Milken Institute School of Public Health
Gillings School of Global Public Health
Should I get an MPH Degree? Public health is a quickly growing career field, as there is more focus today on preventive care before diseases and illnesses arise.
If you are thinking about a new career in public health, before you get your degree, you may want to get some experience in the field first and learn what public health is all about.
But how do you get experience in public health without a degree? There actually are many opportunities out there, if you know where and how to look. Read on to learn how you can get experience in public health so that you can make a more informed career choice.
Before you start looking for opportunities, learn about public health so you seem informed when you starting making contacts in the field. Research what public health professionals do when they are on the job.
Generally, the purpose of public health is to protect and improve community health through education, encouraging healthy lifestyles, and researching about diseases and prevention of injuries.
As a public health professional, you would likely focus on preventing health problems from occurring, by implementing health education programs, developing health policies, regulating health systems and conducting health research. This is in contrast to clinical professionals – doctors and nurses – who focus on treating people after they become ill. Public health professionals also work to eliminate health disparities among all groups in society.
Now that you understand what public health is, you should consider what interests you in public health.
While it may be difficult for some to choose a specific area of public health early on, this will help you to narrow down what kind of work opportunities to look for. The public health field is complex, but generally, professionals in the field focus in these areas:
Behavioral Science/Health Education:
Now that you understand what public health is and what professionals in different parts of the field do, you can focus your efforts on trying to find public health experience. There are many possible areas that you could focus on to find volunteer work in public health. Some of the examples include those listed below. For help on finding contact information for these sorts of organizations, please keep reading. (See 140+ Public Health Internships)
- Obtain a volunteer position at a health clinic or a hospital. You might work on an immunization program, a reproductive health clinic or a program that promotes good health.
- Volunteer for a nonprofit organization that provides direct services to the public, such as a Whitman-Walker clinic, or possibly a clinic for the American Red Cross.
- Intern at a nonprofit organization that works in the area of public health advocacy.
- Volunteer at your local health department
- Try to get an internship at a federal agency of the US government in the area of public health.
- Look for opportunities in many different public service organizations, such as Peace Corps, Teach for America, Americorps, Teach for America, and Path Internship.
Use some of the contact information listed below to get in touch with different organizations that serve in the public health field. Ask them what opportunities they have for a person interested in public health to gain experience.
- American Hospitals and Health Clinics: Find contact information for hundreds of health clinics and hospitals around the world.
- National Association of Community Health Centers: Contact thousands of health centers around the US.
- World Health Organization (WHO): The global leader in public health issues offers internships from six weeks to three months in length.
- Public Health Foundation: Volunteer for this organization, which improves public health through performance management and quality improvement.
- National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics: Organization that represents 1200 free clinics around the US. They always are looking for volunteers.
- American Red Cross: Local Red Cross organizations always need volunteers to help with training, organize blood drives and also help to respond to disasters.
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Contact the CDC both for volunteer opportunities, and to locate the public health department in your area to contact for internships or volunteer opportunities.
- Teach for America: Volunteer in public health for this leading educational organization in the US.
- PATH: Volunteer for this organization, which is a nonprofit that attempts to transform global health.
- Peace Corps: Many public health volunteer positions are available in Peace Corps. Also note that Peace Corps has agreements established with various public health programs in the US. You can find it easier to be admitted into a master of public health program after your Peace Corps service.
- Children’s Defense Fund: This is a nonprofit child advocacy organization that works to lift children from a life of poverty and neglect. Volunteers for this organization can work in many centers across the country.
- Whitman-Walker Clinics: Health clinics around the US that provide low cost health services to the LGBT community.
- Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Responsible for the regulation of food, drugs, devices, animal feed and other products in the US.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA): Helps to mitigate disaster aftermath, and also aids in preparation, recovery, education and references.
- Department of Health and Human Services: Protects the health of US citizens and residents.
Another potential avenue to gain meaningful experience in public health is to contact a public health program at a university near you. Representatives of the public health program should be able to provide you with more information on how to volunteer in a public health organization or group. Some of the most well-known public health programs are at these universities:
One of the major waves of the future in education is the spread of free online courses. You can now take free classes at such websites as Coursera.org. This site currently offers some exciting, interesting courses that pertain to someone interested in public health, including:
- Community Change in Public Health at Coursera.org
- Vaccines by Paul Offit, MD at Coursera.org
- Introduction to Sustainability at Coursera.org
- An Introduction to the U.S. Food System: Perspectives from Public Health at Coursera.org
- Critical Thinking in Global Challenges by Celine Caquineau, Mayank Dutia at Coursera.org
- Community Change in Public Health by William Brieger at Coursera.org
- Contraception: Choices, Culture and Consequences, Jerusalem Makonnen, RN, MSN, FNP, at Coursera.org
See our most recent Awesome List of 160+ Online Public Health Courses
There are about 300 academic institutions that now offer a graduate degree in public health. However, the best universities and colleges that offer an MPH are ones that are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). This is the most well-known and recognized body that accredits schools of public health.
The great news for you is that there now are fully online MPH degrees that are 100% accredited by the CEPH.
By following these steps, you should be able to get a firm grasp of what public health is, what area of public health interests you, and finally, some strong leads in locating opportunities to give you public health experience. After you have spent some time working in public health, you will have a better idea if public health is the career choice for you.