Global & Public Health

Photograph of clean water system

Public health addresses health concerns of communities at risk for disease and injury. The three primary tasks of public health are:

  • “assessment and monitoring of the health of communities and populations at risk to identify health problems and priorities;
  • formulating public policies, in collaboration with community and government leaders, designed to solve identified local and national health problems and priorities;
  • assuring that all populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective care, including health promotion and disease prevention services, and evaluation of the effectiveness of that care”

(from: American Society of Public Health)

Career opportunities in global and public health are diverse, and include such fields as: health services administration, biostatistics, epidemiology, health education/behavioral science, environmental health, international health, maternal and child health, nutrition, and public health practice/program management.

Finding Internships

To gain experience, test your interests, and ready yourself for the job market, use your time at school and during the summers to learn more about the field and build key skills. Keep in mind the importance of gaining regional and/or technical competence. Identify an organization whose mission you value and check their website for opportunities, or be proactive and contact them. Organizations that arrange international opportunities are also plentiful. They typically charge a fee and provide a range of services that might also include: placement with a host organization, orientation, housing, in-country support, housing assistance, and development training. Evaluate these organizations carefully to determine whether there's a good match with the opportunity—as well as with the organization—and speak with several past participants about their experiences.

Finding Jobs

These are broad career fields, and oftentimes multidisciplinary, entry-level jobs can be found in many settings. Identify organizations whose mission you value and check their websites for entry-level opportunities. Learn more about the recruiting structure of the organizations to help you plan your approach. Consider a paid post-graduate internship or fellowship, if available. Identify your interest areas and seek opportunities that will help you get experience and build skills. Foreign language ability, interpersonal skills, and cross-cultural competence are increasingly important.

Global Opportunities

Career fields in global health are inherently international. Opportunities can be found with an organization based in the U.S. that carries out their work abroad, international organization based abroad, or organization with international work in the U.S. Consider opportunities that will help you to get field and administrative experiences, based on your areas of interest. To learn more about options and opportunities, identify and attend relevant career fairs, events, and conferences. 

Graduate and Professional Programs

Degrees in public health include:

  • Master of Public Health (M.P.H.)
  • Master of Health Administration (M.H.A.)
  • Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H.)
  • Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

In general, the M.P.H., M.H.A., and Dr.P.H. degrees are oriented toward practice in public health settings, such as health departments, managed care organizations, community-based programs, hospitals, international agencies, state and federal agencies, etc. The M.S.P.H. and Ph.D. programs are oriented toward careers in academics and research.

  • Students seeking a degree in public health come from a variety of educational backgrounds. Unlike other health professional degree programs, such as medical or dental school, there are no uniform prerequisites for applying to public health schools. However it is important to research individual schools, checking to see if they require specific undergraduate coursework.
  • Some public health programs require that applicants have work experience in the public health sector before applying.
  • The majority of schools require GRE test scores, but may accept other standardized tests such as MCAT, DAT, GMAT, or LSAT. Again, this varies greatly from individual schools.
  • To find and select public health schools you should begin your search with the Association of Schools of Public Health, which lists accredited programs.
  • The centralized application service for public health schools is SOPHAS (Schools of Public Health Application Service). While most public health schools participate in SOPHAS, there are a few that do not. Be sure to research individual schools regarding their application procedures.