Explore Public Health Careers

Research, health promotion, education, management and policy development are just a few of the pathways you could pursue as a public health professional.

Find out more about the broad academic areas that comprise public health at Gillings and the kinds of career paths that could be open to you.


Biostatistics involves the development and application of statistical science to human health and disease. Biostatisticians analyze data to determine the cause of illness and injury, identify health trends in communities, analyze risk factors, plan interventions, or evaluate statistical data for clinical trials. For example, you might estimate the number of deaths from gun violence, or analyze trends in cancer incidence.

Research Statistician
Analysis Programmer
Statistical SAS Programmer
Health Informatics Specialist
Statistical Writer
Local, state, and federal government
Public health departments
Government agencies
Pharmaceutical industry
Biotechnology firms
Nonprofit organizations
Colleges and universities
Research institutions
International health agencies

Environmental Sciences and Engineering

Environmental Sciences and Engineering encompasses a broad array of factors that can influence human health and environmental quality. Such areas include but are not limited to studying and managing the quality of air, water, and soil, as well as noise control, hazardous waste management, and vector control. Knowledge about the interaction between humans and the environment can lead to solutions for environmental problems through means such as policy change. For example, you may examine how environmental factors contribute to asthma, cancer, or other diseases, or advocate for policy changes to improve water quality.

Environmental Biologist
Research Entomologist
Air Quality Engineer
Research Scientist
Water Lab Supervisor
Consumer Health Director
Government agencies
Local and state health departments
Private research facilities
Environmental agencies
Consulting firms


Epidemiology is often considered the “basic science” of public health. One of the benefits of a career in epidemiology is that you can take it in so many different directions and apply it to a wide range of problems.

Some epidemiologists work in the field investigating outbreaks of disease, seeking to determine the cause and trying to control its spread. Other epidemiologists design and implement studies to understand patterns of disease in society, such as the disproportionate prevalence of diabetes or cancer in a particular segment of the population. Epidemiologists often employ knowledge and tools from other fields ranging from sociology, psychology, and statistics to cellular and molecular biology.

Public Health Epidemiologist
Senior Epidemiologist
Occupational Epidemiologist
Program Director (of academic or medical research center)
Risk Analyst
Local, state, and federal government
Public health departments
Government agencies
World Health Organization (WHO)
Private research foundations
Pharmaceutical industry
Nonprofit organizations
Department of Epidemiology
First Destinations of 2014-15 Epidemiology Graduates (PDF)
Epidemiology Career Profile (from Explorehealthcareers.com)
Epidemiologist Overview (from Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Pharmacoepidemiologist Career Pathway – Elizabeth Andrews, UNC CH AB ’75, MPH ’77, PhD ’90 (from Pfizer Guide to Careers in Public Health)

Health Behavior

This public health concentration prepares individuals for leadership positions in health education planning, management and evaluation. Health Behavior students study a wide range of models and methods for developing, implementing, and monitoring behavioral and social change interventions to improve the health of individuals, groups and entire communities. For example, you may develop an intervention to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS, promote seatbelt use, or design health communications to reach individuals at risk for colon cancer.

Mental Health Research Scientist
Program Coordinator/Manager Education
Consultant Health Educator
Outreach Coordinator
Research Evaluator
Coalition Coordinator
Public Health Advisor
Local, state, and federal government
Nonprofit organizations
Community mental health centers
Local health departments
Corporate wellness programs
Fitness facilities
Colleges and universities
Research and development firms
International health agencies

Health Policy and Management

Health Policy and Management involves the study of health care systems, including organization, quality, and demand, clinical and financial management, health care reform, health law, and policy analysis. For example, you may direct hospital services, analyze utilization patterns of healthcare, create policies for health insurance companies, or analyze the impact of Medicaid changes on quality of care.

Health Officer
Public Health Advisor
Project Specialist
Vice President for Strategic Development
Health Policy Analyst
Research Associate
Operations Administrator
Health systems
Medical groups
Home health agencies
Long-term care facilities
Mental health facilities
Health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
Academic medical centers
Public health departments
Government programs and agencies
Department of Health Policy and Management
First Destinations of 2014-15 Health Policy and Management Graduates (PDF)
Health Services Administration Profile (from Explorehealthcareers.com)
Health Care Administrative Overviewfrom Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Management Policy Advisor Career Pathway (PDF p. 29-33) Janet Porter, PhD, former Associate Dean of Executive Education at UNC CH (from Pfizer Guide to Careers in Public Health)

Maternal and Child Health

This public health field focuses on improving the health of women, children, and families in domestic and international settings through research, program planning, training, and policy development. In preparing the next generation of MCH leaders, major emphasis is placed on population-based solutions to complex health problems that are multi-factorial in origin. For example, you may collect and use data to improve programs and decision making in family planning, nutrition, and HIV/AIDS in Central and South America, Africa, and Asia. Or, reach clinicians, community members, and policy makers with resources that help pregnant and parenting smokers quit.

Project Director
Clinical/Medical Director
Program Planner/Evaluator
Health Scientist Consultant
Research Associate
Public Health Prevention Specialist
Developmental Services Coordinator
Local, state, and federal government
Nonprofit organizations
Local health departments
Colleges and universities
Research and development firms
International health agencies
Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)


Public health nutrition applies the physiological, biochemical, and behavioral aspects of nutrition to the health of human populations. For example, you may advocate for nutrition-related policy changes, manage nutrition services for a school system, conduct research for a food manufacturer or hospital researcher, or work to decrease nutrient deficiencies in high risk populations.

Worksite Wellness Specialist
Policy Assistant
Clinical/Registered Dietician
Program Coordinator
Research Associate
Government agencies
Colleges and universities
Exercise and fitness centers
Federal, state, and local government
Food manufacturers
Health-related magazines and Internet sites
Pharmaceutical companies
Weight loss clinics
Department of Nutrition
First Destinations of 2014-15 Nutrition Graduates (PDF)
Nutrition Profile (from Explorehealthcareers.com)
Nutritionist Overview (from Occupational Outlook Handbook, Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Nutitionist Career Pathway (from Pfizer Guide to Careers in Public Health)

Public Health Leadership

This area of public health focuses on the population level of health care, and seeks to build knowledge and skills related to leadership, assessment, policy development and assurance for current health care practitioners. Careers are available in a variety of public health leadership positions.

Safety & Health Specialist
Process Integration Manager
Public Health Nurse
Clinical Trials Coordinator
Environmental Health Coordinator
Director for Public Health
Public Health Educator
Bioterrorism Preparedness Specialist
Local, state, and Federal government
Nonprofit organizations
Local health departments
Government agencies
Colleges and universities
Research and development firms
International health agencies
Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Global Health

Public health professionals are often engaged in improving the health of the world’s populations through research, service, and teaching, i.e. global health. As global health is multidisciplinary, there is potential to work in the global arena in all of the above specialties.

Environmental Protection Specialist
Public Health Analyst
Public Health Advisor
Laboratory Operations Coordinator
Health Scientist
Health Education Specialist
Government agencies
Nonprofit organizations
Colleges and universities
Research and development firms
International health agencies
Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)

Gillings Global Gateway™
Global Health Profile (from Explorehealthcareers.com)
Reproductive Health Specialist Career Pathway (from Pfizer Guide to Careers in Public Health)

Additional Information

The following websites provide additional information about careers in the field of public health. For assistance with finding employment in public health, please visit Career Services.

American Public Health Association
Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health
What is Public Health?