What is public health?

by Marketing & Communications,

  • Doctor in Africa

Public health encompasses a vast number of fields — it’s the policies, prevention and access to care that impact daily life in communities around the world. 

If you care about the well-being of your city, believe in promoting healthy lifestyles and possess a passion for public service, a public health major is a good place to start. 

Job opportunities in this field abound. You can pair a public health degree with a master’s in business to work at a government agency or nonprofit, or add a law degree for a career in advocacy or public policy. Find out more about Willamette’s public health degree here.

A three-step process courtesy of Willamette’s Career Development Office can help you decide if the field is right for you. 

Self-Assess. Self awareness is a key predictor in career success. Learn more about your personality, skills, strengths, interests and values to see how they align with the impact you want to make in the world.

Research. Build off your own self-knowledge, get curious about careers that interest you and do more research. Ask your alumni office to connect you to graduates who are working in the fields you’re interested in and use LinkedIn to find additional professionals to build your network.  

Get experience. Pursue internships, research and experiential learning opportunities to help solidify your interest and build your skills. Many universities offer academic credit for internships, too. 

Of all the work you do, the most important thing is self-assessment and self-awareness — it will inform your future decision-making and help you make intentional choices about the skills and experiences you want to gain. 

Public health: Skill set and potential jobs  

  • Inquiry and analysis 
  • Ability to think on your feet 
  • Critical, creative thinking
  • Written and oral communication
  • Quantitative literacy
  • Information literacy
  • Teamwork and problem solving 
  • Civic knowledge, engagement
  • Intercultural knowledge and competence
  • Ethical reasoning and action 
  • Foundations and skills for lifelong learning
  • Leadership
  • Teamwork
  • Adaptability 

Jobs in public health: 

  • Behavioral health nurse educator
  • Industrial hygiene intern
  • Community health nurse
  • Community health analyst
  • Public health nurse
  • Nursing home administrator
  • Environmental health and safety technician
  • Adult suicide prevention specialist
  • Full time registered nurse
  • Senior economist with health care specialization
  • Epidemiology research and consulting assistant 
  • Community health worker 
  • Public health microbiologist
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