Delving Into the Public Health Major
The public health major covers a wide variety of topics related to healthcare and management. Depending on what concentration students choose to pursue, different courses may be taken to supplement their education. However, all public health majors will take similar, if not identical, foundation courses.
These courses include Principles and Practices of Public Health, the Administration of Public Health, Health and Safety Program Management, and Social and Behavioral Aspects of Community Health, according to The University of Texas’ School of Public Health. A history course, such as Man’s Impact on the Environment, is typically also taken so that students may better understand why public health is necessary and what developments in the field of public health have been made.
Those enrolled in a public health degree program will likely have to participate in internships, where they will be supervised by professionals in the field. Through these internships, they will have the valuable opportunity to ask questions, complete basic public health tasks, observe how professionals work, and anticipate what types of responsibilities their careers will hold.
Some schools will require students to complete a Capstone Project, where students must synthesize all of the information and skills they acquired throughout their degree program into one final research and presentation-based project. This project is completed under the supervision of an approved faculty member.
The Bachelor of Science in Public Health degree is a four-year program that introduces students to the complex healthcare system of America. Students will complete classes like Health Office Operations, Medical Assisting, Community Health Program Planning, Health and Human Behavior, and Environmental Health Issues.
With these courses under their belts, students will be able to implement healthcare policies that will improve the health of their communities. They will know how to collect data, analyze it, and assess the feasibility and success of new and existing programs as well.
There are two general types of master’s degrees available for public health majors: the Master of Public Health and the Master of Science in Public Health. Some schools also offer a Master of Health Administration degree, which is also related to public health.
Students will complete classes like Social and Behavioral Foundations of Public Health, Environmental Health, Public Health Data Analysis, Public Health Research Methods, and Health Services Administration. All of these classes help students to become experts in health policy research as well as become skilled enough to orchestrate complex healthcare policy changes.
The Doctor of Public Health degree is a professional program. This means that it trains students to become researchers, policymakers, and practitioners. To achieve this, students will take intensive courses in Research Ethics, Principles of Epidemiology, Statistical Reasoning, Foundations of Leadership, Politics of Health Policy, and Comparative Health Insurance.
The overall goal of these courses is to ensure that every degree holder understands public health as fully as possible. All students must also complete residency hours where they work alongside public health professionals for degree credit, further preparing them for a career in the field after graduation.
Supplementing Your Public Health Major
While a general degree in public health is valuable, there are also various options that students can choose from to further specialize their learning. For those who are pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public health, choosing a minor to go along with that degree can be a good idea because it will provide the opportunity to learn extensively about something else that could complement their major.
For example, minors in environmental health, health informatics, health studies, and health information management are all good choices because those are specialties that are relevant to the public health field. Having a minor in those specialties could make any bachelor’s degree holder stand out, especially if you are applying for a position within a social work office.
For master’s and doctoral programs, students must pick a concentration to focus their studies on. Some schools offer general public health degrees, but most require students to pick a concentration. These concentrations should be chosen according to what career the student desires to pursue. For example, a student who wants to work as healthcare policy management should choose Health Policy and Management as his or her concentration.
Different schools offer different concentrations, but most offer the following: Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Health and Social Behavior, Health Services and Policy Analysis, and much more. Depending on what you choose to concentrate your studies in, you will learn about things that are specific to your concentration, making you an ideal candidate for job positions that are in the same field as your concentration.
Learn More About the Public Health Major
- U.S. News Report’s Top Public Health Schools
- Open Courseware from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
- Journal of Occupational Health
- Archives of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine
- Oxford Journal of Public Health
- Princeton Review’s overview of public health
The Public Health Major in the Job Market
Public health majors learn a great deal while in college, no matter what degree level they pursue and what concentration to choose. All public health majors have the ability to research, analyze data, and determine the efficiency and credibility of a healthcare policy.
Upon graduation, public healthcare majors have several choices for a related career. Those with a bachelor’s degree in public health can become medical and public health social workers. It should be noted that those who pursue a social work career in medicine will have to earn a graduate degree, but those who work in research and support can launch their careers with an undergraduate degree.
These social workers help people get through trying healthcare- related situations, such as working with vulnerable communities in preventing common illnesses and diseases as well as working with certain families who are suffering from AIDS or Alzheimer’s disease. As of 2008, there are approximately 138,700 medical and public health social workers employed in the United States, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That number is projected to increase 22% by 2018.
Those holding graduate degrees in public health have more variety in their choice of careers. Some can become biostatisticians, experts who use statistics to figure out patterns in medical and public health research. Biostatisticians design statistical studies and create rules with which to gather accurate data for those studies and interpret the data that is returned in order to make a conclusion.
These researchers typically work for government agencies or universities to further medical research. Unfortunately, BLS does not collect employment information specifically about biostatisticians, but it does have information about statisticians as a whole, which is the general group with which biostatisticians belong. Since 2007, there were about 20,270 employed statisticians in the country, with 25% of those working for colleges and universities and 20% of those working with the government.