Public Health Analysts: The Backbone of Public Health Data

Published on: Nov 22, 2023


According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, overall employment in healthcare occupations is expected to grow 13 percent over the next decade, which is much faster than other occupational groups1. Public health analysts, also known as public health data analysts, are among these fast growing occupations and an integral part of the public health workforce. In November of 2022, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention awarded $3.2 billion to states, cities, and localities to help strengthen the public health workforce2. This included a specific focus on recruiting and training public health data analysts to be deployed into the field. As an increasingly prominent role in the public health workforce, now is a great time to consider becoming a public health analyst. 

In this article, we will delve into the field of public health analysts by exploring common duties and responsibilities, essential skills, and educational pathways to becoming a public health analyst. Finally, we will end with training tips and advice for anyone considering a career in the field.

The Basics: Defining Public Health Analytics and Core Responsibilities

What is a Public Health Data Analyst?

Public health data analysts are one of the data backbones of the public health workforce. They collect and analyze data related to public health topics and then suggest recommendations, education, and programs to improve public health. Public health analysts work in a variety of settings, including all levels of government, nonprofit organizations, for profit companies, and research centers. Some public health analysts have one topic area that they focus on, such as global health, infectious disease, or health policy, while others have a more general focus that shifts as public health priorities shift. 

  • Data Collection and Analysis:

    Public health analysts collect and analyze data to improve the health of communities. They are experts at qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis, and use the data to inform public health policies, education, initiatives, and public health programs.

  • Epidemiological Investigations:

    According to the CDC, epidemiology is “the study of the origin and causes of diseases in a community”3. While public health data analysts may also focus on topics such as public policy, mental health, or health equity, many public health analysts will engage in epidemiological investigations. This type of research includes identifying public health issues such as a disease, condition, or environmental health concern, collecting data, and analyzing the findings to determine the origin or cause of the disease or condition. This may then lead to creating tracking and reporting mechanisms and implementing disease control measures to ensure optimal health and safety of the community. 

  • Program Evaluation and Policy Development:

    Public health analysts that focus on program evaluation or policy development are also known as policy analysts or health policy analysts. These health policy analysts often work in the public sector and focus on improving population health at the community level. They may work for a government agency, like the CDC, or a healthcare facility, like a hospital system, to synthesize data related to health services, healthcare quality, access, and affordability. This data will then be used to make policy recommendations and program suggestions. 

  • Collaborations and Communication:

    Public health analysts will collaborate with many other professionals during their public health careers. They will work with public health educators, clinical staff like public health nurses, and government officials to ensure communities and providers are operating with the most up to date health resources and information. They may also collaborate with other researchers to provide expert technical assistance with population health data collection and analysis. 

What are not common responsibilities and duties of a Public Health Analyst?

While public health analysts are an integral part of the public health workforce, there are many responsibilities that fall outside their purview. If you are interested in becoming a public health analyst, it is important to understand these limitations. 

  • Public health analysts do not perform any clinical services, such as prescribing medication, performing procedures, or diagnosing illnesses. 

  • While they may research diseases, policies, or programs that impact public health and human services, they do not work one-on-one with individuals to impact health behaviors; they work on the population level. 

  • They perform the research and may make program recommendations, but they do not typically manage the programs, grants, or initiatives that they recommend.

Digging Deeper: Essential Skills and Educational Path

What are the essential Public Health Analyst skills?

  • Strong Analytical and Critical Thinking Abilities:

    Public health analysts are experienced researchers and critical thinkers. They may look at one specific program, or a network of policies, and figure out how to make them better, which involves analysis and often outside-the-box critical thinking skills. 

  • Proficiency in Data Analysis and Statistical Software:

    Data analysis is a huge part of a public health analyst's job. Understanding how to use statistical software and complete data analysis activities is crucial. Public health analysts should understand the difference between qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research. Systems like STATA, SPSS, R, and Excel are commonly used in statistical analysis, and having a basic understanding of how to use the software will be helpful to jumpstart your public health analyst career. 

  • Understanding of Public Health Principles and Frameworks:

    Public health data analysis is still a public health job, so it’s important to understand basic public health principles and frameworks. Understanding concepts like the social determinants of health, importance of prevention, and financing of healthcare are helpful skills as a public health analyst.

  • Effective Communication and Presentation Skills:

    Many public health analysts will present their findings to health systems, government workers, policymakers, and even their community members. Having effective communication and presentation skills will help convey the importance of your work and your findings to the general public. Many public health topics are complicated and often use complex medical language. Part of your job is to distill the research into easily digestible messages that anyone can understand and implement into their daily lives. 

What education is needed to become a Public Health Analyst?

  • Undergraduate Education:

    Most public health analyst jobs require candidates to have at least a bachelor's degree in a public health, health sciences, or healthcare management related field. Many undergraduate programs will allow students to complete an internship to gain practical experience in the field. If you are interested in becoming a public health analyst, try to gain research experience either through a practicum or through your coursework. 

  • Graduate School Education:

    There are hundreds of accredited Master of Public Health programs in the United States. Many programs will allow you to specialize or concentrate in a specific subject area, such as policy, data analysis, or epidemiology. Most graduate programs require a research component, which is a great opportunity to gain real-world data analysis experience. If you are interested in becoming a public health analyst and want to pursue a graduate degree, look for a school that focuses on research experience.

  • Continuing Education and Certifications:

    While most public health analyst jobs do not require prior certifications, there are a variety of continuing education courses and certificates available. 

    • Certified in Public Health (CPH): The National Board of Public Health Examiners offers a Certified in Public Health certification for folks that are interested in certifying their commitment to contemporary public health topics. Public health professionals that have either a bachelor’s or master's degree and three to five years of work experience in a public health job will be eligible to sit for the CPH exam. 

    • Certified Health Data Analyst (CHDA): The American Health Information Management Association offers a certification in health data analytics (Certified Health Data Analyst) for folks that have a bachelor's degree and three years of data analysis experience. 

    • Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality (CPHQ): The National Association for Healthcare Quality offers a certification in healthcare quality (Certified Professional in Healthcare Quality) for folks that have at least two years of experience in healthcare.

Getting Started: Training and Advice

If you are interested in becoming a Public Health Analyst, here are some tips and suggestions to keep in mind:

  • Utilize Job Descriptions:

    Because there is variation in public health data analyst roles, take a look at job descriptions in sectors, environments, and topics that interest you. Look at the qualifications and preferred experiences to see how you can prepare to be the best candidate possible. Look at the official websites for research institutions, the National Institute of Health, and other organizations that hire public health data analysts to gauge how to become the best candidate for the role. For example, if you need specialized experience in a skillset like MS word, data analysis software, or another related field, see if you can take a free online course or shadow a local health care worker to learn. 

  • Network:

    We know that networking is an integral part of professional life nowadays. Reach out to folks on LinkedIn and in your community that have job descriptions or experiences that interest you. If you have a specific company you want to work for, try reaching out to their human resources department to gather information about the types of experience they look for in candidates. Networking can introduce you to new opportunities and open doors, which enables you to have a greater impact as a health analyst and in your public health career. 

By understanding the common responsibilities and duties, skills, education, training, and advice for aspiring public health data analysts, you can join the growing field and make a lasting impact on the health and future of your community.

About the Authors

Written by:

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML, is a program manager at one of the largest academic medical centers in the country. In her current role, she aligns and expands programming with needs identified in the federally mandated community health needs assessment, and deploys organizational resources to support community health improvement. Prior to this role, she was a community health educator for an advocacy nonprofit organization in Philadelphia. She has co-authored multiple research papers on criminal justice and substance abuse, and will be presenting on law enforcement assisted diversion at the 2023 American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Ms. Henkin holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and Master in Law (ML) from the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a Bachelors of Science in Health Sciences from Ithaca College.

Opinions and information published by the author on are of her own and do not necessarily represent the views of opinions of her employer.

Kerra Henkin headshot

Kerra Henkin, MPH, ML

Program Manager

Education: University of Pennsylvania

Knowledge: Community health education

Reviewed by:

Katherine Paul, MPH

Katherine Paul, MPH is a senior project manager at a leading medical communications and publications organization. She supports multidisciplinary teams handling large-scale accounts, the deliverables of which improve health outcomes and patient well-being. Ms. Paul holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree in Health Promotion from Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health and passed the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) shortly after graduation. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology from Dickinson College.

Ms. Paul previously worked at a public health non-profit where she managed all aspects of diverse health-related projects, including the implementation of a randomized controlled clinical trial on sexual health for teens with developmental disabilities, as well as the evaluation of a statewide tobacco cessation program with more than 20,000 annual cases. She has developed and delivered posters and presentations at national conferences including the American Public Health Association (APHA) annual meeting. 

Opinions and information published by the author here on are of my own and do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of my employer or other organizations for my designated roles.

Katherine Paul

Katherine Paul, MPH

Editorial Lead

Education: Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health

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