Global Health - How to Become a Global Health Professional

Global Health

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Global Health Job Description

Global health is a branch of the fast-growing public health sphere, which is a priority in the United States and around the world. A global health professional helps the federal government, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), or private health organizations respond to health problems in developing countries. Positions under the global health umbrella include:

  • Epidemiologist

  • Public health adviser

  • Health scientist

  • Medical officer




A global health professional can engage with many, varied health issues faced by people living in low-income or mid-income nations, such as AIDS, tuberculosis, other tropical and infectious diseases, malaria, malnutrition, and medical problems caused by aging. With political turmoil and armed conflict common in these countries, a global health professional may also deal with the physical and psychological harm caused by war, violence, and internal or international displacement.

Global health professionals often engage with the urgent issues of prenatal, maternal, and obstretic care in developing regions. Improving conditions to avoid excess mortality and avoid preventable childhood diseases is an urgent and highly valued part of this work.

Global health can also focus on the larger scale process of building or expanding local medical infrastructure. Their professional advice and guidance informs developing countries' governments on the best way to deliver effective, timely care to their citizens.





Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.


Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 


Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.


Working Conditions

The exact working conditions faced by a global health professional (equipped with a master's degree) vary hugely depending on where they work. Jobs may be located in the United States, such as work at international agencies, research and study organizations, medical lending agencies with portfolios abroad, and government agencies like USAID.

Other global health jobs involve field work in or relocation to a foreign country. Government jobs, including those with the U.S. government and foreign governments, placement with WHO or other multi-lateral organizations, NGOs, and disaster relief organizations may all involve considerable time spent in developing countries. Working as a field consultant may involve traveling to a number of different countries each year to provide specialized expertise.

Pay for a global health professional differs very widely with the organization and location involved, as well as with experience, ranging from $31,000 to $85,000 per annum.



How to Become a Global Health Professional:


 1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)


Aspiring global health professionals typically must complete a bachelor's degree prior to entering a master's or doctoral program for entry into the field. Due to the nature of global health, there is no specific undergraduate degree that must be pursued prior to earning a graduate degree. Choosing an undergraduate major may largely depend on which field of global health candidates wish to pursue.

The academic programs offered to future global health professionals are extremely diverse and vary considerably from university to university. Areas of study can include food security and nutritional health, maternal and childhood medical care, infectious disease control, international health research, financial and economic structures for medical care and emergency services, and many others.


 2a. Take the Graduate Requisite Exam (GRE) or...


Most graduate programs revolving around forensic science require the GRE for admittance. It's a 3 hour and 45 minute, standardized, multiple choice exam that covers analytical writing, quantitative reasoning, and verbal reasoning.


The GRE is broken down into six primary sections:


Section Details
1 Analytical Writing Section
  • 2 writing assignments
  • 60 minutes
  • Tests student's abilities to assess arguments and communicate ideas
2 Quantitative Reasoning Sections
  • ~20 multiple-choice questions
  • 35 minutes per section
  • Tests student's abilities to solve mathematical problems and interpret data

2 Verbal Reasoning Sections

  • ~20 questions per section
  • 30 minutes per section
  • Tests the ability to understand and analyze written material
1 Unscored Section
  • A duplicate of one of the above sections


You can find study materials, GRE registration, and your test scores on the GRE website.


2b. Take the Medical School Admission Test (MCAT)


To be admitted into medical school, candidates must first take the MCAT, or Medical College Admission Test, a 7.5 hour, standardized, multiple choice exam used to assess the applicant's knowledge of science, reasoning, communication, and writing skills.

The MCAT is divided into four sections:


Section/Category  Section Breakdown
Biological & Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biology, organic chemistry, inorganic chemistry, and biochemistry
Chemical & Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests biochemistry, biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics

Psychological, Social, & Biological Foundations of Behavior

  • 59 multiple-choice questions
  • 95 minutes
  • Tests introductory psychology, sociology, and biology
Critical Analysis & Reasoning Skills
  • 53 multiple-choice questions
  • 90 minutes
  • Tests reading comprehension, humanities, and social sciences


3. Earn a Master's, Doctoral, or Medical Degree (2 - 4 Years)


Depending on the specific field of study that candidates wish to pursue, varying levels of degrees are required. Those looking to go overseas for work typically will require, at minimum, a master's degree in public or international health. 

Candidates who are unsure about whether global health is a field they definitely want to pursue may want to seek a medical degree due to its flexibility, allowing individuals a broad range of choices in employment.

Field experience, such as through the U.S. Peace Corps or other high-profile organizations, greatly improves a global health worker's career prospects. Volunteer work and field placement in developing nations is a very valuable addition to any master's degree in this discipline and is usually available during the educational process.


Salary Outlook

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