Public health professionals directly serve the public. Every activity they participate in is to promote the overall health and welfare of society. For that reason alone, public health is one of the most rewarding fields in the world, so much that 95% of public health employees say they feel motivated to give their best to the job every day.
However, that’s not all there is to it. Job satisfaction in Public Health is estimated to be 81%, and as the demand in the field is increasing, there are lucrative salary packages offered to skilled and experienced public health workers today.
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In this article, we will discuss Public Health in detail and explore the scope of the field in India.
What is Public Health?
In the words of Charles Edward Amory Winslow, Bacteriologist and public health practitioner, Public health are “the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting human health through organized efforts and informed choices of society, organizations, public and private, communities and individuals“.
The roles and responsibilities of public health careers in India include:
Spread awareness of preventive measures like vaccinations for children and older people.
Educate the public about the health risks of tobacco and intoxicants.
Establish nutrition programs in schools.
Implement public policies.
Promote accessibility of health care to all sections of the population
Promote quality health care.
Create awareness about the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
Implement public health initiatives like planned parenthood, adherence to traffic laws, and clean air and water standards, among other public welfare programs.
Increase mental health awareness.
Conduct evaluations of health facilities, dining facilities, environmental pollution, exposure to toxic chemicals, etc, all of which are crucial in formulating public policies.
Where do Public Health Professionals Work?
There is a growing demand for skilled and experienced public health careers in India committed to working toward the public’s welfare. This is a common trend all across the globe. It is estimated that a minimum 250,000 of public professionals would be needed to fulfil the demands of the population that include: law enforcement, implementing policies for public welfare, facilitating healthcare equity, creating awareness around general public health, emerging lifestyle diseases, and working on preventing and treating them. In general, the aim is to foster community development, promote healthy living conditions, and reduce human suffering by applying scientific research to health-related problems.
Public health professionals are employed in the following government, non-profit, and private organizations:
1. Government Agencies: This includes working for both international and Indian government organizations like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to name a few.
The job description includes conducting public surveys and analysis and formulating policies based on them. It also includes working on government-funded disease-related researches. In the past, these organizations have been responsible for reducing child mortality rates, eradicate contagious diseases, and increase life expectancy in developing countries.
2. Non-profit organizations: Again, this includes both Indian and international organizations working on global initiatives to eradicate diseases most prevalent in the world population. American Red Cross, World Health Organization (WHO), Planned Parenthood, and The Allies for Health + Wellbeing, are among a few examples.
3. Education Sector: A master’s degree in public health can land you the job of a professor or lecturer in colleges. The work also requires you to conduct community-based research from time to time.
4. Health care facilities: This includes private hospitals like Apollo and Fortis, as well as public hospitals and care facilities.
There are several other research and consulting organizations, other UN organisations, and donor foundations like USAID, Gates, and ADB, that have a demand for public health professionals with a master’s degree.
Public Health Careers: Necessary Educational Qualification and Top Salaries
It’s possible to find a job in Public Health with a bachelor’s degree in Biology, Anthropology, Public Policy, Psychology, Sociology, or Medicine. Individuals with a Bachelor’s degree in Engineering, Mathematics, Business, or Education can also find decent opportunities in Public Health.
A Master’s degree, on the other hand, would open doors to a wide range of higher-level jobs in Public Health.
Public health careers in India aren’t just limited to pursuing a job in a local clinic and spreading awareness around a healthy lifestyle. There are several job opportunities that public health graduates can pursue in a diverse range of fields.
Apart from working in the healthcare industry as a Public Health Nurse, Epidemiologist, Occupational Health and Safety Professional, and Public Health Physician, you can also work as a First Responder in law enforcement, and Scientist, Researcher, or Health Educator in the education sector.
Some graduates choose a position in public policy as Public Policymakers and others who become social workers. There is also a requirement of public health professionals in the food and hospitality industry for the position of restaurant Inspectors, and nutritionists.
Here are the salary bands of some of the most prominent positions in public health
1. Medical and Public Health Social Worker (avg. base salary: ₹797k /year) – Medical and Public Health Social Worker employed at medical facilities like clinics, hospitals, nursing centres or military hospitals in cities, towns or government agencies to provide psychological support to patients suffering from chronic illnesses. Their job also includes assessing the health needs of disease-ridden individuals or families in a community. A bachelor’s degree in social work is required to enter the field, and an advanced degree can help land higher positions.
2. Public Health Education (avg. base salary: ₹300k /year) – Public Health Educators aim to spread optimal health awareness in large communities by organising health campaigns and educational programs to improve dietary habits and lifestyle choices. They work on promoting wellness and safety and devise educational policies for families and communities. They require at least a bachelor’s degree to break into the field.
3. Community Health Specialist (avg. base salary: ₹303k /year) – A Community Health Specialist’s job entails strategizing and implementing health programs for the general welfare of a community. It requires interacting with community members to analyze the health needs and medical requirements of a community to aid in developing effective health programs. A minimum of a diploma in public health is required to pursue this career.
4. Epidemiologist (avg. base salary: ₹654k /year) – Epidemiologists investigate disease outbreaks and work to contain them as well as prevent future outbreaks. It’s also their job to study the impact of these outbreaks on different communities, the scope of the outbreaks, causes, and locations affected. A minimum of a master’s degree is required to become an epidemiologist.
5. Health Care Consultant (avg. base salary: ₹1.2m /year) – Healthcare consultants work at medical institutions and health insurance organizations suggesting impactful methods to improve the healthcare industry. They work with management consultants to scrutinise the costs, operational requirements, and efficiency of medical facilities. While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement to land a consultant’s position, usually a master’s degree is preferred.
A few other rewarding jobs in Public Health are:
1. Medical Records / Health Information Technician – ₹300k /year
2. Health Inspector – ₹380k /year
3. Technical Medical Writer – ₹426k /year
4. Public Health Specialist – ₹900k /year
5. Medical Officer – ₹850k /year
Scope of Masters in Public Health in India
Pursuing a master’s degree in public health doesn’t just boost career advancement opportunities but also puts you in an impactful position to improve existing issues in the public health domain.
The coming decade is expected to be rife with opportunities for researchers, educators and social workers. Hospitals and health centres will be looking to hire talented individuals who can work in nutrition, wellness and overall health consciousness.
As per a study conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), public health is expected to see 4.6 million new opportunities by 2028, of which almost 3.4 million positions would be reserved for those in healthcare and social assistance.
There is also a huge demand for social workers having a Master’s in Public Health. By the year 2029, job opportunities here are expected to increase by 14%. Social work is considered to be one of the more effective ways to analyze public health and identify areas of improvement.
With lifestyle diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes at an all-time high, there is ample backing from the government for the education sector to pursue a master’s in public health so they can assume influential positions in private institutes and non-profit organizations. Creating awareness around health and lifestyle is the way forward for a healthier and disease-resistant India.
Pros and Cons of Pursuing a Degree in Public Health
1. Job opportunities
There are attractive salary packages for public health professionals who own a master’s degree and on-the-job experience. There is a diverse range of jobs in this sector to pursue and the salary bands differ from one position to another.
Furthermore, there is job satisfaction that is so integral to functioning proactively in the workplace. The work of public health professionals has implications on the wellness and lifestyle of millions of people around the world. Such a meaningful contribution to society and future generations is bound to leave a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction.
2. Job security
As we already mentioned above, public health is poised to witness consistent growth in the coming decade. This would be in response to the rise in chronic and lifestyle diseases around the world. Naturally, health awareness and education is the need of the hour and this would require an increase in public health professionals in all fields.
1. Extensive competition
Due to the growing demand for professionals in Public Health, it is not easy to stand out even with a master’s degree. You will be set up against graduates in Chemistry and Biology and a ton of other aspirants with relevant degrees. However, if you have role-related experience to show and relevant skills to demonstrate, you stand to gain a competitive edge. This is possible through internship programs or PG courses where you have the opportunity to pursue capstone projects.
upGrad’s 11-month Executive Post Graduate Program in Healthcare Management can be a great fit for you. It includes 6 weeks for pursuing a capstone project and 8+ Case Studies and Projects that will help you develop the desired skills for a lucrative public health position. Furthermore, with a prestigious certificate of recognition from Loyola Institute of Business Administration, and AACSB, AICTE & SAQS certifications, you have a great chance of landing a job in top companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Accenture, and American Express, to name a few.
2. Lack of clarity around public health careers
As we mentioned before, public health positions can be occupied by people from various disciplines. There’s also inconsistency in the nomenclature of public health divisions. This causes a lot of aspirants to get confused. Without proper knowledge of the kind of careers they can pursue and what they would need to study to do, it’s tough to make an informed decision.
3. Insufficient funding
Hospitals are heavily dependent on funding to keep labs running, replenish their resources, and carry out researchers. This is especially the case with public health facilities and non-government organizations where a lack of funding can cause healthcare officials to lose their jobs.
4. Expensive education
The average tuition fees per academic year when pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health is about £15,000. Most students have to give this path due to constraints in their budget.
However, there are plenty of affordable options as well that can help you occupy an influential position in public health. A PG Diploma, for instance, would only cost you £7,482. An even cheaper option is pursuing a PG certificate course which will cost you £3,741. upGrad offers both courses online in case you want to check them out.
Public Health Courses
You can take up any one of the following Public Health Courses to contribute meaningfully to the improvement of health services in India:
1. PG Certificate in Public Health (8 months)
This short course may be just what you need to kickstart your career in public health. It’s designed to expose students to global health challenges and teach them how they can assess the growing population’s healthcare needs.
2. PG Diploma in Public Health (16 months)
This course is designed to help aspiring public health candidates to acquire influential positions in the global healthcare domain. It includes a wide range of subjects which include epidemiology, diseases, population health, personality development and biostatics, to mention a few.
3. Master of Public Health (2 years)
MPH is a comprehensive course that includes all aspects of public health. From assessing global health needs to designing models for effective healthcare services, a master’s degree lays a solid foundation for you to leverage the welfare of the public. You also get the opportunity to carry out independent research as part of your dissertation. A master’s degree in public health can open many doors for you to land higher-level roles in the industry.
Pursuing any of the above courses from upGrad will earn you a one-year membership at Rollins School of public health careers in India, along with uninterrupted access to their study material, journals, webinars, and live conferences.
Challenges and opportunities in public health in India
Challenges and opportunities in public health in India are complex and multifaceted. Let’s delve deeper into each aspect
1. Inadequate Healthcare Infrastructure
India’s healthcare infrastructure remains strained, especially in rural areas. Limited access to hospitals, clinics, and medical facilities hinders timely and effective healthcare delivery. There is a shortage of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and paramedical staff, which affects the quality of care.
2. High Disease Burden
India faces a dual burden of communicable and non-communicable diseases. Infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS remain significant public health challenges. At the same time, non-communicable diseases, including diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer, are on the rise due to changing lifestyles and risk factors like sedentary habits, unhealthy diets, and tobacco use.
3. Limited Access to Healthcare
Many of India’s population, particularly those in remote and marginalized areas, struggle with accessing healthcare services. Financial constraints, lack of transportation, and inadequate health awareness are some barriers preventing people from seeking timely medical care, leading to delayed diagnoses and worsening health outcomes.
4. Malnutrition and Maternal Health
Malnutrition remains a critical issue in India, especially among children. Undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies impact child development and increase susceptibility to infections. Additionally, maternal health indicators, including maternal mortality rates, require improvement, necessitating targeted interventions to enhance maternal and child health.
5. Air Pollution and Environmental Health
India experiences severe air pollution, especially in urban centers, leading to a rise in respiratory diseases and other health issues. Contaminated water sources and inadequate sanitation facilities contribute to waterborne illnesses. Addressing environmental health challenges requires robust policies, public awareness, and implementation of sustainable practices.
1. Growing Focus on Preventive Healthcare
The increasing emphasis on preventive healthcare presents an opportunity to implement interventions that promote healthy lifestyles, early detection of diseases, and vaccination programs. Public health professionals can work on creating awareness campaigns and behavior change initiatives to encourage healthy living.
2. Digital Health Innovations
India’s rapid digital transformation provides public health careers in India to integrate technology into public health systems. Telemedicine can bridge the gap in healthcare access, especially in remote areas. At the same time, mobile health apps and health information systems can facilitate health monitoring and data collection, enabling more efficient healthcare delivery.
3. Public-Private Partnerships
Collaboration between the government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations can improve healthcare services and infrastructure. Public-private partnerships can mobilize additional resources, expertise, and innovation to enhance the reach and impact of public health programs.
4. Health Education and Behavior Change
Public health professionals can be crucial in designing and implementing health education programs to raise awareness about preventive measures, maternal and child health, nutrition, and hygiene. Behavior change communication can empower communities to adopt healthier practices.
5. Research and Data Analytics
The demand for evidence-based decision-making in public health opens opportunities for researchers and data analysts. Robust research can inform policy formulation, program evaluation, and the identification of emerging health issues, while data analytics can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of public health interventions.
6. Global Health Initiatives
Public health careers in India can be leveraged to participate in global health initiatives. Engaging with international organizations and collaborating on global health projects can foster knowledge exchange, capacity building, and collective efforts to tackle shared health challenges.
Even though every public health career in India requires role-related education and experience, the salaries offered, hours you need to put in, and other specific job nuances vary from one employer to another.
However, the field offers a chance to leave a lasting impact on the population, and work on initiatives that increase the life expectancy of people, reduce mortality rates, and promote healthy living conditions. And this keeps public health professionals motivated to give their 100% to their work.
There is ample encouragement from government organizations to promote higher education in public health, so India can benefit from the expertise and skills of public health professionals in various health care and education systems.
If you want to get an individualized learning experience and work on projects under the guidance of industry experts, then we recommend checking out upGrad wide range of healthcare courses.