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The Average Salary for Public Health Careers

by Beth Greenwood

Public health focuses on the population rather than the individual, and the goals are related to disease prevention and health promotion rather than diagnosis and treatment. Public health includes careers for medical personnel, environmental health experts, epidemiologists, health educators, policy advisors, dieticians, nutritionists and laboratory personnel. With so many careers in public health, there is no average salary for the field.

Salaries by Discipline

Salaries in public health vary by discipline. The What is Public Health website reports salary ranges for some of these. In health services administration, for example, the salary range was $37,050 to $161,400. Biostatisticians earned $33,000 to $63,000 and epidemiologists earned $38,175 to $136,237. Public health employees in health education and behavioral sciences earned $33,000 to $86,625, while those who specialized in international health earned salaries ranging from $31,500 to $86,625. Salaries in public health practice-program management ranged from $41,175 to $102,000.

Epidemiology

Although infectious diseases make up the majority of an epidemiologist’s work, those in the field of public health may also investigate bioterrorism threats, chronic diseases or work in the field of substance abuse or maternal and child health, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Epidemiologists typically need a master’s degree, most commonly in public health with a concentration in epidemiology. Some have a Ph.D. or a dual degree in medicine and epidemiology. The average annual salary for epidemiologists in 2012 was $71,400, according to the BLS.

Occupational Health

Occupational health and safety specialists are inspectors who analyze work environments and procedures and design disease or injury prevention programs. In the public health field, these individuals might identify workplace hazards, collect samples of toxic or potentially toxic materials and enforce safety regulations. Occupational health and safety specialists usually need a bachelor’s degree, according to the BLS, and may also receive specialized training as well as on-the-job training. The average annual salary for this occupation in 2012 was $67,690.

Lab Services

Public health labs employ laboratory technologists and technicians, who perform specialized tests to identify genetic defects, disease or contamination by infectious organisms. Although public health labs perform many common tests, they also perform specialized tests not usually available in the average clinical lab, such as testing for bubonic plague or toxic contaminants, according to the Association of Public Health Laboratories. Lab technologists and technicians collect, prepare, analyze and report on these samples. The BLS notes lab technologists need a bachelor’s degree and earned $58,640 in 2012, while lab technicians need an associate's degree and earned $39,340.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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