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

You can view an Opportunities for Graduates in Public Health presentation from an AGCAS NHS conference which provides an overview of the public health sector and entry routes.

Skills & experience
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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 Knowledge 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
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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
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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
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Equality, diversity & positive action
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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 18 July 2019.
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Recent blogs about Public Health

Start-up Visa Endorsement Application – Information Session

Blogged by Brianna Thompson on 22/01/2020.

WHEN: 20 February 2020, 9:15-10:00
WHERE: The Careers Service, 56 Banbury Road
TO BOOK A PLACE at this discussion contact startup.visa@careers.ox.ac.uk with your name and the course and year(s) of study at the University of Oxford.
👍 Add the event to your Facebook calendar

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 process of making your application. We strongly advise anyone thinking of making an application for endorsement to attend.

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

More information can be found on our visas page or you can sign up to our Start-up Visa mailing list.

Data Science for Social Good: Summer Internship with the Turing Institute

Posted on behalf of The Turing Institute. Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 22/01/2020.

The Turing Institute is advertising a new 12 week summer internship that is open to students and graduates who completed their studies in either 2018 or 2019. Applications online by 31 January 2020.

They say “DSSG helps not-for-profit organisations and government bodies to achieve more with their data by improving their services, interventions and outreach so that they can fulfil their mission of bettering the world and people’s lives.

DSSG achieves this by giving non-for-profit organisations and government bodies unprecedented access to inspiring, top-tier data science talent and builds their capacity to use cutting-edge quantitative methods to address important societal challenges across education, health, energy, public safety, transportation and economic development.”

Full details and how to apply online on the The Turing Institute website.

Please note, the UK version, DSSGx, will run at Warwick University, starting 15 June 2020.

Oxford Consultancy Case Competition: Teams apply now

Posted on behalf of CapitOx and Kearney. Blogged by Hugh Nicholson-Lailey on 22/01/2020.

Applications are now open for teams of up to 4 students to register for Case @ Oxford 2020. 

Entries for teams of up to 4 students (maximum of 2 postgraduates) must before the end of 29th January. Details of the rules and application process can be found on the Capitox Facebook Event page.

Case @ Oxford 2020

Case @ Oxford 2020, hosted by CapitOx and sponsored and supported by partner consultancies Kearney and Accuracy, is an undergraduate-focused case competition planned as a one-day case competition on Friday, 7 February. There will be two rounds:

  • a preliminary round where registered teams of up to four undergraduates (or including up to 2 postgraduates) will create a presentation on a real business problem faced by a large multinational startup, and
  • a finalist round where teams will present to a full panel of experienced analysts from top consultancies across London and the United Kingdom.

Registration opened on 20 January, and ends on 29 January.

Capitox’s focus is to help every student discover their dream career, and connect them to the future of industry in every field. All students at the University of Oxford are welcome to compete, and participation is will encourage students to engage with actual business questions in real scenarios, providing invaluable insight into industries such as consulting, product management, marketing, and communications.

Conservation/Ecology Conference – 7 March, Oxford

Posted on behalf of Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre. Blogged by Claire Chesworth on 22/01/2020.

Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre, TVERC, provide a comprehensive ecological information hub for Oxfordshire and Berkshire so that knowledge can be shared to help people make sound decisions about how to develop and manage land sustainably and where to direct wildlife conservation work. They are running a Recorders’ Conference in Oxford on 7 March which provides an opportunity for the biological recording community to come together and share updates and information on what they are doing. Anyone who is interested in wildlife recording and conservation is welcome to attend.

The conference will include a combination of invited speakers and workshops; further details, including how to book are available at www.tverc.org/cms/content/spring-2020

Tickets are £5 for students; bookings close on 29 February 2020.

Applications are now open for the Summer Internship Programme 2020

Blogged by Paloma Campos Da Silva on 22/01/2020.

You can now browse and apply for a wide range of exciting internships offered exclusively to Oxford students through our Summer Internship Programme. The first international batch of opportunities is currently being advertised, with more than 200 summer internships in a wide range of sectors in over 30 countries.

All opportunities are open exclusively to Oxford students, and can be applied to through CareerConnect, under the ‘Internship Office and Skills Programmes’ section. You can apply up to three international internships with an application deadline of midday on 17 February. UK internships open for applications on 18 February, and more international internships will also be available from March onwards.

To see feedback from our previous interns on their global experiences, have a look at our Summer Internship Programme Yearbook 2019.

The Internship Office is offering application support sessions for prospective applicants to give advice on CVs and cover letters. These sessions take place every week at The Careers Service and can be booked through the ‘Appointments’ section in your CareerConnect account.

Please see our comprehensive application support guide (pdf) to find out about all the ways to get support during the application process. For further information, please contact us on internships@careers.ox.ac.uk

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.