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Are You Thinking of a Career in Public Health?

Are You Thinking of a Career in Public Health?

If you're considering a career in public health, it can be worth thinking about which direction to go in. Areas of public health can be challenging to categorise, as they often overlap, but generally speaking, there are six main areas that people may work within public health:

  1. Improving a population’s health
  2. Protecting a population’s health 
  3. Using Data 
  4. Teaching and researching 
  5. Managing standards
  6. Leadership

Below we explore each of these areas, which should give you an idea of whether certain aspects of public health work appeal to you more strongly than others.

1. Improving the population’s health

Are you interested in working actively to improve a population’s health and wellbeing? 

This can involve working with individuals of a particular group to give advice about behavioural changes to their lifestyle (such as quitting smoking or eating healthily, or increasing exercise) or with specific communities to promote campaigns or to advocate changes to public policy.

What types of job roles are available?

People working in health promotion or improvement may have a range of responsibilities. This may be designing health programmes that will improve the health of communities (e.g. a campaign to improve the diets of BME communities) to providing one-to-one support for individuals to change their behaviour (e.g. stopping smoking for those who are due to have surgery).

There are many different kinds of job roles that take on these types of task, such as:

2. Protecting a population’s health 

Are you interested in working to protect people's health?

This can involve the safety of the wider population (e.g. ensuring the safety of food or protecting people from infectious diseases and environmental hazards, like noise, chemicals or radiation).

What types of job roles are available?

People working in health protection are responsible for protecting the health of populations from infectious diseases and environmental hazards related to chemical or radiation exposures.

Job titles may include:

3. Using Data

Are you interested in collecting, understanding and communicating data about health?

This information can be about the general health of the UK or about a particular group’s health risks and health needs (such as an age group or socioeconomic group).

What types of job roles are available?

People working in health intelligence and information are involved in collecting, analysing, interpreting, synthesising and communicating health intelligence. This information relates to assessing, measuring and describing health and well-being, health risks, health needs, and health outcomes of different populations.

Job titles may include:

4. Teaching and Research

Are you interested in exploring public health issues or teaching about public health?

This can involve teaching about public health in a university or college, setting up research projects to investigate specific public health issues (e.g. hospital usage or climate change), and communicating the results.

What types of job roles are available?

People working in academic public health are involved in teaching about and researching the whole range of public health areas. Roles include running Schools of Public Health, managing academic public health programmes, lecturing and research.

Job titles may include:

5. Managing Standards

Are you interested in raising the standard of health and care services and ensuring that these services are safe, effective, efficient and accessible?

This might include developing specifications and setting priorities for others to provide particular services and commissioning services.

What types of job roles are available?

People working in healthcare public health may be involved in several different positions, ranging from clinical governance to working on issues related to safeguarding children. They might also be responsible for priority-setting in their organisation, using the best available evidence to help decision-makers allocate their resources in the most effective and efficient way possible.

Job titles may include:

6. Leadership 

Are you interested in leading work to improve the population’s health by developing policy, creating strategies to put plans into action and overseeing implementation and evaluation? 

Public health leaders in the UK are responsible for setting policy priorities, and ensuring these priorities, such as reducing health inequalities, are implemented.

What types of job roles are available?

Individuals working in leadership roles are generally at the top end of their public health career. They may be Directors of Public Health or Heads of Adult Social Care and Health. They will provide leadership and direction for the service they run and influence the commissioning of services to create healthier communities. 

Job titles may include:

More information can be found on each job role by clicking the links. You may also find it helpful to look at our career resources section to find out more about a public health career.


Other resources