Seen these icons?

If we have events, jobs or news that are relevant to the page topic, you can access them by clicking on icons next to the print button.

Public Health | The Careers Service Public Health – Oxford University Careers Service
Oxford logo
About this sector

Public health is a multidisciplinary field concerned with preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting the health of populations. This may be a small local community or an entire country, rather than on an individual level. Protecting and improving health can be achieved through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention. Public health professionals may work on analysing the effect of genetics, lifestyle choices and environmental factors on health, in order to develop interventions to protect and improve health. There is a range of employers offering public health roles in local authorities, the NHS, health policy settings, academic research, voluntary/community organisations and international health settings. There is a helpful introductory video on public health on YouTube.

Working in public health can be a very rewarding career. By looking at the health of the whole population, you can understand and eventually influence various social, environmental, cultural, economic and political factors affecting health and well being.  While clinical medicine is vital for helping and supporting people when they fall ill, public health work provides opportunities to contribute to reducing the causes of ill health and improving people’s general well being. These opportunities include: developing systems to protect people’s health from environmental or human emergencies; helping people to improve their own health; and ensuring that our health services are the best and the most appropriate. Current big public health issues include dementia, cancer and mental health.

Types of job

Given the diversity of the organisations themselves, career opportunities are wide-ranging in this sector. There are a number of career options in research, public or government services, voluntary organisations, and non-governmental organisations.  The roles can be directly working with people, strategic, or administrative in the following key areas: improving people’s health, protecting people’s health, working with information, teaching and research, maintaining and raising standards, and in leadership, planning and management.

Some examples of roles or areas of work are: academic researcher, communicable and non-communicable disease control, communications and social marketing, community development, consultant in public health, dental public health, emergency planning, environmental health, GP in public health, health economist, health promotion/health improvement officer, health psychologist, health trainer, infection control and immunisation, information management and technology manager, lead for health intelligence function, policy lead, prescribing and medicine management, public health analyst, public health education, public health intelligence specialist, public health leadership, public health nutrition, screening and specialist community public health nursing. So whilst the core workforce consists of specialists (strategic work) and practitioners (front-facing), and there is also the wider workforce which includes any role which can influence health eg campaign managers, people working in leisure centres, and social workers.

Entry points

Entrants can be from a range of professional backgrounds including clinical (medicine, dentistry, nursing, professions allied to medicine) and non-clinical (a good first degree ideally in a subject relevant to public health, usually a health science or environmental degree). A Masters in Public Health can be an advantage for developing a career as a public health specialist either in the UK or overseas and the career options pathways after masters will depend partly on other related experience.

Some specialist consultant roles in public health require clinical backgrounds.  If these are of interest consult our information on Medicine as a Second Degree for more details about this career path.

Many careers in research in public health and related fields will require a doctoral degree. See our information on Academia and Higher Education  for more details on pursuing doctoral research and subsequent academic careers.

For more information on opportunities within international organisations (such as WHO or UN), NGOs and charities, see our pages on International Organisations, International Development and Charities.

Skills & experience

Skills needed

The skills required will very much depend on the role but may include:

  • Communication and persuasion
  • Research and critical thinking
  • Strategic thinking
  • Statistical/numerical skills
  • Multidisciplinary team work
  • Leadership
  • Flexibility

Getting experience

Some form of related work experience or volunteering experience with the client group or within your field of interest will be invaluable when applying for jobs. The Public Health Skills and Career Framework could help you to map your competencies and knowledge.

Look for advertised opportunities but also identify organisations you are interested in and find a relevant contact or approach them speculatively.

Students from any degree discipline can become members of the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) which gives access to FPH members and events for networking as well as keeping you up to date with public health issues.

If you do arrange work experience, there is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage.

Getting a job

Most jobs are within the public sector, NHS and local governments, and are advertised. Consult our sector information for how to find jobs in the areas mentioned above. When searching for jobs (for instance on www.jobs.nhs.uk), try searching by skills or keywords to enable you to locate vacancies which are within the field of public health but do not necessarily have it in the title.

Talk to people (contacts, colleagues, tutors, supervisors) who are already working in a field within which you might want to specialise, or who may know people who are in that field. If you are doing research for a thesis then think about how this may relate to, and help you to clarify, your future plans.

Some local authorities such as Birmingham and Thurrock run Public Health graduate schemes which provide the core experience required to progress onto a specialist scheme. It also allows graduates to obtain their Public Health Practitioner’s registration.

The FPH run a 5 year Consultant in Public Health training scheme which typically has 60 places of which half are filled by applicants with a medical background and half are non-medics. To get on the scheme, medical doctors will have needed to complete their Foundation Programme and non-medics need 2 years of relevant experience. During this scheme, most complete a Masters in Public Health.

Our resources

Books

The following books are available to read in our Resource Centre at 56 Banbury Road:

  • Trust me, I’m a health manager, Greg Sheridan, Charlotte Rastan, Dan Foulkes
  • Management Essentials for Doctors, Rory Shaw, Vino Ramachandra, Nuala Lucas, Neville Robinson
  • So You Want to be a Brain Surgeon?, Simon Eccles & Stephan Sanders (eds) – includes a section on public health medicine
External resources
Equality, diversity & positive action

A number of major graduate recruiters have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. To find out the policies and attitudes of employers that you are interested in, explore their equality and diversity policies and see if they are a Disability Confident employer or are recognised for their policy by such indicators as ‘Mindful Employer’ or as a ‘Stonewall’s Diversity Champion’.

The UK law protects you from discrimination due to your age, gender, race, religion or beliefs, disability or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s website on discrimination.

This information was last updated on 30 August 2018.
Loading... Please wait
Recent blogs about Public Health

Events for Researchers in Weeks 7 and 8

Blogged by Rebecca Ehata on 15/11/2018.

Closing soon: Win £5,000 to carry out a research project next summer!

Billed as their ‘Alternative Internship’, investment firm Baillie Gifford’s ‘Curious Minds’ competition, which is open to penultimate year or final year DPhil students in any discipline, represents an exciting opportunity for students who can demonstrate curiosity about the world and breadth of thinking. Entries close on 23rd November 2018. For more details see www.bailliegifford.com/curiousminds.

Alumni + Researchers@ Jobs for Mathematicians

When: Tuesday 20 November, 15:00 – 16:00
Where: Maths Institute, Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, Oxford

If you’re keen to explore careers which use your mathematical skills, the ‘Jobs for Mathematicians’ careers fair (16:00-18:00) is an excellent place to start. Get the most out of your visit by attending this pre-fair session, which aims to help you think about employer perceptions of researchers, and considers the most effective ways to present your skills and experience to the exhibiting companies. Click here to book a place.

Effective job-searching, networking and your digital identity

When: Thursday 22 November, 13:00 – 16:00
Where: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road, Oxford

Still a few places left at this interactive workshop, which looks at the best ways to:

  • review and enhance your online academic and professional profile
  • utilise your existing digital networks and develop new networks for new career opportunities
  • maximise your profile and networks to find exciting job opportunities.

Further information and booking here.

Communication skills for researchers: Improv workshop

When: Tuesday 27 November, 16:00 – 18:00
Where: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road, Oxford

This 2-hour masterclass will use improvisation techniques to boost your ability to respond spontaneously in stressful situations. It will help you deal with the unexpected and feel more confident to think on your feet. You will have the option to practice different techniques in a supportive environment. Book your place now to avoid disappointment!

Workshops at the Oxford Foundry in 7th week

Posted on behalf of The Oxford Foundry. Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 15/11/2018.

Idea Exploration: What is the value proposition?

19th November 18.00-20.00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

This workshop a part of the wider ‘Idea Exploration’ series. Suitable for ALL University of Oxford students, postgraduate students and ECRs, in any discipline. No prior business experience or knowledge required.

You have an idea, and you have a strong understanding of who your customer is – great! But having an in-depth understanding of the value that you’re adding to your customers is vital if you are to communicate effectively about your product or service. You want to make sure that your customers show up – and that they keep coming back.

This workshop will help you:

  • Define your value proposition
  • Effectively communicate your value proposition to your customers
  • Understand how this differentiates you from your competition

EQuip Yourself – The science of motivation and engagement

21st November 18.00-20:00, The Oxford Foundry. Sign up here.

Motivation comes from vision, goal setting, and celebrating small successes, but there’s more to it – there’s actually a science behind motivation. This Workshop explores how the neuroscience and psychology of motivation works within the brain and how to motivation yourself and others.

What will you learn?

  • What motivates you?
  • Finding your why – Identifying your personal values
  • Understanding the effect of dopamine on the brain
  • Authenticity and behaviour drivers

This workshop is a part of the Foundry’s 12 part EQuip Yourself Series, and is suitable for ALL University of Oxford students, postgraduate students and ECRs, in any discipline. No prior business experience or knowledge required.

Apply to the IMAGINE IF! pre-accelerator programme

Posted on behalf of Innovation Forum Oxford. Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 14/11/2018.

The IMAGINE IF! accelerator brings together science-focussed start-ups with seasoned entrepreneurs and industry experts to provide mentorship and to compete for a cash prize. This is your chance to develop your early-stage science-based idea into a real-life venture. The deadline is midnight (BST) 16 November 2018.

Apply here to the Health and Life Sciences IMAGINE IF! pre-accelerator: 

  • OPEN to all 
  • FREE to enter
  • NO equity in return
  • EXPERT mentorship, flexible and tailored to your venture’s needs. Check out our mentors.
  • EXPOSURE, publicity and networking across the local and global Innovation Forum platforms

The winner of the Oxford competition would enjoy a 6 month lab space in the BioEscalator Innovation LabsThis is in addition to the unmissable opportunity to pitch at the Global IMAGINE IF! Competition in the Next Health World Innovation Forum in June 2019 for more prizes and get the all-needed unrivalled exposure. Hear it from last year’s Global competition winners, the OXFORD startup BioMe.

Is Journalism your Passion?

Blogged by Damilola Odimayo on 14/11/2018.

If journalism is your passion, Journo Resources could be what you’ve been waiting for. With free information and tips on how to start and build your career, internships and graduate schemes, funding, bursaries and much much more, this could be the resource that helps kick-start your career.

Visit their website to find out more.

Tier 1 Graduate Entrepreneur Visa Endorsement Application – Information Session

Blogged by Elleanor Thornton on 14/11/2018.

This information session (with the Student Visa and Immigration Office and Endorsement Panel Chair) is an opportunity to better understand what the endorsement panel at Oxford are looking for and the mechanics of making your application. We strongly advise anyone thinking of making an application for endorsement to attend.

  • When: 27 November 2018 from 9:15-10:00
  • Where: Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road
  • TO BOOK A PLACE at this discussion contact reception@careers.ox.ac.uk with your name, course and year(s) of study.

We are keen to support entrepreneurial activity at all levels and encourage all graduating students from any discipline and with any sort of business idea to apply.

More information can be found here.

This page displays current related blog posts. If none display, you can still stay up-to-date with our newsletter sent regularly to all Oxford students.

Older posts can be found in our archive of past blogs.