Highest-Paying Public Health Jobs

If you are passionate about making your community and the world a healthier place, a role in public health may be the ideal career path for you. The goal in public health is to promote wellness and protect the health of people and communities, rather than to treat patients who are sick. 

The public health field has many career options, including several with above-average pay compared to many other occupations. Following is an overview of the highest-paying public health jobs and the educational requirements that can help you achieve these positions. 

Some of the highest-paying public health jobs according to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) May 2020 data include:

Job TitleMedian Annual Salary
Natural Sciences Manager
Medical and Health Services Managers
Emergency Management Director


Biostatisticians use data to answer research questions in biology, medicine and public health. These can include researching disease causes and the length of time people with a specific illness tend to live. 

These data professionals work alongside scientists, engineers and specialists in various work environments, including:

  • Federal government
  • Health care
  • Research and development
  • Insurance carriers
  • Colleges, universities and other professional schools

The BLS projects a strong job outlook for this profession, with jobs for mathematicians and statisticians expected to increase 33 percent from 2020 to 2030. That’s about 5,200 openings per year over the decade. 

Biostatistician Salary

Several factors such as your education, experience and where you work can play a role in a biostatistician salary. The median annual salary for statisticians was $92,270 in 2020, according to the BLS. This occupation may require some overtime and travel to conferences and seminars. However, the median salary is more than double that of all occupations, making it one of the top-paying public health positions, according to BLS. 

Biostatistician Education Requirements 

To evaluate large amounts of data, a biostatistician may use:

  • Computer programming languages
  • Mathematical techniques
  • Models and skills such as statistics, calculus and linear algebra

You may be able to get entry-level public health positions with a bachelor’s degree. However, for higher-paying jobs like biostatistician, you may need an advanced degree from a Master of Public Health (MPH) program. MPH programs include a practicum and real-world experience. 

An undergraduate degree with a major in statistics along with courses in another field such as biology can help you meet any prerequisites before entering a Master of Public Health program. Most MPH coursework focuses on public health, research and statistics. To provide a solid foundation for a high-paying public health position, you may wish to include these electives:

  • Health policy 
  • Management and leadership
  • Health communication
  • Program planning and evaluation

These electives also typically provide a solid foundation for a high-paying public health position. If you prefer to specialize in an area, consider selecting a concentration such as epidemiology or environmental, community or global health. An MPH can be earned through a traditional on-campus or a flexible online program like MPH@GW from the George Washington University.


Epidemiologists study causes of public health problems such as communicable diseases, identify people at risk and determine the necessary steps to control or stop a disease from spreading. 

This public health profession uses research, community education and health policy to help lower or eliminate the risk or occurrence of adverse health issues. Typical work environments for epidemiologists include offices, laboratories and clinical settings. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, projected job growth for epidemiologists is 30 percent from 2020 to 2030, which equates to about 900 new openings annually. 

Epidemiologist Salary 

The median annual salary for epidemiologists in 2020 was $74,560, according to the BLS. This position is one of the top-paying public health jobs. The BLS reported median annual earnings in 2020 for epidemiologists who worked in these areas:

  • Scientific research, development: $99,020
  • Hospitals: $84,420
  • Local government: $70,470
  • State government: $68,500

It is common for epidemiologists to work a standard full-time schedule. However, in the event of public health emergencies, these specialists may perform fieldwork or other duties.

Epidemiologist Education Requirements 

Epidemiology is considered to be an investigative occupation. Therefore, an epidemiologist should have advanced communication and organizational skills to search for facts, solve problems and effectively work with and teach others. 

To become an epidemiologist, you will want to earn at least a master’s degree, such as a Master of Public Health, with an emphasis in epidemiology or a related field. Some epidemiologists hold a PhD or a medical degree. 

MPH programs may require you to complete a practicum or internship at local facilities or federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Practicums can range from one semester to a year. Critical thinking, communication, leadership and math and statistical skills are important in this position. 

Core coursework may include public health, math, statistics, biological and physical sciences. You may find various other classes offered in your MPH program, such as medical informatics, comparative health care systems and survey and study design. If you are interested in focusing on clinical work and obtaining a degree in epidemiology and medicine, you will want to take advanced courses in pathology, anatomy and microbiology.

Emergency Management Director Salary 

The median annual emergency management director salary was $76,250 in 2020, with the lowest 10 percent earning less than $42,230 and highest averaging more than $142,870. Those who work in professional, scientific and technical services earned $106,570 the same year, while emergency management directors in state government earned a median salary of $66,730 in 2020. As one of the top-paying public health jobs, most emergency management directors work full time, are on call 24/7 and work overtime when needed.

Emergency Management Director Education Requirements

Other high-paying public health positions require a minimum of a master’s degree. However, an emergency management director typically requires only an undergraduate degree or high school diploma. This is also the case in small municipalities and local governments. 

An advanced degree is not quite as essential for this role, but a solid background in a related occupation is usually needed. Becoming an emergency management director requires many years of experience in roles such as:

  • Law enforcement
  • Fire safety
  • Military
  • Other emergency management field

The job responsibilities in those areas can provide you with the skill set necessary to make tough decisions under stressful and time-sensitive circumstances. Good communication, interpersonal and leadership skills are among other qualities you may need in the role of emergency management director. 

Certification can be a good way to help hone these abilities. Some states require you to obtain certification within a certain period after hire. To maintain certification, you must complete any required continuing education. 

Medical and Health Services Managers Salary 

The BLS reports the median annual medical and health services manager’s salary was $104,280 in 2020, with the lowest 10 percent earning under $59,980 and the highest earning over $195,630. While you can take on this role in various environments, working for the government as a medical and health services manager may earn a median annual salary of $116,380

These top-paying salaries require you to work full time, be on call for emergencies and possibly work overtime and evenings and weekends. These are typical schedules if you work in settings that include hospitals or nursing homes. 

Medical and Health Services Managers Education Requirements

At minimum, you will need a bachelor’s degree to work as a medical and health services manager. A master’s degree is common in the field and preferred by some employers. 

Typical majors for this health role include:

  • Health care
  • Health administration
  • Nursing
  • Social services
  • Public policy

Degree programs may combine health care and management and combine business-related coursework with classes such as medical terminology. Programs may also include health information systems and hospital organization. These may encompass an array of studies such as accounting and budgeting, strategic planning, human resources administration, health economics and law and ethics. 

A typical graduate program is about two to three years. You may also be asked to complete up to a year of supervised practicum or internship work in a health care consulting setting or hospital. 

Every state requires licensure for nursing home administrators, which may involve passing a state-approved training program and a national and/or state licensing exam. Although not all medical and health services management positions require a license, some managers elect to gain licensure or certification to advance their careers. 

Natural Sciences Manager

Natural sciences managers may supervise scientists such as biologists, chemists and physicists and direct research and development activities. They might coordinate activities that include quality control, testing and production. 

Of the 79,000 natural sciences managers working in 2020, 34 percent were employed in research and development in the physical, life and engineering sciences, according to the BLS.

Most natural sciences managers spend a large part of their workday using computers in offices and laboratories. The BLS expects the employment of natural sciences managers to grow 6 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as all occupations. 

Natural Sciences Managers Salary 

The BLS reports the median annual natural sciences manager salary in 2020 was $137,940, more than three times that of all occupations, with the lowest 10 percent making less than $71,400 and the highest topping $208,000. 

Natural sciences managers in research and development in the physical, life and engineering sciences earned a median salary of $172,990 in 2020, followed by manufacturing, and management in scientific and technical consulting services at $146,000 and $126,780, respectively. This top-paying public health position requires a 40-hour work week with possible overtime. 

Natural Sciences Manager Education Requirements

It is common for these highly trained professionals to have years of experience as a scientist and an undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate degree in a scientific field. These fields might include engineering or non-scientific areas like public or business administration. 

You may find an advanced management degree, such as a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree, helpful in advancing your natural sciences manager career. Scientific and technical knowledge is important in this public health role. It is the natural sciences manager’s responsibility to understand the work of their subordinates and provide technical assistance when needed. 

It is important that natural sciences managers continually update their knowledge because of the rapid growth of scientific developments. Earning a Master of Public Health degree may prove beneficial when applying for this position. The degree can help prepare you for a wide range of careers including a natural sciences manager. 

Certification is not usually required for employment as a natural sciences manager. However, earning a relevant certification in a specific area of study or practice such as general business management can highlight your skill set.

Citation for this content: MPH@GW, the online MPH program from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at the George Washington University.