Online Public Health Bachelor's Degree

Accredited bachelor of science in public health online programs open doors to a variety of careers in the field, and prepare students to pursue advanced degrees. Prospective degree seekers should know what to expect from their bachelor's degree, and how the skills and knowledge imparted by their program translate to the professional world. The following guide discusses how learners can use a public health bachelor's degree, the careers and earning potential for which they would qualify, and the competencies they should gain in their programs.

What is Public Health?

Completing a top online public health degree substantially increases possibilities for individuals who want to make a difference in the world. "Public health" serves as an umbrella term for population and community health. Public health practitioners work with health issues affecting these groups, such as infectious diseases, chronic imbalances, and harmful viruses.

Rather than pursuing careers as clinical medical professionals, public health practitioners aim to work in prevention, education, and research. Bachelor of science in public health online degrees offer versatile plans of study, preparing students for an array of professional opportunities.

Some public health graduates may choose to focus on educating the public, pursuing roles as community health educators, directors of family health, or public health professors. Others may gravitate toward research, and decide to work as tropical disease experts, HIV specialists, vaccine researchers, or epidemiologists. Graduates who hope to change laws and rulings about public health may become legislative policy advisers, environmental health activists, and public health lawyers.

In addition to their core curriculum, some programs also allow learners to specialize their studies in areas of environmental health, international health, healthcare delivery, or human disease. Master's programs commonly offer specialization options. Online public health degrees at the bachelor's level allow individuals to pursue several entry-level roles, but many positions require a more advanced degree. Most public health roles require a master of public health (MPH), and some may mandate a doctoral degree. Even so, a bachelor's in public health provides a strong foundation for pursuing advanced study.

What Can I Do with an Online Public Health Bachelor's Degree?

Given the interdisciplinary nature of an online public health degree, some degree seekers may feel overwhelmed when deciding on a career. The following sections provide an understanding of how a public health bachelor's degree equips students with core skills and knowledge. They also highlight two popular career options, but learners should complete additional research to learn about other positions for which they may qualify.

Skills and Knowledge Gained

Completing an online public health degree instills in students a wide spectrum of competencies to prepare them for an array of careers. Since research weighs heavily in the public health discipline, students learn early on how to communicate effectively in written reports and disseminate their findings in an accessible way. Through group projects, degree seekers learn to work well in groups. This skill serves graduates well, since many public health initiatives require a team effort.

Since the public health discipline seeks to erase epidemics, illnesses, and diseases that are not fully understood, learners develop problem-solving skills to help them identify clues and missing factors that can save lives. They also learn how to work around limited budgets and other administrative challenges. Technical skills play a significant role, since many in this field rely on the latest medical devices and data analytics tools to strengthen their research.

Public health students who know where they want to work post-graduation may choose to concentrate their learning in a specific area. For instance, those aspiring to work with international groups may specialize in global health. Those who want to focus on specific populations may study women's health, minority illnesses, or neonatal diseases. Regardless of your interest area, make sure to speak with program administrators to understand how their college or university can serve your specialization of interest.

Careers and Salary Potential

As demonstrated in this guide, an accredited bachelor's degree in public health positions graduates to compete for many roles in the field. Regardless of whether you hope to interact directly with patients in a clinical position or conduct research in a more solitary environment, plenty of paths exist to meet your individual needs. Review the sample work settings and career paths below before conducting additional research or speaking with a professional in the field to learn more.

  • Hospitals: Hospitals hire public health professionals to serve as healthcare administrators, outcomes researchers, a pharmacoepidemiologist, and infection preventionists. They may have standard workday hours, or work in shifts.
  • Physicians' Offices: Physicians value public health practitioners for their ability to coordinate healthcare services, provide research, educate patients about healthy practices, and coordinate response efforts to outbreaks. They typically work standard 40-hour workweeks.
  • Nursing and Residential Care Facilities: Whether working in nursing homes, long-term care centers, or hospitals, these professionals use their degrees in positions as nurse educators, nutritionists, and care coordinators.
  • Government: Government positions for public health practitioners typically fall into research and education positions. Individuals may work for the Center for Disease Control to research new diseases, or they may work in local government clinics to teach individuals about health practices.
  • Outpatient Care Centers: Patients don't stay in these care centers overnight, so public health professionals usually work with patients in outpatient centers to teach them strong home health practices. They may educate clients about disease prevention, germ protection, or healthy eating.
Medical and Health Services Managers

Annual Median Salary: $98,350

These professionals work in hospitals, care facilities, and other medical settings to ensure the logistics of the center run smoothly. They recruit and implement training for staff, manage departmental or facility budgets, create schedules, set and meet goals, report to senior leadership, and manage organizational records.

Dietitians and Nutritionists

Annual Median Salary: $59,410

Whether working in medical facilities or owning their own practices, dieticians and nutritionists help their clients develop healthy eating habits, learn about nutrition, follow appropriate meal plans, overcome eating disorders, and live healthy lives.