Overview of a Bachelor’s in Public Health
Public health is a field the promotes well-being and disease prevention in the US as a whole. While a medical professional might treat one or more patients for a disease or condition, the goal of public health professionals is to prevent diseases, infections, and other types of illnesses and to use health communication techniques for health promotion of symptom-free living by identifying health issues and encouraging healthy behaviors.
The public health field involves research, gathering data on population health, analysis of findings, and community health education. Public health also involves health policy and broad steps like vaccinations of children and adults to maintain emergency preparedness and prevent the spread of communicable diseases like influenza or measles. Public health promotes education to help people stop using tobacco and end excessive use of alcohol while also taking into account various health disparities among populations. It is also tied to other health-related fields through the support of nutrition standards for school lunch programs and helping to set safety rules for occupational groups that may be exposed to health risks.
A bachelor’s in public health can provide a basis for further study or equip the graduate to enter the workforce. Students may choose a Bachelor of Science (BS in Public Health) or Bachelor of Arts (BA) public health program, which each have very similar core requirements.
A BA or BS in public health degree is a full entry-level educational achievement. The public health field is broad and includes public, non-profit, and private employers. A bachelor’s degree in nearly any field will raise one’s earnings above the level of persons with a high school education. Over the course of a lifetime, a bachelor’s can add as much as $1 million to total earnings when compared to a high school graduate. And a bachelor's in public health degree gives graduates access to a field with very high job growth according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Graduation from an accredited school and CEPH-accredited public health programs can prepare students for new occupational categories and improve promotion potential in a present occupation. A bachelor’s in public health also adds professional options such as certifications for skill areas and knowledge such as health education, emergency preparedness, health promotion, healthcare management, as a community health worker or certified health education specialist, and more. Many certifications require both education and experience in addition to passing exams.
Completing a bachelor’s in public health program is the minimum health education requirement for most public health professionals, as employers prefer this degree for entry-level positions. Employers in the technical side of public health such as medicine, epidemiology, and biostatistics prefer the Bachelor of Science public health program's curriculum and core requirements as preparation for their positions. Clinical occupations will require a Bachelor of Science in Public Health program as preparation. In a similar way, some technical public health roles need specialization and the bachelor’s degree will not qualify for these types of roles with some employers such as large organizations and critical public health infrastructure. A master’s public health program may be required for these, and students should consider a combined bachelor and master’s program, graduate study, or continuing education to qualify beyond the BA or BS in Public Health, especially if they are looking to work as a healthcare administrator.
Certificate Vs. Bachelor’s Degree
What Public Health Bachelor’s Degrees are Available?
- The Bachelor of Arts Degree:
This is a liberal arts degree, and the typical course of study includes a wide range of general education courses. Liberal arts education seeks to expand the depth of knowledge beyond the technical areas of study. The Bachelor of Arts in Public Health is an excellent degree for students that wish to enter the educational, administrative, management, or developmental type of public health service. The Bachelor of Arts in Public Health is an ideal platform for master’s or doctoral level studies and specialization at the graduate level.
- The Bachelor of Science Degree:
The typical course of study for a bachelor of science degree has more technical, scientific, and math-based course work than a comparable bachelor of arts degree. The clinical or science-based public health occupations may also pay more on average than the non-clinical. This may be attributable to chronic shortages in medically trained personnel and experts in biostatistical analysis.
- Applied Science Degrees:
Some schools offer a vocational or career type of degree. These schools typically are for-profit schools that equip graduates for specific types of work. The applied science degree in public health may focus on a certain type of public health practice, including government policy or health administration.
A bachelor’s degree program in public health is open to high school graduates and associate degree holders. The typical requirement for admission to an accredited public health degree program are high school completion, a substantial number of courses in math and science, and strong test scores on the ACT or SAT exams. Schools typically wish to have students that demonstrate some inclination and dedication to a science-based curriculum and recommendations from teachers and counselors. The field of public health is broad and expanding as the population grows; other drivers of growth include public attitudes, expanding public policy, and technical advances to increase the effectiveness of protective and preventive activities.
Completion degree programs are not for high school grads. Completion programs require two years of community college. Some programs may ask for an associate degree in a related field.
How long does it take to earn a Public Health Bachelor’s?
The usual course of study for on-campus or online study is four years or eight semesters. If a school requires an internship-type assignment, then the course of study may be longer to accommodate the external practical setting. Students may be able to accelerate the program by taking an additional course each semester and taking classes during the summer session. By doing so students can reduce the time required by one full semester.
Online students can have the greater flexibility for reducing the completion time. Some online schools grant credit for life experience and other public health experience. With remote learning, some students can add courses during the regular semesters and additional work in summer sessions to reduce the completion time by as much as one full year.
Potential Careers in Public Health with a Bachelor’s
The field of public health is broad and it consists of some large-scale participants such as the US government’s Public Health Service. The major fields within public health are also broad and extensive; they include epidemiology, biostatistics, and vaccinology. The below-listed occupations are typical of the clinical and non-clinical public health professions. Experience and advanced education can play a substantial role in salary. The below-listed ranges do not account for senior levels and extensive levels of experience.
- Epidemiologists are highly specialized professionals that investigate the causes of disease and patterns of occurrence. They work in settings like hospitals, government organizations, and research laboratories.
The average salary for epidemiologists is about: $62,400.
- Clinical Social Workers (Medical Social Workers) have specialized training that equips them to work with families, individuals, and communities that must manage illnesses. Their work can involve decisions to make interventions, and they must have skills at managing details and working with case files in collaborative environments.
The average salary for clinical social workers is about: $54,100.
- Health Educators and Community Health Workers work with hospitals, medical facilities, and wellness organizations. They provide public information, including medical, prevention, and wellness education. Some states require licenses for this and similar occupations.
The average salary for health educators and community health workers is about: $44,500.
- Medical and Health Services Managers play key roles in healthcare organizations, including hospitals, clinics, and medical care facilities. They often maintain human resource processes, manage payroll, and create critical business reports.
The average salary for Medical and Health Services Managers is about: $643,700.
- Dietitians and Nutritionists work to promote health, prevention, and wellness through the science of nutrition. They promote healthy lifestyles, and using food, nutrition, and diet to remain active and symptom-free.
The average salary for dietitians and nutritionists is about: $52,200.
Options to Advance
Students can advance by getting graduate degrees such as master’s and doctoral level degrees. They can advance through additional graduate level coursework. As undergraduate and graduate students, they can develop concentrations and expertise. Concentrations and specializations offer abundant opportunities to advance, gain promotions, and open new occupations in the field of public health. Concentrations include Global Health, Epidemiology, Infectious Diseases, and Vaccines. Some non-clinical areas include Environmental Health, Community Health Services, Health and Policy Management.
Best Bachelor of Science in Public Health Programs
On-campus education offers synchronous learning and the social and inter-relationship benefits of the college environment. Many people prefer traditional education and spend time selecting an appropriate learning environment. Accreditation is vital, and the CEPH accreditation carries the most weight in the field of public health.
University of Washington
Offering a BA or BS degree, the University of Washington has a comprehensive program for students seeking careers in the field of public health. The NWCCU accredited university has a 184 credit hour curriculum that includes a capstone project.
- BA in Global Public Health
- BS in Global Public Health
University of Pittsburgh
The Center for Global Health studies health issues that affect populations in the US and around the world. Students can add the global health certificate or concentration to any major. The BA of Philosophy in International and Area Studies prepares students for careers in public health.
- BA in Philosophy in International and Area Studies
Arizona State University - Tempe
The course of study reflects the merging of policy, legislation, and medicine. Students must study policy and technical areas to complete the degree.
- BS in Public Health
Ohio State University - Columbus
The Ohio State University, College of Public Health offers graduate and undergraduate degree programs. They also have minors in epidemiology and global public health. Students in the major programs can concentrate on Environmental Health or Public Health Sociology.
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health (BSPH)
- BSPH for Pre-Health Professions
- BSPH and MPH Combined degree program
New Brunswick, New Jersey
The Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy is an academic and research center for policy planning and public health.
- BS in Public Health
- BA/MPH in Public Health
- BS/MPH in Public Health
Traditional Schools Offering a BS in Public Health
Online degrees offer flexibility and cost savings for students. Many students that would not be able to attend on-campus programs can use online education to achieve their career goals.
Penn State University
University Park, PA - four other locations
Available entirely online, Penn State offers a bachelor of science degree in health and policy administration. Students can combine a degree in a five-year program with a master’s degree in health administration.
- BS in Health and Policy Administration
- BS/MHA Dual Degree
University of South Florida
Tampa Bay, Florida
The program prepares students for work as well as further graduate study. The scope ranges from local to international or global perspectives. Students will graduate with the skills to begin careers in public health.
- BS in Applied Science with a concentration in Public health
University of Arizona
The Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health offers CEPH program accreditation for its programs. The program offers acceleration and completion phases; students with prior credits can complete the degree in as little as two years.
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health
University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Greensboro, North Carolina
UNC Greensboro Department of Public Health offers an online Bachelor’s degree in Public Health. The program is a completion degree and students must have completed the prerequisite coursework prior to admission.
- Completion degree in Public Health students must have 60 hours completed or an Associate Degree
New York, NY
Monroe is a career-oriented, for-profit college with regional accreditation. It offers an affordable online degree in public health. The innovative program uses project-based learning to help students prepare for entry into the workforce.
- Bachelor of Science in Public Health
Healthcare Degree & Career Paths