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Careers in Global Public Health
By Sam MacArthur

What does global health meanGlobal health is the study of worldwide health and wellness. The concept of global health also covers how the health of different populations can have a global impact. Global health careers are primarily concerned with addressing the health concerns of low-income countries and populations, focusing on addressing specific health inequalities. For example, global health asks why some populations have access to good medical care while others do not, or why some have good nutrition and others do now. 

As you may have guessed, the concept of global health can get very complex, and global health covers a lot of topics. Those topics include diseases such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. They also include other health topics like nutrition, maternal and child health, domestic violence prevention, and more. 

Global health professionals help create and enact policies with the goal of better worldwide health. 

Why is Global Health Important? 

Why is global health important? There are a lot of answers to that question. 

First, the world has a lot of health disparities related to income. Global health seeks to close the health gap and bring resources to underserved and underrepresented communities. 

Second, global health is important because it examines other, possibly hidden causes that lead to global health disparities. As a field, it recognizes that worldwise health is a complex issue with a lot of layers. As a result, the global health field can uncover previously unexplored insights that may lead to better health around the world. 

Essentially, every answer to the “why is global health important” question boils down to the same thing: Global health is important because it saves and improves lives. Not only does global health improve physical and emotional health, it can also lead to a world with more political stability. Overall, global health is building a better future for humanity. 

What is Global Health vs Public Health? 

The global health vs public health question can be a bit confusing at first. Aren’t both fields concerned with the same outcomes? To a degree, yes. 

Public health is concerned with preventing diseases and other health problems in communities. Those communities can be any size. Public health professionals serve communities ranging from neighborhoods to entire continents. 

In the question of global health vs public health, it’s important to realize that “public health” is an umbrella term. It covers many categories, and global health is just one of those categories. In other words, global health is a more specific version of public health. All global health is public health, but not all public health is global health. 

What is Global Health Policy? 

A lot of people who consider careers in global health want to know: “What is global health policy?” 

“Global health policy” is sometimes used interchangeably with “global health,” but there’s a slight difference. As a whole, global health careers include educators, researchers, and more. Global health policy is a specific branch of the global health field. It’s one of many focuses within global health careers. 

Global health policy takes the evidence learned from global health research and then uses that evidence to create policy changes. It also examines health inequalities and how those inequalities impact interdependent countries. 

What are Some of My Potential Careers in Global Health? 

All Global Health careers have the same goal: Improving the length of life and quality of life for people all around the world. Most global health careers cover one of three areas: education, political policy, and research. Within any of these areas, global public health careers may focus on a specific global health issue like nutrition, violence prevention, or vaccines. 

A blog post from Northeastern University lists some of the top specific global public health careers: 

  • Public Analyst – A public analyst studies the health and wellness issues faced by various populations. Then, the analyst shapes and recommends polices to address these issues. 
  • Program Manager – Program managers help governments, nonprofits, and NGOs create sustainable global health strategies. They also help these organizations improve their overall global health impact. 
  • Global Health Consultant – Organizations hire global health consultants to study their practices as they relate to global health. Global health consultants point out areas that could use improvement, and they offer suggestions on how to implement those improvements. 
  • EpidemiologistEpidemiologists research and educate people about highly infectious diseases
  • Global Health Educator – A global health educator works directly with people to educate them about their health. They may also train other health workers. 

How Do I Know if Global Public Health is the Right Field for Me?

Global public health workers come from all backgrounds, beliefs, and traditions. They have different personalities and ways of thinking. Basically, it takes all kinds of people to work in global health because global health requires people to look at issues from multiple angles.

Still, there are some signs that a public health career might be the right one for you. First, public health may be your ideal career if you want to make a difference on a large scale. If you dream of helping other people, global health gives you a surefire way to do that. 

You may also enjoy a global health career if you enjoy digging into research. Global health professionals rely heavily on evidence to create policies and provide advice on health and wellness topics. If you’re the sort of person who loves to learn new things and then apply what you’ve learned in a big, tangible way, then a global health career can provide you with plenty of opportunities. 

Global health may also be right for you if you have plenty of tenacity and enjoy a challenge. No matter the career specifics, global health work isn’t easy. It’s the kind of work that needs people who don’t easily give up. 

Of course, the biggest indicator of whether or not you should pursue global health is whether you feel drawn to it. Does the idea of a global health career excite you? In that case, you may have found your ideal career. 

What is the Job Outlook for Global Health Careers? 

Global public health careers are growing, and the job outlook for careers in public health looks good for those who are entering the field. Take the careers listed above, for example. The aforementioned blog post from Northeastern University provides their job growth numbers. These jobs are growing at a rate of 5%, which is about average, to 18%, which is highly above average. 

What is the Average Global Health Careers Salary? 

The same blog post mentioned above provided salary information for these top careers in public health. 

  • Global Health Educator – $63,900
  • Epidemiologist – $69,660 
  • Global Health Consultant – $83,610 
  • Program Manager – $99,730 
  • Policy Analyst – $117,570 

As you can tell, it’s tough to nail down the average global health careers salary. When it comes to global health careers, salary can make a big jump between one career and the next. 

Aside from your career title, other things can impact how much money you make. For example, your level of education can play a big role in your yearly salary. Someone with a PhD or medical degree, for example, will generally make a lot more money that someone with a bachelor’s degree. The amount of experience you have in the field will also impact your salary. The longer you stay in the field, the more you can expect your salary to grow. 

What Kind of Education do I Need for a Career in Global Health? 

If you want to work for any global health organizations, your best bet is to earn a master’s degree. It’s possible to get an entry-level job in global public health with a bachelor’s degree, but those jobs can be difficult to find, and they may not offer much room for career advancement. An MPH in Global Public Health can help you open up your career possibilities, lead to upward mobility, and give you the chance to negotiate a higher salary. Having a medical degree can help you open up your career even further and make you qualified to perform services that other global health professionals can’t perform. 

What are Some Global Health Organizations that I Should Know? 

In your global health career, you may work for one of several global health organizations. 

  • The World Health Organization is a UN organization that advances global health through research, education, and providing resources to developing nations and underrepresented populations. The WHO responds to health emergencies as well as long term health concerns. 
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is a US government organization that focuses on both American and foreign health issues. 
  • The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is a global public health organization specifically focused on the needs of children. UNICEF works with nearly 200 countries to defend children’s rights and increase childhood survival rates. 

Those are just some of the more widely recognized global health organizations, but there are countless others that do important work, either through governments or as nonprofits and NGOs. The Fogerty International Center has provided a list of many of those NGOs. The bottom line is that if you go into global health as a career, you won’t find a shortage of organizations to work with. 

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