Other Health Professions

Nursing - Optometry - Physician Assistant - Physical Therapy - Podiatry - Public Health

Nursing

Overview of the Profession

Nursing is a health profession which provides care to people throughout the continuum of life. Nursing is a career which allows an individual to combine his/her interest in science with his/her desire to help and care for others. Nursing is currently the nation's largest health care profession, with 2.6 million registered nurses (RNs) and a high demand for more. Nurses are the largest group of any hospital staff and are the primary providers of hospital and nursing home patient care. There are several different levels of education training within the nursing profession, making it a dynamic career option.

Practice/Specialty Areas

Nurses practice in a number of different areas including hospitals, home care, private medical practices, public health, nursing home facilities, clinics, hospice, corporations, schools, military service, managed care, occupational health and education. Nursing also offer individuals the opportunity to specialize in different care settings including ambulatory care, burn care, emergency, geriatrics, pediatrics, homecare, intensive care, maternal and child health, surgical care, psychiatric care, rehabilitation, renal care, research or school nursing.

Salary and Lifestyle

Salary rates for nurses vary by geographic region, level of education, and practice setting. But, according to the American Nurses Association, "the average staff nurse working in all settings earned $35,212. (Hospital staff nurses reported $36,618.) Administrators (6.2 percent) earned $45,071. Instructors (3.5 percent) earned $36,896. Supervisors (5 percent) earned $38,979. The average Clinical Nurse Specialist earns $41,226, Nurse Practitioners on average earn $71,000, Nurse Anesthetists: $113,000."

A nursing career offers tremendous flexibility. Nurses can work any time of day or night, full-time or part-time. Nurses have the opportunity to work 4, 8, 10 or 12 hour shifts and can work nights or weekends. These flexible shift options allow for nurses to combine raising a family or attending graduate school or pursuing other interests or activities. Additionally as a nurse you can find work in any area of the country.

Outlook for the Future

Currently there is a significant nursing shortage in this country and it is predicted to continue to grow in the future. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics more new jobs in nursing are expected to be created than in any other profession. Advances in healthcare are helping individuals to live longer and therefore the need for nursing care for elderly patients is growing. Additionally, the current nursing workforce is aging and therefore many nurses are expected to retire in the next 10-15 years. Overall, nursing is an extremely secure career choice.

Education

Registered Nursing is a knowledge-based profession. The RN license is the basic credential in the nursing field. There are three different educational paths to qualifying to sit for the RN licensure examination:
  • Diploma earned at a hospital school of nursing
  • Associate's Degree in Nursing (ADN)
  • Bachelor's Degree in Nursing (BSN)

Search for schools that provide training for this career. For an overview of the various RN programs, see the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website.

Licensure

Once an individual completes education and training in nursing, he/she will need to sit for licensure exams for Registered Nursing (RN ) and/or Advanced Practice Nursing (Nurse Practitioner - NP or Clinical Nurse Specialist - CSN or Clincial Registered Nurse Anesthetist CRNA).

Advanced Practice Nursing

Master's Level: Individuals who obtain a Master's degree in nursing are trained for advanced practice roles. Graduate education in nursing can prepare nurses for roles as Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, Nurse-Midwives, or Nurse Anesthetists.

Nurse Practitioner (NP): A nurse practitioner is an RN with advanced training and education who provides primary care to all different populations. NPs focus on holistic care. Many nurse practitioners practice independently and can order and interpret diagnostic tests and in most states can prescribe medication. Most NPs have a defined area of specialization. These specializations include:

In addition, nursing has four Advanced Practice clinical professions, each of which requires a master's degree and separate certification:

Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS): A clinical nurse specialist is an advanced practice nurse who usually splits time between clinical practice, teaching, research, consulting and management . Most CNSs also specialize in a certain clinical population including, acute care, adult, cardiovascular, community health, family, geriatric, infectious disease, neonatal, occupational health, oncology, perinatal, psychiatric, rehabilitation, school health and women's health. Clinical nurse specialists often take on a role of case manager in the healthcare setting.

Clinical Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): Nurse Anesthetist is a licensed professional nurse who provides anesthesia in many different healthcare settings. Nurse anesthetists sometimes work with an MD, but most often independently. CRNA's administer approximately 65% of the anesthetics given in the United States each year.

Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM): Certified Nurse Midwives provide well-women gynecological care and normal low-risk obstetrical care including prenatal, labor and delivery and post-partum care. Although trained to administer drugs and to perform medical procedures, those interventions are not routine for nurse-midwives, and used only when the mother requests them. Nurse midwives deliver babies both in the hospital and in the home.

Doctoral Level: Nurses can also obtain a doctoral degree in Nursing (PhD, EdD or DNS). Doctoral education prepares nurses to become leaders in the field. These nurses are often engaging in research, teaching and policy.

Admission

Each program in Nursing has different admissions processes and procedures. Please be sure to contact each school individually to learn about their criteria and procedure. See individual school websites for more detailed information. Search for schools that provide training for this career. For an overview of the various RN programs, see the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) website.

Most schools require an application, transcripts, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Additionally some programs will require scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
Prerequisites:
Most accelerated BSN and direct entry MSN programs will require a number of prerequisite courses. These courses range from school to school, but an applicant should expect to complete some basic science and social sciences in college. Many programs require Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Chemistry, Statistics and Psychology. It is imperative that you plan ahead and check with the individual schools to which you would like to apply regarding the prerequisite requirements.

Deadlines:
Once again, deadlines can vary greatly, please check with individual schools.

GRE:
The General GRE (Graduate Record Exam) is now administered via computer. Candidates may be scheduled for the Computerized GRE on almost any date.
The General GRE Test is made up of three parts, verbal quantitative and analytical. The test is designed to measure skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study.

Please consult ETS for registration and more information about the GRE.

Resources

 

Optometry

Overview of the Profession

In the words of the American Optometric Association:Optometrists are independent primary health care providers who examine, diagnose, treat, and manage diseases of the visual system, the eye and associated structures, as well as diagnose related systemic conditions.

Optometrists most commonly prescribe corrective devices including glasses and contact lenses to their patients. However they also provide preoperative and postoperative care for patients undergoing eye surgery

Practice Areas

Doctors of Optometry practice in every area of the country and may practice alone or with optometry partners or in a group practice with other health care professionals. Optometrists are employed by the military and other government services. Other ODs work in hospitals, for HMOs, at teaching institutions and clinics. Most Doctors of Optometry work in general private practice, but some specialize in working with a certain populations, including geriatrics, pediatrics or those with extremely low vision capacity. Since most optometrists are in private practice, their careers also include the challenges of running a business.

Salary and Lifestyle

According to the 2007 AOA Economic Survey, the mean income from self-employment per optometrist was $175,329.  Self-employed optometrists in individual, partnership, and group practice continue to have a larger total individual mean net income than their counterparts employed in other settings. Practitioners in midsized (three- to five-person) groups have the highest average net income at $179,205. Those in small (two-person) practices earn an average of $176,944. Individual practitioners earn an average of $134,094. Practitioners in large partnerships or groups (six or more) earn an average of $159,300. Practitioners associated with optical chains earn an average of $100,704. Doctors of Optometry enjoy a rewarding career and flexible lifestyle.

Outlook for the Future

ODs are highly valued by a population that is increasingly conscious of the benefits of good health and regular vision care. Rising personal incomes, the availability of employer-sponsored vision care benefits, and Medicare coverage for optometry services make regular eye care provided by optometrists even more desirable and affordable. There continues to be a significant need for underrepresented minorities in this profession. As a result, minority students are encouraged to consider a career in optometry and apply to the school/college(s) of their choice.

Education

Doctors of Optometry are required to complete 4 years of education at one of the 17 accredited schools of optometry. This education usually follows the completion of an undergraduate degree including certain pre-optometry prerequisites. Optometry education includes both classroom and laboratory study of health and visual sciences as well as clinical training.
 

Admission

Each college of optometry has different admissions processes and procedures. Please be sure to contact each school individually to learn about their criteria and procedures. Most schools will require an application, transcripts, a personal statement, letters of recommendation, and scores from the Optometry Admission Test (OAT). Most will also require a personal interview.
 

Prerequisites:

The required prerequisite courses vary slightly for each school of optometry. See each individual school for more detailed information.

Deadlines:
Early application is encouraged and application deadlines range from November to April.

OAT:
 

This test must be taken by all individuals seeking admission to Optometry school. The OAT is administered only two times each year (February and October). Students should plan to complete the exam either in February of their junior year or October of their senior year if they intend to enroll in Optometry school immediately following graduation. The OAT is scored on scale of 200-400. The test consists of 4 parts:

  • Survey of Natural Sciences (Biology, Chemistry, Organic Chemistry)
  • Physics
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Quantitative Reasoning

Letters:

Most schools of Optometry prefer a Committee letter, which means that Columbia students should access the Premedical Advisory Committee process. In addition, schools may also have additional requirements, for example a letter from an O.D.

Activities:

Schools of Optometry are looking for well-rounded individuals who demonstrate commitment, leadership, a disposition to serve others, and a positive work ethic. Admissions committees are also looking for students who can interact with others and appreciate diversity. Your extracurricular activities can help you demonstrate that you can manage a rigorous academic schedule with meaningful involvement on campus and in the community. The longevity and quality of your participation in certain activities is viewed as more important than the number of extracurricular activities.

Although extracurricular involvement is important, students should be careful to effectively balance this with their academics. One cannot justify poor academic performance with extensive extracurricular involvement. Admission committees may instead interpret this as poor judgment, and an inability to prioritize and manage time.
 

Experience with Optometry:

Volunteering or working with an optometrist is a valuable experience because it helps students to learn more about the field and to determine whether this is the correct career choice for them. It also demonstrates to admissions committees that students are committed to their goal and have thoroughly researched their interest.

Research:

A scientific research experience will help students to decide whether research is something that they want to be a part of your future as an optometrist. It will also give them exposure to concepts such as the scientific method and experimental process that will help them to critically analyze the research of others in their field.

Resources

 

Physician Assistant

Overview of Profession

PAs are formally trained to provide diagnostic, therapeutic, and preventive healthcare services, as delegated by a physician. Working as members of the healthcare team, they take medical histories, examine and treat patients, order and interpret laboratory tests and X-rays, make diagnoses, and prescribe medications. They also treat minor injuries by suturing, splinting, and casting. PAs record progress notes, instruct and counsel patients, and order or carry out therapy. Additionally, in most states PAs are entitled to write prescriptions. Physician assistants work closely with their supervising physicians and will refer cases that go beyond their scope of knowledge to the physician. PAs are taught to know their limits and to exercise good judgment regarding referring to the physician.

Practice Areas

Physician assistants (PAs) are found in all areas of medicine. Today, over 50 percent of all physician assistants practice in primary care areas including family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, and obstetrics and gynecology. About 19 percent are in surgery or the surgical subspecialties. PAs primarily work in hospitals, private practices and health clinics.

Salary and Lifestyle

Median annual earnings of wage-and-salary physician assistants were $74,980 in May 2006.  Income varies by specialty, practice setting, geographical location, and years of experience. Employment schedules vary according to a PA’s practice setting, and often depend on the hours of the supervising physician. The workweek of PAs in physicians’ offices may include weekends, night hours, or early morning hospital rounds and also may be include being on call. PAs employed in clinics usually work a more structured 40-hour week.

Outlook for the Future

The job outlook for physician assistants is excellent, particularly in areas or settings that have difficulty attracting physicians, such as rural and inner city clinics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of PAs is expected to grow faster than average through the year 2010. This statement is predicated on the anticipated expansion of the health services industry and the emphasis on cost containment.

Physician assistants can relieve physicians of routine duties and procedures and therefore are supported by insurance companies interested in containing costs. Besides the traditional office-based setting, PAs should find a growing number of jobs in institutional settings such as hospitals, academic medical centers, public clinics, and prisons. Additional PAs may be also be needed in order to augment medical staffing in inpatient teaching hospital settings if the number of physician residents is reduced. State-imposed legal limitations on the numbers of hours worked by physician residents are increasingly common and encourage hospitals to use PAs to supplement resident care. Undoubtedly, job opportunities will be best in states that grant PAs a wider scope of practice.

Education

PAs are trained in intensive education programs usually two years in length. All States require that new PAs have graduated from an accredited physician assistant program. In 2007, 136 education programs for physician assistants were accredited or provisionally accredited by the American Academy of Physician Assistants. More than 90 of these programs offered the option of a master’s degree, and the rest offered either a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree. Most applicants to PA educational programs already have a bachelor’s degree. However, most PA graduates have at least a bachelor’s degree. Admission requirements vary, but many programs require 2 years of college and some work experience in the healthcare field.

Physician assistants are educated in the medical model designed to complement physician training.

The PA curriculum includes classroom and laboratory instruction in biochemistry, pathology, human anatomy, physiology, microbiology, clinical pharmacology, clinical medicine, geriatric and home healthcare, disease prevention, and medical ethics. Additionally, students obtain supervised clinical training in primary care medicine, inpatient medicine, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, geriatrics, emergency medicine, psychiatry, and pediatrics.

Admission

Each physician assistant program has different admissions policies and procedures. It is important that applicants research each school individually and contact each when they need additional information. In an effort to streamline the application process for physician assistant programs, the Association of Physician Assistant Programs developed a centralized application process. Individual programs have the option of using this service or not. Currently about 2/3 of the accredited programs participate with CASPA.

CASPA Online:

CASPA offers applicants a web-based application service that will allow you to apply to any participating PA educational programs by completing a single application.
Deadline:

Early application is encouraged and application deadlines range from November through March.
Tests:

Required standardized tests vary by program. Please check with each school to identify which tests are required.
Letters:

CASPA and most programs require 3 letters of reference.

Experience:

Most physician assistant programs require students to have some health care experience. The amount and level of this experience will vary by program. Please contact individual schools for specific information:

Resources 

 

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Physical Therapy

Overview of Profession

Physical therapy (physiotherapy) is the health profession that helps restore function, improve mobility and muscle strength, relieve pain, and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease. Physical therapists (PTs) use exercise and such physical agents as heat, light, water, and massage to treat physical disabilities.

When a physical therapist meets with a patient for the first time, he/she completes a full evaluation, including examination of the patients’ medical history, testing and measurement of strength, range of motion, balance and coordination, posture, muscle performance, respiration, and motor function. The therapist will also make judgments regarding the patients’ ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after injury or illness. Next, the PT develops a treatment plan describing a strategy, purpose, and anticipated outcome of therapy. With the aid of assistants, the therapist will implement this treatment plan. Part of this implementation involves educating the patient regarding doing exercises at home in order to continue the benefit of therapy. The therapist may also talk to the patient about ergonomics to prevent further injury. Physical therapy is a rewarding career because it offers practitioners the opportunity to make a positive difference in the quality of people’s lives. Physical therapists work directly with people, both patients and other health care professionals including physicians, occupational therapists, rehabilitation nurses, dentists, psychologists, social workers, podiatrists, and speech pathologists and audiologists.

Practice Areas

Although a large number of physical therapists work in hospitals, now more than 70 percent can be found in private physical therapy offices, rehabilitation centers, community health centers, nursing homes, home health agencies, corporate or industrial health centers, sports facilities, research institutions, schools, pediatric centers, and colleges and universities. Indeed, settings, employment arrangements, career responsibilities, and career opportunities depend on the interests and skills of each practitioner.

A physical therapist often has a very diverse patient load. In a single day a PT may encounter a elderly woman with arthritis, an infant with a developmental delay, a marathon runner, an individual recovering from a stroke, a quadriplegic, or a pregnant woman. Variety is the spice of life for a physical therapist.

Salary and Lifestyle

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual earnings of physical therapists were $66,200 in May 2006.  Physical therapists enjoy a rewarding career and flexible lifestyle. It is a career that offers its practitioners the opportunity to work part-time and in private practice. In fact, about 25% of the nation’s physical therapists are employed part-time.

Outlook for the Future

Federal legislation imposing limits on reimbursement for therapy services may adversely affect the job market for physical therapists in the short term, however, over the long run; the demand for physical therapists should continue to rise faster than average, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. This growth is predicted as a result of growth in the number of individuals with disabilities, the rapid growth of the elderly population, and also the increased risk of stroke and heart attack for the baby-boom generation entering their later years. Additionally, it is projected that more young people will need physical therapy and early intervention as technological advances allow us to save more premature newborns, and trauma victims, creating an increased demand for rehabilitative therapeutic care. Finally, widespread interest in health promotion also should increase demand for physical therapy services. A growing number of employers are using physical therapists to evaluate worksites, develop exercise programs, and teach safe work habits to employees in the hope of reducing injuries.

Education

All States regulate the practice of physical therapy. Typical licensure requirements are graduation from an accredited physical therapist education program and passing scores on national and State licensure exams. Specific eligibility requirements for licensure vary by State. All States require physical therapists to pass a licensure exam before being licensed to practice. In order to be eligible for licensure an individual must have graduated from physical therapy program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Please view the directory of accredited programs.

Physical therapy programs were historically at the baccalaureate level. However in the late 1970’s the American Physical Therapy Association began to advocate for programs to move education of physical therapists from the undergraduate to the graduate level. Therefore, now most PT programs are Master’s degrees. There is, however, a new movement by the profession to encourage the physical therapist’s education to be a terminal degree (doctoral level). Therefore, recently many entry-level Doctors of Physical Therapy (DPT) have begun to emerge. In other words, students preparing for a career in Physical Therapy can either enter a Master’s or Doctoral program.

The DPT program tends to involve additional credit hours in order to address additional content areas. These content areas include, among others, differential diagnosis, pharmacology, radiology/imaging, health care management, prevention/wellness/health promotion, histology, and pathology. In addition, the final or culminating clinical education experience is typically extended beyond the average of 15 weeks (some are 1 year in length). For more information about the differences between MPT and DPT can be found here.
Physical therapy programs start with basic science courses such as biology, chemistry, and physics, and then introduce specialized courses such as biomechanics, neuro-anatomy, human growth and development, manifestations of disease, examination techniques, and therapeutic procedures. In addition to didactic and laboratory experiences students also receive clinical training and supervision.
 

Admission

Undergraduate Prerequisites:

The required prerequisite courses will vary significantly for each program of Physical Therapy. See each individual schools for more detailed information.

In general, students may expect some combination of the following undergraduate courses to be required prerequisites for admission:

Biology
Chemistry
Physics
Anatomy and Physiology
Social Science
Admission
Each program in Physical Therapy has different admissions processes and procedures. Please be sure to contact each school individually to learn about their criteria and procedure. See individual schools for more detailed information.

Most schools require an application, transcripts, a personal statement, and letters of recommendation. Additionally some programs will require scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) and/or a personal interview.

Deadline
:

Once again, deadlines can vary greatly, please check with individual schools.

GRE
:

The General GRE (Graduate Record Exam) is now administered via computer. Candidates may be scheduled for the Computerized GRE on almost any date.

The General GRE Test is made up of three parts, verbal quantitative and analytical. The test is designed to measure skills that have been acquired over a long period of time and that are not related to any specific field of study.

Please consult ETS for registration and more information about the GRE.

Letters
:

Most programs require letters of reference and some may specify who these should be written by. Please consult individual schools for criteria.

Exposure to PT:

Physical Therapy programs encourage and sometimes require applicants to obtain some experience with, or exposure to physical therapy. This exposure may be in an observational or volunteer capacity.

Activities:

Although extracurricular involvement is important to create a well-balanced undergraduate experience, be careful to effectively balance this with your academics. One cannot justify poor academic performance with extensive extracurricular involvement. Admission committees may instead interpret this as poor judgment, and an inability to prioritize and manage your time.

Resources

 

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Podiatry

Overview of Profession

The medical training and practice of podiatry focuses on medical care and conditions of the foot and ankle. Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (D.P.M) specialize in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of foot disorders resulting from injury or disease. Podiatrists play a particularly important role in sports medicine, and they're also important in diagnosing and treating people who use their feet in any kind of strenuous physical activity.

To treat these problems, podiatrists prescribe drugs, order physical therapy, set fractures, and perform surgery. They also fit corrective inserts called orthotics, design plaster casts and strappings to correct deformities, and design custom-made shoes.

Practice Areas

Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) are licensed to practice in all 50 states. They work in private or group medical practices, for health maintenance organizations, hospitals, and the military. Since podiatry is a rather small specialty, most DPMs have a general practice, but some do specialize in surgery, orthopedics or public health. Additionally, podiatrists may practice a subspecialty such as sports medicine, pediatrics, dermatology, radiology, geriatrics, or diabetic foot care.

Salary and Lifestyle

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Median annual earnings of salaried podiatrists were $108,220 in 2006. Additionally, a survey by Podiatry Management Magazine reported median net income of $114,000 in 2006. Podiatrists held about 12,000 jobs in 2006. About 24 percent of podiatrists are self-employed.

Outlook for the Future

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment outlook for podiatrists is expected to grow about as fast as the average through 2016. It is predicted that more people will turn to podiatrists for foot care as the elderly population grows. Additionally, as our population continues to lead more and more active lifestyles, it is predicted that more foot injuries will be sustained.

Medicare and most private health insurance programs cover acute medical and surgical foot services, however, routine foot care—including the removal of corns and calluses—is ordinarily not covered. Therefore, like dental services, podiatric care is more dependent on disposable income than other medical services.

Education

The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine degree is awarded after successful completion of four years of study at one of the eight colleges of podiatric medicine. The first two years of curriculum concentrate on the basic sciences (similar to allopathic and osteopathic medical school), and the third and fourth years involve clinical training. Students of podiatric medicine do clinical rotations in podiatric clinics, hospitals, and long-term care facilities. After completing medical school, the DPM is required by nearly all states to complete at least one year of postgraduate residency training in an approved healthcare facility. These residencies can either be surgical or non-surgical.

Before enrolling in a college of podiatric medicine, an individual must first complete at least three years or ninety semester hours of college credit at an accredited undergraduate institution. However, over 95% of students who pursue podiatric medicine have a baccalaureate degree.

Admissions

All six of the colleges of podiatric medicine participate in a centralized application service made available by the American Association of Colleges of Podiatric Medicine (AACPM).

Prerequisite:
 
Biology
8 semester hours
Chemistry
8 semester hours
Organic Chemistry
8 semester hours
Physics
8 semester hours
English
8 semester hours
Deadline:

AACPMAS begins processing admission applications immediately after Labor Day each September, for FALL Admission the following year. Deadline Dates are as follows: For priority consideration, April 1st of each year for the upcoming FALL admission. The FINAL APPLICATION DEADLINE DATE is now July 31st of each year for FALL admission of the same year.
Tests:

Traditionally, the MCAT has been the only standardized test accepted for admission to the colleges of podiatric medicine. However, some colleges (California College of Podiatric Medicine, Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine, and Temple University School of Podiatric Medicine) have indicated their willingness to accept the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
Letters:

Colleges of Podiatric Medicine prefer a Premedical Advisory Committee Letter of Evaluation. Some schools also require a letter from a DPM. See specific school requirements.    

Resources

 
 

Public Health

Overview of Profession

According to the Association of Schools of Public Health, public health is defined as, “the science and art of protecting and improving community health through health education, promotion, research, and disease prevention strategies.” Public health is an interdisciplinary field which includes five core areas of study: environmental health, behavioral sciences/health education, epidemiology, biostatistics, and health services administration. In addition to the core areas, there are further concentrations and specializations, including occupation safety and health, maternal and child health, dental health, public health program management and practice, preventive medicine, biomedical and laboratory practice, public health nursing, nutrition and international public health.

The responsibility and study of public health, according to ASPH, is to:
  • Monitor health status to identify community health problems,
  • Diagnose and investigate health problems and health hazards in the community,
  • Inform, educate, and empower people about health issues,
  • Mobilize community partnerships to identify and solve health problems,
  • Develop policies and plans that support individual and community health efforts,
  • Enforce laws and regulations that protect health and ensure safety,
  • Link people to needed personal health services and assure the provision of health care when otherwise unavailable,
  • Assure a competent public health and personal health care workforce,
  • Evaluate effectiveness, accessibility, and quality of personal and population-based health services, and
  • Research for new insights and innovative solutions to health problems.
You can earn over fifteen degrees from an accredited school of public health, including undergraduate, masters and doctoral degrees. The most common are: 
  • Master of Public Health (MPH)
  • Master of Health Administration (MHA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH)
  • Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
  • Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)
  • Doctor of Science (ScD)

Practice Areas

Biostatistics: This is a field which is concerned with the development and application of statistical theory and principles for the analysis of public health problems, program development, and biomedical research. The biomedical research may include analysis of disease risk factors, the effectiveness of new drugs, and other biological phenomena. Jobs are available in academia, research centers, pharmaceutical companies and other public health organizations.

Health Services Administration: This is a field of public health which examines the use, costs, quality, accessibility, delivery, organization, financing and outcomes of health care services. Its overall goal is to increase the knowledge and understanding of the structure and effects of health care administration on both the individual and society. Thanks to managed care, there are a multitude of jobs available for individuals trained in health care administration.

Behavioral and Social Science: As stated earlier, public health is an interdisciplinary field. The studies of anthropology, psychology, political science and sociology have a direct relationship to the larger study of public health. In fact, all educational programs in public health include a core course addressing the impact of the social sciences on public health. Public health professionals who are most interested in the behavioral sciences can work in the areas of mental health, gerontology, health promotion and disease prevention, health education and behavioral change and other health and social science research.

Environmental: This specialty is concerned with the physical, chemical, biological and social factors in the environment and how each may impact human health. Public health practitioners try to assess these factors so that they may eventually control and/or prevent the negative impact on health. Environmental health includes epidemiology, biostatistics, toxicology, public policy, risk assessment, risk management, risk communication and environmental law.

Epidemiology: Epidemiologists study patterns of disease and injury within populations. The goal of their research is to discover ways to control or eradicate these health problems. Epidemiology studies how heredity, social conditions, environmental conditions effect human health.

Occupational Safety and Health: This subspecialty is particularly concerned with health and safety hazards related to work environments. The focus is on prevention and control of health hazards.

Maternal & Child Health: This subspecialty focuses on the health problems affecting women, children and families

Global Health: This subspecialty focuses on identifying and solving health problems in developing countries. International public health professionals work primarily with infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, STDs and malaria.

Laboratory Practice: Public health professionals who specialize in biomedical and laboratory practice use lab techniques to diagnose and treat disease and to study the conditions that affect health status. This field encompasses a diverse array of specialists, including bacteriologists, microbiologists, and biochemists, among others.

Nutrition: This sub-specialty focuses on the interaction between nutrients and health.

Education

A public health degree provides excellent training for a number of careers. Many people who already have a degree in one of the health care fields (MDs, RNs, and others) consider a public health degree a very useful complement to their more individualized patient care training. However, because a public health program doesn't typically involve considerable emphasis on a science-based curriculum, prospective medical school applicants should not pursue a public health degree as a means to improve their medical school application credentials. All MPH students must take one course in each of the five core public health areas: Epidemiology, Biostatistics, Health Services Administration, Environmental Health and Behavioral Sciences/Health Education. Additional courses are required to complete a Master's degree.
The Association of Schools of Public Health represents the 41 Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)-accredited schools of public health.  The CEPH-accredited schools of public health are located in the United States, Puerto Rico and Mexico. The schools have combined 9,600 faculty, 22,000 students and 7,300 graduates per year.

Admissions

Entrance requirements appear flexible and vary from school to school. Generally, applicants must demonstrate proficiency in the sciences, math, and statistics, and should have taken courses in these areas. Schools tend to value (but not require) experience in the field or clinic. Many schools also require the GRE.

The Association of Schools of Public Health's Web site is comprehensive. It provides a great deal of information about individual schools and career possibilities in public health fields.

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