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Public health careers: What can you do with a master’s in public health?

Public health careers
Public health careers are highly rewarding, and a master’s in public health prepares students to work in public or private sectors. Source: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

The pandemic has shown cracks in healthcare systems in both developed and developing countries and demonstrated the critical role healthcare professionals play in society. Healthcare systems around the world were caught off guard when COVID-19 struck and ill-equipped to handle a pandemic. Public health professionals are currently under intense strain; long hours are putting them at risk of burnout. While public health careers are highly rewarding, the embattled healthcare system needs professionals able to solve real-world challenges and offer ideas that can help create positive change. 

The US Bureau of Labour Statistics projects that employment in healthcare occupations is projected to grow 15% from 2019 to 2029, much faster than the average for all occupations, adding about 2.4 million new jobs. “Healthcare occupations are projected to add more jobs than any of the other occupational groups. This projected growth is mainly due to an aging population, leading to greater demand for healthcare services,” it said. This spells opportunity for those aspiring to carve themself a public health career. 

The focus of a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) is population health rather than individuals. Some MPH are multidisciplinary, exposing students to topics such as epidemiology, health services management, health policy and biostatistics, while others offer concentrations. Depending on the institution, some programmes provide students the option to develop specialist expertise.

Public health careers for MPH graduates

Public health careers

As its name suggests, public health programmes focus on population health rather than individuals. Source: Pool/Getty Images North America/ Getty Images via AFP

An MPH prepares graduates for a variety of careers, be it in research, non-governmental organisations, as well as with the private sector or governments. Graduates can consider careers in policy, epidemiology and disaster preparedness, to name a few. Within the academic sector, an MPH can serve as a solid foundation for students to pursue their PhD and carve a career in research and teaching, while private sectors offer a plethora of opportunities, be it in consulting or for healthcare facilities.

Imperial College London notes that students of their programme “may develop into roles ranging from public health analysts, health services researchers, communicable disease control consultants, environmental epidemiologists, health policy advisors or directors of public health”. The University of Manchester said many of their students are GPs, hospital doctors, health promotion staff, managers and researchers who apply their newfound public health skills within their own professions or settings. “Intercalating medical students from Manchester and elsewhere take the MPH if they are interested in careers in public health or general practice, or want to work in low and middle-income countries,” it said. 

Many universities offer scholarships for future students but there are also organisations that offer other forms financial help. Wellcome, a health research foundation, offers a scheme that offers nationals of low- and middle-income countries the opportunity to receive training at master’s level. The foundation provides 120,000 pounds, which includes salary, studentship stipend, fees and research expenses. If you’re from a Commonwealth country, you could apply for the Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships Scheme, which funds two-year master’s programmes. If you want to study in the UK, the Chevening Scholarship — the UK government’s international awards programme — helps international students obtain a master’s degree for selected programmes, including public health.

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