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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

Why study public health?

Finding your niche in a world of options is essential for both a good study experience and a rewarding career. Public health offers a multidisciplinary field offering varied specialisations and career options.

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Healthy societies provide individuals and communities with a productive, enriching and innovative environment in which to thrive. Critical to ensuring this is the presence and implementation of a comprehensive public health strategy. Whether this is dealing with the major challenges of a pandemic or ensuring disease prevention, the role of those working in the public health sector is critical. If you’ve been considering your options in the health field then a degree in public health might be an area to seriously consider. We take you through what studying public health involves, why to study in the field and the areas you can work in.  


What is public health?


As a point of departure for our discussion, it’s useful to look at exactly what public health is. Public health aims to ensure the health and well-being of individuals, communities and wider society through organised processes and measures. It seeks to reduce the risk of a negative impact on health from numerous factors, for example, pollution and nutrition. Some of the work undertaken in public health is designed to address the specific needs of certain distinct groups, such as the elderly or children. Public health may also involve:


  • Health awareness campaigns 
  • Prevention of disease strategies 
  • Vaccination 
  • Monitoring and evaluation of health 
  • Health education 
  • Health support services


Explore some of the institutions in the UK where you could study public health:



What areas will I study for a degree in public health?


It’s important to note that a course in public health is usually studied at a postgraduate level after the completion of a related undergraduate degree or qualification. Public health can be studied at certificate, diploma, honour’s or master’s degree level. As public health is multidisciplinary, you may find that the entry requirements for a course consider what is known as ‘recognition of prior learning’, which evaluates the applicability of your qualifications for entry onto the course. You will also find that some public health courses can be studied fully online


If you choose to pursue a degree in public health there are some common topics that you could find yourself studying. These include:


  • Social research 
  • Public health policy
  • Epidemiology
  • Health services
  • Health economics
  • Health management 
  • Health and conflict 
  • Statistics 
  • Global health 


To gain entry onto an MSc in public health course you will need to have a very good level of English language proficiency. Most courses will require an overall IELTS score of 7.0 and bands that do not drop below 6.5. You will also need to have a good undergraduate level of achievement (2:1 degree/ B average/ or GPA of 3.3). 


Studying for a postgraduate certificate or diploma in public health will take you a year of full-time study and between two and four years to complete part-time. An MSc degree in the subject will need an allocation of one year full-time and one to three years full-time. It’s important to double-check with your prospective university as to the completion timeline requirements. 


Find out more about universities in Canada offering public health degrees:



If you’re interested in studying in Canada you may also want to have a look at our article on the grading system in the country


Are there areas of specialisation in public health?


While it is possible to adopt a more overarching and generalist approach to public health, you do also have the option of specialising in particular areas that you may be interested in. Some of the more well-know specialisations in public health include:


  • Health education – The study of how to create and implement educational initiatives and programmes to inform individual and community knowledge of health-related issues. 
  • Epidemiology – Study of disease patterns, population health, research into interventions and clinical practice. 
  • Biostatistics – The quantitative and statistical analysis of health-related data to inform policy, decision-making and health interventions. 
  • Community health – A focus on how to manage and improve health within distinct community settings with unique sets of requirements and circumstances. 
  • Health policy – Policy focuses on understanding current health strategies, how to improve them and how to manage such policies. 
  • Environmental health – This specialisation has a focus on environmental risks or factors that could be detrimental to health, and how to improve them. This can be the prevention of pollution to the provision of safe drinking water. 


What jobs are available in public health?


You’re probably also wondering what types of public health jobs there are out there and whether it’s a good career move to study in the field. Apart from the prospect of being to make a very real difference in society and the lives of individuals, working in public health can be intellectually stimulating and varied. You have several paths that you could pursue depending on the specialisation you have decided to take. These include:


  • Epidemiologist 
  • Health and safety advisor
  • Community health worker
  • Public health scientist 
  • Hospital manager
  • Government healthcare manager
  • Researcher
  • Public health educator 
  • Environmental health practitioner
  • Public health nurse


If you have a genuine interest in the healthcare sector, public health is a great choice. You’ll now know more about it and so can start searching for the perfect place to study a degree in the subject using our course matcher tool. While you’re here you may find our article on studying medicine instructive and you can take some time to discover more about medical specialisations

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