For people who are interested in healthcare management, a job in a slick hospital office can sound pretty appealing. For people who are more interested in working with underserved communities and getting their hands a little dirty, public health administrators work in the trenches to bring medical care and information to the people who need it the most.

What is public health administration?

Public health administration refers to the management of community health. Most participate in community outreach of some kind, whether it be educating people about flu prevention or developing programs to teach young mothers parenting skills. Much of a public health administrator’s work is thankless, and shrinking budgets for public programs makes this job a particularly challenging one. Some deal with particularly controversial health issues such as HIV/AIDS prevention and needle recycling for intravenous drug users.

While the work might be tough and the hours might be long, public health administrators can take pride in knowing that their healthcare administration education is being put to use in a way that benefits everyone’s health, and not just those who can afford treatment.

What types of careers are available to public health administrators?

Many public health administrators work for government agencies, and some work for non-profit organizations. You can find public health administrators in clinics, hospitals, and offices, and sometimes even in schools. Depending on the setting, a public health administrator might focus on a particular issue like safe drinking water or domestic violence, or they might deal with a particular community like African American teenagers in Los Angeles or the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. Others have a broader focus, like studying infectious disease movement across the United States.

Some conduct laboratory research and analyze statistics behind the scenes, while others work directly with the public. Many have studied in other fields as well as public health administration. Experts in nutrition, epidemiology, infectious diseases, and health education (just to name a few) can all go on to work as public health administrators. There are countless settings and job descriptions for public health administrators, but the common theme is that their work is based on improving the health of the general public.

How do you become a public health administrator?

There are many ways to become a public health administrator, and some even start as experts in other fields. A great way to get the education and training you need to work in public health is through a healthcare administration degree program.

A healthcare administration degree program will teach you about health issues and ethical debates that are relevant today and give you the training you need to do something about them. Many healthcare administration master’s degree programs and PhD programs offer public health specializations.

To see a list of schools that offer public health administration programs, check out the Healthcare Administration Schools directory.