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5 Government Public Health Jobs

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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 (MPH) degree. MPH graduates often work in schools, for corporations or in hospitals. But for many, government public health jobs at the federal, state or local level are especially attractive. These positions can provide the greatest opportunities to implement programs within at-risk communities at both the macro and micro levels.

Jobs in public health are available in several different government sectors, all of which are projected to continue growing, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Discover some of the career opportunities with MPH training, across a number of different disciplines and agencies.

What Is a Government Public Health Job?

A public health educator speaks with clients.

There are a number of different government agencies whose mission is to promote community wellness or to slow the spread of disease. Each of these agencies has a number of personnel, ranging from medical professionals to researchers to administrators — all of whose skills are essential to promote the best community health outcomes at the local, state or national levels. Essentially, any job within these agencies can qualify as a government public health job.

Agencies that Hire for Government Public Health Jobs

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 spearheaded the U.S. COVID-19 response with 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 NIH work include efforts in 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 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.

5 Examples of Government Public Health Jobs

Whatever the agency, these six government jobs in public health can offer promising, rewarding careers.

1. Epidemiologist

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 epidemiologists made an annual median salary of $78,830 in 2021. Job growth is expected to rise by 26% between 2021 and 2031.

2. Health Educator

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 education specialists made a median annual salary of $60,600 in 2021. Job growth is expected to be 12% between 2021 and 2031.

3. 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 demand for environmental scientists and specialists is expected to increase by 5% between 2021 and 2031. In 2021, these professionals made an annual median wage of $76,530.

4. Nurse Consultant

Those who have a background in nursing along with an active registered nurse (RN) license may seek work in nurse consultancy. In this role, nurses advise policy makers on how to develop and implement public health or infection control initiatives. Nurse consultants may also provide insight into how to raise awareness about these initiatives within the broader populace.

Data from the BLS shows RNs who worked for government agencies made a median annual salary of $85,970 in 2021. Employment for nurses is expected to grow by 6% between 2021 and 2031.

5. Public Health Analyst

Public health analysts evaluate current public health initiatives, assessing them for their efficacy and advising government agencies on how these initiatives might be improved. For those with a public health background and strong analytical thinking skills, this public government health job can be highly rewarding.

According to the compensation website Payscale, public health analysts made an annual median salary of around $70,100, as of March 2023.

Pursue a Career in Government 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 in various levels of government and offers five concentrations: biostatistics and epidemiology, community health promotion, global health, health services and policy and a generalist track.

Government jobs in public health are not only stable and consistently growing, but allow for educating the public and protecting the environment we all share.

Take your first step toward a career in public health today.