There is something for everyone in public health. With a wide variety of public health job opportunities, there are many ways you can use your knowledge and skills to carve out a public health career path.
The below information offers a snapshot of career opportunities within the Department. These are not current job openings. For a list of job openings, visit bhr.sd.gov/workforus/.
Career Paths in Public Health
The DOH nursing career path serves as a cornerstone of public health, focusing on promoting well-being for underserved and at-risk populations. Public health nurses diligently work to ensure access to essential healthcare services, aiming to prevent disease and reduce health risks through evidence-based care and education. Public health nurses provide a diverse range of critical services, including disease prevention, infectious disease management, immunizations, baby wellness screenings, referrals to specialized clinics, chronic care management, acute care, emergency response, behavioral health, and vital prenatal care.
"I worked as a nurse in an acute care environment for 26 years. Out of curiosity about “what else is out there”, I came to work at the DOH thinking I would give it a year. That was 17 years ago.
I have been able to continue to help others using my nursing skills, especially critical thinking. There are opportunities to share nursing knowledge when working with others on specific projects. Customer service is the bedside manner in public health. It is challenging, opportunities to grow are encouraged, and the Administration is supportive of the work I do and open to suggestions."
Roberta Hofeldt, RN
Clinical Care Coordinator, All Women Count! Program
Epidemiology staff play an important role in disease prevention and control, making it an important feature in public health initiatives. Epidemiologists are at the forefront of conducting crucial research and analysis that contribute to a deeper understanding of public health challenges. Their primary responsibility revolves around the study of diseases, illnesses, and the underlying risk factors affecting populations. These professionals are involved in conducting surveillance of infectious diseases, chronic diseases, injury prevention, substance abuse, mental health issues, maternal and child health, and environmental health, providing essential data and insights to inform evidence-based strategies.
"Working as an epidemiologist at the SD Department of Health has provided a good balance of working with data, working with people, being in an office, and being out in the field to understand the relationship between humans and their environment to decrease the impact of mosquito and tick-borne diseases in our communities."
Vectorborne Disease Epidemiologist
Disease Intervention Specialists (DIS) professionals are necessary in addressing communicable disease outbreaks, ranging from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and vaccine-preventable diseases to foodborne illnesses and emergency response situations. With a strong emphasis on cultural humility, respect, and compassion, DIS serves as the frontlines of public health within the communities they engage with. Their services include the investigation, prevention, and control of communicable diseases through client-centered interviews, partner services, education, specimen collection, directly observed therapy, community outreach, health system collaboration, surveillance, and emergency preparedness.
"Working alongside an exceptional team of DIS for the past year and a half has been truly a rewarding experience. From day one, it was evident that each DIS was driven by a commitment to serving our clients in South Dakota. The enthusiasm and camaraderie within the team makes coming to work easy and enjoyable. One aspect that sets a DIS apart is our work's varied and dynamic nature. Every day presents new challenges, whether it’s navigating complex cases or finding creative solutions, there is always an opportunity to learn and grow. What truly makes this job fulfilling is the ability to make a tangible difference in our clients’ lives, meeting our clients where they are, regardless of the challenges they face. By actively listening, educating, and guiding them, we empower them to make informed and healthy decisions. Witnessing the positive impact our efforts have on our client’s well-being is incredibly gratifying."
Disease Intervention Specialist
A public health lab professional performs tests on lab samples, researches different diseases and infections, and analyzes test results and conclusions to better assess issues or hazards surrounding public health. In the forensic lab, our technicians perform toxicology, drug chemistry, and cannabis analysis. Our environmental chemists work in microbiology, inorganic and organic chemistry, and chemical terrorism and our medical microbiologists focus on bacteriology, bioterrorism preparedness, mycobacteriology, serology, virology, and whole genome sequencing. These dedicated experts play an integral role in providing essential data and insights for informed public health decisions.
"At the South Dakota Public Health Lab, I am part of a great team of forensic chemists. Together, we problem-solve and tackle new challenges – so we can provide reliable and accurate test results for the always-growing array of chemical compounds we are asked to analyze. Most recently, we worked to validate analytical methods for potency testing of products containing phytocannabinoids (oils, plant material, and edibles). This work was necessary for compliance with new laws and regulations, but also exciting!"
"Working in the South Dakota Public Health Laboratory has been a rewarding experience. As a Senior Chemist, I am presented with new challenges and opportunities daily, which allows for continual learning and career growth. I work alongside a great team of individuals who strive to motivate, encourage, and support one another in and outside of the laboratory."
"I have been a senior microbiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health for the last 4 years. For a microbiologist in public health, the uncommon is commonplace. Here, we can focus on the infectious agents and perform the types of testing clinical labs can’t. The work and outcomes are rewarding."
WIC Dieticians are dedicated to promoting healthy nutrition and ensuring the well-being of current and prospective WIC program participants. They offer nutrition education and assessment, aiming to make WIC program benefits accessible and available to both current and prospective participants. Their services provide direct support to South Dakota WIC families, offering nutrition guidance, breastfeeding support, and assistance with accessing healthy foods and care beyond the WIC program. Additionally, they provide essential leadership and management support for WIC field staff and administrative support.
"Being a dietitian for the SD Department of Health and the WIC Program has been a great experience. It is so rewarding to help the community by providing food, education, and resources to those who need it. Seeing the impact that the program has on SD families makes it all worth it."
WIC Dietitian (Virtual Statewide Services)
"Working for South Dakota WIC as a Registered Dietitian has been so much more fulfilling than I ever expected. You get to build relationships with your clients and watch their children grow and develop. From their first appointment after baby is born until the day they turn 5, you get to be their support person! Watching mom’s feel empowered to breastfeed and make healthy decisions for their family is the best part of the job!"
WIC Dietitian in Rapid City
"Working as a dietitian for the South Dakota Department of Health WIC program is a truly rewarding experience. I’m surrounded every day by people who love what they do and the people they serve. People who are passionate about helping families reach their goals to raise happy, healthy children. They work hard to ensure families are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need to succeed. The participants are kind (and adorable) and appreciate the team of staff who have their backs. On top of that, I’m supported by my manager in raising my own family. She’s always looking for ways to ensure we have a healthy work/life balance and I appreciate that support."
WIC Dietitian State Nutrition & Training Coordinator
Community Health Workers (CHWs) offer interpretation and translation services, provide culturally appropriate health education and information, help people get the care they need, give informal counseling and guidance on health behaviors, and advocate for individual and community health needs. CHWs serve the public through immunization of school-age children and adults, pregnancy care services and education, school health services, and newborn hearing screening.
“I enjoy taking care of my community, helping to keep them healthy and safe. I get the opportunity to work with families to connect them with resources they need.”
Public Health Nurse
Public health inspectors are front-line members of government health departments who monitor businesses and public facilities to enforce state health regulations. As compliance officers who have the authority to issue fines and suspend business licenses, they play a key role in protecting the public from many common health threats. Health inspectors provide a variety of services, including food, lodging, and campground licensure and inspection, environmental health and water recreation oversight, plan reviews, and public outreach and response.
“Working as a Health Facilities Surveyor for the SD Department of Health has provided many opportunities to assist facility operators in creating a business environment that is safe for employees and the public they serve.”
Sr. Health Facilities Surveyor
Public health communications and marketing professionals make executive decisions about what information is shared with the public; decide how the information is disseminated; and accurately deliver the news to the correct audience. A career in this field can be very rewarding; these communication professionals serve the greater good by increasing awareness of public health services.
Our communications team leads media and public relations efforts as well as oversees content creation (print and digital), marketing, online infrastructure, graphic design, target market research, strategic communications outreach, brand management, photography, videography, and other special projects for the entire department. Open, transparent, and consistent two-way communication is primary to all that unfolds within this team to inspire confidence from those we serve.
"In communications, you work with every part of public health and need to be aware of what each program is up to so that it can be communicated to the public. My job responsibities include content development, graphic design of digital and print material, social media creation, website strategy and upkeep, videography, photography, and much more. In the seven years I've worked at the SD DOH, no day has ever been the same. There is always something new to learn and I enjoy that feeling of growth. It also feels good to know that my work may help others find the help and services they need."
Content Developer & Web Strategist
Rural health staff work primarily at the local level to improve the delivery of health services to rural and medically underserved communities, emphasizing access. Specific program examples include recruiting health professionals, assisting facilities such as hospitals and rural health clinics, helping interested organizations develop and use technology applications, and providing general information and referrals.
Rural health also includes Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and trauma, which are responsible for providing technical assistance to ambulance services and providers, partnering with stakeholders, collecting and reporting EMS data, licensing ambulance services, certifying emergency medical responders and technicians, and approving basic life-saving education for EMS providers.
South Dakota Medical Cannabis Program aims to improve the quality of life for individuals suffering from qualifying medical conditions while maintaining strict regulations to ensure patient safety and prevent misuse. Staff in the medical cannabis program work to license patients, caretakers, providers, and establishments, as well as provide oversight to the program through the development and enforcement of policies, procedures, and regulations.
If you enjoy numbers, have strong analytical skills, and want to work in a meaningful and dynamic field, you might consider a public health finance career path. The finance staff implements directives from the Finance and Operations Division Director and follows accounting principles to record, research, analyze, and develop reports for use in monitoring revenue and expenditures while creating financial reports and projections. Accountants also conduct daily business functions such as the reconciliation of accounts receivable and payable, allocation of funds, and reporting of grant and fund balances.
"As a Mathematics major, I never would’ve seen myself in a government accounting position. However, it has been a great experience. I have been able to grow in knowledge and in my career by challenging myself and working in a supportive and cohesive team. The South Dakota Department of Health is welcoming, inclusive, and innovative in processes and ways of thinking."
Budget & Operations Manager
The Department of Health offers a wide variety of internships throughout the department that are available at any time during the year. If you're looking to gain experience in any of the careers offered at the Department of Health, find opportunities on the BHR website under the "internships" tab.