What can you do with a master’s in public health?
The pandemic has shown cracks in healthcare systems in both developed and developing countries and demonstrated the critical role public health professionals play in society.
Healthcare systems around the world were caught off guard when COVID-19 struck and were 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 public health professionals with problem-solving skills to solve real-world challenges and ideas that can help create positive change.
The US Bureau of Labor 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 an opportunity for those aspiring to carve themself a public health career.
A master’s in public health provides students with advanced knowledge and skills in public health and research. As its name suggests, the focus is on population health rather than individuals.
Some master’s in public health programmes 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.
Where can a master’s in public health take you?
A master’s in public health prepares graduates for a variety of careers, be it in research, non-governmental organisations, as well as with private or government services.
Within the public or government sector, graduates can consider careers in public health policy, epidemiology, and disaster preparedness, to name a few. Within the academic sector, a master’s in public health 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 to working with private 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. Some students use their expertise and qualifications to help them move into predominantly public health-related roles.
Many universities offer scholarships for future students but there are also organisations that offer financial respite. Wellcome, a health research foundation, offers a scheme that offers nationals of low- and middle-income countries the opportunity to receive training at the master’s level. The level of funding includes 120,000 pounds, including 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 courses. 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 courses, including public health courses.