International Health Careers: Job Options and Salary Info

Sep 30, 2019

Degrees in international health prepare students to work independently and in unfamiliar environments. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for international health graduates.

International health is a complex aspect of health care. Health care laws and requirements may vary greatly across national borders. Many international organizations therefore need health care experts, such as health education specialists, psychologists, and epidemiologists, who understand how to meet standards for their profession in multiple countries.

Essential Information

A degree in international health typically requires either a master's or doctoral degree. There are many job options for graduates, both in the public and private sectors. Some career options available to students include behavioral scientist, medical officer, health education specialist and epidemiologist. Private sector opportunities include ultrasound and MRI technician, which both require licenses and additional work experience following graduation.

Career Health Education Specialist Psychologist Epidemiologist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree Master's degree
Other Requirements Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification requested by many employers Licensure or certification required Certifications offered
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 10% (for all health educators) 14% 5%
Median Salary (2018)* $54,220 (for all health educators) $79,010 $69,660

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Students who get their degree in international health can do many things in the health field. Some options include being a psychologist or an epidemiologist. Below are overviews and descriptions of possible jobs for international health graduates.

Behavioral Scientists

Specializing in programs, such as HIV and AIDS research and studies surrounding regional rates of homicide, suicide, and family violence, behavioral scientists help develop programs designed to prevent disease and violent crime. They work closely with local health officials and may focus on sociology, psychology, anthropology, or the demographics of a certain region. Requirements include a Ph.D. and related experience, such as community work in research pertaining to gang violence.

Emergency Response Specialists

These health care professionals coordinate emergency preparedness and community response to disasters. They may help develop protocols for community wide emergencies, direct training programs, or provide support for local agencies concerning man-made and natural disasters. They generally work on a team and coordinate efforts with local personnel.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) offers a two-year training program in applied epidemiology for professionals with experience in medicine, statistics, behavioral science, veterinary medicine, nursing, and other related fields. These individuals focus on disease risk assessment, environmental health, occupational safety, and the social aspect of disease outbreaks.

Health Education Specialists

These specialists instruct and train ethnically diverse populations on preventative health education, such as HIV and AIDS prevention or breast cancer awareness. They may be involved in the planning, implementing, and monitoring of specific programs that promote healthy choices for adults and children in communities across the nation and overseas.

Medical Officers

A medical officer may oversee or administer preventative medicine or treat patients with acute and chronic illnesses. There are also openings for research professionals who specialize in injuries, disabilities, birth defects, and other medical fields. Physicians often work with the World Health Organization and foreign agencies to help prevent or treat disease across the globe.

Private Sector Opportunities

Jobs in international health care in the private sector include MRI and ultrasound technicians, laboratory scientists, physical and occupational therapists, nurses, health care administrators, and physicians. Candidates usually need an additional two to three years of experience beyond licensure in the United States and must have a current license in their field.

International Health Careers Salary

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide statistics specifically for the CDC, the mean annual wages of all psychologists in the federal branch, which includes behavioral scientists, were $93,950 in 2018. Medical scientists in the federal executive branch earned $128,120, while health educators in federal government averaged $102,550. Health care professionals working for the CDC also receive the benefits other government employees enjoy, including health insurance, retirement benefits, and other incentives.

In general, positions in most health care professions are expected to grow at a faster rate than the national average of all occupations. A wide range of medical professionals may potentially work internationally, especially as medical innovations such as telesurgery create more complex international relationships among medical professionals and their patients.

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