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

Public health is a multidisciplinary field concerned with improving and protecting 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

Employment rights & equality

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 as well as on 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.

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 and to find out where and how you are protected, as well as what you need to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Government’s webpages on discrimination.

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

 

This information was last updated on 09 August 2017.
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Recent blogs about Public Health

Researcher and DPhil Workshops in 8th Week

Posted on behalf of Rachel Bray. Blogged by Lili Pickett-Palmer on November 22, 2017.

 

Too Late to Change Direction? Career Transitions for Researchers

  • When: Tuesday 28 November, 9:30– 12:30
  • Where: Careers Service
  • Booking: To reserve a place, please go to CareerConnect

In this workshop we will explore our understanding of the pros and cons of staying in academic research, whether and how we can move to another sector (or combine aspects of academia with another role) and what we feel we might be risking in making this move.

In small groups, we will then

  • become familiar with an evidence-informed framework for assessing a potential career move,
  • think about how to use this in our current roles,
  • develop some practical strategies to assist decision-making.

Oxford Brookes Law Fair & GDL Event

Blogged by Juliet Tomlinson on November 21, 2017.

The Oxford Brookes Law Fair is open to all law and non law students from the University of Oxford.  It is taking place in the Forum at the John Henry Brookes Building, Oxford Brookes on Tuesday 28 November at 17.30-19.00. As in previous years, a range of regional law firms and barristers’ chambers have been invited. Firms attending include Blake Morgan, Brethertons, BrookStreet des Roches, Knights Professional Services and Royds Withy King.

Those interested in attending should register as soon as possible at Oxford Brookes Law Fair 2017.

GDL Open Evening, Tuesday 28 November, 16.30-19.30

The Oxford Brookes’  GDL Open Evening is running alongside the Law Fair. Those who are interested in attending the GDL Open Evening should register separately at GDL Open Evening.

How will real estate be used differently in 10 years’ time?

Posted on behalf of Oxford Real Estate Society. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on November 16, 2017.

The Oxford Real Estate Society invites entries for its 2018 essay competition. The topic is “How will real estate be used differently in 10 years’ time?”. Entrants are invited to submit an initial proposal of c.100 words by 31 Jan 2018. These will be reviewed and a group of entrants will be selected to expand their synopsis into an essay of 800-1000 words, due for submission by 28 Feb 2018. The winning entry will receive £1,000 and the opportunity to present the key ideas of their essay at the 2018 OxRES Conference. Students of all disciplines and backgrounds are encouraged to apply and no previous real estate experience is required. For further information please email competition@oxres.org.

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