Public and Community Health

Now is an exciting time to pursue a career in public and community health. Public health focuses on health promotion and disease/injury prevention rather than on diagnosing and treating illnesses and conditions after they occur. The pandemic highlighted the important role public health professionals play in the lives of people and communities. Many of the career opportunities in this field are experiencing much faster than average growth. The number of undergraduate majors in public health has skyrocketed the past few years, with the importance of public health brought to the forefront by the COVID pandemic (Public Health Majors Grow).

Public health is an extremely broad field and, as such, can be an attractive option if you are looking for an undergraduate major that focuses on health. Concerned about the prevalence of diabetes, lack of safe water supplies, emerging infectious diseases, cancer, or the widespread use of prescription drugs? Inspired by the debates over health care legislation? Want to take a role in confronting the monumental health challenges facing nations? Committed to addressing health disparities and advocating for an inclusive health care for all? With a degree in public and community health, you’ll be ready to help people make sense of conflicting societal messages about how best to eat, live, work, and exercise.

You can also be a leader in government, nonprofit organizations, and communities to guide them in adopting more ethical, fair, and cost-effective public health policies. Obtaining a solid foundation in public health prepares you to directly enter the workforce or it can lay the groundwork for pursuing a master’s degree in public health. Those who go on to pursue a master’s degree in public health often specialize in areas such behavioral science/health education, biostatistics, environmental health, epidemiology, global health, administration, maternal and child health, and public health policy.

Our public and community health major offers a great deal of flexibility in planning your course of study.  Students in this degree program have gone on and pursued clinical options such as physical assistant graduate study.   For example, Chelsea Doig was a 2017 Public & Community Health grad that went on to obtain an PA degree from the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences.  She works as  physician's assistant at Delaware Academy in Delhi, NY as part of a school-based health clinic. Read about Chelsea's work in this recent article on the importance of school-based clinics in rural health care.

Our flexible degree program offers you the ability to focus on an area of interest that aligns with your career goals.  You can select from an in-depth focus on health or work with your advisor to develop a planned interdisciplinary combination of study.  

Customize Your Studies

Depending on your career and intellectual interests, you will work with your faculty advisor to customize your studies with one of two curricular directions:

  • Restricted health electives, which permits you to select from a list of health-related courses. These courses focus on various policy issues like food, international health, human sexuality, or economics topics.

 - or -

  • Planned interdisciplinary combination (PIC), where you complete nine health-designated credits and then nine of your choosing in a topic of interest. For example, if you are interested in specializing in environmental studies, older populations, or women's health.

Hands-On Practice

You are required to complement your classroom experience with a professional practicum. Our students typically complete these requirements during their junior or senior years as part of their coursework in the fall or spring semester. You may complete this on campus, although many of our students opt to complete this requirement with a variety of organizations in the Ithaca community. Six credits of fieldwork, internship, or supervised research (at most 3 credits can count from research) are required for graduation. You may break these credits up into distinct experiences - the majority of our students complete two, three-credit internships - one in each semester. It is also possible to complete fieldwork, internship, or research requirements during the summer months, however summer tuition does apply. All experiences must be approved in advancewe do not provide retroactive credit

An important component of this experience is reflection and evaluation. You will be asked to make connections in writing between your classroom learning and your observations while immersed in one of these experiences.

Professional Excellence Award Winners 2022

Our Graduates

As a public and community health graduate, you will be well-prepared to continue on to graduate school or to enter the workforce. Courses taken in this major prepare you well for graduate training in public health but also satisfy many of the prerequisites for professional study as a nurse practitioner or physician assistant. 

There is a growing need for public health professionals.  COVID-19 brought to the forefront the important contribution public health professionals make to the nation and communities. Recent articles on CNN and in the Washington Post highlight the growing interest in public health by prospective college students as well as efforts to support the growth of public health by the government.  This interest and significant need bodes well for those interested in pursuing a career in this area.



  • Boston University School of Public Health
  • Columbia University School of Nursing
  • Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health
  • Drexel University
  • Medical University of South Carolina
  • New York University School of Global Public Health
  • Pacific College of Health and Science
  • SUNY Albany School of Public Health
  • Tufts University

Other graduates have pursued advanced study in Masters of Health Administration and nursing.


  • Acupuncturist 
  • Care Coordinator
  • Health Inspector
  • Health Promotion Coordinator
  • Marketing Assistant
  • Nutrition Specialist
  • Patient Relationship Coordinator
  • Public Health Preparedness Assistant
  • Practice Manager
  • Residency Coordinator
  • Communications Specialist, USAID
  • Program Associate, Boston Foundation
  • Product Manager, Kidney Care, CVS
  • Research Assistant
  • Food Security AmeriCorp Vista
  • Telehealth Project Manager
Help prepare for a public health emergency

Learn more about the opportunity to participate in an emergency preparedness exercise conducted in conjunction with staff from our local Tompkins County Health Department. This exercise, referred to as Point of Dispensing or POD, uses the distribution of the annual flu vaccine to the entire College campus to simulate distributing vaccinations if there were ever an emergency event necessitating rapid vaccination.


HSPH Department 
G56 Hill Center
Ithaca College • 953 Danby Road • Ithaca, NY 14850