Career outlook

What can I do with a degree in public health?

A major or minor in public health prepares undergraduate students for careers in both public health practice and applied public health research. Students will learn to ask questions, challenge assumptions, and explore answers to promote the health and well-being of communities locally, nationally and globally. Being committed to improving the health and vitality of Detroit, graduates will have the ability to assess and prevent health disparities across Detroit, Michigan, and beyond.

If you are looking for diversity in courses and career opportunities, desire promoting disease prevention, and are excited to study broad topics that can affect the health and well-being of individuals, communities, populations, and the world, then an undergraduate degree in public health is an excellent option.

Transferable skills

A public health degree offers skills in:

  • Critical thinking 
  • Communication (verbal and written) 
  • Problem-solving 
  • Teamwork 
  • Statistical analysis
  • Project coordination and management
  • Program planning, implementation, administration, and evaluation

Some careers in public health

Career Median salary Market growth
Community health works $37,330  14% or higher 
Fitness and wellness coordinators $78,210 2% – 4% 
Medical and health services managers $95,540 14% or higher 
Occupational health and safety specialists $70,920 2% – 4% 
Epidemiologists $70,820 5% – 8% 
Health educators $53,070 9% – 13% 
Mental health counselors $42,840 14% or higher 

Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration
*Many of these jobs also require an advanced degree certification, but solid grounding in public health forms the basis for the job qualifications in these careers.

Graduate study

This degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

Notable people with a public health major

  • Susan Desmond-Hellmann (chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation)
  • Christy Turlington (model)
  • Dorothy Louise Slaughter (United States representative for New York's 25th congressional district)
  • Brian Kamoie (deputy assistant secretary and director, Office of Policy and Strategic Planning in the United States Department of Health and Human Services)

Major functions of public health

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Functions Project and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Public Health services should include the following: 

  • Research: for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems
  • Evidence-based approaches: using an evidence-based approach helps to define areas where research is lacking (and that evidence comes from research)
  • Assessment: identifying health problems & priorities

The ten most common functions of public health services include:

  1. Monitoring health status to identify community health problems
  2. Diagnosing and investigating health problems and health hazards in the community
  3. Informing, educating, and empowering people about health issues
  4. Mobilizing community partnerships to identify and solve health problems
  5. Developing policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts
  6. Enforcing laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety 
  7. Linking people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable
  8. Assuring a competent public health and personal health care workforce
  9. Evaluating effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services
  10. Evaluating the effectiveness of public health interventions

It is likely that students who major in public health and go on to careers in this field will be engaged in some of the above activities.

Source: Public Health Functions Project, U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services