Public Health Job Description and Duties

Learn what you can do in the public health industry.

The Basics

What you'll do: Public health workers take a macro approach to the health care field, focusing on the physical, mental and environmental health of populations, and then individuals within those populations. Disease prevention and health promotion are at the forefront. You can choose to work in a variety of roles, including as a health educator, medical scientist, social worker, statistician or researcher.

Where you'll work: Hospitals, clinics, community health centers, government agencies, nonprofit organizations, health care consulting agencies, pharmaceutical companies, research firms, state and local health departments.

Degree you'll need to practice: Bachelor's or master's degree

Median annual salary: $46,300*

Job Environment

public health professional runs tests

Public health workers choose varied paths. Some of your daily work will be administrative, done in an office. Other tasks will require you to go out into the community to work with people.

For example, in public health you can keep a flu epidemic at bay by encouraging vaccinations; help shape government responses to environmental disasters and educate the public about how to prepare; or help under-served populations to access health care services.

You can become a case manager, project manager, director or analyst in a variety of specialties, such as:

  • Behavioral science/health education
  • Biostatistics
  • Environmental health
  • Epidemiology
  • Health services administration
  • International/Global health

Career Advancement

Because the term "public health" is a large umbrella that covers so many different careers, this field appeals to a wide range of people with diverse skills, interests and backgrounds. There are so many places you can go and ways you can help. Earning the Master of Public Health (MPH) degree will qualify public health workers for positions with increased responsibility. 

The variety of jobs available makes public health a good fit for those who seek to use their abilities and passions for the public good. 

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition; Health Educators; Medical and Public Health Social Workers.

*The salary information listed is based on a national average, unless noted. Actual salaries may vary greatly based on specialization within the field, location, years of experience and other factors. National long-term projections of employment growth may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions, and do not guarantee actual job growth.

Education and Career Guide