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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 31 January 2019.
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Recent blogs about Public Health

Careers Conference for Researchers 2019 – final countdown

Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 15/03/2019.

Only a few more days left until the Careers Conference for Researchers 2019

This year’s Careers Conference for Researchers will take place on 20 March 2019 at the Manor Road Building. Targeting those who are curious about career options beyond academia, the conference includes speakers with PhD/postdoc experience now working in a range of roles, a networking lunch with employers who are interested in recruiting people with research training, and skills workshops to help you maximise your profile.

If you have secured your place at this event, you can now download the conference programme and brochure:

  • The full conference programme can be seen here.
  • The conference brochure, with speaker bios and workshop outlines, is here.

Podcasts of the morning panel talks will be available on the Careers Service website after the conference.

Easter Closure and Careers Advice During the Vacation

Blogged by Corina Lacurezeanu on 14/03/2019.

Easter closure

The Careers Service will be closed for Easter from Thursday 18 April until Monday 22 April, reopening on Tuesday 23 April.

Careers advice during the vacation

Apart from on the days listed above, you can come in to have a 1:1 discussion with a Careers Adviser as normal; our advice appointments are available to book on CareerConnect. However, if you are not in Oxford during the vacation, you can still get careers advice.

  • If you would like to have a discussion by telephone or Skype while you are out of Oxford, you can book a Short Discussion appointment and email us to say you would like the appointment to be over the telephone, or via Skype.
  • The Careers Service also offers e-guidance during part of the vacation period. If you have a careers advice question, you can mail it to guidance@careers.ox.ac.uk. A Careers Adviser will normally reply to your email within two working days. We will run this service from Monday 18 March until Tuesday 16 April.

If you require any further clarification of our services, or have a specific enquiry, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us: reception@careers.ox.ac.uk or telephone 01865 274646.

The Micro-Internship Programme for Research Staff is now LIVE

Blogged by Polly nuttgens on 13/03/2019.

You can now submit your applications on the Micro-Internship Programme for Research Staff

Micro-internships are 2-5 day voluntary work experience placements facilitated by the University of Oxford. This new pilot programme is designed especially for research staff at grade 6 or above, who are currently on a fixed term contract at Oxford or who finished their fixed term contract in the past 12 months.

We have a wide variety of placements on offer in sectors including health, environment, photography & graphics, ethics, law, technology, computing and financial services. You’ll find attached a list of the opportunities and a full breakdown of the placements is available here.

How to apply

To apply you will need to register with CareerConnect if you have not done so already. Once you have found a micro-internship you wish to apply for, just follow the link alongside the opportunity and you will be directed to the relevant application page. For full details of the scheme visit the
Micro-Internships for Research Staff webpage.

And if you’d like further advice and assistance the Internship Office is providing Support Sessions offering feedback on CVs and personal statements which take place across the applications window on Monday – Friday. Book a 15-minute appointment via CareerConnect.

The deadline for making an application is 12pm midday on 1 April.

Podcast of Careers in Publishing talk available here

Blogged by Julia Sadler on 12/03/2019.

On 1 March, we enjoyed hearing some entertaining, candid views and handy tips on getting into publishing from four publishing professionals:

  • Carrie Plitt, literary agent at Felicity Bryan Associates
  • Naomi Crookston, a publisher at OUP and languages alumna
  • Kate McKellar, senior journals publishing manager at Wiley
  • Laura Murphy, senior marketing manager at Pearson and history alumna

If you missed the event, do catch up by listening to the podcast below and find out how:

  • writing a regular blog can help get you a job in publishing
  • there are all kinds of entry jobs in publishing, not just editorial. Think: sales, marketing, publicity rights
  • how networking can help, AKA ‘constantly showing your enthusiasm’.

Listen to the podcast here:

NEW! Trainee accountants vlogging about work, study and professional development

Posted on behalf of ICAEW. Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 07/03/2019.

Curious to learn more about the experiences of graduates in their first job who are working whilst also training for their professional exams? The ICAEW* has enlisted 5 vloggers, including 3 recent graduates, working in very different organisations to tell their stories and take you on their journey to becoming ACA registered Chartered Accountants. See their stories at ICAEW Vlog Stars:

  • Taran does far more than review accounts. Discover his story for first-hand advice on our graduate route to the ACA with Grant Thornton.
  • Bethany’s passion is to help people and support their financial situations, which is why working in government for the Ministry of Justice is her perfect role.
  • Michalis took his career to Cyprus with KPMG and is benefiting from the international recognition that comes with the ACA, a global qualification.

Students are welcome to post questions, which should be answered in subsequent vlogs.

For more information on this career direction, see Oxford’s Accountancy sector briefing.

* ICAEW is the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, and is the accreditation body for the ACA professional qualifications studied by many graduate trainee accountants.

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