What are the Pros and Cons of a Career in Public Health?

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Pros and cons of a career in public health

There is no doubt that a career in public health has its rewards. You can literally change someone’s life because of your work!

Public health careers don’t all come easy, though. In some cases, you’ll need an advanced education. In others, you’ll need to work in the field for many years before you begin to earn the highest wages.

Still, having the opportunity to positively impact the lives of individuals, families, and communities makes this an attractive career path.

In the guide below, you’ll learn about some of the most important benefits of a career in public health. You’ll also learn about a few disadvantages. Let’s get started!

Pros of a Career in Public Health

There is High Income Potential

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the top ten percent of health education and community health workers make nearly $102,000 per year. A six-figure income is certainly a benefit to look forward to.

However, it should be noted that a six-figure income in this field often only comes after extensive education and experience. For example, you might need a doctorate and at least 3-5 years of work experience (or more) before a salary like this is possible.

Still, it’s a large sum of money and something you can look forward to working in public health.


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You Get to Help People with a Career in Public Health

As discussed in the introduction, one of the best features of this job is that you have the chance to positively impact the lives of many people. Whether you assist an individual in getting necessary health testing, counsel teens about healthy relationships, or develop community programs that promote healthy eating, you are doing a service that can make a significant difference in someone’s life.

It’s a Growing Field of Work

The BLS estimates that public health will experience 17 percent job growth during this decade. This is a much faster growth rate than for most jobs.

Though many public health jobs are competitive, it’s nice to know that many jobs will be open in the coming years. If you’re in college, you can graduate with confidence that you can find a job. If you work in a related field and want to move into public health, you can also be confident that jobs will be available.

It’s a Collaborative Field

Public health jobs are typically structured such that you’ll work with colleagues on various projects.

For example, you might develop a diabetes education program for a particular community in your city. To develop the program, you might work with doctors, nurses, and health education specialists.

Working as part of a team can be a major advantage. You can learn from others, develop professional connections, and devise strategies that are more likely to succeed.

You Can Pursue Many Different Careers

Public health is a very broad field with many different career opportunities.

For example, you might get an R.N. and become a public health nurse. You might choose to major in public health education and work for a non-profit health promotion program. You might specialize in health policy, children’s’ health, or grant-writing, just to name a few.

With so many career paths available, you can tailor your work experience to your specific skills and talents. You can also change careers within public health – you might begin in public health education and then move into public health research.

You Get to Work With a Variety of People

With a career in public health, you’ll work with many different people. This occurs both in terms of the colleagues you work with and your clients.

For example, if you’re a public health nurse, you might treat a child for a sprained ankle, do blood work for an elderly patient, and administer a vaccination to another patient. In between, you might examine lab results, consult with another nurse about a complicated case, or write a professional article on a public health topic.

In other words, this is an ever-changing, exciting career. No two days are ever the same!

Public Health is a Respected Field

Health-related careers often come with a certain level of respect. As a public health worker, you have expertise that most of the general population doesn’t have. With your training, knowledge, and skills, you have the power to shape a healthier today and tomorrow for people young and old alike.

Cons of a Career in Public Health

There Can Be a Heavy Emotional Toll

Working in public health, you see people suffer with illness, injury, and disease. It can be disheartening, to say the least.

In some cases, you simply won’t be able to provide assistance. For example, you might work with a hospice center to help it get funding to provide care for patients. But patients in hospice aren’t there to get better – they’re there to live their final days.

Just be prepared for the possibility that you will experience some heavy emotions working in this field.

It’s Hard Work to Build a Career in Public Health

No matter which public health specialty you focus on, you will have very difficult work ahead of you.

For example, a public health educator often has to teach children about making healthy decisions. Teaching is a very difficult job, and when you’re telling kids they should limit things like caffeine and sugar to be healthier, your advice might fall on deaf ears.

Likewise, some people simply don’t want to hear the truth about their health. It can be very challenging to help someone make better health decisions when they aren’t really invested in the process.

High Pay in Public Health Career Can Be Hard to Come By

One of the benefits of working in public health is that there is significant income potential. The key word here is potential.

While some workers make over $100,000 per year, the median yearly salary is $48,000. That’s a huge difference!

Entry-level positions in public health don’t pay well – that’s why they’re entry-level positions. But even some mid-level public health jobs don’t pay all that well, either.

As you consider which career path to take, research the expected salary. Money isn’t everything, but you also want to maximize your earning potential.

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