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Public Health Overview


For more information on careers in this field, see the list on the right. For salary ranges, schooling requirements and more, check out the Career Explorer.

Public health is the science and art of creating healthy communities through education, research and promotion of healthy lifestyles. In public health, the focus is on health promotion and disease/injury prevention, in contrast to the medical model of care, which focuses more heavily upon diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions after they occur.

Public health professionals analyze and develop programs that protect the health of individuals, families and communities in the United States and abroad. The United States is placing a high priority on building up the nation's public health workforce.

A career in public health opens the door to diverse opportunities in a variety of sectors such as federal, private and non-governmental organizations. Because of their "big picture" perspective, public health experts play a key role in emergency preparedness and response. This may be why public health has become such a growing field in recent years.

You can earn over 15 degrees from a school or program of public health accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), including undergraduate (2015), master's and doctoral degrees. The most common are:

  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Health Administration (MHA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Doctor of Science (ScD)

There are over 20 major fields of study. The five core disciplines are:

However, your degree may be in one of several other core public health areas. Examples are:

You can search for accredited schools of public health on the SOPHAS website. SOPHAS is the centralized online service for students applying to a CEPH-accredited school or program of public health. A list of accredited programs and schools can also be found on the CEPH website.

For more information on pursuing a career in public health, visit This Is Public Health. This is Public Health also created a video to build awareness about careers and degree programs in public health by showcasing real people who use their degrees and experience to protect and promote the health of all.

These websites also provide information on public health careers:

To help people understand just how important public health is in terms of emergency response, the University of Minnesota recently created two interactive online games, "Outbreak at Watersedge" and "Epidemic."

For more information about current issues related to public health, check out the American Journal of Public Health and Public Health Reports.

NOTE: This overview has been reviewed and approved by ASPPH.


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