The Need for Public Health Professionals in a Post COVID-19 World

The COVID-19 pandemic has starkly illustrated the importance of the public health field. It has also illustrated the turbulence of the job market, resulting in record 14.8 percent unemployment — the highest level recorded since 1948 — according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. Other data indicates that U.S. job listings may have declined by as much as 30 percent during the pandemic, with a staggering 200,000 business closures attributed to COVID-19 during its first year. And while the economy is beginning to show signs of revitalization, there is still a long road to recovery for the millions of workers, families, and communities who lost their jobs or businesses in 2020. 

However, not all industries have been impacted equally by COVID-19. While some, such as the restaurant and entertainment industries, have been rocked by millions of job losses, others like public health have remained surprisingly stable — in some professions or specialty areas, even growing during the pandemic. The global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company projects that the restaurant sector and others will still be financially recovering in 2024 or even 2025, compared to a 2020 or 2021 recovery timeline for the healthcare and social assistance sector: the very fastest to bounce back, according to McKinsey’s research. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) also had an optimistic outlook for the community health sector, projecting job growth of 13 percent — “much faster than average” — from 2019 to 2029. 

The available data on job growth looks promising — but is public health the right field for you? This article will try to help you answer that question. In it, we’ll talk about what to do with a master’s in public health, explore some health degrees in demand right now, and discuss the big financial question you’ve been wondering about: Is a public health degree worth it for me? 

What is a Public Health Degree, and What Does a Student Learn in This Major? 

There are several types of public health degrees, including undergraduate degrees (like a Bachelor of Science in Public Health) and, as this article will focus on, graduate degrees (like a Master of Public Health, or MPH). If you have already obtained your bachelor’s degree in public health or a related program, you may be ready to apply for a graduate program. Graduate programs attract students from a diverse range of academic backgrounds, with many students holding bachelor’s degrees in fields like nutrition, environmental science, statistics, radiological engineering, safety management, mathematics, and even journalism. 

A challenging, rigorous, fully accredited MPH program will ensure that you are prepared for an array of professions within the public health field, some of which we’ll highlight later in this article. As a graduate public health student at National University, you’ll complete core courses like Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Theories of Health Behavior, and Public Health Research Methods. Depending on your area of specialization, such as health promotion or healthcare administration, you may explore topics like Global Public Health, Public Health Informatics, Healthcare Leadership, Mental Health Promotion, or Healthcare Planning and Marketing. 

Regardless of your specialty area, you will also be challenged to fulfill a capstone requirement, along with planned internships and other professional experiences. Most importantly, you will enter the workforce equipped with the skills and training to plan, organize, research, analyze, and advocate for healthcare policies you are passionate about — all with the goal of saving and improving lives. 

Why Get a Master’s in Public Health?  

There are multiple reasons why you may wish to consider pursuing a master’s degree in public health. A master’s degree empowers you to explore a wider range of career opportunities; command higher earning potential; distinguish yourself from your peers in a burgeoning and competitive industry; and of course, follow your passion for helping to create safer, healthier communities. Let’s take a closer look at the future of the community health career market, then review some of the fascinating, fast-growing occupations that an MPH or similar degree may allow you to explore. 

State of the Public Health Job Market: Outlook for 2021 and Beyond 

To refresh your memory, the BLS anticipates 13 percent job growth in the community health industry from 2019 to 2029 — an impressive statistic, in light of the 4 percent national average. During that period, this industry is expected to add approximately 17,000 jobs, creating numerous new opportunities for professionals interested in entering or advancing in this field. Additionally, the BLS listed “medical and health services managers” on its top 20 list of the fastest growing occupations, along with “substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors.” 

Jobs You Can Get with a Master’s in Public Health: 9 Great MPH Employment Opportunities  

A bachelor’s degree in public health may help you qualify for various entry level jobs, which, as the American Public Health Association (APHA) points out, frequently contain “the words ‘assistant’ or ‘associate’ in the title.” In this type of role, your duties will likely include tasks such as “serving as a program assistant,” “working as a research assistant,” “conducting air quality sampling,” or “responding to calls at a…virus hotline,” says the APHA.

A master’s degree will enable you to advance and accelerate your career in public health, helping you qualify for more complex and challenging roles within the field. While a bachelor’s degree may be adequate to meet the minimum job requirements for roles such as clinical trial administrator or health services administrator, a master’s degree will give you more leverage to negotiate higher pay, while simultaneously helping your resume stand out from the pile. 

There are also certain occupations that may require you to hold a master’s degree in public health or related fields, including one of the fastest-growing: epidemiology, or the study of disease control and prevention. In the post-COVID era, epidemiologists are expected to be in high demand, along with public health workers in areas like clinical trial management. Computer-related positions are also expected to grow in popularity, which National University is preparing students for through its new $200K grant program exploring virtual reality in healthcare

Here are a few more examples of jobs you can pursue with a master’s degree in public health: 

  1. Clinical research coordinator 
  2. Environmental health officer
  3. Healthcare specialist 
  4. Medical director 
  5. Nutritionist
  6. Occupational health and safety manager
  7. Public health nurse
  8. Radiation safety officer 
  9. Regulatory specialist 

These are just a few health jobs in demand that may require you to have a master’s degree, depending on the employer, the requirements in your state, and other factors. But whether a graduate degree is required or simply preferred for the job of your dreams, the additional education and experience will help to give you a competitive edge so that you can reach your goals faster. 

Earn Your Master’s Degree in Public Health from an Accredited Program at National University

Data shows that individuals who hold master’s degrees earn higher salaries, on average, than holders of bachelor’s degrees. With your master’s of public health, career opportunities will become more available to you, opening new doors for your future. 

It all starts here, at National University. With fast-paced online programs, full accreditation, financial aid and scholarship options, and unique community support for servicemembers and Veterans, NU offers a flexible yet challenging environment where you can cultivate the professional skills and experience you’ll need to succeed in public health. Contact our admissions office to learn more, or start your application today. 

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