Public health is a diverse and dynamic field. The field challenges its professionals to confront complex health issues, such as improving access to health care, controlling infectious disease, and reducing environmental hazards, violence, substance abuse, and injury.
Public health professionals come from varying educational backgrounds and can specialize in an array of fields. A host of specialists, including teachers, journalists, researchers, administrators, environmentalists, demographers, social workers, laboratory scientists, and attorneys, work to protect the health of the public.
Public health is a field geared toward serving others. Public health professionals serve local, national, and international communities. They are leaders who meet the many exciting challenges in protecting the public's health today and in the future.
The field of public health offers great personal fulfillment. Whereas doctors treat patients' health problems, public health workers try to 'treat,' or maintain, the health of an entire population. Seatbelt laws, flu vaccines, and fluoride in our drinking water are all achievements that fall under the auspices of public health. Public health debates are in the news every day, whether it be the latest outbreak of swine flu or the eradication of trans-fats from entire cities.
A MPH degree provides innumerable opportunities with multiple specializations within the five core disciplines in a master's of public health degree program.
- Community Practice
Exposure to the Field, Shadowing, and Volunteering
There are many options for individuals who are looking to get experience before applying to a school of public health:
- working part-time or full-time at a hospital or health clinic, such as working on an immunization program, a reproductive health clinic or a health promotion program.
- volunteering for a non-profit direct services organization such as a Whitman-Walker clinic or a local chapter of the American Red Cross.
- working at a non-profit organization that is directly involved in public health advocacy and policy.
- working or volunteering for a local health department.
- taking an internship at a U.S. federal agency via the Student Educational Employment Program.
- exploring options provided by public service organizations such as www.peacecorps.org, www.americorps.org, www.idealist.org or www.teachforamerica.org.
Some schools have programs for future students that offer opportunities to get experience before applying to graduate school, so it is advisable to also contact schools of public health directly to inquire about such programs.