Community Activist

Finding a rewarding career that also provides financial stability and growth opportunities can be a challenge in many industries.  Public health services, however, is one of the field that is still experiencing considerable growth in employment and job creation.  As the focus on public welfare through prevention and intervention continues to increase, positions in this sector can offer good career choices.

Public health initiatives are often based on a combination of need within the community and awareness.  Community activists help to not only gain services for the public but also to raise legislative measured for these provisions.  With constantly changing laws about healthcare, this career path can provide an exciting entry into the field of public health, with great possibilities for job stability and community change.

What Is A Community Activist?

A community activist in public health is essentially responsible for assessing population health needs and enacting changes within the local, state, or federal government so that the appropriate services may be accessed by the community.  This will include lobbying for legislative changes and funding, as well as raising awareness within the community and the government.  Community activists help to meet public needs by educating populations and lawmakers, and addressing concerns that can affect health and safety in a municipality.

Community activists would take on the following duties as part of the job:

  •   Assess public needs for health and wellness.
  •   Evaluate current resources and services to see if they fit the needs.
  •   Gather demographic information through statistics and narratives.
  •   Formulate valid courses of action to offer better access and better services to the public.
  •   Attend and speak at hearings where healthcare and safety laws are under consideration.
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As a community activist, you would also need to cultivate the following skills to enhance job performance:

  •   Public speaking:  Much of this position will require that you are comfortable speaking to both formal and informal gatherings.  You will need to be able to present information clearly and in a manner that is engaging.
  •   Problem solving:  You will need to come up with viable solutions to issues in funding or policy that affect public health and wellness.  This will require innovation and creativity, as well as sustainability. 
  •   Researching skills:  You will need to understand the needs of the public, the resources that are available, and historical challenges in health service provision. 
  •   Interpersonal skills:  You will be interacting with governmental entities and the public.  This will require that you are able to handle yourself openly and with integrity with a number of different personalities. 

Nature Of The Work

Community activists may work for specific departments in local, state, or federal government, but may also work for non-profits and community interest organizations.  This position may require that you travel extensively, both to gather information on the population, and to approach different legislative boards.  Along with this type of field work, you would also have a number of office and administrative duties.

Much of the office work as a community activist is spent fielding questions and concerns from the public and from law makers, as well as generating reports that outline needs and proposed solutions.  You will often be required to present these findings in court hearings, but you will also be responsible for exciting public interest and action around key issues for change.

Education And Training

Many community activists are able to find entry level positions with a four year Bachelor’s degree.  This would include having completed coursework in political sciences, social and community relations, and urban studies.  A background in healthcare and public health services is also beneficial for the position, as is an understanding of current laws about healthcare and health services.

The position of community activist also requires prior experience.  This can range from three to five years of prior work or volunteering, depending upon the level of the position.  Some candidates will complete this through internships while they are finishing an undergraduate degree.  You may need to volunteer for community health organizations after graduation to gain this hands on experience.

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Public health departments are beginning to rely heavily on the influence of community activists in order to generate changes in policy and in funding for public care services.  This position averages about $60,000 per year, with entry level positions starting at $35,000 and federal positions closer to $90,000.  Years of experience and the level of government that you interact with will play a large part in your earnings, but the possibilities for advancement are accessible on local, state, and federal levels.

The projection for job growth in this field is expected to be around 21% over the next ten years, which is very much in keeping with the demand for better health services.  At least half of this growth is thought to be in entry level and local government jobs, which offers a number of opportunities for you, if you are considering becoming a community activist.  

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