University of South Carolina

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Public Health: What to Expect

If you’re looking for a rewarding experience in a field with many opportunities and a lot of room to grow and explore, you may want to consider majoring in Public Health. Public Health majors in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina are exposed to challenging coursework and work with nationally known faculty and staff experts. As a Public Health major, you will develop the specialized knowledge and skills needed to address current and emerging public health issues. With a degree in Public Health, you can become part of the effort to protect the environment, prevent the spread of disease, enhance health and wellbeing at home and abroad, and affect change in policy and law that ensures the rights of all citizens to a healthy world. As a Public Health major at USC, you will learn to demonstrate proficient reasoning and critical thinking skills including the ability to analyze, synthesizes, and evaluate information to make sound decisions and solve problems as they apply to public health. You will experience quality learning experiences both in and out of the classroom provided by well-trained, nationally known faculty and staff experts. The Arnold School of Public Health offers both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science with a major in Public Health.

The following courses fulfill some of the requirements for a Bachelor of Science and a Bachelor of Arts with a major in Public Health:  

  • Introduction to Public Health
  • Elementary Statistics for the Biological and Life Sciences
  • Principles of Epidemiology
  • Environmental Pollution and Health
  • Personal and Community Health
  • Psychology of Physical Activity
  • Introduction to Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior
  • Health Problems in a Changing Society
  • Community Health Problems
  • Introduction to Health Care Management and Organization

The student-teacher ratio varies based on courses. However many major-specific courses average less than a 20 to 1 student-teacher ratio. A detailed list of degree requirements can be found in the Undergraduate Bulletin.

Enhancing your Experience

Study Abroad allows you to earn academic credits toward your USC degree while seeing the world! Overseas study can complement any academic program or major. You may also choose to intern, volunteer, or conduct research abroad. You are encouraged to visit the Study Abroad Website for more information on opportunities to broaden and extend your knowledge and perspectives.
Student Organizations can be instrumental in helping you adjust to life on campus and network within your field. The University of South Carolina has a family of nearly 300 student organizations. Getting involved in an organization that interests you can help you network, meet new friends, and develop leadership skills. Public Health majors may pursue the opportunity to be a part of the Arnold School Dean’s Student Advisory Council. You can also seek out volunteer opportunities that relate to your major. Find a student organization on campus that interests you!
Graduate School is one of many possibilities following graduation. Public Health majors often go on to pursue graduate studies in fields such as medicine, veterinary science, physical therapy, and other allied health sciences. Many graduates also go on to attend law school.

Internship and Research Opportunities

Internships can be an important asset to your overall educational experience. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce what you've learned in class and can often lead to full-time employment. Likewise, pursuing professional research opportunities as an undergraduate student can also help enrich your academic experience while at the University. As an undergraduate student, you can work closely with faculty research mentors and explore a discipline that interests you. Both internship and research opportunities help you build a competitive edge in the job market.

As a USC student you will have numerous resources at your disposal to assist you with locating internship and research opportunities. The USC Career Center is the central location at USC for assisting students with internship preparation and finding an internship. In addition, be sure to visit your academic department as many programs offer supplemental internship guidance specific to your major. The Office of Undergraduate Research assists all USC undergraduates by providing research and scholarly experiences in their chosen fields.

Student Spotlight

Public Health major Sarah Ali was able to put her skills to use with an internship at Clarke and Company Benefits. Sarah was hired to make presentations on how to reduce health risks. She looked at several common causes of death in the United States including heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and did research on the controllable factors that play into them. She was then able to present this information in an applicable way to the public, as a way of educating people on the steps they could take to help themselves. Through her presentations, Sarah was able to better understand how multifaceted health is. “For as many times as you can look at a model of behavior, you still can’t think that health can be understood from only a few angles, nor can health concerns be solved merely by addressing behavioral choices,” she said. Sarah was able to develop research skills as a Public Health major at USC, which proved helpful in her internship opportunity. “USC taught me where to start researching and how to implement my research in the most effective manner,” she said. She was also able to gain additional knowledge about the field of public health, learning that public health is applicable in more than just disease outcomes. “Public Health has many layers from prevention to treatment, from impacting decisions to understanding policy. It affects all people and it is our job as public health professionals to find out how to best target each of these levels,” she said. Sarah said that she encourages current students to be creative and have fun during their internship opportunities and learn how to apply their skills in more than just their specific area.

A unique internship led Public Health major, Brandi Thompson, to Atlanta for the Public Health Summer Fellows Program at the Satcher Health Leadership institute at Morehouse School of Medicine. She spent her time researching and investing a major public health issue with three other interns. They focused on using information technology and social media to eliminate disparities and reduce stigma around mental illness. Brandi focused on Occupational Stress and how it contributes to a predisposed mental illness. The team built an interactive and informative Website that addressed mental illness and stigma. They also used a variety of social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube. Brandi was able to gain a new outlook on the public health field during her internship experience, while developing crucial skills. “I learned more about mental health and stigma and how it is such an important public health issue that must be addresses as it is a subject that is not talked about enough,” she said. “I also got hands-on experience with health promotion and education techniques. I leaned basic grant writing skills and interviewing skills.” Brandi’s favorite part of the internship was getting the opportunity to meet and learn from Dr. David Satcher, the 16th Surgeon General for the United States. “He taught us about the public health issue of mental health and stigma and gave wonderful advice on how I as a future public health professional can make a change for the better.” Brandi said that her experiences and courses at USC helped prepare her for her internship experience. “The classes that I am taking really prepared me to take on this internship,” she said. “The guidance, encouragement, knowledge, and skills that so many wonderful professors gave to me also really helped along the way.” Brandi encourages all Public Health majors to pursue an internship opportunity to get a better understanding of the public health field. “It is an excellent opportunity to get experience in your field of study. It really helps in focusing on what you want your future career to entail. It provides wonderful networking opportunities that are sure to benefit you after college.”

Career Opportunities

Public Health majors often pursue career opportunities in local public health departments, not-for-profit organizations, governmental agencies, international non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, hospitals and other medical or clinical settings, research laboratories, health and fitness centers, worksite wellness programs and the Peace Corps. Graduates also consider careers in health promotion, epidemiology, health communication, health management and policy, environmental health sciences, international health, and public health preparedness.

You can find more information about career options in the US Department of Laborís Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The USC Career Center offers numerous resources which provide more information about career opportunities for students in this major. Once admitted, a Career Development Coach is available to help you assess your interest areas, make decisions about your career path, and identify the experiences and skills that will help you accomplish your goals. Spur Connections will help you locate mentors from among USC alumni, employers and community members who can provide insights based on their careers and experiences. Early planning and preparation are keys to success.

About the Arnold School of Public Health

The Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina is one of 44 Council on Education for Public Health accredited schools in the nation and is the only school of Public Health in the state of South Carolina. The school was the first to build a department focused on teaching and research in communication and disorders and today leads the state and region in annual production of high quality speech pathologists. It is also a leading competitor for top tier National Institute of Health funding in brain and laryngeal studies related to speech acquisition/production, stroke, and dysphasia. As one of the first accredited schools of Public Health in the nation, the Arnold School offers over 30 specialized degrees, dual degrees, and certificate programs. Undergraduate students may select one of three Bachelor programs including a Bachelor of Science with a major in Exercise Science with a choice of four emphasis areas including Health Fitness, Motor Development, and Scientific Foundations; Bachelor of Science with a major in Public Health; and Bachelor of Arts with a major in Public Health.

Points of Pride

The Arnold School of Public Health leads the University’s colleges and schools in extramural funding per tenure-track faculty and is a major contributor to the University’s recognition by the Carnegie Foundation as an institution of both “high community service activity” and “high research activity.”

Additional Resources
Public Health Website
Arnold School of Public Health
University Career Center
Undergraduate Bulletin