Career Pathway: Public Health

A group of consultants at a conference table.

Pathway Overview

Why Public Health?

  • Fulfilling careers
  • Varied pathways 
  • Local and worldwide impact
  • Job security
  • Focus on social justice 

The public health field includes a wide variety of roles, such as public health educator, policy analyst, researcher, epidemiologist, and community health worker, as well as many levels and work settings. The outlook for jobs within the field of public health is bright. 

“Overall employment of health education specialists and community health workers is projected to grow 17 percent from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations” (Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor & Statistics).

The Covid-19 global public health crisis has highlighted the importance of public health workers. While job growth depends on the role, work setting, and location, it is safe to assume that there is stability and growth opportunity in public health. Within the field, there are many different career paths; the resources below review some of the primary ones.

Certifications and Licenses

Below are examples of certifications that exist within the public health field. These credentials are nationally recognized and can be helpful to showcase your expertise in the field, but are not typically required for obtaining a job in public health. 

Certified in Public Health (CPH)

A CPH credential demonstrates knowledge of key public health sciences. In order to take the CPH exam, you must be enrolled in, or graduated from, a health program accredited by the Council on Education of Public Health (CEPH), or have a bachelor’s degree in a concentration and five years of experience working in public health.

Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES®)

A CHES credential demonstrates knowledge of the seven core areas of responsibility of health education specialists. In order to take the CHES exam, you must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, completed 25 semester credits or 37 quarter hours of coursework aligned to the core areas, as well as pass the CHES exam.

Master Certified Health Education Specialist (MCHES®)

A MCHES certification demonstrates advanced knowledge of the seven core areas of responsibility of health education specialists. In order to take the MCHES exam, you must be CHES accredited for five years OR have graduated from a master’s program with 25 semester credits or 37 quarter hours of coursework aligned to the core areas and have five years of experience as a public health specialist.

Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian (REH/RS)

A REHS/RS credential showcases competency in an array of environmental health issues. To sit for the REHS/RS exam, you must have completed a bachelor’s or higher in environmental health from an EHAC-approved school OR completed a bachelor’s or higher, 30 semester hours (or 45 quarter hours) in basic science coursework and one college course in mathematics or statistics, and have at least two years of environmental health work experience.

In-Demand Skills

Ultimately, your ability to land a specific role rests on your experience and educational background, as well as your proficiency in the skills below.

Transferable Skills and Qualities

  • Critical thinking
  • Communication
  • Collaboration 
  • Adaptability
  • Flexibility
  • Analytical skill 

Field-Specific Skills

  • Policy analysis 
  • Epidemiology 
  • Public health data management
  • R, STATA, and/or SAS
  • Biostatistics 
  • Community outreach
  • Design health interventions 
  • Environmental health risk assessment 
  • Research

Job Fields

Public Health

Public Health Administration

Public health administration professionals oversee all aspects of a public health organization, including managing budgets, programs, staff, and grants and funding, among other tasks. They may manage human resources, provide leadership and development, liaise with community providers, and educate the public on health issues.

Work settings include:

  • Local, city, or state health departments
  • Local, state, or federal government agencies
  • Community-based organizations
  • Health advocacy organizations
  • Consulting firms
  • Nonprofit organizations

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Program Coordinator, Public Health Consultant, Health Educator

Future Roles: Evaluation Specialist, Program Director, Project Manager

Public Health Policy and Analysis

A public health policy analyst specializes in evaluating current policies targeting the health of the public and how these policies can be improved. Specific job duties involve collecting and analyzing data, assessing initiatives, developing new policies to improve an existing strategy, and collaborating with other policy makers and stakeholders. These are often government-based positions. However, public health policy analysts can also work in nonprofit groups and health organizations.

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Policy Analyst, Legislative Assistant

Future Roles: Policy Director, Communications Director, Project Manager, External Relations Director


Epidemiologists study diseases within populations. They analyze the causes of outbreaks in order to treat existing diseases and prevent future outbreaks. Typically, careers involve either conducting research or applying knowledge gathered from research. Usually epidemiologists who conduct research are employed by universities or aligned with government organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Epidemiologists often work with local governments and organizations to directly address public health issues.

Work settings include:

  • Local, city, or state health departments
  • Universities 
  • Local, state, or federal government agencies
  • Research laboratories

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Researcher, Scientist, Community Health Worker, Epidemiologist

Future Roles: Clinical Data Manager, Director of Epidemiology, Senior Scientist

Environmental Health Scientist

Environmental health professionals focus on the relationship between people and the environment. They advocate for human health and well-being while also promoting a healthy and safe environment. Environmental health professionals consider the environment as a whole when analyzing public health issues and provide solutions that aim to improve the integrity of specific environments to improve overall health. This field encompasses navigating long-term environmental challenges, like protecting natural resources, as well as short-term challenges, like natural disasters. 

Work settings include:

  • State or federal health agencies (e.g., EPA, CDC)
  • State departments of health
  • Federal agency environmental offices
  • Academia – environmental health research

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Junior Environmental Scientist, Sustainability Assistant, Food Safety Inspector

Future Roles: Senior Environmental Scientist, Corporate Health and Safety Director, Environmental Compliance Lead, Sustainability Lead

Health Promotion and Education

Health promotion and education professionals educate the public about pressing public health concerns and promote healthy living strategies. They focus on large-scale initiatives that impact important public health measures rather than one-on-one education or counseling. Their work may involve anything from coordinating a communication campaign about the health benefits of exercise to running a local car seat check for families to advocating that local restaurants add healthy options to children’s menus. 

Work settings include:

  • State or county departments of health
  • Healthcare organizations 
  • College and university campuses
  • Nonprofits 

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Health Educator, Community Health Educator, Wellness Coordinator, Health Outreach Worker, Health Educator – Nutrition

Future Roles: Health Educator II, Health Educator III, Director of Education, Manager II Health Education Services, Program Director – Health Education

Public Health Emergency Management Specialists

Public health emergency management specialists focus on worst-case public health scenarios and how to prepare for such emergencies. They prepare for and aid in recovery from disasters by coordinating effective responses, ensuring that people are informed, expanding medical services, and investigating and identifying health threats. These specialists develop standard operating policies and procedures and coordinate with local, state, and federal agencies to make sure plans align and reflect best practices.

Work settings include:

  • Federal health agencies (e.g., CDC)
  • State departments of health
  • City or county departments of health
  • Hospitals and health systems 

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Emergency Management Specialist I, Disaster and Crisis Management Analyst, Medical Emergency Planning Specialist 

Future Roles: Emergency Management Specialist III – CEO, Director of Emergency Services, Director of Public Health

Global Health Officer

Global health professionals take a multidisciplinary approach to solving health issues that transcend national borders. They improve the health of communities worldwide through education, policymaking, research, communications, and project management. Whether for disease prevention or incident response, public health officers develop partners, including governments and NGOs, by convening councils, stakeholder groups, and group initiative meetings. Working in this field requires diplomacy and cultural competence while navigating large-scale challenges with competing priorities. 

Work settings include:

  • International agencies (e.g., WHO)
  • Federal agencies
  • Global NGOs
  • Humanitarian aid organizations 

Entry-Level Job Title Examples: Global Health Officer, Policy Advisor – Global Health, Global Health Researcher, Program Development Associate – Global Health

Future Roles: Director of Global Health, Senior Director of Program Development – Global Health, SVP of Global Health Advocacy, Senior Global Health Policy Advisor

Career Navigation: Exploring Informational Interviews

The purpose of conducting informational interviews is ultimately to get a job, but they are so much more than that; they help us gain exposure and, in the short term, gather information on what we want out of a role.

Related Industries: All Industries

Advice for Learning Online—from Students Who’ve Been There

Students are becoming comfortable with online learning, but there is still room for guidance. Here are some helpful strategies and suggestions to make learning online as good, if not better, than any in-person classroom experience.

Related Industries: All Industries

Help Us Improve