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2021 Public Health Degree Guide

Although the medical field has made large advancements over the last century, there are still many people who lack necessary medical care. If you would like to work in a field that allows you to help others reach a state of well-being, consider majoring in Public Health.

With a degree in public health, students learn how government programs, education and awareness, communication, and funding play a role in the lack of medical services. You will take classes in biology, human physiology, nutrition, infectious diseases, health policy, and government policy to learn how to improve access to health services, decrease the spread of diseases, reduce substance abuse, and spread information to the general public about health concerns.

Some students choose to major in general Public Health, while others decide to narrow their focus to specific areas such as Environmental Health, Occupational Health and Industrial Hygiene, Community Health and Preventive Medicine, Maternal and Child Health, International Public Health, and Behavioral Aspects of Health, among others.

Rapid Growth in Public Health Degrees Awarded

#27 Most Popular Major
36.6k Degrees Awarded
6.8% Increase in Graduates

In 2018-2019, public health was the 27th most popular major nationwide with 36,569 degrees awarded. This is a difference of 2,480 over the prior year, a growth of 6.8%.

Approximately 396 colleges in the U.S. offer a public health degree of some kind. This year's Best Colleges for Public Health ranking compares 105 of them to identify the best overall programs in the country. Explore this or one of our many other custom public health rankings further below.

What Are The Requirements For a Degree in Public Health

Students who major in Public Health should have a passion for helping others. You will devote your time to trying to change government policy, improve available medical resources, and encourage the overall health of communities both within the U.S. and abroad. Strong communication and interpersonal skills will help as you work with community leaders or the general public to spread information and aid in improving healthcare.

Public Health graduates work in fulltime positions improving the health and safety of people around the world. You may work in an office or travel spreading information or raising funds. Since this is an interdisciplinary field, there are many work environments available to you.

A degree in Public Health is usually a graduate degree; however some schools do offer this as a bachelor's program. A graduate degree will provide students with more training in the field and may increase job prospects.

Getting Accepted Into a Public Health Program

New students will need to have completed high school or a GED program and each school will have their own minimum GPA and SAT/ACT test requirements. Once you obtain your degree, additional public health certifications required to pursue a career in this field.

Types of Public Health Degrees

There are many different public health degree levels. Public Health programs offered by schools range from a associate's to a professional practice doctorate, which is the highest public health degree you can get. How long it takes to complete some common public health degree levels is shown below.

Degree Credit Requirements Typical Program Length
Associate Degree 60-70 credits 2 years
Bachelor’s Degree 120 credits 4 years
Master’s Degree 50-70 credits 1-3 years
Doctorate Program required coursework including thesis or dissertation At least 4 years

A bachelor's degree is the most common level of education achieved by those in careers related to public health, with approximately 40.4% of workers getting one. Find out other typical degree levels for public health workers below.

Level of Education Percentage of Workers
Bachelor’s Degree 42.4%
Master’s Degree 27.5%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 10.9%
Doctoral Degree 9.1%
Post-Doctoral Training 5.2%

Most workers in public health have at least a bachelor's degree. See the chart below for the most common degree level workers in public health have received.


This of course varies depending on which public health career you choose.

Public Health Careers

Average Number of Jobs
$41.7k Average Starting Salary
19% Growth Job Outlook 2016-26

A degree in Public Health leads to numerous career opportunities both in the U.S. and abroad. Some graduates have gone into health communications, nutrition, health education, biostatistics, and epidemiology at organizations such as the Peace Corps, the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. You will be equipped with the skills to work with any business or organization spreading information and improving the physical, mental, and social well-being of people around the world.

High Growth Projected for Public Health Careers

Want a job when you graduate with your public health degree? Public Health careers are expected to grow 19.2% between 2016 and 2026.

The following options are some of the most in-demand careers related to public health.

Occupation Name Projected Jobs Expected Growth
Medical and Health Services Managers 424,300 20.5%
Health Specialties Professors 294,000 25.9%
Environmental Scientists and Specialists 99,400 11.1%
Occupational Health and Safety Specialists 90,500 8.1%
Community Health Workers 67,800 17.9%

Public Health Degree Salary Potential

Public Health graduates between 2015-2017 reported earning an average of $41,740 in the 2017-2018 timeframe. Earnings can range from as low as $18,900 to as high as $104,300. As you might expect, salaries for public health graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.


Highest Paid Public Health Careers

Salaries for public health graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers public health grads often go into.

Occupation Name Median Average Salary
Physicists $125,280
Health Specialties Professors $122,320
Medical and Health Services Managers $113,730
Environmental Scientists and Specialists $77,580
Epidemiologists $75,690

Getting Your Public Health Degree

With over 1,786 different public health degree programs to choose from, finding the best fit for you can be a challenge. Fortunately you have come to the right place. We have analyzed all of these schools to come up with hundreds of unbiased public health school rankings to help you with this.

Study Areas in Public Health

One of 34 majors within the Health Professions area of study, Public Health has other similar majors worth exploring.

Related Major Annual Graduates
Nursing 305,309
Allied Health & Medical Assisting Services 99,641
Practical Nursing & Nursing Assistants 93,192
Allied Health Professions 86,697
Health & Medical Administrative Services 82,868

View All Public Health Related Majors >


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