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Getting Started with Public Health | Stanford School of Medicine

Getting Started with Public Health

Career Paths
Public Health
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In recent years, careers in public health are one of the most sought after careers for life science PhDs, MDs and others interested in making fundamental change in the welfare of humanity as a whole. Public health careers are appropriate for the recent graduate and for those who have had a career in the life sciences and want to change gears.

The scope of positions is diverse and the jobs are plentiful. This is one career path where you can truly use your skills toward an altruistic end. Almost any personality type can find a niche in public health doing bench work, clinical work or developing public policy. It’s important to remember that public policy is only a small area of what you can do in the field of public health and that the real focus is that of the overall health of the populace. Before jumping into the field, take the time to consider whether or not you want to further your education in public health so that you will be an attractive candidate. The Association of Schools of Public Health is the first place to start when looking to expand your skills set. More often than not, a major university will have its own school of public health. Within a public health school, you have two primary options.

You can complete a one year program to get your Master’s Degree in Public Health as long as you have postdoctoral experience. When you combine your degree in public health and your PhD, you can often step into a clinical or non-clinical advanced position. Places like the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and various national and international agencies are always looking for someone with this kind of combined degree. In addition, you can consider getting a certificate in an area of public health that interests you. For example, at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, certificates can be obtained in these and other categories: Gerontology Health and Human Rights Health Communication Health Disparities Occupational Health Tropical Medicine Risk Sciences and Public Policy International Health Policy and Financing Vaccine Science and Policy Maternal and Child Health Injury Control Quantitative Methods in Public Health Environmental Health Public Mental Health Resources For those unsure about which field they want to enter or who simply want to get an overall education in public health, try getting a Training Certificate in Public Health Practice.

Depending on the certification you choose, there are numerous organizations looking to hire you. The field you choose depends upon your level of interest and training. There are many top schools which are accredited through the Council on Education for Public Health throughout the United States. Some of these include: Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Located in Baltimore, Maryland, this school offers numerous certificates and degree programs. Harvard School of Public Health: Located in Boston, this school offers primarily degree programs in public health as well as numerous fellowships. University of North Carolina School of Public Health: This school has degreed programs and specialties in minorities and ethnicity. Certificates can be received through distance learning. University of California at Berkeley School of Public Health:

This college has only degree programs but has multiple areas of specialty. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health: Among other things, this school offers one year programs in several areas of public health. It’s important to remember that, while all schools offer Master’s Degree programs, many offer certificate programs in a handful of specialized areas. It pays to look for the program you are interested in at the Association of Schools of Public Health site above. The choices of career fields are vast. While the focus of your work will be on public policy or on the overall health of the world’s population, you can work for pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit organizations or for local, state, federal or international organizations. Many public health schools have career assistance and could help you find the niche that works best for you.

While there are positions at every level of the government and in private agencies, if you are interested in making a contribution on a national level, there are several federal agencies you may want to consider: Public Health Functions / HP 2010 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) US Agency for International Development (USAID) Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Maternal and Child Health Bureau, HRSA (MCHB) Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP/HHS) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Each of these sites has numerous job postings.

Many of the sites include jobs for MDs, careers in active research for PhDs and careers in administration or non-clinical supervision. The field of public health is broad. Not every position requires that you get a certificate or degree in public health in order to have a career in the field. It is entirely possible to find work within a large or small organization or in one where much of your work is spent overseas. This is probably one of the most untapped career fields you’ll find, with job opportunities that do not limit you to a particular locale or type of work performed. You may find yourself on the bench, doing what appears to be basic science; however, your focus will be on finding answers to public issues that affect large communities. You may also work with indigent populations or find yourself testing water quality in a third world country. The door is completely open to you depending on what you want to do and where you would like to do it.