Public Health Fields and Specialties

Public health is defined as the practice of demonstration and research that prevents disease, prolongs life, and promotes health. The scope of public health includes public and private organizations, communities, individuals, and society at large. Jobs in the field generally consist of multidisciplinary teams of public health professionals who intervene in order to improve health and quality of life.There are many different areas of public health and types of careers for public health graduates. The key areas of specialization in the field include environmental health, community health, epidemiology, global health, and health policy and management.

Environmental Health

Environmental health is a public health subject that focuses on both the natural and man-made environments that affect human health. This can include the natural environment, like soil, air, and water, as well as the physical, chemical, social, and biological aspects of the environment.

Environmental health specialists investigate and analyze environmental qualities that may influence human health. They develop, promote, and enforce environmentally-related guidelines, policies, laws, and regulations in order to create and sustain healthy living environments for people. Environmental health specialists can focus on one aspect of public health like air pollution, sustainable development, social determinants, chemical safety and effects, climate change, and more.

Community Health

Community health workers assist the communities they serve by providing education and facilitating services for better health and improved quality of life. They conduct outreach programs that engage the community concerning health access and education. Community health workers collect data and advocate for community needs from an expert public health point of view.

These public health workers may have roles in nonprofits, public health departments, healthcare facilities, schools, or private organizations. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported jobs for community health workers will grow 17% from 2020 to 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations.


Epidemiologists investigate the patterns and causes of diseases and injuries in a community or demographic of people. They do this in order to reduce the risk and occurrence of negative health outcomes via research, community education, and health policy advocacy.

Epidemiologists may collect and analyze data and results through the use of observations, interviews, and surveys. They may collect blood or other fluid samples in order to find causes of health problems. Like those in other public health institutions and systems, epidemiologists report their findings to other policymakers, the public, and health professionals in order to manage public health initiatives.

Global Health

Global health is defined by the National Institutes of Health as study, research, and practice that widens the scope of public health into a global perspective for people worldwide. Organizations like the World Health Organization, World Food Programme, World Bank, and UNICEF all do the work of global health. Most global health workers are employed by nonprofit organizations or governmental agencies.

Health Policy

Health policy is one of the most major disciplines in public health. This key area includes careers like public health researcher, healthcare policy analyst, and health services manager. Health policy professionals play roles as researchers and advocates in the public health field. They may act as liaisons between public health professionals or organizations and government agencies.


Rivier University’s B.S. in Public Health and Master of Public Health degrees provide students with the knowledge and skills to succeed in different branches of public health. These degree programs take place in a convenient, flexible online format to accommodate students’ work and personal schedules.