Public Health Degrees

If you are interested in a career in the health care industry, but don't have a desire to do hands-on medical care, pursuing a degree in public health may be right for you. Possessing a degree in public health can provide a stepping stone into a professional career within a hospital system, health care clinic, pharmaceutical company, or within private and government medical research agencies. A degree in public health is designed to develop working professionals who are capable of providing solutions to modern health care issues like improving access to health care, controlling infectious disease, and reducing environmental hazards, violence, substance abuse, and injury.

Classes and Assignments of Public Health Majors

The types of courses you take as a public health major will vary depending on the school you attend and the degree level you select. However, you can usually expect to take classes in biology, mathematics, health services administration, health sciences, and public health, among others. Electives will be specific to the type of public health you want to pursue, but can include courses in behavioral sciences, pathology, health education, or global health.

The most common degree type for those working in public health is a master's degree. Individuals who hold a master's degree in public health are typically used to supplement a bachelor's degree in some type of health care, to gain a mastery of administration and management. Graduates should be comfortable working with numbers, understanding complex sciences, and possess a sound knowledge of the modern health care industry.

Degree Levels for Public Health Majors

  • Associate. Few online associate public health degrees exist, but some are available in both traditional and online formats. Most associate degrees in public health exist to provide an introductory education for working in health care administration. Graduates will develop skills to fulfill entry-level positions in medical billing and coding, medical record keeping, or medical transcribing.
  • Bachelor's. Online bachelors public health degrees give students an extensive background in the various skills they'll need to work in a number of health care fields. Bachelor's-level students can expect an extensive course load in biology, mathematics, physical sciences, and business administration. In addition, courses specified to the a certain niche within public health will be emphasized. These can include social work, health care administration, pathology, and economics and finance. Graduates of a bachelor's degree program may be prepared for entry-level positions as assistant health care managers, nursing home administrators, clinical managers, and health information managers. They can also go on to earn online masters public health degrees.
  • Master's. Individuals often pursue a master's in public health to add to their knowledge base in general, but also to do more in-depth study and research in one particular subfield within public health. Graduates of traditional master's programs or self paced online masters degree programs may be prepared for a wide range of careers that require public health expertise, like working in management positions with large hospital or clinic systems, or pharmaceutical companies.
  • Doctoral. A doctoral degree in public health exist in two basic forms. The first prepares individuals to pursue research in public health and apply what they have learned to improve a specific process of public health through research and dissertation. Other doctoral programs are designed to prepare individuals for teaching at the college level.

A Future as a Public Health Major

Most jobs in public health require at least a minimum of a bachelor's degree in public health or in a related discipline. Those with higher level degrees or extensive work experience can usually become department directors, or oversee smaller clinic and healthcare facilities. Salaries for public health workers vary greatly, depending on the experience, location, and roles and responsibilities of the applicant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) the average annual salary for health care administration employees earned $80,240 as of May 2008. The BLS also reported that the lowest 10% of workers in the industry earned less than $48,300, while the top 10% earned more than $137,800 in 2008.