Is a Public Health Degree Right for You?
Public health is focused on preventing disease and promoting wellness through various educational and organizational initiatives. This may draw upon concepts from disciplines such as epidemiology, biostatistics, sociology, health services, public policy, and health economics, to name a few. Because public health is a multidisciplinary field, individuals with a wide range of educational and professional backgrounds can contribute something unique. For this reason, an online bachelor’s degree program in public health may be an ideal choice for those looking to switch careers or return to school after a long period of time.
Advice for Earning Your Public Health Degree Online
Online degree programs are opening up many opportunities for working adults, military students, and busy parents to pursue higher education around their current schedules. Most schools offering these types of programs operate in an asynchronous format. This means students are not required to log in to the virtual classroom at a specified time. Instead, they can complete assignments, post in discussion boards, download readings, and communicate with their professors at any time and from anywhere they have internet access.
As with any higher education program, those planning to earn their public health bachelor’s degree online should ensure that they choose a school that is properly accredited. Accreditation can be regional, national, or specialized and indicates a school has met all the required quality standards for their academics, faculty, administration, and student outcomes. You can verify a school’s status by using the U.S. Department of Education database.
The curriculum for most public health programs draws from a number of subjects, such as public administration, medicine, biology, sociology, economics, and statistics. Some specific courses that may be included are epidemiology, health policy, biostatistics, environmental health, social determinants of health, biology, health and human behavior, health psychology, and community health assessment, to name a handful. Depending on a student’s specific interests, a number of electives are typically available as well. During their final year, students will often be required to complete a capstone or field research project to demonstrate working knowledge of the information they have learned throughout the program.
Common Career Paths
Graduates of public health programs are in an ideal position to pursue careers in the rapidly growing field of health care. Some specific examples of possible job titles include:
Medical and Health Services Managers
Medical and health services managers are tasked with planning, coordinating, and directing the delivery of medical and health care services. They may be in charge of managing an entire facility or just a specific department. This includes supervising staff, working out scheduling issues, reviewing budgets, and analyzing delivery methods. Job opportunities may be found at hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, or group medical practice offices. Strong communication and organizational skills are essential to success in this career.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook is strong for medical and health services managers, with a predicted growth rate of 22% from 2010 to 2020.This is higher than the average increase of 14% expected for all jobs during this projection period. The reported mean annual wage for individuals working in this occupation was $96,030 in 2011. However, factors such as experience, education, location, and the specific employer will influence actual salaries and the availability of job openings.
Social and Community Service Managers
Social and community service managers help plan, organize, and administer social welfare and community programs. This may include designing programs that meet the needs of a target audience or community, creating methods to gather and analyze demographic data, implement improvements in current programs, and supervising other staff members. These positions are typically found with government agencies or private non-profit organizations.
For the projection period of 2010 to 2020, the BLS predicts that the demand for social and community service managers will increase by 27%. This is nearly double the projected growth for jobs overall during this time frame. In 2011, the mean annual salary for individuals in this position was $63,290. Of course, keep in mind, actual salaries will be influenced by level of experience, education, the specific employer, and geographic location.
Health educators help promote wellness in different communities by teaching people about healthy behaviors and lifestyle decisions. They may work with groups ranging from children to adults from a variety of different demographics. Daily duties often include developing programs to teach different health topics, creating written materials, evaluating current programs, and supervising staff, among others. Jobs are frequently found with schools, colleges, health care facilities, non-profit organizations, public health departments, and even private businesses.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts very high growth in the demand for health educators, with a 37% increase expected from 2010 to 2020. The average annual wage reported in 2011 was $52,150 for those working as health educators. Please keep in mind, actual pay will vary based on a number of factors including education, experience, where you live, and the specific type of employer.