9 Public Health Concentrations to Guide You in Selecting Your Path
Are you uncertain which direction your career in public health should take? Here are nine tips to help you select the perfect concentration. Public health plays an integral role in keeping families and communities healthy. It provides rural health services, immunizes children, and promotes safety on the job. Most importantly, however, public health efforts have resulted in a drop in smoking-related death rates among Americans between 1964 and 1997, as measured by the American Public Health Concentrations Association (APHA).
Public health professionals strive to promote better health in individuals and communities through a variety of approaches, such as community health and epidemiology, disaster management strategies, and policy formulation.
9 Concentrations in Public Health
Public health professionals typically specialize in one field. Health educators promote healthy living while epidemiologists monitor outbreaks. Health system managers improve healthcare delivery systems. After completing training in this field, public health professionals have many career options available to them. Public health professionals have the unique ability to bridge the gap between science and healthcare, while also contributing their skills in policy development and community outreach. When selecting a concentration for public health students, be sure to consider which areas of interest correspond with the knowledge needed for each career path. The most effective way to narrow your options is by learning about different industries and work environments. The following nine concentrations can help public health professional aspirants gain more insight into their chosen career choice.
Community health professionals build relationships with clients, connect people to healthcare providers, reduce barriers for accessing care and advocate for change within the system. They specialize in working with marginalized and underserved populations by advocating for individual rights in healthcare, helping them make connections and providing care. Some may choose to pursue advanced degrees such as medicine or social work; there are numerous career options in community health such as advisor, wellness coordinator, outreach specialist or wellness coordinator.
Featured Role: Community Health Advisor
A community health advisor is a healthcare professional whose role it is to collect and disseminate health information with people to promote wellness. They prepare reports for health educators while offering support and guidance to community members. Their duties also include informing residents about housing, food security and mental health; making sure cancer screenings and access to healthcare are easily accessed (e.g., by helping a client enroll in Medicare or Medicaid coverage).
Community health advisors typically work in a variety of workplace environments, such as colleges and universities, hospitals, nonprofit organizations, private businesses, public health agencies and non-profit groups.
- Specialties: Our community health advisors possess a vast amount of expertise in the areas of community and public healthcare, administration, as well as government services.
Disaster management is the practice of aiding communities that are facing hardship. Professionals in disaster management provide assistance to communities dealing with all manner of natural and man-made disasters, planning emergency response plans for four phases: response, recovery, mitigation measures and preparedness initiatives. There are three possible roles within disaster management: emergency management director or general/operations manager.
Emergency Management Director is the featured role. Emergency management directors create plans and procedures for communities to prepare for natural or man-made disasters, often working closely with health and public safety officials to lead response efforts in case of a natural catastrophe or other human-made catastrophe. In addition, they organize training sessions, conduct damage assessment work and coordinate federal funding requests.
- Workplace Environments Common to Emergency Management Directors: Emergency management directors typically work for local and state governments. Other possible employers could include healthcare providers, private corporations, as well as colleges and universities.
- Specialties: Emergency management directors oversee disaster planning, response operations and public administration activities.
Epidemiology is at the forefront of public health today. According to the National Institutes of Health, epidemiologists study factors that can determine whether a disease exists or not – like COVID-19. They collect data to estimate how many people are affected and then investigate its causes and patterns. A career in epidemiology could encompass subspecialties like infectious diseases, injury prevention, or environmental health as well as clinical, academic or applied roles.
Epidemiologists study diseases and their causes, while also researching patterns in their spread. They conduct public health studies and develop strategies for treatment and prevention, collecting information from various sources. Their duties also include collecting, analyzing, communicating with members of the public; coordinating health/safety plans with officials; managing public health programs.
- A typical workplace environment: Epidemiologists work in offices and labs. State and local health departments may provide employment, while federally the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and more specifically the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) serve as major employers.
- Specialties: Many epidemiologists possess a master’s degree in either epidemiology or medicine and specialize in one area such as infectious disease or health.
Health Education and Communication
Communication professionals and health education specialists are educated to promote wellness among their community and develop strategies to improve individual and community health. These roles are available for families, young adults, working professionals, public health specialists – you name it! You could specialize in either education or communication; many roles exist within these fields such as technical writer, health educator and public relations specialist.
Role: Health Education Specialist
Description The role of a health educator is to assess the needs in communities they serve and then create educational programs to address them. They provide education on potential hazards to health as well as strategies for managing existing conditions. Furthermore, health educators provide training and assist people in accessing healthcare services.
- Workplace Environments Common for Health Educators: Health educators typically work in healthcare facilities, colleges and Universities, nonprofit organizations and private companies.
- Specialties: Health educators apply their knowledge of education and healthcare to develop educational materials.
Health policy involves finding top-level solutions to health and social problems. Researchers in this field use research analysis, policy briefs and presentations to illustrate the effects of various policies across different demographics and suggest reforms. Careers in this concentration can range from healthcare consultant to political scientist or medical/health services manager.
Role Featured Role: Medical and Health Services Manager
Description Health services and medical managers coordinate healthcare provider’s business operations. They are accountable for creating organizational goals and objectives as well as ensuring regulatory adherence.
- Common Work Environments: Healthcare managers and doctors typically work in hospitals, nursing homes or other healthcare facilities.
- Specialties Include Healthcare and Administrative Managers; some roles may require clinical experience.
Health Systems Management
Health systems management oversees the administrative side of public healthcare. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, professionals in this field plan, direct, coordinate and manage medical and health services. Their responsibilities also include developing goals, handling finances and improving quality standards for clients. Aspiring nurses home managers, clinical managers or health information managers may be interested in these roles.
Nursing home administrators ensure the highest standards of care for nursing home residents. They supervise and direct the operation of the facility, hiring and training workers, creating standards and policies, adhering to federal and state regulations, managing budgets, reporting to regulators, as well as assisting clients seeking admission.
- The typical workplace environment: Administrators with this specialization typically work in retirement communities, independent living homes and nursing homes.
- Knowledge Areas: Administrators working in nursing homes need to be knowledgeable about administrative functions, elderly care and general health care.
International healthcare focuses on communities living in low-income countries, including displaced populations. Professionals working on this issue find solutions for mental health problems, violence against women and other age-related concerns. Many public health positions can be applied to an international perspective; these include emergency management director and laboratory scientist positions as well as health information manager roles.
Laboratory Scientist is the featured job.
Global health scientists engage in field and laboratory work that addresses global issues. Additionally, they conduct interviews, surveys, and other research projects. Most often, they specialize in an area such as epidemiology or virology.
- Typical workplace settings: Governmental and intergovernmental health agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as well as non-profit organizations involved in healthcare are some of the employers of health scientists.
- Specialties: Field research and clinical experience are necessary qualifications for many international laboratory scientist positions.
Maternal and Child Health
This concentration specializes in maternal-child health; providing healthcare services to mothers, babies, children, teenagers and their families. Public Health Concentrations professionals educate women on family planning and reproductive services while monitoring conditions, implementing policy changes, providing outreach services and monitoring other areas. This concentration encompasses research as well as education – some examples include administrative researcher; maternal-infant health educator; behavioral science.
Featured Role: Maternal and Child Health Educator
Description The child and maternal health educators provide counseling and education on health and nutrition topics. Additionally, they address issues like child nutrition, hygiene and prevention. Furthermore, these educators create educational programs as well as provide financial assistance to families who have limited resources.
- The typical workplace environment: Non-profit and local government health agencies, as well as state and local governments, often employ maternal or child health educators.
- Specialties: These educators possess expert knowledge in public and preventive health, as well as maternal and infant health.
Occupational health professionals evaluate workplaces and ensure employees follow safe procedures. They conduct investigations of workplaces to help employees comprehend safety protocols, whether indoors or outdoors. Examples of occupational roles in health include industrial hygiene, environmental protection officer, or ergonomist.
Role Featured: Industrial Hygienist
Industrial hygiene hygienists measure, assess and evaluate workplace health hazards to protect workers from exposure to toxic chemicals, air contaminants and other biological or physical risks. They conduct worksite assessments and recommend corrective actions for any issues they identify.
Workplace Environments That are Common: Common employers for occupational healthcare specialists include local, federal and state government agencies; construction firms; and industrial manufacturing plants.
Specialties: Industrial Hygienists usually hold a degree in physical sciences and possess expertise in environmental law.