What is Public Health Administration?

Industry Advice Public Health & Public Policy

Public health is a system that works to keep communities safe on a local, national, and international level. While events like the COVID-19 pandemic may stir up interest in established public health policies and practices among the general public, the professionals who work in this essential sector recognize that their duties extend far beyond unprecedented national crises.

Below we explore the ten essential public health services that keep our communities running, the job titles and responsibilities an administrator in this field may hold, and how you can jumpstart your career in public health administration with a graduate degree from a top university like Northeastern.

The 10 Key Public Health Services

Before examining what an administrator within the public health sector does, it’s important to first understand how the many facets of public health break down.

“There are ten essential services that define public health,” explains Allison Bauer, associate teaching professor within the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern. “Those services are sort of a framework that was originally put together by the U.S. Public Health Service.” 

Though the CDC offers a formal overview of these services, Bauer explores the key focus of each public health service below:

  1. Monitoring: Observing and tracking of health statuses, as well as the identification and solving community problems.
  2. Diagnosis: Identifying and investigating health problems and health hazards in the community.
  3. Education: Informing and empowering citizens about various health issues.
  4. Mobilization of Community Partnerships: Seeking out opportunities for collaboration and deploying teams in order to identify and solve problems. This service may otherwise be thought of as public health advocacy.
  5. Development: Constructing of policies and plans to support community health efforts.
  6. Enforcement: Executing laws and regulations that protect health and safety.
  7. Linking: Bridging the gap between people and their needed personal health services and ensuring the provision of healthcare when available.
  8. Assurance: Ensuring that each community has a competent public and personal healthcare workforce in place.
  9. Evaluation: Reviewing and analyzing the effectiveness of current programs.
  10. Research: Identifying new opportunities for innovation.

Though each of these services represents a different aspect of the public health spectrum, Bauer explains that each plays a crucial role in “managing the activities that keep communities healthy.”

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What do Public Health Administrators Do?

Public health administrators have the opportunity to get involved with any of these ten essential services. As such, aspiring professionals can tailor their careers to fit their personal interests and passions, taking on roles supporting the healthcare system across a variety of functions.

Since the jobs obtained by public health administrators vary so greatly, there are few general responsibilities that span all careers. However, Bauer identifies that most public health administrators will take on roles that require either working closely with people and communities or doing high-level analysis and research. For that reason, some of the most common skills among these professionals are collaboration, people management, and data analysis.

What are Some Common Careers For Public Health Administrators?

Careers in public health fall into two main categories: public health administration and public health practice. Roles in public health practice tend to be more hands-on and clinical, with titles ranging from public health nurse to epidemiologist to dietician or nutritionist. 

Jobs on the administrative side tend to be much broader, spanning the education, community engagement, process implementation, regulation, and monitoring aspects of public health. Professionals pursuing administrative public health roles have the chance to work within local and national governments, nonprofit organizations, and corporations, opening the door to a variety of exciting possibilities. 

Below we explore some of the top careers in public health administration:

Health Educator

Health educators are responsible for teaching positive behaviors and lifestyles and promoting wellness among communities. By 2029, these roles are expected to grow by 13 percent—a rate much faster than the national average. This growth will provide an array of exciting opportunities for aspiring public health administrators hoping to focus on the third essential service of “education.”

Community Health Worker

Community health workers help communities adopt healthy behaviors by implementing community programs that promote or improve healthy living, conducting research on current health standards, and providing support for individuals or groups with similar goals.

Occupational Health and Safety Specialist

Occupational health and safety specialists work under the ninth essential service of public health: “evaluation.” These professionals monitor workplace procedures, equipment, and working conditions to ensure employees’ safety, including identifying environmental or physical characteristics of the workspace that could negatively impact the health of workers. This is done through the monitoring and analysis of various workplaces. Individuals in this field make a competitive salary, averaging $70,480 per year.

Emergency Management Directors

Emergency management directors lead the teams that respond to and prevent crises within the community. These crises might include those directly tied to public health—such as a virus outbreak—as well as those which may not appear outwardly relevant to health. In many cases, these kinds of crises don’t directly impact public health to begin with, but can have a long-lasting impact on health and safety, such as standing water after a flood. Those at the director level are also in charge of planning and procedure implementation for future disasters. These professionals earn an average salary of $74,590 per year.

Public Health Policy Analyst

Public health policy analysts review current public health treatment policies and propose suggestions for improvement. These individuals are most often employed through the local or national government, though some may find employment in nonprofit or healthcare organizations. 

Public Health Advisors

Public health advisors can work as part of different teams, assisting with many of the essential services wherever there is a need. Alongside representing federal public health programs within a community, these professionals are often charged with acting as a liaison between government and non-government groups, advocating for the needs of the community, and assisting in the implementation of necessary processes to help fulfill those needs. 

How to Land a Role in Public Health Administration

Professionals hoping to land a role in public health administration should consider three main steps to success: 

  1. Honing their relevant skill sets
  2. Obtaining hands-on experience in the field
  3. Furthering their knowledge through advanced education

Luckily for aspiring public health administrators, universities like Northeastern have developed Master of Public Health programs that provide students with the chance to check all three boxes at once—all while earning a top-tier degree.

Students enrolled in MPH programs are exposed to the core competencies they need within the public health domain through a strategically designed curriculum, while also having the opportunity to tailor their training through elective courses. The 25 elective courses Northeastern offers include many administration-related topics, including “Project Management in Public Health,” “Health Advocacy,” “Budget Principles in Public Health,” and many more. 

When it comes to developing skill sets, Northeastern’s program sets students up for success by helping them identify and then strengthen their natural abilities. This is an important aspect of preparing for a public health career, as Bauer identifies that one of the best parts of getting involved in public health administration is that there’s a role out there for everyone. 

“You don’t have to be any one type of person to necessarily be good at public health administration,” she says. “What you will do is gravitate toward the opportunities that best suit where your personal strengths lie.”

The industry-leading faculty at Northeastern help students hone their personal strengths and fill in any gaps they have so that they will be prepared to tackle the demands of a public health administration role post-graduation.

Finally, Northeastern’s program provides unparalleled opportunities for aspiring public health administration professionals to apply these skills hands-on prior to graduation. Through research opportunities and internships, students leave Northeastern with the real-world experience they need to land an exciting career in public health administration.

Ready to kickstart your career in public health administration? Explore Northeastern’s Master of Public Health program to learn how this degree can help set you up for success in this evolving field.

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