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Public Health Careers

Public Health Careers

Public health takes a populationbased approach to address the physical, mental, and environmental health concerns of communities. With such information the appropriate health promotion and disease prevention is applied to improve and enhance quality of life. This can take place at the local public health clinic, at regional or national agencies, international organizations, or in the private sector. Each presents unique challenges to understand the health issues and health hazards, to provide access to quality health care at affordable cost, and to educate and promote sound health behaviors.


As the oldest and largest public health professional association in the world, American Public Health Association (APHA) has more than 50,000 members representing more than 50 occupations. It provides a forum for the exchange of ideas, study, and action on a variety of issues that affect personal and environmental health. Researchers, health providers, administrators, teachers, and others work together on items as diverse as funding possibilities, pollution control, disease, and smoke-free societies.

What do people involved in public health do? It depends on the specific career choice. You could give vaccinations at an inner city clinic, develop educational programs, investigate environmental problems, help determine how to get people to adopt healthier lifestyles, administer health service programs, or create health policies.

What education is needed to become part of public health? At the present time, registered nurses need an associate's degree in nursing, a bachelor of science degree in nursing, or a diploma from a hospital program. Other medical personnel, social workers, and therapists need a bachelor's degree in a specialized field or postgraduate education in an appropriate program.

Programs leading to a master's in public health degree allow the student to specialize in areas such as epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, health education, health policy/administration, occupational medicine, nutrition (as a registered dietitian), or maternal and child health.

What can help prepare a person for a career within public health?

  1. Visit, interview, and/or volunteer with people or sites involved in the areas of interest. Find out education and experience requirements from them and plan high school classes accordingly.
  2. Develop strong communication skills with individuals and in front of groups.
  3. Learn a second language.
  4. Learn to work with diverse populations.
  5. Learn to handle stressful situations.
  6. Develop a strong concern for others.

Karen E. Jensen


American Public Health Association. <>.

U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Outlook Handbook 20002001. <>.

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