A bachelor's degree in public health can lead to a career as a health educator or healthcare social worker. Health educators work with individuals and the community to inform them about healthy living, disease prevention and other health-related issues. Healthcare social workers work with individuals coping with injury or illness. Both careers require strong communication skills, and certification or a license may also be required to enter these fields.
A bachelor's degree in public health gives students many career options after graduation. Entry-level jobs include working for the government, hospitals, public health agencies and non-profit organizations. Health educators are prepared to supply information to communities and individuals about disease prevention and healthy living. Social workers deal with people who have faced severe hardships in their life. Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are required to be successful in this field.
|Career||Health Educators||Social Workers|
|Education Requirements||Bachelor's degree||Bachelor's degree; master's degree for clinical social workers|
|Other Requirements||Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) certification requested by many employers||Licensure and/or certification required by state|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||12%||19%|
|Mean Salary (2015)*||$56,690||$54,020|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Students who get their bachelor's in public health can work in many different sectors, such as non-profit organizations and with the government. Specific job titles include health educators and social workers. Below are descriptions and overviews of two possible career options for public health majors.
Health educators provide information to individuals and communities about healthy living, disease prevention, safety, parenting, family planning and many other areas. They may work for colleges or secondary schools, state and local public health departments, nonprofits or private businesses. The programs they run range from sex education classes in high school settings to outside counseling services to hospital patients.
Health educators must have excellent communication skills to work well with individuals and groups from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. Because they are often in charge of designing and implementing new programs, health educators must be adaptable, creative and in touch with the communities they serve.
Due to the rising cost of healthcare, employers, insurance companies and governmental organizations are looking for ways to curb costs through preventative health measures. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment opportunities for health educators would grow by 12% from 2014-2024. The BLS reports that the mean annual salary for health educators is $56,690 as of May 2015.
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Social workers assist clients in overcoming emotional, situational, socioeconomic and other types of hardships. They may work with children, families, mental health patients, substance abusers or prisoners. Social workers perform a wide range of duties, which may include counseling clients, planning and implementing programming, fundraising, advocacy and administrative work.
Individuals interested in a social work career must typically pursue a graduate degree in social work to become licensed. However, a bachelor's degree in public health often qualifies individuals for entry-level social work positions, which do not require licensing, such as those with non-profit or community-based organizations.
Social workers need to be comfortable working with individuals who face severe hardships and must be able to communicate well with a diverse array of people. They should be able to work independently at on-site locations, such as clients' homes, homeless shelters, mental health organizations, schools or jails. Additionally, social works require critical thinking skills to assess the needs of clients and apply problem-solving techniques.
The BLS reports that the field of healthcare social work should see rapid job growth of 19% between 2014 and 2024, largely due to an aging baby boomer generation, who, along with their families, will seek help from social workers to locate appropriate care. As of May 2015, healthcare social workers earned a mean income of $54,020 per year, according to the BLS.
Health educators and healthcare social workers provide services related to personal and public healthcare to individuals and groups in the community. While a health educator may seek to inform individuals about how to prevent the spread of disease, a healthcare social worker may work with individuals who have a disease and are facing life changes due to illness. The BLS expects faster than average job growth in both fields when compared to all occupations, and salaries averaged in the mid-$50,000s in 2015.