Public and global health

Find out about a career in public and global health.


Public and global health focus on protecting and improving health at a community, country, or global level. Awareness of public and global health increased as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and has increased visibility of the varied roles that people can hold in this sector. These roles can be focused on working with people; on information and research; or on developing and implementing policy.  This page focuses on non-clinical public health roles in information, research and policy, most commonly found in government, universities or charities and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). For information on clinical or healthcare roles generally see the NHS Careers website. 


What’s it like? 

Global health addresses the health of people living in low- and middle-income countries (sometimes known as developing countries). Many times, it also includes the health of displaced or traveling populations. Health concerns in these populations include not only infectious and tropical diseases (such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria), but also chronic and non-infectious diseases. The field of global health addresses all the same public health issues that are domestic health concerns, like mental illness, trauma, gender-based violence, age-related illnesses and conditions.  

Public health professionals include, but are not limited to: 

  • researchers in universities who aim to understand social, environmental and genetic impacts on public health; 

  • epidemiologists and data analysts who track and predict trends in disease and ill health; 

  • government research and policy officers who inform and advise Ministers making decisions, using research; 

  • charity workers who work with communities to inform, promote and support healthy behaviours; and 

  • healthcare promotion specialists and healthcare professionals. 


All of these people are involved in different capacities as public health professionals but they have very different job roles so you should consider what task and activities you would enjoy doing in a job. For example, would you prefer analysing data and tracking trends, or writing reports to influence policy, or working directly with communities to support them to make changes? Although the job roles are varied, those working in public health-related roles will have in common their interest in understanding the causes of ill health and in helping to improve the health of populations. The skills they could be using will vary with the job role but may include: 

  • communication and persuasion, 

  • qualitative and quantitative research skills, 

  • synthesising and interpreting information, 

  • data management and analysis, 

  • problem solving, 

  • report writing 


The profiles below will give you more detail on some of the jobs that can have a public-health focus. 


How do I get into the sector?

Due to the breadth of roles within public health, there is no one fixed route into the sector.  

Postgraduate study: Postgraduate study at Masters in a relevant discipline such as social / public policy, social research, health promotion, or public health can be a route in. This can be helpful either to develop skills that may be useful (such as qualitative or quantitative research methods) or to gain in-depth understanding of public health issues. 

Research: If you are interested in researching the causes of different aspects of health, and contributing to our understanding of how to improve health within populations, then a common route would be to undertake a postgraduate research degree such as a PhD. Subject areas could include biological basis of disease, behavioural aspects that influence health, or social policy and politics, reflecting the breadth of public health roles. 


Government or public bodies: The Civil Service Fast Stream provides a route into research or policy roles in government. As this is a broad graduate training programme it is not a direct route into public health related roles. However, once in it is possible to direct your career development towards roles in relevant government departments, such as Department of Health and Social Care, where you could be working on public health matters. As a new graduate it is also possible to apply for entry level roles if you have the required skills (e.g. as data analyst, admin officer) within the Civil Service or relevant public bodies such as Public Health Scotland and Public Health England. 


Third sector: Working for charities or NGOs who focus on health issues can be a good route in, for example in roles such as support workers, information or research assistants, or project officers. See our pages on working in Charities and International Development for further information. 

How can I get experience? 

Some form of related work experience or volunteering experience within public health will be invaluable when applying for jobs. The Public Health Skills and Knowledge Framework could help you to map your competencies and knowledge. 

Look for advertised opportunities but also identify organisations you are interested in and find a relevant contact or approach them speculatively. 

Students from any degree discipline can become members of the Faculty of Public Health (FPH) which gives access to FPH members and events for networking as well as keeping you up to date with public health issues. 

This sector is competitive so work experience, volunteering, internships and building a network in the sector will increase your chances of securing a position. Consider volunteering for a charity, community group or NGO that is connected to the public health. 

Student societies can also be a valuable way to gain experience. There are several at Edinburgh that are relevant including The Buchanan Institute. 

Work experience in areas like Government can be harder to find. For example the Civil Service Fast Stream only offers their Summer Diversity Internship Programme.  

Some local councils may offer internships or summer work experience. Use the Government website to find local council contact details. 

Students as Change Agents is a University-run challenge which brings together students from different disciplines to tackle real-world problems with a wider social, environmental, or economic impact. It is open to students from all subjects, at all degree levels. This often features challenges that are relevant to global and public health and will help develop relevant skills. 


Getting a graduate job 

Most jobs are within the public sector, NHS and local governments, and are advertised.  When searching for jobs (for instance on NHS Jobs), try searching by skills or keywords to enable you to locate vacancies which are within the field of public health but do not necessarily have it in the title. 

Some local authorities such as Birmingham and Thurrock run Public Health graduate schemes which provide the core experience required to progress onto a specialist scheme. It also allows graduates to obtain their Public Health Practitioner’s registration. 

The FPH run a 5 year Consultant in Public Health training scheme which typically has 60 places of which half are filled by applicants with a medical background and half are non-medics. To get on the scheme, medical doctors will have needed to complete their Foundation Programme and non-medics need 2 years of relevant experience. During this scheme, most complete a Masters in Public Health. 

The BMJ Public Health Jobs – The BMJ has a jobs board that can be filtered to public health roles specifically. 

The BMJ  

Global Health Jobs – A jobs board featuring vacancies across the globe related to global and public health. 

Global Health Jobs 

Public Health Jobs - A jobs board featuring vacancies in public health

Public Health Jobs

Talk to people (contacts, colleagues, tutors, supervisors) who are already working in public health, or who may know people who are in that field. You can connect with alumni who may be working in the field through the University alumni portal, Platform One.