What are the Different Types of Public Health Employment?

Jessica Bosari

There are many different public health employment types, offering jobs to health commissioners or directors, technicians and engineers, doctors, nurses, epidemiologists, educators, and nutritionists. Public health employment is found in several settings. Among these are state and local health departments, hospitals, clinics, schools, and universities.

Nutritionists often work for state and local health departments planning supplemental nutrition programs for at-risk community groups like the homeless.
Nutritionists often work for state and local health departments planning supplemental nutrition programs for at-risk community groups like the homeless.

A health commissioner or director is a public health professional who is charged with protecting the health and safety of state or county residents. It is his or her job to institute public policies aimed at preventing and responding to disease epidemics, environmental hazards and disasters. They must also promote healthy lifestyles and work with partners in the community to ensure high quality health care is available to all. While a commissioner must be a physician to hold that title, a director only needs a masters of public health.

Public health employment is also available for sanitation technicians and engineers. Technicians work as public health inspectors to ensure compliance with public health laws. They may also investigate disease outbreaks, chemical exposures and public health emergencies. Engineers check engineering plans relative to public health safety. Technicians and engineers can find public health employment in settings like hospitals, day care centers, beaches, water treatment systems and adult care facilities.

Public health careers for doctors and nurses are most often available in hospitals and clinics. Nurses can also put their public health training to use in schools and universities. These workers interact directly with the public, giving medical advice and administering treatment. Some nurses become nurse practitioners, allowing them to administer many of the same treatments doctors do, along with prescribing patient medications.

Epidemiology is the study of disease frequency and causes in human populations. Epidemiologists work at local health departments, seeking to detect, control, and prevent outbreaks. They must investigate the causes, risks, populations at risk, and prevention options available for a given disease or outbreak.

Educators find public health employment in schools, universities and community programs. They must teach the population about improving the health of the entire community, including themselves and their families. Public health educators attempt to instill an attitude of personal responsibility for addressing health care concerns in the community.

Nutritionists often work for state and local health departments planning supplemental nutrition programs for at-risk community groups like disadvantaged children, pregnant women, infants, the homeless and the elderly. In healthier populations, nutritionists will educate the community about the importance of fitness and proper nutrition.

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Discussion Comments


@babiesX3 - I agree wholeheartedly! I would like to add that anyone looking for employment in public health should also be a people person. Meaning, you should like people and know how to interact with them.

There is nothing worse than going to the doctor feeling like crud and being "greeted" by a nurse that obviously hates her job. If you don't think you can have compassion for people despite how your day is going, then maybe you should consider a different line of work.

Don't get me wrong...the majority of nurses and public health workers are great! I just have to wonder about the few who obviously have no passion for what they do and why they chose to get into it.


I think it is worth noting that anyone involved in public health jobs must accept a great increase of personal risk of exposure. Even people who do not interact with sick patients on a daily basis run the risk of exposure if there is an epidemic or they have to investigate unsanitary conditions.

This isn't to say that no one should seek public health employment opportunities; there is certainly a great need for these types of workers. The point is that this shouldn't be a career you consider just because you need a job. It should be something you do because you have a passion for helping others and you can accept the personal risk that comes with it.

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