The University Network

Job Opportunities To Expand For Climate-Focused Public Health Majors

There’s good news for public health majors focusing on climate change. New research suggests they will be increasingly sought after in the job market. 

An overwhelming 92 percent of current employers reported that the need for public health professionals with training in climate change will very likely increase in the next 5-10 years, according to a study led by researchers from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

“Climate change is a growing threat to human health,” the authors of the study wrote in a paper describing their findings. “While the current job market for candidates with training in both climate change and public health is relatively small, it appears to be growing.” 

Already, the demand for such job candidates seems to be higher than ever before. The researchers determined this by analyzing 16 years’ worth of job postings on the job board 

To determine the types of industries that are currently hiring such candidates, the researchers turned to job aggregator Indeed. They chose Indeed because it pulls jobs from a broad range of job posting sites and not just public health organizations. 

Overall, they determined that nearly 48 percent of the current job postings on Indeed were listed by nonprofit organizations. About 21 percent were listed by universities/academia, 20 percent were listed by corporations and nearly 10 percent were listed by government organizations. 

The most common positions, many of which require a master’s or even a doctoral degree, include faculty positions within colleges and universities, environmental and occupational health roles, public relations positions, fundraising jobs, engineering roles and positions as attorneys, primarily at government agencies related to environmental protection and at legal advocacy nonprofits. 

“These data suggest that pursuing doctoral-level education, or combining a public health degree with either law or engineering, might best qualify candidates with an interest in both public health and climate change in today’s job market, at least in the USA,” the authors wrote in the study. 

Of the employers who responded to the researchers’ survey, nearly 69 percent said their organization has hired people with a Master of Public Health or Ph.D. in Public Health. And more than 90 percent of them anticipate hiring people with a background in climate and public health sometime within the next decade. The employers surveyed came from all types of organizations, including government agencies, universities, hospitals and nonprofits, among others. 

“It is clear from our analysis that current employers value a host of skills and competencies, such as knowledge of climate mitigation, health equity and climate justice, pollution-health consequences and causes, risk assessment and policy analysis, among others,” Heather Krasna, lead author of the study and assistant dean and director of career services at Columbia Mailman School, said in a news release

“At the same time, we recognize that predicting future workforce needs with historical data or surveys does not give a complete picture of the disruptive reality created by climate change. We cannot model the emerging future from prior trends only, but also must adopt new paradigms of education,” she added.

The researchers believe that more schools of public health at colleges and universities should consider incorporating climate change education into their curricula, if they haven’t already. 

“Graduates with such training can bring their paradigm-shifting lens to the work they do within any public health-related organization,” the authors wrote in the study.