Public health professionals are employed by a variety of organizations, including academia, private and nonprofit health care facilities, businesses and community-based organizations. Most careers in public health begin with a Master of Public Health degree. MPH graduates often work in schools, for corporations or in hospitals. But for many, government jobs in public health at the federal, state, or local level are especially attractive. These positions can provide the greatest opportunities to work on implementing programs within at-risk communities at both the macro and micro level.
Jobs in public health are available in several different government sectors, all of which are projected to continue growing by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Where Do Public Health Government Professionals Work?
These government agencies play a primary role in the country’s public health initiatives, education and threat response.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
As a primary federal government organization for public health, the CDC employs a wide variety of public health professionals in many different roles. Their mission is to protect against negative health outbreaks and respond to them when they occur. They also analyze public health data to make policy recommendations. The CDC has spearheaded the U.S. COVID-19 response with ongoing efforts to educate the public about stopping the spread, proper public precautions and vaccine access.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Also at the federal level, the NIH is tasked with biomedical and health-related research and falls under the umbrella of the Department of Health and Human Services. It is historically well funded by the government and resides at the forefront of medical research. Examples of their work include increasing life expectancy rates; ensuring more babies are born healthy; decreasing the fatalities associated with heart disease, diabetes and stroke; making advances in preventing and treating cancer; fighting infections; and combating drug addiction.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Established by President Nixon in 1970, the EPA was formed to protect human and environmental health by ensuring that Americans have clean land, air and water. The agency plays a pivotal role in protecting the environment with measures such as limiting automobile emissions and regulating greenhouse gas emissions. In the event of an environmental disaster such as an oil spill, the EPA works to clean and repair the damage. Those interested in government jobs in public health with an environmental focus would do well to consider the EPA.
Local and State Departments of Health
Programs, policies and research are the three primary areas of focus for public health workers at the state and local levels of government. These employees fulfill many of the duties of the CDC, but within individual communities. They also often work directly with individual citizens. Public health officials who prefer to focus on smaller communities over the long term can find significant opportunities to make lasting change at the local and state levels.
Examples of Careers in Public Health
Whatever the agency, these four government jobs in public health can offer promising, rewarding careers.
Epidemiologists work on a wide range of challenges, from bioterrorism to chronic disease, substance abuse and global pandemics. Sometimes called “disease detectives,” they collect and analyze data to track and contain public health threats and form plans to respond to them.
The BLS reports that epidemiologists made an annual median salary of $74,560 in 2020. Job growth is expected to rise by 5% between 2019 and 2029.
Health educators teach best practices for wellness and healthy living. Although some health educators work for private businesses and hospitals, many work for federal, state and local health departments. Their responsibility is to spread information about health services, programs and educational materials to local communities.
According to the BLS, health educators in the government sector made a median annual salary of $59,070 in 2020. Job growth is expected to be 11% between 2019 and 2029.
Environmental Scientist or Specialist
Maintaining a healthy environment requires constant monitoring and data collection. Environmental scientists and specialists assess the condition of the environment by testing the air, soil and water to identify contaminants, pollutants and other irregularities.
The BLS reports that demand for environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 8% through 2029. In 2020, they made an annual median wage of $73,230.
GeoHealth Data Manager
In the field of GeoHealth, public health practitioners use geographic information systems (GIS) to develop frameworks to respond to public health threats on a local, regional, national or global level. As a data manager in the geographic health sciences field, you will use specialized software to retrieve, organize and securely store large amounts of valuable data.
According to the BLS, database administrators are expected to increase by 10% between 2019 and 2029, which is much faster than average. In 2020, they made an annual median wage of $98,860.
Pursue a Career in Public Health
The online Master of Public Health at the Keck School of Medicine of USC is an innovative and rigorous program that educates professionals to become the public health leaders of tomorrow. The curriculum prepares graduates for roles within the various levels of government. The degree offers concentrations in six areas: biostatistics and epidemiology, community health promotion, global health, geohealth, health services and policy, and a generalist track.
Government jobs in public health are not only stable and consistently growing, but afford the opportunity to educate the public and protect the environment we all share. Take your first step toward a career in public health today.