Skip to content

What are the differences between a life in public health versus allied health?

Attributes Public Health Allied Health

The fulfillment of society’s interest in assuring the conditions in which people (as small as a handful of people or as large as all the inhabitants of several continents ) can be healthy.

Organized community efforts aimed at the prevention of disease and the promotion of health.

Health care practitioners with formal education and clinical training who are credentialed through certification, registration and/or licensure.


The goal of public health is to improve lives through the prevention and screening of disease.

The goal of allied health professionals is to collaborate with physicians and other members of the health care team to deliver high-quality patient care services.

The focus of public health intervention is to prevent rather than treat a disease through surveillance of cases and the promotion of healthy behaviors.

Allied health professionals are involved with the delivery of health or related services pertaining to the identification, evaluation and prevention of diseases and disorders, dietary and nutrition services, and rehabilitation and health systems management, among others.

Core Functions

The assessment and monitoring of the health of communities and populations at risk to identify health problems and priorities;

The formulation of public policies designed to solve identified local and national health problems and priorities;

The assurance that all populations have access to appropriate and cost-effective care, including health promotion and disease prevention services, and evaluation of the effectiveness of that care.

Allied health professionals collaborate with physicians and other members of the health care team to deliver high-quality patient care services for the identification, prevention and treatment of diseases, disabilities and disorders.

General Characteristics

There are 3 distinct characteristics of public health:

  1. It deals with preventive rather than curative aspects of health
  2. It deals with population-level, rather than individual-level health issues
  3. It is research/data-driven, rather than immediate intervention application.

The base of knowledge for public health comes from a variety of disciplines, ranging from social sciences to biological sciences and business, brought together by a commitment to improving the public's health. While physicians treat the ills of individuals, public health professionals respond to society's health problems--domestic violence, teen smoking, sexually transmitted diseases, hazardous waste and dangerous workplaces.

Public health experts examine such questions as, Who gets certain diseases and why?

Can a common element be changed to prevent an illness among an entire population? Does that element require a change in behavior; technology, policy, or the health care delivery system? How can we motivate individuals to change their behavior? Can the new technology be developed? How should the health care delivery system be changed to improve access and treatment?

The allied health professions fall into two broad categories:

  1. technicians (assistants)
  2. therapists/technologists

Technicians are trained to perform procedures, and their education lasts less than two years. They are required to work under the supervision of technologists or therapists. This part of the allied health field includes physical therapy assistants, medical laboratory technicians, radiological technicians, occupational therapy assistants, recreation therapy assistants and respiratory therapy technicians. The educational process for therapists or technologists is more intensive and includes acquiring procedural skills. In addition, students of therapy/technology learn to evaluate patients, diagnose conditions, develop treatment plans and understand the rationale behind various treatments in order to judge their appropriateness and potential side effects.

Individuals in allied health are involved (directly or indirectly) with patient health and are regarded as an expert in the field. Some allied health professionals practice independently; others work as part of a health care team, providing continual evaluation and assessment of patient needs. They also play a major role in informing the attending clinician of the patient's progress and response to treatment.

Required Coursework for Major

Required Coursework for Wellness Concentration

Exercise Science Courses:
ESC 280 Adult Fitness
ESC 340 Kinesiology
ESC 372 Exercise Leadership
ESC 380 Functional Anatomy
ESC 380 Testing and Prescription

Health Science Courses:
HSC 100 Health Science
HSC 130 Medical Terminology
HSC 150 First Aid
HSC 203 Nutrition
HSC 235 Introduction to Public Health
HSC 350 Epidemiology
HSC 360 Biostatistics
HSC 375 Social and Behavioral Science
HSC 440 Health Policy
HSC 445 Health Promotion/Program Planning
HSC 450 Public Health Leadership

Social Science Courses:
SOC 310 Social Stratification
SOC 319 Qualitative Data Collection
SOC 375 Research Methods

Exercise Science Courses:
ESC 270 Prevention/Care of Sports Injuries
ESC 330 Motor Development/Skill Acquisition
ESC 340 Applied Kinesiology
ESC 380 Exercise Testing and Prescription
ESC 460 Physiology of Exercise

Health Science Courses:
HSC 100 Health Science
HSC 200 Introduction to Allied Health
HSC 130 Medical Terminology
HSC 150 Emergency Response
HSC 203 Nutrition
HSC 230 Human Anatomy and Physiology I (1)
HSC 234 Human Anatomy and Physiology I (1) Lab
HSC 231 Human Anatomy and Physiology II (2)
HSC 235 Human Anatomy and Physiology II (2)
HSC 350 Biostatistics
HSC 360 Principles of Epidemiology in Exercise and Public Health
HSC 491 Seminar in Allied Health

Social Science Courses:
PSY 200 General Psychology
PSY 211 Statistics and Experimental Methods I (1)
PSY 220 Fundamentals of Biopsychology/ Learning
PSY 250 Health Psychology

Natural Science Courses:
BIO 203 Biological Diversity
BIO 204 Biological Unity
CHE 152/153 General Chemistry I (1) w/lab
Other Courses:
ECO 204 Principles of Microeconomics OR
ECO 205 Principles of Macroeconomics

Internship Requirement

12 Hours


Graduate Schools

Biostatistics and/or Bioinformatics
Maternal and Child Health
Health Services Research
Health Promotion
Health Education
Community and Family Health
Environmental Health and Risk Assessment
Occupational Health
International Health
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Clinical Research Methods
Effectiveness and Outcomes Research
Health Policy
Public Health Nutrition
Public Health Communication and Marketing
Public Health Management
Immunology and Infectious Diseases

Physical Therapy
Physical Therapy Assistant
Physician Assistant
Occupational Therapy
Certifications/Programs for other allied health careers (i.e. radiation therapist, etc.)


Research Analyst
Health Promotion
Health Education
Health Services Administrator
Health Project/Program Coordinator (nutrition,
physical activity, condom use, alcohol/drug
abuse, tobacco use, intentional/unintentional
injury prevention, cancer, heart disease,
HIV/AIDS, diabetes, childhood obesity,
elderly, maternal and child, adolescent health,
health disparities, etc.)
Healthcare Quality Director
Infectious Disease Specialist
Health/Social Policy
Environmental/Occupational Health
Social Marketing
Media Advocacy
Health Director (county, state, regional, federal)
Health Strategy and Development
Global Health
Reproductive/Sexual Health
Clinical Research
Community Health Coordinator
Corporate Wellness Director
Emergency Management Specialist

Occupational Therapy
Physical Therapy
Physician Assistant
Respiratory Therapy
Vision Care
Medical Laboratory
Health Information Management
Dietary Service
Biomedical Engineering