Entry Level Public Health Jobs: 10 Positions That Make an Impact
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Interested in a public health career?
As the dust begins to settle around the Covid-19 crisis, those entering the job market may find themselves at a bit of a loss. In fact, many recent high-school and college graduates aren’t sure where to turn for employment opportunities. After all, the economy continues to fluctuate as we find our way back from pandemic-related strains and supply issues.
But, believe it or not, now is actually the perfect time to consider starting a public health career. After all, the Covid-19 pandemic only reinforced the importance of public health workers to our national health and well-being. And, according to the American Public Health Association, public health workers will continue to reduce disparities in chronic disease outcomes and promote health in communities around the globe.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Public Health Jobs
As with any path, a public health career comes with both upsides and downsides.
When it comes to advantages, there are quite a few.
- Social Benefits. Healthcare workers are highly respected and seen as positive contributors to society.
- Financial Incentives. Public health jobs tend to be more lucrative than some other fields, even at the entry level.
- Job Security. Unfortunately, there will always be sick people. Therefore, there will always be a need for public health workers.
- Satisfaction and Pride. Public health workers know that what they do makes the world a better place — for both individuals and society at large.
Naturally, public health jobs have their own unique disadvantages as well.
- Competition. Competition for entry-level public health jobs is high.
- Training. New hires often find that on-the-job training is both challenging and intense — especially at the entry level.
- Weight of Responsibility. Many public health jobs come with the heavy burden of caring for other people in stressful situations. This can sometimes even mean life and death.
- Risk. Nearly every career path involves some level of risk. Entry-level public health jobs, however, come with some risks that may be more harmful than others. These risks could include increased exposure to infectious diseases, toxins, and other medical hazards.
Knowing what you’re getting into ahead of time can go a long way toward helping you decide if you’re a good fit for a public health career.
How Do I Start a Career in Public Health?
If you decide that this field is a good fit for you, now is a wonderful time to start your career. We can see the light at the end of the pandemic, but the need for public health workers — and the need to fight diseases on a global scale — is far from over. If anything, the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of career public health workers in keeping our society healthy, informed, and protected.
And let’s not forget: public health workers have helped us reach a better place from which to fight future public health crises.
As for how to start your career in public health? Our advice varies depending on whether you have studied health education and hold a degree in public health (bachelor’s or master’s) or not.
Non-Degree Holding Entry Level Public Health Jobs
So, you didn’t attend a school of public health and don’t hold a related degree? Not to worry! Your lack of formal public health education won’t bar you from entry level public health jobs.
Many open public health positions include rigorous on-the-job training. Jobs like these require no degrees or targeted experience prior to application.
Examples of entry level public health jobs you can apply for without experience include the following:
- Medical assistant
- Medical billing/coding specialist
- Assisted living care assistant
- Occupational therapy aide
- Emergency dispatcher
These are just a few examples of entry level public health jobs currently available. But there are dozens of additional positions that also do not require completion of a public health degree program.
Degree-Holding Entry Level Public Health Jobs
As you have seen, in many cases, you do not need to be a college graduate in order to start your career in public health. However, there are still good reasons to take the time to study public health in a formal program.
For example, applicants with a public health degree often have a competitive edge for entry level public health jobs. This includes even those jobs that do not require a four-year degree in public health or a related field:
Often, entry-level jobs don’t specifically require a public health degree. But as one program director pointed out, the public health major gives you a unique knowledge base—and that could be an advantage.
Of course, there are also positions that are only open to college graduates holding a public health degree. These include:
- Public health analyst
- Early intervention specialist
- Environmental health manager
- Research associate
So, with a bachelor’s degree in public health, you’ll be able to move to the front of the line for entry level public health jobs. You’ll also be able to access more interesting — and more lucrative — positions in public health than your non-degreed peers.
But while a bachelor’s degree gives you an advantage? A master’s degree will take you even further.
With a master’s in public health (MPH), you could even get hired by the CDC, an agency that employs more MPH graduates than any other. And when you work for the CDC as a civil servant? You’ll enjoy the pride and satisfaction of serving not just your local community, but your nation as well.
What Is the Salary Range for Entry Level Public Health Jobs?
When it comes to the average salary for entry level public health jobs, there’s a wide range available. Some of these jobs pay in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, but the bulk of entry level public health jobs fall on a scale of $30,000-$50,000 per year. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median public health workers’ income of $48,860/year and $23.49/hour.
Starting salaries will always be higher or lower depending on a number of factors, including:
- Fluctuating costs of living
- Industry demand
- Level of difficulty
10 Entry Level Public Health Jobs to Make an Impact
If you’re ready to pursue a career in public health, here are a few places we suggest you start your job search.
Health Promotion SpecialistAs the name implies, health promotion specialists work to promote healthy lifestyles — not just for individuals, but within organizations, communities, and populations.
They increase awareness of healthy behaviors, such as healthy eating habits, physical fitness, and smoking cessation. And through the promotion of healthy choices and lifestyles, these specialists also prevent disease and injury. Additionally, they create and implement programs to improve community health in actionable ways.
Public Health AnalystPublic health analysts work to create efficient solutions to health problems. Additionally, they coordinate with local agencies to ensure that practical solutions to local health concerns are implemented. People employed in this role work tirelessly to improve the quality of life and overall wellbeing of their communities. They tackle big-picture problems — like environmental hazards, substance abuse, infectious diseases, and the impact of violence. If you pursue an entry level position as a public health analyst, you may wind up doing something like:
- Reviewing existing programs and policies to evaluate their effectiveness
- Identifying overall areas of concern related to health and welfare in your region
- Developing structured plans to disrupt ongoing problems and implement improvements
Environmental Health SpecialistSo, the public health analysts have created a plan to meet a public health need. What's next? Well, someone needs to implement that plan. This job falls to environmental health specialists.
Environmental health specialists educate and consult clients and enforce regulations governing the sanitation of food, milk, and water; hazardous and Infectious waste; sewage; institutional environments; and health hazards. They help improve water and sanitation facilities at recreational areas, nursing homes, schools, restaurants, and other locations, and are actively involved in the overall environmental quality of a community.
Clinical Research AssistantClinical Research Assistants (CRA’s) work in labs, generally as part of a team. They participate in testing, running studies, and collecting data. Because of the nature of this work, many CRA positions require a bachelor's degree in a health-related field. Entry-level clinical research positions tend to pay less than some other public health jobs — sometimes as low as the $21,000-$25,000/year range. But some positions actually pay quite well. Additionally, the more experience you gain in the lab, the more quickly you’ll be able to level up and start earning more. Projected compensation: $32,000 - $55,000/year
HygienistRecently, the job of hygienist was selected by U.S. News and World Report as #12 in their ranking of Best Health Care Support Jobs. This is not only because of the comfortable median salary associated with the role ($77,090), but also because of the bright future most hygienists can anticipate.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 11 percent employment growth for dental hygienists between 2020 and 2030. In that period, an estimated 23,100 jobs should open up.
Disease Intervention SpecialistDisease intervention specialists (DISs) are public health outreach workers mainly responsible for finding and counseling people with sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) — and their contacts. Notably, in times of public crisis — such as the recent pandemic — a DIS may shift their focus to the most imminent threat. However, they spend the bulk of their careers assisting local public health departments to wage the ongoing battle against STD transmission. Disease intervention specialists are an integral part of our public health workforce. And those who pursue entry-level positions as DISs can anticipate challenging but fulfilling careers. Projected compensation: $48,389/year or $23/hour
Environmental ScientistEnvironmental scientists work to prevent disease and increase longevity through public health initiatives. Importantly, they work more in the lab than with the public. The actual work they may do as a scientist varies, but may include:
- Performing testing procedures
- Monitoring quality control
- Assisting other scientists in the lab
- Tracking and ordering supplies
Public Health InspectorAs the title indicates, a public health inspector ensures that public establishments follow local, state, and federal safety laws to protect public health. These establishments include:
- Swimming pools
- Nursing homes