Considering a career in public health? Here’s how to become a public health physician, from completing your undergraduate degree to taking the necessary exams.
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Public health physicians are specially trained doctors who work to protect and improve the health of communities. They often work in government agencies or non-profit organizations, and their duties may include conducting research, developing policy, advocating for changes in the healthcare system, and providing direct patient care.
Becoming a public health physician requires completing a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by four years of medical school and at least three years of residency training in public health or a related field. Some public health physicians also choose to pursue additional training through fellowships or other advanced degrees.
Definition of Public Health Physician
Public health physicians are medical doctors who have gone on to specialize in public health. They work to improve population health by providing leadership and expert advice on public health issues and policies.
Public health physicians often work in government agencies or non-profit organizations, but some may also work in private industry or as consultants. They may be involved in policymaking, community outreach, research, and teaching.
Becoming a public health physician requires completing a four-year undergraduate degree, followed by four years of medical school. After graduation from medical school, public health physicians must complete a three-year residency in public health. Some public health physicians may also choose to pursue fellowship training or additional degrees such as a Master of Public Health (MPH) or a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH).
Steps to Becoming a Public Health Physician
Becoming a public health physician generally requires completing a 4-year bachelor’s degree program, followed by 4 years of medical school and a 3- to 8-year residency. Most public health physicians also complete a 1- to 2-year fellowship. Board certification is not required but may be beneficial.
Education and Training
Public health physicians need a medical degree and a license to practice medicine. To become licensed, they must pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination. In addition, they must complete a residency in public health or a related field. Some public health physicians may choose to complete a fellowship in a specific area of public health, such as epidemiology or biostatistics.
Most public health physician positions require at least a master’s degree in public health or a related field. Some jobs, such as those in leadership positions, may require a doctorate in public health or a related discipline.
Board certification for public health physicians is available through the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) and the American Osteopathic Board of Preventive Medicine (AOBPM). To be eligible for ABPM certification, candidates must be licensed to practice medicine in the United States, have completed an accredited residency training program in preventive medicine or a related discipline, and have practiced preventive medicine for at least two years. Candidates must also pass a written examination. AOBPM requirements are similar, but candidates must have completed an accredited residency training program in osteopathic preventive medicine and have passing scores on both written and oral examinations.
The public health physician job outlook is excellent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 14 percent growth in the number of jobs for physicians and surgeons between 2016 and 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. In addition, an aging population will lead to an increased demand for health care services. The BLS notes that job prospects should be best for physicians who are willing to relocate to areas with a growing population or a shortage of physicians.