"To find health should be the object of the doctor. Anyone can find disease."  —Andrew T. Still, MD, DO

"As a family physician, my job is listening to people's stories."
—Jon S. Hallberg, MD

Public Health

Career Info

Public health professionals monitor and diagnose the health concerns of entire populations rather than focus on individual patients. Instead of treating disease of individuals through diagnosis and treatment, they focus on the population’s health through prevention and health promotion.  They try to prevent problems from happening or reoccurring through implementing educational programs, developing policies, administering services, and conducting research. 

More Information about Public Health Fields: https://www.onetonline.org/find/quick?s=public+health

There are more than 20 major fields of study. The six core disciplines are:

Behavioral Science/Health Education: ($33,000-$86,625) Health educators teach people about behaviors that promote wellness and develop programs and materials to encourage people to make healthy decisions. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for health education specialists was $59,990.

Biostatistics: ($33,000-$63,000) Public health biostatisticians use mathematical and scientific methods to determine the cause of disease and injuries, and to identify health trends within communities. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for statisticians was $98,920.

Environmental Health: ($44,550-$143,700) Environmental health professionals improve public health by focusing on identifying and addressing environmental risk factors created between human genetics and their surroundings. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for environmental scientists and specialists was $76,480.

Emergency Management: ($57,900-$129,800) Emergency Management Directors focus on ensuring a functioning emergency care system. This includes ensuring that every community has access to emergency care-from first responders through to a sophisticated trauma center, planning and directing disaster/crisis responses, and preparing emergency plans for natural, wartime, or technological disasters. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for emergency management directors was $79,180.

Epidemiology: ($38,175-$136,237) Epidemiologists do field work and data analysis to determine what causes disease or injury, what the risks are, who is at risk, and how to prevent further incidences.  The initial discovery and containment of an outbreak typically come from epidemiologists. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for epidemiologists was $78,520.

Health Services Administration: ($37,050-$161,400) Health service administrators combine politics, business, and science to manage the human and fiscal resources needed to deliver effective public health services in the private sectors. In 2022, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual wage for medical and health services managers was $104,830.


There are also other core public health areas such as:

Global Health: ($31,500-$86,625) Global health professionals focus on the health of people in developing countries, watching for infectious and tropical diseases, age-related illnesses, mental illness, and the health consequences of trauma, violence, war, and displacement.  They also help to establish and implement effective and efficient health care infrastructure.

Laboratory Practice: ($31,500-$78,750) When in biomedical and laboratory practice, professionals use lab techniques to diagnose and treat disease and to study the conditions that affect the health status.

Maternal and Child Health: ($33,000-$63,000) Maternal and child health experts provide information and access to information on family planning and promote the health of pregnant women through advocacy, education, and research.

Nutrition/Dietetics: ($31,500-$70,875) Professionals in the field of dietetics focus their efforts on specific populations, facilities, or initiatives to develop nutrition programs, therapies, and standards to address health issues and the food supply.

Occupational Health and Safety: ($46,000-$113,000) These are types of Environmental Health Practitioners that help to identify, prevent, and control health and safety hazards in the workplace.

Public Health Policy: Professionals in this field often hold both a law degree and an MPH.  They are involved in policy, regulation, and legislation that govern public health-related activities, such as pollution control, reduction in violence, health education, and disease prevention.  These officials are primarily concerned with the government’s powers and duties to ensure populations will be as healthy as possible. 

Public Health Practice: ($41,175-$102,000) Since public health is an interdisciplinary field, professionals in many disciplines (nursing, medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, etc.) routinely deal with public health issues.  A dual degree in public health practice enables clinicians to improve their practice. 

Education and Training

Accredited schools of public health offer graduate degrees in all of the five core disciplines of public health.  In addition, many schools offer concentrations in the core public health areas along with genetics, exercise science, mental health, hygiene, communication sciences, occupational health, tropical medicine, and population science.

Schools of public health seek applicants with high Graduate Record Exams (GRE) and GPA. The minimum GPA accepted is usually between a 3.0-3.2. There are no common course prerequisites for all public health programs. It is advised that you take courses towards your major and GE that can also give you exposure to areas of public health. Many schools also require or strongly recommend public health experience prior to admission. Cal Poly offers SCM 363: Health Professions Internship, a 2 unit CR/NC course designed to provide 60 hours of practical hands-on experience with the County Health Agency.  For more information and/or an application to apply to this internship, contact the COSAM Advising Office in Building 53, Room 211.

Course Recommendations

This is NOT a list of prerequisites. Requirements vary significantly by school & many schools of public health do not have specific prerequisite course requirements.


Life and Physical Sciences


General: Bio 111 or 161 (B2), 162, 302 (B5), 305 (B5)
Microbiology: Mcro 221 or 224 (B2), 342, 402
  • Note: Bio, Mcro, Bchm, and Msci majors should enroll in Mcro 224

Anatomy/Physiology: Bio 231, 232 (for all majors except Bio) or Bio 361, 406-409, & 426

General Chemistry: Chem 110 or 127, 128, 129 (B3)
  • Note: Engineering & Physical Science majors should enroll in Chem 124, 125, 126
Organic Chemistry: Chem 312 or 216, 217/220, 218/223
  • Note: Biochemistry & Chemistry majors should enroll in Chem 216, 217/221, 218/324


Chem 313 (now 314) or 371 (now 369)

Statistics and Research

Statistics:  Stat 217 or 218 (B1); 313 (B1), 323, 324, 330, 331, 416, 418, 421

Calculus: Math 141, 142, 143 or 161, 162 (B1)

Computer Literacy

Behavior, Health Education & Policy

Anthropology: Ant 201 (D3), 344 (D5), 345 (D5), 360 (D5), 401, 402

Child Development: CD 304, 305, 306, 431

Communications: Coms 212, 316 (D5, USCP), 418

Ethics:  Phil 332 (C4), 335(C4), 339 (C4)

Ethnic Studies: ES 112 (D1), 212 (D3)

Health: Hlth 260 (D4), 265, 298, 299, 305, 310, 320, 334, 402, 405, 410, 434, 435, 453, 463

Kinesiology: Kine 250 (D4), 255 (D4), 260(D4), 265, 298, 305, 434, 435, 450, 453

Nutrition: FSN 202, 250 (D4), 310, 315, 328, 329, 415, 416, 417

Political Science: POLS 112 (D1), 229, 310 (USCP), 325 (D5), 328, 333 (F), 338 (D5), 343 (USCP), 351

Psychology:  Psy 201 or 202 (D4); 252, 254, 256, 311 (D5), 318 (D5), 330, 405, 460, 465, 475 (USCP)

Sociology: Soc 110 (D3), 218 (D2), 306, 308, 309, 315 (D5), 316, 323

Proficiency in Foreign Language

Last updated: 01/12/2022.

Professional Association Links

For more information on pursuing a career in public health, please visit:

For current issues related to public health, check out the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH)

Cal Poly Public Health Club

To get involved with the Cal Poly Public Health Club, email cpphclub@gmail.com or visit the club's Instagram page: @cppublichealth. You can also sign up for their newsletter here!

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