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    Public Health Major Overview

    By Lisa Freedland

    Lisa Freedland is a Scholarships360 writer with personal experience in psychological research and content writing. She has written content for an online fact-checking organization and has conducted research at the University of Southern California as well as the University of California, Irvine. Lisa graduated from the University of Southern California in Fall 2021 with a degree in Psychology.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: April 11th, 2024
    Public Health Major Overview

    From washing your hands, to brushing your teeth, to wearing a mask in the midst of the pandemic – public health plays a huge role in all of our daily lives. Public health majors use their knowledge to educate others on the best health promotion practices there are. From confronting issues like disease outbreaks to school health education, students majoring in public health learn all there is to know about keeping your health and well-being in its best possible shape. 

    If that sounds interesting to you, keep on reading to learn everything there is to know about the public health major!

    See also: Top health career scholarships

    What is a public health major?

    Great question. Throughout college, public health majors learn how to promote and defend the health of both individuals and communities. Specifically, they learn how to confront problems like foodborne illnesses, low vaccinations, and drug overdoses. On a more local level, they cover how to educate others on good health practices, so those young and old can stay in tip-top shape. In order to work both globally and within their communities, public health majors take a wide variety of classes. From research methods, to education, to health promotion itself, let’s take a look at some typical public health coursework.

    P.S.: If you’re interested in studying public health, but anticipate that you’ll need a little financial help, make sure to check out our Top public health scholarships!

    Coursework to expect

    Being expected to work towards solutions for contemporary health problems all the while promoting health in one’s community takes many skills. Luckily, though, the typical public health coursework provides public health majors with the necessary critical thinking, research, and analysis skills needed to do their jobs. 

    Besides the given introductory courses, public health majors should expect to take a few science and math classes. Biology, statistics, and (sometimes) calculus are common requirements for the major. As for those courses more specifically related to the field, public health majors have many options. Among these are health promotion, research methods, public health policies, or even moral issues in healthcare. 

    Below are some potential courses you may encounter as a public health major:

    • Biostatistics
    • Education
    • Health
    • Nutrition
    • Research Methods
    • Calculus
    • Health Promotion
    • U.S. Public Health System
    • Epidemiology
    • Health Policy

    Outside the realm of classes, public health majors can also get better acquainted with their field by getting involved in research. To do so, students have the options of applying for research assistant positions or working with professors to complete independent research projects. Some public health programs may also require students to get some real experience in the field, through either volunteering, interning, or conducting research.

    P.S.: If you’re interested in research but aren’t sure how to email your professor about it, check out How to email your professor (with examples)!

    Opportunities after graduation

    After graduating, the skills held by public health majors open them up to positions in a wide variety of fields and industries. Whether they want to go into research, become infectious disease consultants, or create health promotion campaigns, these are all viable options. They can also choose to become health educators, teaching others about health and what they can do to protect their own. Alternatively, public health majors can also pursue further schooling (but we’ll get into that later!).

    For now, here are just some of the jobs that one can get with a public health degree:

    • Epidemiologist
    • Health Education Specialist
    • Dietician
    • Nutritionist
    • Occupational Health and Safety Specialists
    • Biostaticians
    • Researchers

    Jobs you can get with a public health degree

    We now know that public health majors have many choices after graduation. Not only do they have many career paths to choose from, but they can also attend graduate or professional school. Once you secure a job with your public health degree, though, how much do you usually make? Well, we can’t give you an exact number. Salaries vary heavily by job, and public health majors go into a wide range of careers. Nonetheless, we can take a look at a few jobs you can get with a public health degree (and how much each one makes). Let’s get into it!

    1. Epidemiologist

    Epidemiologists are essentially researchers, investigating the causes, patterns, and effects of illness and injury. Specifically, they plan and lead research projects into public health problems, looking for ways to best treat them and reduce their frequency in the population. Their findings are then presented to health policymakers, practitioners, and the general public. While the majority of epidemiologists have a Master’s in Public Health, some may hold a Ph.D in medicine or epidemiology.

    2022 Median Pay: $78,520 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 27% (Much faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    2. Dietitians and Nutritionists

    Focused on meeting their clients’ nutritional needs, dietitians and nutritionists create food and nutrition plans for their patients. These are influenced by patients’ preferences but are more importantly based on what each client needs (what type of food, nutrients, etc.). As their clients follow their meal plans, dietitians and nutritionists keep track of how well their plans are working and make changes if necessary. To become a dietician or nutritionist, you will likely need a bachelor’s degree and to have completed a supervised training internship or program. Many states will require dietitians and nutritionists to be licensed.

    2022 Median Pay: $66,450 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 7% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    3. Medical and Health Services Managers

    Medical and health service managers plan and coordinate medical and health services, and typically manage health facilities, a specific department, or a medical practice. Their specific duties, however, include improving the efficiency and quality of healthcare services, developing department goals, recruiting and training new staff members, and more. As managers, they also communicate with other medical staff and department heads, and make sure that their facility is up to date and compliant with recent laws and regulations. While most medical and health service managers hold a bachelor’s degree, Master’s degrees are also quite common for those in the profession. Many also have prior experience working in a healthcare facility.

    2022 Median Pay: 104,830 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 28% (Much faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    4. Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

    With a focus on promoting health and wellness, Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers determine the health needs of communities. With this information, they teach people about relevant wellness topics and how to stay on top of their health. Further, they create health-related events and programs, and evaluate the success of each of their programs and educational materials. While Health Education Specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree, Community Health Workers generally only need a high school degree and some on-the-job training.

    2022 Median Pay: $59,990 per year
    Projected Growth (2022-2032): 7% (Faster than average)

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

    Also see: What are the fastest growing careers?

    Advanced Degrees You Can Pursue with a Public Health Degree

    After graduating with a bachelor’s in public health, many students decide to pursue further graduate or professional schooling. While graduate, law, and medical school are some of the most popular options for public health majors, here are just a few of the advanced degrees you can pursue with a public health degree:

    • Master’s in Public Health
      • Some public health programs will allow you to get your Master’s by simply doing a 5th year at your undergraduate institution (to find out more about these programs, check out a bachelor to masters dual degree program. 
    • Ph.D in Public Health
    • Doctor of Medicine
    • Juris Doctor (the standard degree for lawyers)

    How do I know if a major is right for me? 

    Knowing whether or not you’re majoring in the right subject is tricky. Even after being in college for multiple semesters or years, it is not uncommon for students to wonder whether they truly enjoy their major. However, many students also love their majors, and end up sticking with the same one for their entire college experience. So, if you’re thinking about majoring in public health, ask yourself these questions first:

    • Are you curious about how communicable diseases spread?
    • Do you think educating people on health matters is important?
    • Are you passionate about the health and well-being of people?
    • Do you enjoy helping and educating others?

    If you answered “yes” to a majority of these questions, then public health may be a great fit for you. Read more about how to choose a major so that you are well informed before making such a major decision. Have fun in college and make sure that you apply for all the scholarships you qualify for! 

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    Frequently asked questions about public health majors

    Are public health jobs in demand?

    While the exact growth rate will vary by job, demand for public health jobs is generally on the rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, public health jobs are in demand and have robust future growth.

    What job in public health pays the most?

      It really depends on where you work and what public health degree one has. In general, those who are medical directors or biostaticians with graduate degrees make the most.

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