Job Profile: Public Health Consultant

In a 21st century world battling obesity, diabetes, cancer, infectious diseases, health disparities, environmental health concerns, smoking, alcoholism, physical inactivity, and more, public health is becoming even more important to increase the well-being of our world’s communities. The public health field as a whole is focused on preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting healthy lifestyle choices through organized community efforts. In particular, public health consultants work with government agencies, healthcare providers, non-profit organizations, and businesses to create policies that will help improve overall health of a population. Public health consultants are highly trained professionals who share their expert healthcare advice to hopefully lead programs and policy changes that directly impact the future of community health.

Salary

According to Payscale, the median annual salary for public health consultants and specialists is $49,811, which could be converted to a median hourly wage of $19. In addition to this average income potential, public health consultants can also earn up to $32.83 per hour in overtime and bonuses up to $5,135 each year.

Beginning Salary

When just starting out in the public health consulting field, MPH graduates will likely land in the bottom 10 percent of the profession with a yearly salary around $31,334. However, it’s important to note that public health consultants with years of professional experience can eventually bring home upwards of $78,747 annually.

Key Responsibilities

Public health consultants are hired by organizations to assist in plotting the next moves that can be made to address different health-related issues or challenges. Consultants in the public health field often will conduct their own professional research to analyze health trends. Then, public health consultants will present their findings and share their expert opinions to their hiring organization to help with developing new health policies. Public health consultants may review current policies that are targeting health concerns and brainstorm new ways they can be improved for better efficiency. In some cases, public health consultants may also be hired by clinics or other community health settings to counsel families on what options are available to improve their overall well-being.

Necessary Skills

In order to be successful, public health consultants must possess good analytical skills for gathering data on the latest health trends and effectively determining what steps must be taken to address the concern. Strong writing skills are a must for public health consultants to create clear, concise reports that communicate their recommendations for new policy changes. Public health consultants often work in multiple locations, so flexibility and good organizational skills are important to balance their workload. Of course, public health consultants should also be great communicators with the interpersonal skills to present their findings and work with their clients to pioneer programs that will boost health.

Degree and Education Requirements

Whether you’re looking to work for a small local non-profit or the CDC, you’re going to need at least a master’s degree from an accredited graduate school to work in public health consulting. Most aspiring public health consultants will first begin their education with a bachelor’s degree in public health, health science, biology, nursing, social work, psychology, environmental science, global health, or a related major. From there, it’s time to enroll in a graduate program leading to a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree. Depending on your future career goals in consulting, you may want to concentrate your studies in epidemiology, health policy, biostatistics, behavioral science, environmental health, or another niche. Receiving a Doctor of Public Health (DPH) can also unlock advanced leadership positions and faculty roles in higher education.

Pros and Cons of the Position

Working as a public health consultant means that you’ll constantly be involved in making the world a healthier, happier, and safer place. Public health consultants are given much more freedom in choosing their clients, pay rates, and research interests. Since public health consultants are typically paid as self-employed individuals, there will be lower income taxes and the ability to qualify for many business-related tax deductions. Public health consultants also get a change of scenery often by working in multiple different agency locations and meeting new professionals in the field. On the flip side, consultants in public health have less job security than most other practitioners. Every job is temporary, so current clients could potentially drop you at any time and find someone else with more expertise. Employers may not provide health insurance, paid vacations, unemployment insurance, or paid sick leave to their public health consultants either.

Getting Started

While earning your MPH degree, it’s essential that you begin building your resume with loads of experience in the public health field, especially in research and policymaking. You should find opportunities to intern with a national organization, work part-time at a local public health agency, and/or work with professors to pioneer new research projects. Employers will look for public health consultants who have solid schooling, relevant practical experience, and a track record of success. From there, you’ll need to start networking extensively by contacting any businesses or agencies that might need a public health consultant online or over the phone. You may also want to consider setting yourself apart from the pack by becoming Certified in Public Health (CPH) through the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE).

Future Outlook

It’s becoming clear that one of the most cost-effective methods for cutting healthcare costs is to invest in public health programs. Therefore, there’s a great increase in the demand for public health professionals to help improve population health. Since the large baby boomer population is reaching retirement age, the ASPH estimates that 23 percent of the current public health workforce will retire in the next few years. As a result, around 250,000 more professionals in public health will need to be hired to continue battling against complex health issues. Public health consultants will likely find the best prospects in hospitals, government agencies, non-profit organizations, consulting firms, and private corporations.

Overall, public health consultants play a prominent role in helping organizations develop creative solutions and strategies for addressing community health challenges. Whether you wish to specialize in eliminating cancer, reversing obesity trends, improve mental health, boost healthcare delivery in rural areas, or any other public health emergency, working as a consultant can give you the freedom to positively impact the quality of life in the United States.

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