Public Health Career Opportunities

Are you interested in the field of public health but don’t know what to do next? Read on! There are many paths to explore in the field of public health since it is so multifaceted and consists of various aspects of study such as community health, environmental health epidemiology, biostatistics, policy and management, maternal and childcare, and global health. A degree in public health can open doors to a variety of careers ranging from governmental occupations to epidemiology and even non-profit work.

UC Berkeley’s undergraduate public health major is a great way to build a foundation for a Master of Public Health (MPH). Even without a public health major, many fields such as biology, applied math, public policy, and anthropology can be applied to public health. A lot of MPH students come from a variety of backgrounds. Furthermore, a background in public health can be applicable for medical school, or any health-related graduate program or professional school, since knowledge about the healthcare system and how it works is crucial for professionals such as doctors, physician assistants, dentists, optometrists, and more. Public health also helps provide a more holistic view on disease diagnoses and treatment, providing solutions to health problems by improving the patient’s way of life and environment along with providing quality treatments, instead of just prescribing medications to merely treat symptoms. This has led to a growing focus on preventative care and integrative medicine. For example, the Tang Center has focused on a lot of preventative care and public health with their Health Worker program as well as their wide range of workshops and resources on safe sex, heart disease prevention, and nutrition. The on-call nurses or nurse practitioners are yet another key resource in improving the health of the Berkeley student community. Most nurses and nurse practitioners at the Tang Center have either taken public health courses or have pursued MPH degrees.

The MPH program at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health exposes its students to careers in fields of different concentrations such as epidemiology, maternal and child health, infectious diseases, public health policy, and more. The SPH actually has a public health internship program, where graduate students get matched with a governmental agency such as public health departments or research institutes during the summer to gain firsthand experience.

In an interview with Catherine Nguyen, a current epidemiology and biostatistics graduate student at the UC Berkeley SPH, she shares her personal experience working in the CDPH and Berkeley Department of Public Health as well as her decision to pursue a public health career.

At first, she was planning to become a physical therapist. She majored in Human Biology and Society at UCLA, which was an interdisciplinary major that integrated biology, anthropology, and even public health. It was through one of her epidemiology courses that she took an interest in public health.

She currently works at the Berkeley Department of Public Health as well as the California Department of Public Health through her summer internship. When asked about getting a job during the grad school years she answered that “some people get it through meeting professors and becoming a research assistant. Grad students have this website with some job postings, although [I don’t know if undergrads have this too]. A lot of people get a job through a summer internship. And the summer internship is matched through Berkeley.”

Her experience with the Berkeley Department of Public Health and the California Department of Public Health are vastly contrasting. At Berkeley, her goal is to create a Community Health Assessment, which describes different health indicators in Berkeley such as birth weights, major causes of death, and major diseases. While at the CDPH, she focuses on tuberculosis, and she uses more statistical methods to evaluate causes, describing her experience there as more “overarching.”

After graduation, she’s planning to work in LA at Analysis Group, a health outcomes and economics consulting group. “I’ve always been interested in applied epidemiology and government, but I’m really curious about how the private sector does their work, so I’m going to do it for them and how they do it differently from the government.” She heard about the job from a friend when the company came to visit the campus, and she applied online. As a word of advice, she said that undergraduates should start with a lot of networking and exploring, since public health is so broad, and doing work. “I totally recommend volunteering or maybe working after your graduate instead of going straight [to grad school].” Just talking to professors and professionals is a great start for a successful career path for any field.

Of course, careers in public health are not limited to governmental agencies or health consulting in private sectors. There are also opportunities in educational institutions, such as working as a public health professor or a community health worker. Pharmaceutical research and biotech industries along with consulting agencies often recruit people who have public health backgrounds, particularly in areas such as biostatistics. Hospital administration and management is also a career suitable for those with public health degrees. Many nonprofits such as Planned Parenthood and The American Cancer Society provide significant contributions to public health through education and advocacy.

Even with the plethora of opportunities now, the field of public health is continuing to grow. In fact, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be a projected 15.6 million new careers in the field of public health by 2022. The best idea, for now, is to keep exploring and learning about public health and be on the lookout for newer in-demand jobs within this expanding field in the future.

Good luck with all your future prospects!