How to Become a Public Health Analyst

A public health analyst leads a team meeting at a conference table in an office.

From the spread of infectious diseases to the impact of climate change on populations, public health faces big challenges. In many cases, public health analysts are instrumental in addressing or resolving these challenges.

Public health analysts work with government agencies, elected officials, and healthcare organizations to craft or improve health policies and programs. The work of analysts and other public health professionals has been vital during the COVID-19 pandemic, identifying at-risk communities and bolstering testing and contact tracing programs.

An advanced degree, such as a master’s in public health, can equip individuals pursuing a career in this field with the tools to address the public health challenges of today and those of the future.

What Does a Public Health Analyst Do?

A public health analyst is responsible for helping to address critical health programs, such as vaccination, cancer screening, or helping people overcome substance misuse. What a public health analyst does is vital to society.

Public health analysts collect and analyze data, such as health records or program documentation, and use the insights they glean from their analysis to strengthen a health program’s effectiveness in addressing community health issues. An analyst’s job may entail establishing new public health policy or assessing existing programs or policies and devising ways to improve them.

The types of initiatives that public health analysts lend their expertise to are diverse. These initiatives can include large-scale vaccination programs or policies designed to encourage community health education. In addition to crafting policy, analysts focus on promoting public involvement in these initiatives.

Some public health analyst roles deal directly with the public. They may work directly with the community and local leaders to implement programs, often involving seminars, training opportunities, and site visits, as well as preparing and distributing materials to local offices. Senior analysts, such as those who work for government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), may provide testimony to Congress or work with elected officials and other policymakers to implement solutions to public health issues.

Many other analysts work behind the scenes, digging into data and presenting their findings to various stakeholders or writing papers for publication in industry journals. These analysts are also responsible for ensuring compliance with federal and state regulations related to safety and privacy.

Depending on the exact nature and scope of the role, a public health analyst may also oversee other public health professionals in their organization.

How to Become a Public Health Analyst

Figuring out the right combination of education and experience is a critical step for those interested in learning how to become a public health analyst. Earning a degree and gaining valuable work experience can help develop essential skills and give individuals a competitive advantage in their job search.

Education

A bachelor’s degree in a related field is typically the minimum requirement for an analyst position. Degrees in public health or health management are common. Some employers may require an advanced degree as well, such as a master’s in health administration or a related field.

Experience

In addition to education, public health analysts generally need relevant work experience. Employers tend to look for candidates with experience evaluating and analyzing the operation of public health programs. Analysts working in the public sector may be able to substitute work experience with a robust educational background, like a master’s degree.

Healthcare and leadership certifications can also be beneficial, potentially providing aspiring analysts with a leg up in their job search. For example, the Certified Health Data Analyst designation, which the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) offers, can help those in the field become more skilled at analyzing and interpreting healthcare data.

Skills

Public health analysts should possess a diverse skill set, which they can develop through a combination of education and experience. These skills include the following:

  • Analytical skills. Public health analysts need to understand how to collect and examine data and provide actionable insights based on their analysis.
  • Policy development/program planning skills. Analysts should possess an understanding of public health policies and programs, including how to develop, implement, and evaluate them.
  • Communication skills. Analysts need to effectively communicate their findings and recommendations to colleagues, officials, and the general public. Analysts may also lead initiatives to implement public health policy at the local level, so strong communication skills are a must.

Public Health Analyst Salary and Job Outlook

People interested in a career as a public health analyst can benefit from learning more about the position, including where analysts work, the outlook for employment in the field, and its potential salary.

Where They Work

Public health analysts often work in the public sector for government agencies at both the state and federal levels. Because of their responsibility to help shape public health policies and programs, many analysts work for agencies such as the CDC or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Not all public health analyst jobs are in the public sector. Some analysts work for large healthcare organizations, where they also focus on efforts to improve public health.

Job Growth

Employment in the healthcare industry is expected to grow significantly in the coming years. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), healthcare occupations are projected to grow by 15 percent from 2019 to 2029, creating an additional 2.4 million jobs.

Although the BLS does not provide job growth projections for public health analysts, occupations with similar job responsibilities are expected to grow over the same period: medical and health services managers (32 percent), health education specialists (13 percent), and community health workers (13 percent).

The needs of the country’s aging baby-boom population and the need to address new and existing public health concerns will drive growth both in this field and in other healthcare occupations. An increased demand for healthcare services and staff will lead to more job opportunities across the board, including for public health analysts.

Salary

According to PayScale, the average annual salary for a public health analyst is $66,881, with a salary range of $49,000 to $100,000, as of August 2021.

Several factors can influence a public health analyst’s salary, including experience level and location. PayScale reports that entry-level analysts generally earn between $50,000 and $60,000, while those with several years of experience can earn upward of $70,000.

Because many public health analysts work for the federal government, salaries tend to trend higher in the nation’s capital and the surrounding area. For example, in Rockville, Maryland, the average salary for an analyst is 55.4 percent higher than the national average, according to PayScale.

A Career Improving Public Health

Public health analysts are vital to solving the population health challenges of today and tomorrow. Analysts’ insights help shape government policies and programs that improve and protect community health.

An advanced degree, such as Tulane’s Master of Public Health degree,can help students develop the knowledge and skills they need to pursue this rewarding career in the analysis and strategizing of public health programs and policy. Learn more about the degree program and its hands-on, community-focused curriculum, and discover how it can help you achieve your professional goals.

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Sources:

American Health Information Management Association, Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA)

Houston Chronicle, “Job Position Description of a Public Health Analyst”

PayScale, Average Public Health Analyst Salary

Public Health Foundation, Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals: Domains

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Medical and Health Services Managers