What does a career in public health involve?

Working in healthcare can take many forms – public healthcare is one of them, ensuring that the general public, whatever their status or background, gets access to healthcare that can help them lead long and healthy lives.

This kind of healthcare focuses on the wellbeing and health of the public as a whole, covering all areas and fields within the medical spectrum. The goals of public healthcare encompass a range of elements including individual care, disease prevention and the creation of healthcare systems that are equal, efficient and well-maintained.

In this guide, we’re going to explore what it means to work in public healthcare, examining what it entails, what jobs are available within the field and how to find a career in this kind of medical care.

What is public healthcare?

Public healthcare is the umbrella term for the provision of healthcare to society. It incorporates all elements of healthcare and all fields of study, including teaching and research. The main aim of public healthcare is to ensure the global and national populations are healthy, protected from health problems and diseases, and educated about their own personal health as well as what they can do to improve it. There is also, naturally, a big focus on prolonging life where possible.

In the UK, public healthcare is recognised as being organised and managed by the NHS, which provides universal healthcare to the British populace. Within the NHS, there are various careers that can be pursued that operate in the sphere of public health.

What roles are available in public healthcare?

With such a broad reach of healthcare sectors, there are a number of public health roles available – for the purposes of this article, we’re going to look at the management and administrative career paths, rather than the clinical or medical opportunities.

These roles include things like:

Public health manager – The role of public health manager is to oversee the provision of public health services within a medical practice or organisation. They are in charge of ensuring access to healthcare is a smooth as possible for the public, and this can involve managing projects for improvements, hiring new medical staff, forging links with other healthcare providers, collaborating with public health consultants, and more.

Health trainers – Health trainers are educators who use their knowledge of community healthcare issues and their training to instruct and teach the public on how to improve their health, change their dietary habits and challenge any addictions they might have. Often health trainers work within communities, but they can also work on an individual basis to drive changes in unhealthy behaviours.

Environmental health professionals ­– Environmental health professionals are healthcare specialist who work to ensure that our homes, our workplaces and commercial venues are safe from any health risks or issues. They inspect workplaces such as factories and workshops, examine food venues for contamination, oversee housing standards and monitor pollution and noise levels to improve public health from an environmental perspective.

Public health academics ­– Public health academics are higher education professionals who specialise in public health. Their main responsibilities are developing and researching new ways to keep the public healthy, as well as identifying potential hazards and public health risks. They also teach the next generation of public health workers, ensuring that they are well-prepared to take on new careers within the public health care field.

You can learn more about these career paths and other public health roles, such as health visitor positions, occupational health nurse jobs and more on the NHS public healthcare careers page.

What degree do I need to work in public health?

As we mentioned, public health covers a broad range of careers, so there’s no one degree that covers everything. The best way to find out which degree is best for your chosen career path in public healthcare is to research your chosen position online, and use this insight to find the right course in higher education for your vocation.

There are however certain degrees whose teachings can apply to the entire spectrum of public healthcare jobs. The University of Liverpool’s Master of Public Health course teaches the expertise that’s essential to a range of jobs that are focused on improving public healthcare provision in the UK and beyond.

Learn more about the University of Liverpool online course on the Master of Public Health webpage.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with a career in public health?

There are a number of paths that you can follow within public health, many of which have been detailed above. Careers in public health tend to split into different paths and areas which can sometimes be narrowed down to operational roles, clinical roles and education roles.

Operational roles include the administrative and development side of medical provision, while clinical roles are more focused on providing healthcare to individuals and communities. Education roles are all about teaching new generations of doctors and medical professionals to fill positions within the public healthcare system.

Is public health a good career?

Public health can be an exceptionally rewarding sector in which to work. Every position that makes up public healthcare contributes to building a healthier, better and more equal society for everyone. Public healthcare workers can be part of a workforce that develops new vaccines for diseases, improves access to health services in deprived areas, brings medical equality to the towns and cities of the UK, and in some cases, even saves lives.

Besides the overarching aims of the public healthcare system, the health sector also includes opportunities to develop as a person and as a professional with a number of routes to promotion and sideways movement to other positions. With a public healthcare background, you will also find it easier to make the move into private healthcare, as well as finding healthcare work abroad.

Can I work in public health without a degree?

Yes, you can – there are a number of lower level positions that you can access in public health where you won’t need a degree. However, access to higher positions may be more difficult without the right qualifications in place, so the opportunities to progress may be limited.

One example of a degree that can help you aim for a more advanced role within public healthcare is the Master of Public Health certificate from the University of Liverpool. This course gives students the skills and insights they need to play their part in creating better healthcare systems, both at a domestic and international level. It makes for a worthy addition to any prospective public health worker’s resume, and is recognised globally as a professional qualification.

The University of Liverpool Master of Public Health is an online postgraduate programme that can act as an engaging and streamlined path into the public healthcare sector. The course modules grant an expert view into what public health means in the modern world, and how methods and practices can be improved to offer a better public healthcare service.

Find out more about the course on the Master of Public Health webpage.

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