Learn About Careers in Public Health

Public health is a wide ranging, interdisciplinary pathway with the goals of protecting and improving the health of individuals, families, communities, and populations at local and global levels. Employers may include hospitals and clinics, direct service organizations, health departments, and public health advocacy and policy organizations. Roles will vary greatly depending on your employer, issue/population of interest and your geographic location. You do not have to be a trained clinician to have a career in public health, there are also wet and dry lab roles, and a variety of education, intervention and community based roles.

Explore More

Graduate Education in Public Health:

Any major at Wellesley can translate into a career in public health but certain skills and experiences, through courses, internships, and service opportunities will help better prepare you. For example, an extra stats course, internship or research experience involving data analysis will help prepare you for work in biostatistics or epidemiology. If you are interested in international or global health, learning a second language and having experience in community based work will be valuable.

You can begin a career in public health without an advanced degree or even a degree in public health but graduate school should be considered to maximize opportunities over your career.  Review our graduate school resources to learn about different types of degrees and suggestions on how to start thinking about finding the “right time” to continue your education.

Programs in public health are available through public and private institutions at both the master’s and doctoral levels. Some areas within the profession include behavioral and social science, clinical research, community health, environmental health, biostatistics, epidemiology, policy, global health, maternal and child health, health disparities, and more. When considering graduate education a few simple questions to start with are:

  1. Do the programs of interest have and academic or experiential prerequisites? Have I met them or do I have a plan in place?
  2. Will I learn the skills and techniques needed to advance my career?
  3. WIll I be able to connect to colleagues in my professional area(s) of interest and geographic proximity? Ex: access in a large city vs rural…?
  4. Review Applying to Graduate School for more information.

Additional Resources

  • The Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) website is a great starting point, among the many resources available is a list of currently accredited programs. You can search by location, topic, degree type.
  • The Public Health Application Service (SOPHAS) is the centralized application service for public health programs in the United States. This has the same list of programs as ASPPH but has more specific information on the application process.
  • Attend an information session or visit any one of the programs in the greater Boston area (Boston University, Harvard, Tufts, Northeastern) or search for programs by state.
    • You can sit and learn or ask any specific questions you may have.
    • Don’t be afraid to attend more than one, even the same school.
    • Our networking resource can also give you some ideas before you attend.

Getting Ready to Apply

There is not a set of prerequisite courses for graduate programs in public health, many programs may not require specific coursework. This does not mean you do not have to think ahead in preparation for applying to graduate school in Public Health. It is still important to make sure you have the skills, experience, and knowledge recommended to make a strong application. There are a number or programs that require 1-2 years or more of full time post-graduate work experience prior applying. Review the requirements and and application components carefully to be sure you are ready to apply.

Below is a simple overview of degrees in public health and their focus. The ASPPH website has a few more specifics on degree types, you will want to research individual programs for the most comprehensive information.  A few important notes to keep in mind: 1. Degrees in other academic areas can be relevant and applicable in a number of public health roles and careers. 2. Masters programs have options for a specialization or area of concentration.

Degrees focused on professional careers (not teaching or research): Master of Public Health (MPH), Master of Health Administration (MHA), Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)

Teaching and research focused: Master of Sciences (MS), Master of Health Sciences (MHS), Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), Doctor of Science (ScD)

Wellesley Alumnae have attended these graduate programs:
Columbia University- Mailman School of Public Health
Emory University- Rollins School of Public Health
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
John Hopkins University- Bloomberg School of Public Health
Oregon State - College of Public Health and Human Sciences
University of North Carolina- Gillings School of Public Health
University of California Berkeley - School of Public Health
University of Washington -  School of Public Health
Yale - School of Public Health

Internships & Employment

Internship opportunities and entry-level positions include a wide variety of institutions, roles, responsibilities, and titles. Below are examples of titles and organization that currently employee Wellesley alumnae or have done so in the past. Be sure to review the websites of the organizations below and the additional links, as well as The Hive and Handshake for potential internship opportunities.

Job Titles:
Clinical Research Associate, Community Health Specialist, Curriculum Director,  Health Economist,  Health Educator,  Health Policy Advisor, Illustrator Consultant, Patient Advocate Associate, Policy Analyst, Policy Analyst, Program Officer, Public Health Advisor, Public Health Analyst, Public Health Analyst, Public Health Consultant, Research Program Manager, Senior Director, Social Worker

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Center for Health Information and Analysis, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health, Commonwealth Medicine, County Health Services Agency, Department of Health and Human Services,  Fenway Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs (CCP), Mount Sinai Health System, National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, Planned Parenthood, PwC Advisory, RTI International.

Additional Links and External Resources

Job Boards:
Association of the Schools of Public Health Job Site
Public Health Employment Connection
Global Health Council Job Board

Additional Sites:
American Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health
This Is Public Health
Profiles in Public Health
Introduction to Public Health
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
What is Public Health? - American Public Health Association (APHA)

Boston Area & Beyond:
Abt Associates (multiple offices across the US and the world)
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Boston Medical Center
Boston Public Health Commission
Boston University School of Public Health
Fenway Health
Harvard University School of Public Health
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
Partners Healthcare
Massachusetts Health Connector

Ariadne Labs
Institute for Healthcare Improvement
MGH Disparities Solutions Center: Openings may be posted on their website but you need to apply at MGH Careers Website
The Institute for Family Health
: locations in Manhattan, the Bronx and the Mid-Hudson Valley region of New York State.
National Association of Community Health Centers