Entering the field of public health is something that many decide is right for them, and with good reason. You’ll earn a great salary, enjoy some top-notch employee benefits, and be able to take pride in knowing that you’re helping others. But the public health field is about more than just bedside care. Becoming a public health journalist is one option worth considering, and one that could hold a lot of rewards for you.
Unlike some other jobs within the public health sector, becoming a public health journalist will move you into a position where you focus on spreading information rather than solely on providing direct patient care. It’s a unique career opportunity, and one that many will find is a perfect fit for them. To learn more about the job, read on.
What Is a Public Health Journalist?
A public health journalist is someone who focuses on helping to spread health information through various media forms. They’re similar to a traditional journalist, except they focus almost entirely on things like medical issues, study results, health tips, and more. The work that a health journalist does may appear in print, on online resource sites, and even on television. Information can often have a direct impact on the public health, and as such it’s important that those in the field be as accurate and honest as possible.
Potential job duties for those entering the field as a public health journalist include the following.
- Gather data and information related to a subject and review it to gain a complete understanding of the subject matter.
- Conduct interviews with doctors, patients, and experts on the subject being worked on.
- Craft a report or write an article about the subject using all data and information, while still presenting the information in an informative manner.
- Travel to different locations to research, investigate, and gain information.
- Report to superiors and discuss ideas for new topics or review current work to ensure its accuracy and readability.
- Attend conferences, conventions, and other gatherings of professionals in the field.
Those looking to become a public health journalist should have strengths in a few key areas. The following traits will help you tremendously when doing the job.
- Good Communication – Strong written and verbal communication is probably the number one trait you’ll need to have since the entire job revolves around it.
- Good Teamwork – While you’ll have your own projects, you’ll still often work as part of a larger team. With that in mind, making sure that you have good teamwork skills is important.
- Self-Motivated – You also need to be able to stay disciplined and motivated since you’ll usually have deadlines that you are expected to meet on your own, without a supervisor constantly checking in.
Nature of the Work
The work involves a number of things, and travel is a very common activity among all journalists, including public health journalists. The average day could involve visiting different locations or experts and conducting research and interviews, but could just as easily be made up of hours spent on the phone or internet conducting that same research. Office work is another huge part of the job, and you’ll spend a considerable amount of time writing reports and articles from behind the desk.
Some journalists are employed full-time by a specific employer, while others do freelance work and submit their information to various publications throughout the year. Both are viable career options in the field.
Education and Training
The overall education requirements for becoming a public health journalist vary greatly depending on your employer or on the situation. Usually, degrees in either communications, journalism, or public health will be the primary requirement. There are some schools that now offer programs that specifically deal with health care journalism, and these are excellent for preparing yourself for the job and for finding employment in the field. Some publications that accept freelance submissions may have much more lax education requirements.
Those working as a public health journalist earn an average of around $55,000 per year, though the specific income received will depend upon your skill, your employer, and much more. The job is still very in demand, and as more people turn to the internet for their information it may grow and evolve even further.