Careers

Public Health Career Path: Is Public Health a Good Career?

Wondering if public health is a good career? Saumyadripta Chaudhuri, a public health professional with over 12 years of experience, discusses everything from scope to pros & cons to daily work life in the public health career path.

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1. Public Health Career Path: What Does a Public Health Professional Do?

I am a consultant working as the Senior Technical Officer – Health Systems, in a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project. My core skills are related to Monitoring and Evaluation, Program Management, and Research & Development of new interventions and programs. In general, a public health professional is responsible for maintaining the health standard of a community. They are also accountable for checking and stopping the spread of any disease.

Contents: Jump to Section

1.1 Industry/Sector
1.2 Social Image
1.3 Reasons to Become a Public Health Professional
2.1 Personality Traits Required
2.2 Physical Demands
2.3 Psychological Demands
3.1 Extra Curricular Activities Recommended
3.2 Related Hobbies to Take Up
3.3 Related Movies/ TV Shows
3.4 Related Fiction to Read/ Novels
4.1 Part-Time Options
4.2 Traveling Required
4.3 Average Workday/What to Expect
5.1 Retirement Prospects
5.2 Threats from Automation
5.3 Common Reasons for People to Quit

1. Public Health Career Path

1.1 Industry/Sector

Public health domain.

A public health professional works towards strengthening health systems in India and providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (GOI) and state governments in rolling out health programs. Hence, the public health domain is the major sector.

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1.2 Social Image

People share a divided opinion.

The population is huge and its opinion is divided and inverse. People who are in this profession and are aware of the work ethics respect and admire the kind of work done. Whether its fieldwork or office related work, industry professionals hold a respectable opinion. Whereas the ones who are knowledgeable but not directly working in this sector either consider this profession as mediocre or think they are better.

1.3 Reasons to Become a Public Health Professional

Good salary and work-life balance.

Good salary and work/life balance are the best things about public health career path. However, they depend on the kind of project and the organization you are in, the years of experience, and professional contacts, thus, these elements are always variable. This profession does provide me a sense of satisfaction as I can contribute towards the well-being of many people, even if indirectly. Also, I get to travel a lot and be in the field and understand the reality at the ground level.

2. What it Takes to Be a Public Health Professional

Speaking of the public health job description, one has to be very active and willing to explore new locations, people, and cuisines. Going out for work at odd hours becomes a regular thing for such professionals.

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2.1 Personality Traits Required

Before going down the lane of a public health career path, you should take note of a few personality traits that can be beneficial. To make it in the public health career in India you should:
1. Be ready to travel a lot and work during odd hours and days.
2. Have good communication skills, both oral and written.
3. Be comfortable with numbers, analysis, research, etc.
4. Be very patient while working with a variety of stakeholders including your peers and colleagues.
5. Possess good debating skills and be able to debate a lot, but only with facts.
6. Love socializing
7. Read and be able to memorize a lot of details and be observant of tiny details.
8. Be ready to read up a lot on clinical medicine as and when required (unless you are an MBBS doctor).
9. Ready to face criticism despite all your hard work.

2.2 Physical Demands

Odd working hours, and a lot of travel.

When it comes to physical demands, one should prepare themselves to travel. If you already have a niche for travelling then the job would be fun! One should also be prepared to work during odd hours in case of an emergency.

2.3 Psychological Demands

Not necessarily.

As far as the psychological demands are concerned, it depends on the nature of one’s project and place of work. Usually, it’s never that demanding unless your project director or the ministry is after your life to give deliverables.

3. How to Build Interest in a Career in Public Health

Becoming a public health professional requires a lot of hard work and perseverance. But here’s how you can add some fun to it! Here is some info about the different books and movies that you can check out to have a better understanding of the job role and the lifestyle.

3.1 Extra-Curricular Activities Recommended

Reading, writing, debates/extempore.

As a public health professional, one has to be constantly up for debates and come up with reasons to prove their points and facts to back their ideas. There’s a lot of socializing that happens, so any activity that enhances your communication skills, debating skills, etc. can be beneficial. Participating in school debates, or organizing school level activities can be a good way to boost these skills. So, join your school or college’s debate club. Or you can also participate in quizzes as it will train your mind to read faster and retain new information.

3.2 Related Hobbies to Take Up

Reading and writing

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Activities such as reading and writing are always a plus! As a public health professional one needs to dig deep into the books and keep studying for long hours. Hence, if this habit is inculcated at a younger age then the job becomes a cakewalk later on.

3.3 Related Movies/ TV Shows

And the Band Played On

The movie named “And the Band Played On” revolves around the discovery of the AIDS epidemic and the political infighting of the scientific community hampering the early fight against it. This movie draws our attention to various aspects of the medical field. It is a good example of how research helps in discovering a deadly disease. It also tells us how the government and people react to something new/ignored especially in the marginalized population.

Moreover, it shows us how difficult it is to always bring a change in the health system. Finally, the protagonist who worked selflessly and patently with all different stakeholders and never got the credit. Therefore, it is a beautiful representation of the reality and hardships of a public health professional.

3.4 Related Fiction to Reading/ Novels

Books by Robin Cook

Robin Cook is an author whose novels consist of medically approved murder mysteries. You learn a lot about medicine as you read fiction. And what can be a better way to do so other than reading murder mysteries?!

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4. Life as a Public Health Professional

4.1 Part-Time Options

Yes

Lots of freelance and part-time options can be possible in a few of the public health specialties. If one is willing, dedicated, and has time management skills then they can easily opt for various opportunities alongside working as a public health professional.

4.2 Travelling Required

Most of the time.

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Travelling is a necessity when it comes to working as a public health professional. You will need to travel to distant places, that too at odd hours. Hence, I suggest mentally preparing yourself for the same before taking up this as a career option.

4.3 Average Workday/What to Expect

As a public health professional one has to work on the current day deliverables, review the work done at the different states, attend team meetings to discuss interventions, and share their opinion about different matters. Other than that, public health career salaries are good enough to sustain a satisfactory lifestyle.

5. Future of Your Career as a Public Health Professional

5.1 Retirement Prospects

No fixed age for retirement.

When it comes to public health career path, your experience speaks for you. The number of years you have spent helping as a public health worker is treasured! Moreover, people who have done masters in public health have better prospects. There are good prospects and in this field, people work even in their 80s. People with more years of experience receive better pay when compared to the freshers. I have personally worked with a 90-year-old person who was successfully heading an NGO working on the survival of mother and child.

5.2 Threats from Automation

No severe threat.

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Automation is a threat to all professions and the public health career path is no exception. Public health is very complex and usually works like pieces of a puzzle. Hence, automation is only possible for some portions of it but never for all.

5.3 Common Reasons for People to Quit

It’s rare.

Jobs in the public health career path are well-reputed and highly paying. Hence, people hardly quit once they start practising. One has to invest a good number of years to get some experience and start working, which is why a change of career is not appreciated in later years. I have never met anyone who has quit this profession, they just change the organization for more awesome salary, positions, challenges, research, etc. but are always linked with this field.

As a public health professional one has to be highly responsible as the health of many people depends on them. They have to be accountable for their decisions and careful with their actions. Other than the responsibilities bestowed, the job role is fun for the ones who enjoy travelling and socializing. Even otherwise, it’s fulfilling as it offers amazing salary.

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