Public Health (B.S.) in Environment and Health - NIU - College of Health & Human Sciences

Public Health

Public Health (B.S.) in Environment and Health

Public HealthEnvironmental health professionals work primarily as inspectors and detectives to prevent and control diseases and injuries caused by environmental conditions. They assure the quality of our air and water, monitor food safety, oversee toxic waste clean up, develop policies for a sustainable society and investigate disease outbreaks, including those caused by bioterrorism. They investigate, evaluate and recommend solutions for preventing and controlling environmental hazards, frequently working with a variety of other health and science professionals, e.g., doctors, nurses, health educators, microbiologists.

To accomplish their work, environmental health professionals must have good public relations skills, a strong background in the biological and physical sciences and the ability to analyze complex situations. Issues relating to both bioterrorism and sustainability promise to increase the demand for environmental health professionals.

The curriculum for Environment & Health pairs the Public Health curriculum with a menu of courses from the environment health focus area such as biology, chemistry, geography, and technology. Students may choose to minor in biology, chemistry, or environmental management systems. 

Job Settings

  • Health Departments on the state, county & local level
  • Public and private foundations
  • Industry
  • State and local governments
  • International health agencies
  • Labor and consumer organizations
  • Consulting firms 

Key Issues

  • Bioterrorism, Planning Hazmat and County Health Department responses
  • Emerging infectious diseases (e.g., West Nile Virus, Ebola)
  • Initiatives (national, state & local levels) toward a sustainable society
  • Toxicological effects of chemical wastes
  • Parasitic diseases
  • Clinical and community-based outcomes research
  • Risk assessment of chemical and physical agents
  • Changing behavior to prevent disease
  • Outbreaks of food and water borne illness 

Sample Job Titles

  • Epidemiologist, county health department
  • Associate Sanitarian, county health department
  • Director, Occupational Health & Safety, U. S. Government national laboratory
  • Environmental Health Inspector
  • Program Coordinator, Environmental Health
  • Village Health Officer, municipal level
  • Environmental Health Director, county health department
  • On Scene Coordinator, U.S. EPA Superfund
  • Waste Management Coordinator, county health department
  • Sanitarian, Nation-wide grocery store chain
  • Asbestos Abatement Supervisor, private consulting firm
  • Licensed Lead Risk Assessor
  • Radon Measurement  Professional 

Job Trends

  • The second Task Force for Research Planning in Environmental Health Science reported a critical shortage in public health of qualified researchers in chemistry, toxicology, occupational health, environmental epidemiology and environmental engineering.
  • Demand for sanitarians seems to be growing as new development takes place.  The U.S. Government, and private corporations will be hiring food inspectors in response to recent food borne illness outbreaks.
  • The emergence of diseases such as AIDS and multi-drug resistant strains of TB, as well as, continued increases in sexually transmitted and other acute and chronic diseases has created a shortfall of 4,000 research epidemiologists. This shortage is expected to continue for decades to come.
  • Demand for biostatisticians remains high. There are more jobs available than biostatisticians to fill them in industry, research and academia. 

Internships and Job Opportunities

The Public Health Program is affiliated with over 120 health care agencies in the Northern Illinois Region which offer Internships to our students. These same sites also frequently employ our alums.