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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 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.
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Recent blogs about Public Health

Free Practice for Psychometric Recruitment Tests

Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 12/09/2018.

Since the beginning of September, your Careers Service is providing free access to a comprehensive range of practice materials to help students and alumni prepare for the recruitment tests commonly used by companies in recruitment.

This service provided by JobTestPrep covers pretty much the full spectrum of recruitment psychometric tests and also includes practice materials specifically developed to mirror the tests used by individual named companies. So whether you are looking to prepare for verbal and numerical reasoning tests, or e-tray exercises, or the Watson Glaser tests used by nearly all law firms, the free access we provide will help you to prepare and practise.

Matriculated students and alumni must apply to the Careers Service for an Access Code. This will give you 12 months free access to the site from the first time that you log in with the code. To request a code, sign-in to your Oxford CareerConnect account and submit a query via the Queries tab using the title: Request for JobTestPrep Access Code.

An additional free resource offering a whole bank of tests is provided for us by Practice Aptitude Tests, and this can be accessed by anyone who has an Oxford University email address. To access this service, simply register using an email address that ends .ox.ac.uk. 

Full advice is given in our briefing on Psychometric Tests.

Work Experience Programme for Disabled Students

Posted on behalf of Leonard Cheshire: Change 100. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on 10/09/2018.

Change100 is a programme of paid summer work placements and mentoring.

It’s 100 days of work experience that can kickstart your career!

Change100 aims to remove barriers experienced by disabled people in the workplace, to allow them to achieve their potential. They partner with 90 organisations including Barclays, the BBC, Skanska & Lloyds who believe disability isn’t a barrier to a brilliant career.

It’s designed to support the career development of talented university students and recent graduates with any disability or long-term health condition, such as:

  • physical impairments
  • sensory impairments
  • mental health conditions
  • learning disabilities or difficulties e.g. dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD
  • other long-term health conditions e.g. diabetes, MS

Who is Change100 for?

To apply to Change100, you must meet all the following criteria:

  • have a disability or long-term health condition.
  • be in your penultimate or final year of an undergraduate or postgraduate university degree, or have graduated in 2016 or 2017. Any degree subject accepted.
  • have achieved or be predicted a 2:1 or 1st in your undergraduate degree.*
  • be eligible to work in the UK for the duration of a full-time summer work placement.

*If your academic performance has been affected by mitigating circumstances related to your disability or health condition, these will be taken into account. Please get in touch to discuss this.

Applications for Summer 2019 will open on Monday 24 September and close on Wednesday 16 January 2019.

For more information and to register your interest, click here.

Free Female Leadership Event – London

Posted on behalf of Girls in Leadership UK. Blogged by Polly Metcalfe on 10/09/2018.

Girls in Leadership UK is pleased to announce their launch with the ‘Learn to Lead’ event. The evening will be packed with inspiring speakers, life-changing stories of women in leadership across different sectors including Banking and Law. Our panel of speakers will provide you with detailed and practical advice on how to lead in your chosen field as well as lessons from their leadership journeys. Learning to lead is a poetically vast and exciting theme. The discussions will leave you feeling energised and inspired for creating your own wonderful adventures at whatever stage. Attendees will also have the opportunity to network with the speakers, guests and other attendees.

Schedule

18:00-18:10 Introduction

18:10-18:20 Keynote speaker Sophie Khan

18:20-18:45 Panel Q&A

18:45-19:00 Questions from the audience

19:00-19:15 Closing remarks

19:15-20:00 Networking

The event is mainly for those at university or beyond, but you are most welcome if you think you can benefit from the discussions. Please arrive at 17:45pm for registration. Limited spaces are available so bag your tickets early to avoid any disappointment! You can sign up here.

 

Postgraduate study in Canada – EduCanada event in London

Blogged by Abby Evans on 07/09/2018.

Students and their families are invited to this completely free event at Canada House in London to learn about postgraduate study opportunities in Canada and to meet informally with Canadian universities and colleges to get any questions answered. Advance registration is required to attend – find out more and book your place here.

Seminar programme (10am – 12pm)

  • Studying in Canada: an overview of the Canadian education system
    Allison Goodings, High Commission of Canada
  • Living and Working in Canada: a guide to applying for Canadian study visas, and information on post-study visa opportunities
    Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada
  • How to Apply: a panel discussion on Canadian postgraduate admissions
  • Tuition and Fees: a panel discussion on finance, funding and scholarships for international postgraduate students

The main exhibition will open at 12pm, where you’ll be able to speak to the Canadian institutions who are exhibiting.The event will be held at Canada House on Trafalgar Square, a beautifully restored heritage building that now houses an impressive collection of Canadian art and design.

Bar Pro Bono Unit: Caseworker Volunteering Opportunities

Posted on behalf of Bar Pro Bono Unit. Blogged by Annie Dutton on 15/08/2018.

The Bar Pro Bono Unit is the Bar’s national charity, based in the National Pro Bono Centre on Chancery Lane, London, which helps to find pro bono legal assistance from volunteer barristers. They are seeking dedicated and enthusiastic individuals to volunteer as Academic Year Casework Volunteers 

This is a fantastic opportunity to obtain unique exposure to the Bar as a profession and to a wide range of areas of law. By volunteering you  will  learn a great deal about the practical working of the courts and the needs of litigants in person which should complement your studies.

You will be assisting the caseworkers one day per week, over a four month period. Tasks will include:

  • Drafting case summaries, using the case papers provided by individuals who need legal assistance; these case summaries are then used by experienced barristers when reviewing the file.
  • Drafting case allocation summaries which are used to try to find volunteer barristers around the country to take on the case on a pro bono basis.
  • Taking telephone calls from the public and providing updates to existing applicants.

Closing date for applications: Monday 27 August 2018 at 23:00

Requirements

You must have completed at least one year of law-related study or law-related work.

Previous volunteer’s feedback:

“I would strongly recommend to anyone interested in pursuing a legal career to try and spend some time with the BPBU. Not only does it look great on your CV, it also helps you hone crucial skills such as succinctly summarising the key facts of a case and identifying the relevant legal issues, something that should stand you in good stead for any pupillage or training contract interviews. The staff are all wonderfully welcoming and helpful, and whilst a key benefit is the range of areas you will experience (anything from Defamation to Child Protection), they will also accommodate specific requests to see more work in certain areas. Ultimately you are doing genuinely important work that makes a material difference to people’s lives, whilst being supplied with copious amounts of tea and cake. What’s not to like?”

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