For many, a perfect career means a job that offers personal rewards, challenge, great benefits, excellent salary, and more. Entering the public health field has become a very popular way to seize these different things, and in particular becoming a public health attorney holds a large amount of potential benefit.
Of course, it requires an investment of time and energy to become an attorney in the public health field. It’s not a job for everyone, but for those who it fits it will offer some incredible career opportunities. With that in mind, keep reading to find out more about this highly rewarding job.
What Is a Public Health Attorney?
As its name suggests, a public health attorney is a lawyer who works in the field of public health. More specifically, they work as advisors and attorneys for government agencies, communities, and even for individuals or groups of people. Their primary responsibilities will be one of two things.
- Serving as an advisor, a public health attorney will help explain legal rights concerning the public health field and may help provide businesses, individuals, or governments with a good idea of what course of action to take in a matter.
- As an advocate or legal representative, the public health attorney will actually represent a person or organization in trials. Few criminal issues arise in public health, and in most cases they will find themselves working to develop policies that improve the overall public health and wellness.
In general a public health attorney will be primarily concerned with creating laws and regulations that help stop health issues and improve the health and wellbeing of the public. A good example of this is the legislation in most states that led to the banning of smoking in bars and restaurants.
There are numerous skills and characteristics that come in handy when working as a public health attorney. Those who want to seek employment in the field will want to assess their strengths and determine what areas they excel in. Some areas that it helps to be strong in include the following.
- Good Public Speaking Skills – Speaking in public is one of the biggest tasks an attorney will have to undertake, and being naturally good at it is important.
- Strong Organizational Skills – Those entering the law field will need to be able to organize their information and reports as needed.
- Well Disciplined – It’s important to be motivated and disciplined since the majority of the work a lawyer will handle is done on their own without direct supervision.
- Good Clerical Skills – Attorneys also spend a large amount of time doing research, filing reports, and more. As a result, strong clerical skills are an absolute must when pursuing employment as a public health attorney.
- Strong Problem Solving Skills – It’s also important that an attorney possess the problem solving skills needed to overcome various issues that may arise during a case and that they can identify different solutions to anything they may be investigating or working on.
Nature of the Work
The overall nature of the job will depend on a wide range of factors and can change depending on the case or the current task at hand. Generally, attorneys will focus on examining and developing laws, policies, and regulations that improve the health of the public and the environment. Civil and even criminal trials may be a part of the job, but it’s far more common for them to spend their time working on developing policies. They may also work alongside other legal professionals or government representatives on a regular basis.
Education and Training
Becoming a public health attorney requires a serious investment of time and money. The educational requirements will mean that a bachelor’s degree must be earned, followed by completion of law school. During this time a specialized area of law may be focused on – in this case public health. Once that law school has been completed a potential attorney will have to take and pass the bar exam in order to gain licensure. Another path is to earn a master’s degree in public health and combine this with an education in law. Certain schools offer JD/MPH dual degree programs.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average salaries for Public Health Attorneys are roughly $113,530 annually. The job growth is on par with the national average, at about 10% growth over the next decade.