To apply for a job in public health, go to the hiring agency’s website to learn about their process. Most will have an online application form; they may also ask for a resume and/or cover letter. Because all agencies have different requirements, your best bet is to learn more directly from the hiring agency.
Processes in every agency are different, but once you apply for a job, it goes through a screening process to assure that you meet a set of desired qualifications. The hiring department then reviews the applications and arranges and conducts interviews with selected candidates; this may be a multi-step process. Once a candidate is selected, and pending positive reference reviews, an offer is made. Some agencies require applicants to take an exam to establish minimum competency to perform the job.
While the overall process is similar to those in the private sector, government jobs may take longer to process due to established protocols. Be patient - the reward is great!
There are public health jobs for all backgrounds, qualifications and educational levels, depending on the requirements of the position. Some are specialized, requiring specific education (such as in accounting, social work, communications, public health, or policy development) or credentials (such as a physician, nurse, or nutritionist). There are also a host of other roles - such as a program coordinator, project manager, administrator, or community worker that do not require specialized education or training. Read job postings thoroughly to determine whether you meet the desired qualifications or have relatable experience for the position you desire.
Public health covers a wide range of territory! From making sure that the environment is clean and healthy, educating people about how to stay healthy, advocating for policies and conditions that are safe for everyone, monitoring disease rates to predict future trends, and providing medical care when there are no other providers available - these things and more are all public health! Here are some additional resources for information CDC - 10 Essential Public Health Services - CSTLTS, Ten Great Public Health Achievements -- United States, 1900-1999 (cdc.gov), This is Public Health, and Ten Great Public Health Achievements --- United States, 2001--2010 (cdc.gov).
Having a public health degree is very important for many jobs in public health, but it is not the only option! The public health field also needs communication specialists, administrative assistants, program managers, statisticians, community health workers, business analysts, environmental inspectors - this is the tip of the iceberg. See our “Roles in Public Health” page to learn more. Or check out the book, 101+ Careers in Public Health, 3rd edition, by Beth Seltzer, MD, MPH and Heather Krasna, MS, EdM.
As with any job, there are always outside factors that influence whether a job will last for a few years or a few decades. However, there will always be a need for public health workers because protecting populations from health threats is ongoing! Most agencies will be able to tell you about the status of a job that will allow you to make an informed choice about whether a particular opportunity is for you. Watch our videos of career public health professionals to learn about their personal career journeys - all in public health!
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