If you care deeply for the people in your community and want to make the world a healthier place, you may be wondering what it’s like to work in public health, and whether this could be a good career option for you. Working in public health can be a great way to make a difference in the world while also getting to enjoy your passion for healthcare and community work. It’s a wide, extremely varied field, with room for everyone from management to direct medical care to advanced research. There are also rewarding careers at every education level:
- Associate’s in Public Health
- Bachelor’s in Public Health
- Master’s in Public Health
- Doctorate in Public Health
If you’re wondering, “is public health a good career?” the answer is overwhelmingly yes. Jobs in public health are plentiful, and many people who work in the field report that they enjoy their work. People who work in public health get to work hard every day to make a positive difference in people’s lives. When you’re wondering, “is public health a good career choice?” for your interests, it’s important to know that there are many career options within the public health field. Working in public health isn’t just for nurses and doctors. Let’s take a look at some of the career options within the public health field.
Careers are listed by their median salary, according to current Payscale data.
1. Public Health Attorney
A public health attorney performs as an advocate and advisor when representing people or organizations in matters that challenge public health law and regulations, and is often one of the highest paying public health jobs. A public health attorney may choose to practice public health law in a courtroom or focus on policy development in the private or governmental sector. Many public health attorneys with high paying jobs in public health hold dual degrees as a Juris Doctor and a Master of Science (MS) degree in Public Health.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, professional attorneys earned a median annual income of $122,960, which makes it one of the highest paying jobs in public health and the legal profession. High paying public health jobs are found in the states of DC, California, New York, and Illinois, with a maximum annual mean wage in Washington, DC of $192,180, for May 2019.
Median Salary: $122,960
2. Health and Wellness Manager
Health and Wellness managers are employed by medical practices, medical facilities, and long-term/nursing care facilities and hold one of the several high paying public health jobs in management and leadership. Health and Wellness managers generally enter the profession with a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Still, through experience and additional education, they eventually obtain some of the highest paying public health jobs available.
The BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that more than 400,000 health and wellness managers were employed in the US during 2018, with a 2019 annual median salary of $100,980, making a health and wellness manager’s yearly salary among the high paying jobs in public health. Additionally, the statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipate that the job growth rate for some of these highest paying jobs in public health to be at 18% through 2028, about 2.5 times faster than the combined anticipated growth rate of all US occupations.
Median Salary: $100,980
3. Behavioral Health Program Coordinator
A behavioral health program coordinator is generally the individual responsible for administering, managing and troubleshooting one (or many) behavioral health programs that may be focused on –
- Infant Issues
- Childcare issues and support
- Family Issues
- Substance services
- Mental Health Services, among others
Additionally, a behavioral health program coordinator, one of the is responsible for the education of implementation of behavioral health programs offered through charitable organizations, local religious groups, or the many levels of government support. While salaries vary based on the job and responsibilities, behavioral health program coordinators are considered some of the highest paying jobs in public health. These high paying jobs in public health often offer additional compensation for work experience and more advanced degrees.
According to payscale.com, the average behavioral health program coordinator salary for 2018 was $96,540, which makes this job position one of the highest paying public health jobs that is not considered a managerial position. As high paying jobs in public health without administrative experience, a behavioral health coordinator’s salary reaches above $100K, at the top of the salary range for this job.
Median Salary: $96,540
4. Public Health Veterinarian
A public health veterinarian is a highly specialized medical doctor who applies their veterinarian skills to help protect both the human and animal populations from potential disease and potential injuries that may be generated by animals. It is noted that with its highly specialized and additional training, a public health veterinarian is considered one of the highest paying public health jobs in the sector. Generally, individuals who hold these high paying public health jobs have earned a medical degree (MD or DVM) and a graduate degree in public health.
In general, veterinarians earned a 2019 median annual salary of $95,460, which makes the profession one of the highest paying jobs in public health, without the additional compensation for the added graduate degree of MPH. In addition to being one of the high paying jobs in public health, a public health veterinarian’s job growth is anticipated to be approximately 18%, which is about 2.5 times faster than the average of all occupations in the United States over the next decade.
Median Salary: $95,460
5. Public Health Engineer
A public health engineer is a professional who is tasked with the responsibility of developing policies and systems with the primary objective of mitigating and preventing the public from being sick or injured. A public health engineer has tremendous responsibilities as they interact with health officials regarding ongoing concerns, educate the public, implement plans and policies to enhance the public’s safety and well-being. Those who hold the highest paying jobs in public health with regard to engineering, usually hold an engineering and public health degree, plus any licensing information.
According to the statisticians at the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public health and safety engineers earned a median annual salary during 2019 of $91,410, which makes a public health engineer one of the highest paying public health jobs and engineering jobs. These high paying public health jobs have an anticipated growth rate of 5%, which is about as quickly as all other occupations in the United States. States with high paying jobs in public health include DC, new Mexico, California, and Colorado.
Median Salary: $91,410
Biostatisticians are mathematically-oriented professionals in the public health field that often hold some of the highest paying public health jobs available. A Biostatistician, as one of the high paying public health jobs, may find rewarding careers in the private or public sector. Biostatisticians design and implement statistical studies created to enhance current medical knowledge to improve patient care.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), statisticians (including mathematicians) earn an annual medial salary for 2019 of $92,030. As such, the BLS ‘s median salary reveals that biostatisticians offer some of the highest paying jobs in public health. Additionally, it is noted that more than 47,000 biostatisticians were employed in the United States during 2018, with an expected growth rate of 30% through 2028, making these occupations fast-growing, high paying jobs in public health.
Median Salary: $81,950
7. Management Policy Advisor
Management policy advisors are considered high paying public health jobs as they are responsible for the overall management of a medical facility or center’s model of care and all the services provided to each client and patient. Policy advisors in managerial positions are responsible for administering all programs and services, which includes primary, specialty, and tertiary levels of care. Some of the highest paying jobs in public health include positions as medical service managers, community service directors, or policy analysts.
According to Payscale.com, the average salary for 2018 for a management policy advisor is $81,330, which makes this occupation one of the highest paying public health jobs in health care management. Those management policy advisors that work with elected officials or serve as industry or charity lobbyists may find those jobs to be among the high paying jobs in public health.
Median Salary: $81,330
8. Director of Family Health Services
One of the highest paying jobs in public health is that of a Director of Family Health Services. A director of family health services may specialize in a particular facet of public health and offer high paying jobs in public health, at the top of the salary range – like quality improvement, or pediatrics, among others. Those who earn the highest paying public health jobs generally earn certification from the ACHEC – the American College of Healthcare Executives Copyright.
The salary range for Directors of Family Health Services depends upon the scope of the responsibilities, the size of the health care facility, the director’s professional experience, and the director’s educational accomplishments. Some of the high paying public health jobs include administrative managements, medical records managers, and community service managers, among others. Salaries for these varying positions range from the mid $40,000’s to near $100,000 per year.
Median Salary: $64,680-$96,540 ($80,610)
9. Vaccine Researcher
A vaccine researcher is considered among the highest paying public health jobs in the biological-oriented sector. High paying jobs in public health regarding vaccines include the testing and improving existing vaccines, and analyzing data to head off potential risks of outbreaks, like the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Technically, vaccine researchers are trained as microbiologists – the profession that studies parasites, viruses, fungi, and bacteria.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), microbiologists (vaccine researchers) earned a median annual pay in 2019 of $75,650. This impressive yearly salary is recognized among the highest paying jobs in public health related to the study of biology and organisms. High paying public health jobs are most abundant in Maryland, California, Virginia, Georgia, and Montana. As one would expect, the metropolitan area with the highest concentration of vaccine researchers/microbiologists is the Arlington – Washington- Alexandria (DC, VA, BD, WV).
Median Salary: $76,700
10. Environmental Scientist/Sanitarian
Environmental Scientists (Sanitarian Specialists) offer professionals some of the highest paying public health jobs available. Environmental scientists are trained to use their skills and talents regarding the natural sciences to protect the human population and the environment that sustains human life. High paying public health jobs offer professionals opportunities to work in office environments plus in the field gathering data by monitoring measurable conditions.
According to the statisticians at BLS (the Bureau of Labor Statistics), environmental scientists earned an annual median pay of $71,360 for 2019, which ultimately makes this occupation among the high paying jobs in public health. Additionally, the BLS anticipates the growth rate for environmental scientists to 8% over the next decade, which makes the growth rate for these highest paying jobs in public health to be a bit faster than average, with another 7,000 jobs created over the next ten years.
Median Salary: $75,360
11. Hazardous Waste Inspector
A hazardous waste inspector is recognized as one of the highest paying jobs in public health. Hazardous waste inspectors promote public wellness by ensuring that all businesses and industrial facilities adhere to the government regulations for safety codes and waste disposal. These high paying jobs in public health include inspecting facilities and evaluating procedures that are implemented in the handling, usage, and disposal of products that could pose a threat to public health.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics combines several hazardous waste inspector-related jobs when reporting salary data; the category of environmental scientists and specialists includes those professionals identifying and monitoring the population’s health – with a 2019 median annual salary of $71,360, making it one of the best and high paying public health jobs in this specific category. These highest paying public health jobs have an upper salary range of approximately $124,000.
Median Salary: $70,920
Epidemiologists are investigative professionals with some of the highest paying jobs in public health. Epidemiologists are tasked with the responsibility of identifying disease patterns to allow public health officials time to react to public health situations before they grow to statuses difficult to manage, contain, and mitigate. These high paying public health jobs are typically located in labs or offices – in those agencies responsible for the management of public health at local, state, and federal levels.
Most of the highest paying jobs in public health require job applicants to hold at least a master’s degree in a public health-related field; however, those high paying jobs in public health with the greatest responsibility require professionals to reach for their doctoral-level degree. Top paying states for epidemiologists include Massachusetts, Washington, New Jersey, Washington, DC, and California. Various government agencies, medical institutes, and scientific facilities, and academic environs offer epidemiologists the most job opportunities.
Median Salary: $70,820
13. Environmental Health Emergency Response Specialist
Environmental Health Emergency Response Specialists are those professionals who are responsible for maintaining up to date preparedness procedures – put in place should an environmental disaster occur. Considering the tremendous responsibility environmental health emergency response specialists face, it is not surprising that these are the high paying public health jobs as first responders. These high paying jobs in public health also require industry professionals to lead the response to the emergency in their local community.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, environmental health emergency response specialists (categorized in the more broad category of Emergency Management Directors) earned a median annual salary for 2019 of $74,590, which makes it one of the highest paying public health jobs in the first response field. As one of the highest paying jobs in public health, environmental health emergency response specialists will find the top paying states for 2019 to include Washington, DC, California, Washington, Maryland, and New York.
Median Salary: $70,500
14. Emergency Preparedness and Bioterrorism Coordinator
A Bioterrorism Coordinator or Emergency Preparedness specialist are some of the highest paying public health jobs. These are the professionals who coordinate and manage those programs designated to prepare public health officials to protect the residents of their communities in the event of a bioterrorist attack. High-paying public health jobs like bioterrorism coordinators establish leadership positions during public health threats and perform integrative public health system evaluations to determine current readiness.
Emergency preparedness specialists may be involved in one of a number of subspecialties in the emergency preparedness, some of which offer high paying jobs in public health and emergency preparedness. Some of the highest paying jobs in public health in emergency preparedness include careers as management analysts, upper executives, or budget managers, among others. States that offer the most job opportunities for careers in emergency preparedness include California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania.
Median Salary: $70,500
15. Industrial Hygienist
An industrial hygienist is the public health professional that is tasked with the responsibility of identifying and then implementing policies to protect employees in a variety of workplaces. As one of the high paying public health jobs, an industrial hygienist seeks to reduce employees who are exposed to the negative factors of biological, physical, and chemical stressors. Industrial hygienists with some of the highest paying public health jobs also work to improve the ergonomics of workstations to help alleviate the negative impact of sitting – the new smoking – according to health officials.
These high paying jobs in pubic health also apply their technical skills to many different work settings, regarding many different job responsibilities. Industrial hygienists are included in the occupational health and safety specialists’ category when reporting salary and data regarding this profession. The yearly median income of an industrial hygienist, one of the highest paying jobs in public health, for 2019 was $70,480. In addition, the BLS anticipates that the job growth rate for this occupation to be about 6% over the next decade, about as fast as the average of all occupations combined for the same time period.
Median Salary: $66,820-$86,720 ($76,770)
16. Professor of Public Health
Public health professionals who wish to become teachers or professors and assist in the development of the next generation’s public health leaders earn the credential to become a professor of public health. Depending on the school and the professor’s tenure, a professor of public health can easily be among the highest paying public health jobs in the field of education and public health. High paying public health jobs, like public health educators and professors, work in traditional academia, hospitals, community clinics, and trade schools, to name a few.
According to the BLS – the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for public health professors (categorized as postsecondary health specialties educators) for 2018 was $97,370, which clearly makes a postsecondary public health educator one of the highest paying jobs in public health, especially in the academic arena. The high paying jobs in public health at the top of the salary range exceed $150,000 in 2018 (90 Percentile Wage).
Median Salary: $40-$100K ($70,000)
17. Disease Ecologist
One of the most quickly expanding subspecialties in the field of ecology is that of disease ecology – a discipline that focuses on how diseases process and replicate, identifying patterns to help mitigate the devastating effects of infectious diseases, like COVID-19. As such, disease ecologists are now commanding and receiving some of the highest paying public health jobs in the global search for a COViD-19 vaccine. High paying public health jobs, like disease ecologists, began when, in the early 1900s, Sir Ronald Ross accurately described a malaria parasite’s life cycle.
Disease ecologists fall within the biochemical and biophysicists realm and generally require a minimum of a professional degree, and often, a doctoral-level degree as well. According to the BLS, biochemists, during 2019, earned a yearly median salary of $94,490, which makes this one of the highest paying jobs in public health. In addition to being high paying jobs in public health, the statisticians at the BLS anticipate the job growth rate for disease ecologists/biochemists to be 6 percent over the next ten years, about what is expected for all occupations combined in the United States.
Median Salary: $68,910
18. Public Health Nurse
A nursing professional who dedicates their career to public health and the improvement of the overall health of the population can choose to be a Registered Nurse, applying their clinical skills at the many places across the country and the world. Public health nurses working at the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention often hold some of the highest paying public health jobs as registered nurses in the country. According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 median annual salary of a Registered Nurse (RN) is $73,300, creating some high paying public health jobs for RNs.
Those with the highest paying jobs in public health with nursing degrees often hold more advanced nursing degrees like the many specialties of nurse practitioners (APRNs). These high paying jobs in public health are generally in hospitals, clinics, healthcare facilities, and doctor’s offices, among others. According to the BLS, public health nurses (i.e., nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, and nurse anesthetists, etc.) earned a median annual salary for 2019 of $115,800. APRNs, as public health practitioners, are typically required to hold a minimum of a graduate degree in a related nursing field.
Median Salary: $68,450
19. Health Promotion Program Coordinator
Public health promotion program coordinators are tasked with working with government programs to educate and promote healthy living and lifestyle choices in those communities they represent. Public health promotion program coordinators are some of the highest paying public health jobs for frontline workers. Frontline workers, like health promotion coordinators, find high paying public health jobs in local, state and federal agencies, and philanthropic organizations and charities, with similar missions to promote healthy living for all.
As some of the high paying jobs in public health for workers closer to the frontline includes jobs that require the organization of community-based education initiatives and health assessments for underserved populations. Health promotion program coordinators and health educators earn a median annual salary, according to the BLS, of $46,910. Those health promotion program coordinators with the highest paying jobs in public health earn upwards of $99,000 in the 90th percentile.
Median Salary: $67,280
20. Consumer Safety Officer
Those public health professionals who choose to work as a consumer safety officer will find that this public health career offers a variety of high paying public health jobs from which to choose. Those with the highest paying public health jobs related to consumer safety are tasked with the responsibility of following up on consumer complaints regarding products regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Many consumer safety officer positions fall under the category of compliance officers, those high paying jobs in public health that inspect for safety and health conditions, screen for security as TSA agents, inspect buildings for code compliance or inspect food products to keep the public safe from foodborne illnesses. The median annual wage for 2018 for compliance/consumer safety officers was $68,860, making these positions among the highest paying jobs in public health.
Median Salary: $66,820
21. Health Inspector
Health inspectors are among the high paying jobs in public health that works directly in the collection of data from many different work settings and environments. Some of the highest paying jobs in public health include the fieldwork health inspectors do that often include travel as part of the job. Health inspectors perform their professional duties in settings that range from offices to factories, to construction sites, among others.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, health inspectors/occupational health specialists earned a yearly median income of $74,100, which clearly makes it among the highest paying public health jobs in the health inspection subspecialty. There are more than 117,000 high paying public health jobs in this field during 2018, with a job growth rate over the next decade expected to be about 6%, equal to the average of all other combine US occupations.
Median Salary: $66,820
A pharmacoepidemiologist is a combination of two related branches of science – epidemiology and pharmacology. These specialists often hold some of the highest paying public health jobs as epidemiology specialists. These high paying public health jobs focus on how drugs can be used to improve the health of the well-defined populations. Generally speaking, epidemiologists (and advanced specialists) are required to attain a graduate degree to work as this public health care official.
According to the BLS – the federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, epidemiologists without the more advanced training required to become a pharmacoepidemiologist earned a median annual wage for 2019 of $70,990, making these positions some of the highest paying public health jobs in this specialty. Additionally, these high paying jobs in public health that focus on epidemiology are predicted to have growth rates as fast as average, at 5% over the next ten years.
Median Salary: $63,010
Dieticians and nutritionists are an important part of the public health initiative to keep the population healthy. Many of those who hold high paying public health jobs in nutrition are required to hold a baccalaureate degree, plus complete an intensive nutrition residency. These highest paying public health jobs are available in the private or government sector and includes nursing homes, schools, clinics, and hospitals, to name a few.
Nutritionists earning some of the highest paying public health jobs earn a median annual salary of $61,270, or about $30 per hour. In 2018, there were more than 70,000 nutritionists and dieticians working in the United States. It is anticipated that in addition to creating high paying jobs in public health in nutrition, the fields of dietetics & nutrition is expected to grow at 11% over the next decade – nearly twice as fast as all other occupations combined in the United States.
Median Salary: $58,920
24. Public Health Information Officer/Health Communications Specialists
Public health information officers are an important part of the community health educators across the country. They are tasked with promoting wellness throughout communities and collecting data to determine current and potential public health concerns. Most health communication specialists and public health information officers, who hold these high paying jobs in public health must hold at least a bachelor’s degree, and earn industry-specific credentials. These certifications often allow health communications specialists an opportunity to apply for the highest paying public health jobs available.
According to the federal government’s BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, community health information officers and educators earned, in 2019, a median annual wage of $46,910, making it one of the highest paying public health jobs at the community education level. The job growth rate for these high paying public health jobs is 11%, about twice the expected job growth rate of all U.S. occupations.
Median Salary: $58,020
25. Medical Investigator
A medical investigator holds a primary role in the realm of public health. These high paying public health jobs require professionals to collect evidence/data while examining crime scenes and conducting interviews. This many-faceted public health position is recognized among the highest paying public health jobs available. Some of the high paying jobs in public health that offer the highest compensation packages require medical investigators to specialize in firearms, blood splatter, or DNA collection.
According to the BLS – the Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical investigators/forensic science specialists earned a median annual salary for 2019 of $59,150. Additionally, it is noted that the statisticians at the BLS anticipate the job growth rate for medical investigators/forensic science specialists to grow at a 14% pace throughout the next decade, more than twice the average of all US occupations during the same decade.
Median Salary: $56,750
What Kinds of Jobs are Related to Public Health?
When you’re looking for professions in public health, you’ll notice that there are many options for public health jobs. Whether you want to work for the Center for Disease Control or a smaller public health facility, there are many types of jobs in public health that can suit many talents and interests.
Many types of public health jobs are in the field of research. Within public health, it’s important that professionals constantly stay on top of the latest developments in the field to allow them to understand the best ways to help the populations they serve. This can mean researching specific diseases, researching public health trends, researching health issues in certain areas, and developing new treatments that make sense for specific conditions. While doctors and nurses are a vital part of public health professionals, researchers also make up a large portion of public health professionals.
Many public health workers educate people about how to stay healthy. Nutritionists, public health educators, social workers, public health officers, and infection control educators all work to teach people how to stay healthy and safe. Other public health workers may act as healthcare administrators, working in supervisory roles of large healthcare departments to ensure that the interworkings of the public health system are providing the people they serve with the best care possible. Now, let’s learn about the education required to work in public health.
Do You Need a Public Health Degree to Work in Public Health?
While many people who are interested in helping people get healthy are searching for jobs with a public health degree, you do not necessarily need a public health degree in order to qualify for public health major jobs. That being said, having a public health degree can open you up to a wide number of possibilities in the public health field. If you’re wondering, “what can I do with a degree in public health?” you’re not alone.
Careers with a public health degree are numerous, and may include working with specific populations or working to help people who deal with certain health conditions. Public health degree jobs can include working directly to educate the public about how they can stay healthy, or it can involve working to develop public policy that improves the health of the general public.
Jobs for public health majors are numerous, and having a degree in public health can make you a more preferable candidate than someone who has health expertise but does not have a degree in public health. When you have a public health education, you know how to work in a way that educates and informs the general public. You understand the issues with current health policies, and you know the hard work that needs to be done in order to create change. Having this background knowledge can make you incredibly valuable to both public and private healthcare organizations, making you a competitive candidate during your job search.
When you’re wondering what job can you get with a public health degree, you’ll want to think about whether you want to work directly with the public, or if you’d like to work in a supervisory role. Whichever route you choose, you’ll be an asset to your company. When you’re looking for jobs you can get with public health degree, you’ll notice that your public health expertise will help you to relate to both the people affected by healthcare decisions and the people who create healthcare policies. If you’re wondering what to do with a degree in public health, know that your options are numerous. Take your time to explore different options in the public health field, and reach out to people who already have jobs you’re considering to get some insight on the day to day tasks of the career path.