Careers Service Occupations

Public Health

Public Health

About

There are various career options within public health - from academic research and epidemiology to health promotion and policy.

Careers advice

Industry news

Sources of news include:

Professional bodies 

These represent people working in the sector, providing training and networking opportunities. They often provide careers support for students and graduates.

They also provide development for people already working in the sector. Follow them and sector skills bodies on LinkedIn, or visit their websites for news, contacts, work experience and vacancies. 

Professional societies/institutes

Research councils/institutes

Government agencies

Non-governmental organisations/charities

Making contacts

Talking to people working in the sector can give you an insight into roles in public health and be useful for networking and speculative applications

You could start with: 

Social media, particularly LinkedIn and Twitter, can also be useful for making contacts, finding employers and opportunities. 

Related sectors 

You may also be interested in:

Or see our other occupational pages for more options.

Roles & Skills

A Master’s degree or PhD relating to public health can be valuable for developing a career as a public health specialist either in the UK or overseas.

Some specialist consultant roles in public health require clinical backgrounds. See Study & Training for more information.

NHS Health Careers provides information on the core public health roles available within the NHS.

The following job profiles include descriptions of typical duties and entry requirements.

Epidemiologist

Environmental health practitioner  

Health promotion specialist

Health and safety adviser

Skills employers look for

Employers in this sector look for skills including:

  • a strong interest in public health and the ability to handle and interpret data and statistics
  • an analytical and investigative mind and the ability to organise and carry out research
  • the ability to project-manage, prioritise tasks, meet deadlines and work with minimum supervision
  • leadership and the ability to work collaboratively in multidisciplinary teams
  • strong written and oral communication skills and the ability to understand legislation and policies
  • attention to detail and a logical and methodical approach to problem solving

Gaining Experience

Getting into public health is competitive. Work experience is invaluable in developing relevant skills and demonstrating your interest and commitment to recruiters.

Some employers offer internships, for example, Wellcome Trust and the World Health Organisation.

Hospitals also sometimes offer work experience. Try contacting your local NHS trust hospital. You may have to go through the HR department.

Professional bodies and research councils also advertise opportunities, including research, funding and studentships. See About for a list of organisations. 

Smaller organisations often don’t advertise work experience, so you may need to contact them directly, with a speculative approach. Do this early, as it can be very competitive. 

Finding work experience 

Internships

For sources of opportunities relating to statistics, see Economics and Statistics

Finding companies 

Find companies that interest you and get in touch directly – ideally with a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen. 

For more advice on approaching companies directly, see TARGETjobs: Making speculative applications for graduate jobs. 

Other ways to gain experience 

You could also:

Part-time work can help you develop relevant skills. Researcher roles, for example, can be useful experience for getting into public health and epidemiology. To search, see Vacancies Online and Part-time jobs.

Finding Jobs

Opportunities are found within the NHS, government bodies, Public Health England, World Health Organisation, academic institutions and the not-for profit sector.

Competition for positions in this sector is strong.

There are few formal graduate schemes available in public health. Related schemes include Wellcome Trust Graduate Development Programme and the NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme in health informatics. 

Smaller companies don’t always advertise jobs or work experience. You may need to contact them directly with a speculative approach. Do this early, as it can take time and be very competitive. 

Use the following resources to find advertised vacancies and also research employers for speculative applications. 

Vacancy sites

You could also try:

Finding employers 

Find organisations that interest you and get in touch directly – ideally to a named contact. Be specific about why you are writing to them and what you’re looking for.

Show your enthusiasm for the sector and highlight any relevant skills. Don’t give up if you don’t get a reply – follow up with a phone call or email to show that you’re keen. 

For more advice on approaching organisations directly, see TARGETjobs: Making speculative applications for graduate jobs. 

Talk to people in the sector to get insight into roles found in public health and epidemiology. 

Study & Training

For the majority of careers within public health and epidemiology, it's essential to have studied a Master’s level qualification in an area relating to these subjects.

Some jobs will require a PhD level qualification.

Typical courses include:

  • MSc Public Health
  • MSc Epidemiology 
  • MSc Modern Epidemiology
  • MSc Dental Public Health

The following websites can help you find relevant courses and training opportunities:

Applying

Applications for these courses are usually made directly to the institution.

Funding

Most students self-fund their postgraduate study. Some courses are offered part-time, so it may be possible to qualify while continuing to work.

From 2016, there will be a postgraduate loan scheme available for Master’s level students. See Further Study for more information.