California is a recognized leader in public health, employing the greatest number of specialized public health professionals of any state in the nation. To fill its ranks with the best specialists in the field, California also offers some of the highest average public health salaries in the nation. Thousands of dedicated individuals in California enjoy the personal rewards that come with a career in public health as they work on behalf of their fellow Californians.
The California Employment Development Department provides statewide job growth projections for the ten-year period leading up to 2022, which compare very favorably to overall state job growth projections of just 14.9 percent for the same period:
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- Nursing Instructors and Teachers at the college level – highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 36 percent
- Healthcare Social Workers – highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 24 percent
- Medical and Health Services Managers – highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 22 percent
- Dieticians and Nutritionists – highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 19 percent
- Emergency Management Directors – highest average salary in the nation
- Environmental Scientists and Specialists – second-highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 30 percent
- Mental Health and Substance Abuse Social Workers – third-highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 12 percent
- Social and Human Service Assistants – fifth-highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide job growth rate of 17 percent
- Epidemiologists – sixth-highest average salary in the nation
- Community Health Workers – seventh-highest average salary in the nation; projected statewide growth rate of 20 percent
- Health Educators – eighth-highest average salary in the nation, projected statewide job growth rate of 18 percent
The Governor of California has proposed a budget for 2015-16 that includes an allocation of $2.66 billion for the Department of Public Health. This amounts to public health spending of $68.55 per capita, the highest in the nation. While these funds will undoubtedly bolster the state’s public sector by funding important initiatives and programs, the private sector also plays a significant role in maintaining public health in California. In 2015 these private organizations received the following grants from the National Institute of Health to fund programs that will also have a significant impact in California:
- Advanced Cell Diagnostics in Hayward – $269,741
- Abreos Biosciences – $439,428
- Buck Institute for Research on Aging – $1.33 million
- La Jolla Institute for Allergy and Immunology – $7.765 million
- Public Health Foundation Enterprises – $2.535 million
- Blood Systems Research Institute – $483,882
- Cellular Research Incorporated – $1.5 million
- Predictive Biology – $624,692
Public Health Careers and Standard Qualifications
A Master of Public Health (MPH) has become the standard educational requirement for second and third-tier career progression in a wide variety of fields since the Council of Education for Public Health requires all general MPH programs to include study in the areas of:
- Environmental Health Sciences
- Health Service Administration
- Social and Behavioral Sciences
For some jobs, more specialized degrees may also be required depending on the specific area of expertise.
The following illustrative examples represent only a small fraction of California’s public health career options and employers, and are accompanied by their associated education qualifications:
Breast Cancer Action – Employees with this organization have a range of qualifications, including a Master of Public Health.
Carollo Engineers – This company was recently looking to hire a mid-level civil engineer, with a master’s degree in Civil Engineering listed as a preferred qualification.
SoCalGas – The Los Angeles branch of this company was recently hiring for a water quality team leader to meet compliance regulations, and listed a master’s degree in an area such as Environmental Studies or Engineering as a highly desirable qualification.
Deputy Director Public Health Officer in Napa County – Applicants for this position that have a Master of Public Health as well as training in Public Health Administration are highly desireable.
Research Scientist III with the California Department of Public Health – Candidates for this position can qualify by having a master’s degree in an appropriate subject and prior work experience that is equivalent to a Research Scientist II. Appropriate degrees can include a master’s of science in subjects like: Public Health, Epidemiology, Biological Sciences, Environmental Health, and Physical Sciences.
Public Health Nutrition Scientist II with the California Department of Public Health – Candidates for this position can qualify by having a master’s degree in Public Health Nutrition, Nutrition, Dietetics, or another related field, plus at least two years of approved and related work experience.
Public Health Jobs in California’s Public and Private Sectors
The following represent only a small percentage of the agencies that are involved in public health initiatives and campaigns throughout the state:
- Breast Cancer Action – Located in San Francisco, this non-profit organization provides valuable resources and information regarding the fight against breast cancer.
- Carollo Engineers – This private environmental engineering firm has 12 locations in California and contracts with state and local governments to provide water and wastewater management services.
- SoCalGas – This public subsidiary energy company that many Californians will recognize as their natural gas provider regularly hires professionals with backgrounds in public health as managers, engineers, planners, and environmental scientists.
County health and human service agencies as well as county departments of public health employ most of the public health professionals in California. Some recent examples of job postings are shown here for illustrative purposes:
- Deputy Director Public Health Officer with the Napa County Health and Human Services Agency – This agency was recently hiring for an officer who would have the responsibilities of designing and implementing programs to promote health and well-being throughout the county.
- Research Scientist III with the California Department of Public Health – Candidates can choose a branch of research science for this position such as: Epidemiology/Biostatistics, Food and Drug Sciences, Microbiological Sciences, or Veterinary Sciences.
- Public Health Nutrition Scientist II with the California Department of Public Health – Professionals in this field will support, develop, and implement public health initiatives that relate to diet and nutrition.
California’s Public Health Initiatives
California’s combination of professional expertise and significant funding creates a perfect environment for public health initiatives to thrive.
The challenges that California’s public health professionals face are as varied and diverse as its population. Professionals approach these challenges by fighting them directly as well as by supporting proactive measures such as education campaigns. Some recent examples of these initiatives include:
Anti-Smoking Campaigns – In 2015 the state’s Public Health Department launched an ad campaign to warn people, and particularly youths, of the dangers posed by e-cigarettes. The campaign came on the 25th anniversary of the state’s ad campaign against traditional cigarettes. Public health professionals are approaching this problem from all angles, and draw inspiration from the fact that thanks to the efforts of prior campaigns, the state currently has some of the lowest levels of smoking in the nation.
Behavioral Health Campaigns and Treatment – Mental health treatment clinics, awareness campaigns, and outreach are a big part of public health in California. Recently, the California Department of Public Health held its annual Problem Gambling Training Summit to kickstart a month-long awareness campaign across the state. The event focused particularly on recognizing the signs of gambling addiction and the cultural implications behind this phenomenon.
Treatment, Prevention, and Tracking of Infectious Diseases – An important part of public health is epidemiology and disease treatment. This has been an issue of great importance, both nationally and locally, as vaccinations, measles outbreaks, and scares about health threats like Bird Flu and Ebola have been in the headlines. Public health professionals recently had an opportunity to test their preparedness in responding to Ebola when a patient suspected of having the virus was admitted to a hospital in Sacramento after returning from a trip to an Ebola-affected country. Fortunately after testing it was found that the patient was not infected.
California’s Public Health Resources
There are literally hundreds of public, private, and non-profit public health organizations operating throughout California. This wide range of associations and organizations allows qualified professionals the opportunity to get involved in virtually every field of public health that exists. The following are examples of some of the many organizations dedicated to improving public health in California.
- California Department of Public Health
- California Health and Human Services Agency
- California Department of Health Care Services
- Los Angeles County Department of Public Health
- San Diego County Department of Public Health
- Santa Clara County Department of Public Health
- San Francisco County Department of Public Health
- Fresno County Department of Public Health
- Sacramento County Department of Public Health
- Alameda County Department of Public Health
- Kern County Department of Public Health
- Orange County Department of Public Health
- California Harm Reduction Coalition
- Southern California Public Health Association
- California Public Health Association – North
- California Primary Care Association
- California Association for Alcohol and Drug Educators
- California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies
Private and Non-Profit Organizations
- Health Officers Association of California
- County Health Executives Association of California
- California Water Environment Association
- California Center for Public Health Advocacy
- Northern California Society for Public Health Education
- Southern California Society for Public Health Education
- California Association of Public Health Laboratory Directors
- Mosquito and Vector Control Association of California
- Arc of California
- Association of California Nurse Leaders
- Autism Society San Diego