Career in Public Health

Archived Q&A and Reviews

June 2005

I have two young children ages two and two months. I stay at home with them for the most part, working occassionally as a private chef. I've been spending quite a bit of time thinking about my future career steps--basically what I will be doing 10 years from now then the kids are older and I am wanting to work more. I've been cooking for over a decade, and although I love it, I'd like to do something that contributes to the world in a more meaningful way. I am really interested in the School of Public Health-public health has always fascinated me-especially the areas of nutrition and dieease prevention. I have a BA in English from Berkeley, so I'd need to knock out some prerequisites, take the GRE and whatever else the admissions office tells me to do. Here are my questions--
1-Is this a viable path that will lead to a career? Are there jobs out there? 2-Can I do this program with two kids (or three?)? Would it mean full time childcare for them (I couldn't do that, I think)?

I would appreciate any and all advice from either parents and/or public health folks. Thanks so much-- Mom of two little ones

Hi - Well, I am not technically a Public Health professional, but I work in the Public Health Library here at UCB. I can tell you that (a) it is an honorable profession indeed; (b) judging by the folks I see here, there are many in the program who are not fresh out of a undergrad program, but are choosing this as a 2nd career. There may some resources on our web page that can helpo with your question: michael
I graduated from Berkeley's School of Public Health 2 years ago. I wasn't a parent when I started, but had my daughter during the program, so I have a lot of insight into the school of public health with a little one. Your questions: 1-Is this a viable path that will lead to a career? Are there jobs out there? Yes. There are a LOT of jobs out there related to public health. A lot of them are full time, but many can be part- time. There is a large pay range, but straight out of grad school public health professionals usually make high thirties to high forties, depending on the job they take. If you have a very specific type of job in mind, it might be harder. But all of the students in my cohort are successfully employed, and were within 3 months of graduation.

2-Can I do this program with two kids (or three?)? Would it mean full time childcare for them (I couldn't do that, I think)?

Yes, you can do this program with kids. I think you need to look a lot at your own life and priorities. Do you currently work just a few hours a week? If so, things will definitely change. The school of public health probably requires about 30- 50 hours per week of attention, including a relatively full- time class load, research, writing papers, reading, group projects, etc. SPH is not like law school or medical school where you're expected to have no life. They are also somewhat flexible about how many hours you're in school; they really want you to finish the MPH in 2 years, but you can plan out your schedule how you like (within reason).

Around childcare... You can certainly avoid full time care. You can try to stack your classes on two or three days a week. This might be harder some semesters than others. But, you will be left reading and writing after your kids are in bed, and whenever your partner can give you a break on weekends. It can be grueling that way, but can also work. You may find yourself needing to bring your kids to the library, or to meetings for group projects. I did this all the time, which was fine with a newborn, but could be much harder with toddlers. The one time when it will be very difficult to avoid full time care is the summer in between the two years of the program. You are required (unless you have more than 10 years of public health experience, which it sounds like you don't) to take a full time internship during that summer, for 12 weeks.

You probably have some issues to consider around what program to apply to. Some programs within the SPH are much more competitive than others. You'll then need to work on structuring your application so your goals within public health are very clear -- this is absolutely key for someone fairly new to the field.

Hello. I was excited about your post because it let me reminisce about my previous identity as a public health educator. I am a mom and have a Masters in Public Health, although I received my MPH before the kiddos, and I haven't worked full-time since my kids were born. In short, I have a BA from Cal in International Development and an MPH from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill in Health Behavior and Health Education. My specialty was (is?) curriculum development and workshop facilitation. My most recent paid position was a Trainer/Health Educator with Health Initiatives for Youth in San Francisco. I loved the job, but left shortly before my first son was born in Feb 2003. I now have a second son, who is 6 months old. Therefore, my current duties probably closely mirror yours. I hope to return to a career in public health, and have thought some about how I might do that.

There is a lot that I want to write about, but am too tired to get it out in a succinct manner. Feel free to email me with questions, or perhaps we can set up a playdate for the kids while we talk about something else besides our kids! If you want to get an idea of what types of jobs are out there, a good resource is the Public Health Employment Connection through Emory University ( I also used to refer people to the Health Education Professional Resource (, but just checked it, and the site hasn't been updated since July 03. Still, you can get an idea of job descriptions and salaries.

You can email me
Anita, MPH, MOM