talking to a man in a factory setting while doing an inspection.

In today's rapidly evolving work environment, ensuring the safety and health of employees has become a paramount concern for organizations. OHS specialists are crucial in maintaining a secure and healthy workplace, safeguarding employees' well-being and the company's bottom line. They earn, on average, $74,870 a year per the BLS.

Check out health and safety specialist jobs near you


Biostatisticians are data experts who use their knowledge of statistics and mathematics to make inferences from data collected in various public health fields. Furthermore, they can organize and analyze data to help solve health problems affecting large populations.

Biostatistician in a white lab coat studying statistics of medicine sales and other pharmaceutical market research.

A career in this field requires a solid mathematics background. Biostatisticians also need an analytical mind and medical knowledge to make sense of data. Biostatistics is a rapidly growing field, projected to grow 31% in the next decade. Biostatisticians take home an average of nearly $100,000 in yearly compensation.

Check out biostatistician jobs near you


Epidemiologists lead inquiry and research into the cause, source, and effects of events and infectious diseases that threaten populations. Their work helps keep pandemics and other fatalistic health outcomes to the bare minimum — an undertaking that is perhaps more prevalent now than ever.

Senior female epidemiologist works with samples in isolation glove box in a modern, busy laboratory equipped with state-of-the-art technology.

Epidemiologists find full-time employment easily in government agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

They are often involved with work that needs delicacy and clear communication. Their work also involves data-driven research and analysis. This, too, is a rapidly growing field, projected to grow by at least 26% in the next decade. The annual median take-home pay for epidemiologists is $79,000, according to the BLS.

Check out epidemiologist jobs near you

Social and Community Service Manager

Social and community service managers work to support public health programs. They help in various ways to plan and coordinate multiple social service initiatives. Service managers also secure funding and prepare the budgets for implementing their programs.

Woman works on a white board with sticky notes during a nonprofit meeting.

They find employment in the public health departments of public and private health agencies and nonprofit health organizations.

Being persuasive and vigilant are vital skills in managing different units successfully. Social and community service managers earn $74,000 in median annual salary per the BLS.

Check out community service manager jobs near you

Hospital Administrator

Hospital administrators are professionals involved in the day-to-day functioning of a hospital, including public health programs. Because of the heavy responsibilities in healthcare administration, the profession requires a propensity for communication, coordination, and teamwork.

A medical team comprised of a nurse and administrator working together.

Outside hospitals, health administrators serve in relief and other health agencies. For a career in hospital administration, you need a master’s degree in an administrative course and a public health degree. The median annual salary is $101,000, according to the BLS.

Check out hospital administrator jobs near you

Clinical Trials Scientist

Clinical trial scientists are responsible for evaluating medical and behavioral interventions developed for populations. In addition, they research diseases, drugs, and other treatment modalities to ensure they are fit for public dispensation.

Scientist holding liquid biological sample in gloved hands.

You will need to complete a three-year Scientist Training Program (STP) and an undergraduate degree in health sciences. STP is a work-based learning program that equips you with the necessary skills needed for a career as a clinical trial scientist. On average, clinical trial scientists take home $95,000 yearly per the BLS.

Check out clinical trial scientist jobs near you

Which Field of Public Health Pays the Most?

A career in public health promises a significant financial reward. Below, we’ve outlined the top-paying jobs from the highest to the lowest.

  • Infectious Disease Specialists make an average annual salary of $199,301

  • Medical and Health Service Managers make a yearly median wage of $101,340

  • Health and Safety Engineers make a median yearly wage of $99,040

  • Clinical Research Scientists make an average yearly salary of $95,310

  • Biostatisticians make an average annual salary of $92,270

  • Epidemiologists make an annual average wage of $78,830

  • Public Health Nurses make an average yearly salary of $77,600

  • Emergency Management Coordinators make an annual median salary of $76,730

  • Social and Community Service Managers make a yearly average wage of $74,000

What Are the Top Skills Needed to Start a Career in the Public Health Field?

In addition to educational and professional qualifications, hiring managers look for candidates with outstanding soft skills. Candidates with such traits are therefore given a top priority over others.

Some of the desired soft skills include:

  • Excellent communication

  • Great attention to detail

  • Quick decision-making

  • Empathy

  • Research and analytics

  • Coordination

  • Critical thinking

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • People-oriented

Find the Best Careers in Public Health on Joblist

The public health field offers a great variety of paths, guaranteeing a fulfilling career. However, for most people with the requisite qualifications, choosing a suitable option and finding where to apply can be challenging. That’s where Joblist comes in.

Our system generates the best available career options based on your preference. We believe that your job search and subsequent application should be flexible, unique, and hassle-free. All you need to do is take the quiz, and we’ll help find the perfect career in public health.

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