Choosing Your Path: Public Health Administration vs. Public Health Education

By Truong Le - December 1, 2021

There are many public health-related educational programs, certificates, and degrees available, so finding the one you want to pursue can be difficult. Two of these that you should know the difference between are public health administration and public health education. Classes and courses may overlap in these two programs, but they are not identical. Here’s what you should know.

What Is Public Health Administration?

Public Health Administration is an educational path and career that covers several roles including working with health systems, health organizations, hospitals, and clinics. People with this degree may manage these facilities, staff members, budgets, grants, and programs.

Overall, the job of a public health administrator is to improve the welfare of the surrounding community by helping run organizations that provide free information about health and health care options. Most public health administrators work with the government, such as with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but others work for not-for-profit groups or educational programs.

Public health administrators perform 10 essential services, namely:

  1. Monitoring the health and status of the community
  2. Educating the public about health issues
  3. Diagnosing health hazards in the community
  4. Mobilizing community partnerships
  5. Linking health services to the people who need them
  6. Providing assurance to the community
  7. Researching ideas for innovation in the health industry
  8. Evaluating the effectiveness of current programs
  9. Enforcing laws and regulations related to public health and safety
  10. Developing plans and policies to support any health efforts locally

Healthcare research and standardizing the quality of healthcare are important to people in this field. They work for the public good and may take on roles at the Department of Public Health or with a nonprofit. They may go on to explore graduate programs including those available to other kinds of healthcare workers.

What Is Public Health Education?

Public health education is different from public health administration because it is more focused on implementing strategies for health promotion and educating the public on better health measures. In this field, the priority is educating policymakers, the public, workforce professionals, and others about the public health system.

Public health education and promotion is about more than running a hospital or program. It focuses on:

  • Environmental health
  • Disease prevention
  • Health informatics
  • Global health
  • Ethics
  • Cultural considerations in health

A public health educator may be inspired or passionate in helping prevent the spread of disease or illnesses. They may be focused on helping communities better their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

What Can You Do with a Public Health Administration Degree?

There are two main career options for those in public health: Public health administration or public health practice.

Public health practice roles include clinical and hands-on roles like being a dietician, epidemiologist, public health nurse, or nutritionist.

Public health administrative positions include jobs like working with nonprofit health organizations, working in health regulations, or monitoring aspects of public health in a governmental agency.

Some specific jobs may include becoming a:

  • Health educator
  • Occupational health and safety specialist
  • Community health worker
  • Emergency management director
  • Public health policy analyst
  • Public health advisor

With a master’s degree, you may go on to work as a clinical research coordinator, health promotion specialist, or public health consultant. These are more specialized and generally require a higher level of education.

What Can You Do with a Public Health Education Degree?

The goal of public health education is either to work in education, administration, or epidemiology. Most public health professionals go into education, while public health administration graduates go on to work in epidemiology or administration.

With a public health education degree, it’s possible to take on roles that focus on helping people and communities develop educational campaigns and programs. They may work with population health, health promotion planning, and implementation. People with this degree may work as contract tracers or work as certified health education specialists. They may be focused on social justice and providing health equity to minority communities.

People with a public health education degree may go on to work in hospitals, local governments, outpatient care centers, state governments, schools, the federal government, and more.

While the basic public health education degree does not always result in a certified health education specialist credential, it is something to consider acquiring to be able to earn a higher salary.

This program is a 120-credit hour Bachelor of Science, and it is possible to go on to a master’s program for additional training in public health or administration. Other areas of training may include a certificate in medical cannabis or a certificate in health coaching.

While it is possible to get a job with solely a bachelor’s degree, many find that a master’s program that specializes in an area of focus is necessary to further their careers. A master’s can provide expertise in a specific subject area, and may include a focus on nursing, social work, psychology, or other medical fields.

How Much Do Public Health Administrators Make?

Public health administrators can have a large range of salaries based on the jobs they do. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that medical and health services managers earn an average of $104,280 per year. Occupational health and safety specialists earn an average of $70,480 annually, and emergency management directors earn an average of $74,590 annually.

Certified health education specialists earn an average of $54,101 annually, which is around $26 per hour.

How Much Do Public Health Educators Make?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states that health education specialists and community health care workers earn an average of $48,140 annually.

Which Is the Best Fit for You?

To decide which of these educational options is right for you, you should consider your goals in working with public health. If you are interested in working in a more medical, clinical capacity, then having a degree in public health administration may be a better option. If you want to educate the community, then working in public health education could be a better fit.

In terms of pay, public health administrators earn more, on average, with a bachelor’s degree compared to those in public health education. That being said, those who specialize may earn more, as will those who work in varied roles in the community.

In the future, the demand for medical and health services managers will continue to increase, so either career is going to see a positive change in open positions, making it easier for graduates to get jobs. In 2020, the projected employment of medical and health services managers was 429,800. In 2030, that will increase to an estimated 569,400 roles. That’s a 32% increase.

It’s not just this field that will increase, either. Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians will also see a 7% increase in jobs between 2020 and 2030. Emergency management directors will see a projected increase of 6%.

Both educational options require a bachelor’s degree, and both have the option of continuing through to a master’s or doctoral degree.

Contact Pacific College of Health and Science to Learn More

If you are interested in learning more about the Public Health Education program offered at Pacific College of Health and Science, visit admissions or contact us today.

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