Most health professionals treat one patient at a time, but public health professionals work to improve the health of entire populations. The field of public health spans a wide range of disciplines to include all factors that affect the overall health of communities such as genetics, the environment, nutrition, contagious diseases, and access to health care services. Students of public health may specialize in health services administration, global health, health education, epidemiology, environmental health, and public policy.
The skills and educational requirements for public health employees varies across the demands and disciplines of each career. A bachelor’s degree in public health with a concentration in health education, nutrition, or health administration is adequate to gain access to entry-level work. However, a large amount of research is required to develop treatments, prevention plans, and regulatory policies that influence public health. In order to contribute to the field of research, many public health professionals have advanced degrees in a specialized area.
The career that is the most closely linked to the core of public health is that of the epidemiologists. Epidemiologists work to prevent the spread and reoccurrence of diseases and must have a master’s degree in Public Health or Epidemiology. Although a health administrator and an epidemiologist may both work in public health, the educational backgrounds of the two will vary significantly. Becoming an epidemiologist requires a background in biology, while a health services manager will rely on business knowledge.
Public health can be applied to all population groups, both small and large. Public health professionals may work for businesses or schools to keep employees and students healthy. They may also work with government agencies to identify and address risks that threaten large populations. There are also opportunities for public health nurses and public health educators in hospitals and government facilities. Health administrators who specialize in public health work to develop systems of care and policies that will help prevent disease and keep people healthy.