A Master of Public Health Degree: Why I Went Back To University & What New Students Can Expect.

September 11, 2019

Welcome back everyone! Over the past year or so I regret to say that I have neglected my blog a little (sorry!) Blogging is a hobby I love, I get to share my thoughts on how to keep the public healthy and it’s a great way to let out my creative side! However, over the last year a Master of Public Health (MPH), two jobs, and general life took over! When I had spare time (which wasn’t very often) I spent this with loved ones far away from a computer screen but I’M BACK.

 

I thought I’d start by writing a post a little bit more personal than my others to share more about the ‘Aims’ behind the health, discuss why I chose to do to an MPH, what to expect whilst studying and my tips for new MPH students.

 

Wait a minute – What even is public health?

I’ve spoken about this before in my first ever blog post ‘Public Health?’, but I’ve learned so much more since then.  In short, the field of public health is somewhat in it’s name – protecting, improving and maintaining the health of the public. NHS Health Careers have a short YouTube video that explains this further you can access here.

 

The field of public health is very broad with lots of specialist areas to choose from, these include:

 

1. Health improvement/promotion
Working towards improving people’s health, this could be through advice and information about healthy lifestyle choices.

2. Health intelligence
This involves collecting, analysing and interpreting health-related information, important for healthcare decision making to understand the needs of a population.

3. Healthcare public health
Interested in raising the standards of services provided to the public in order to improve health.

4. Health protection
This specialist area looks at protecting the safety of the population, for example preventing environmental hazards and infectious diseases.

5. Academic public health
This involves either researching public health issues or teaching public health students.

6. International & global public health
Looking outside the UK to support the health of other countries, usually in low-income areas.

 

There really is something for everyone!

 

Why did I study an MPH?

Public health interested me because it doesn’t just look at the medical side of health. Public Health focuses on the wider determinants of health a.k.a individual lifestyle factors, social and community networks, living and working connections, and the general socio-economic, cultural and environmental conditions that influence health. Dahlgren & Whitehead’s (1991) model illustrates this beautifully;

 

 

I first learned about the field of public health when I had a module on this topic during my undergraduate BSc Health & Social Care degree. After then I knew this career path was right for me, but first I wanted to gain ‘real-world’ experience. I gained a job in health promotion/education at a local young people’s drug and alcohol service, eventually progressing onto the role of a young person’s drug and alcohol worker.

 

Whilst in employment I always wanted to keep focused on my goals in life (every new year I like to share my post about the importance of making goals for yourself – you can read that here!). So, soon after graduation I purchased the book “working in health and public health” which I would highly recommend if you were interested in entering this field of work. On 21st January 2015 I underlined a section on the text which explained whatever your starting point in your career, most public health workers will have a master’s degree in public health.

 

Extract from a textbook

 

So there it is, my mind was set on doing an MPH on that day and four years later it’s done!

 

What to expect from an MPH

So, maybe an MPH is something you’re thinking about but you don’t really know what to expect. Don’t worry I’ve got you covered, as well as some advice for making it through to graduation.

I studied my MPH at the University of Liverpool and can only really describe my experience from this university, you can view their online course details here. The public health department at the University of Liverpool has a well-respected reputation and I couldn’t recommend it enough. Although I can’t advocate for public health masters at other universities, I’m sure they provide the necessary skills and learning required for a career in public health. An MPH course can be studied part-time, full-time, either campus taught or online so there are different studying formats to suit your own personal circumstances.

Studying at masters level, whatever the subject, is expected to be challenging both personally and professionally. At Liverpool, the assessments involve various learning methods such as written essays or reports, exams, and group presentations. The course is modular, including learning topics that cover a range of public health skills and disciplines such as epidemiology and statistics, qualitative research, health inequalities, health protection, and management just to name a few (not forgetting the final dissertation project!). Naturally, you will find some topics easier than others based on your previous experience or interests.

 

Aimee with a public health career book.

 

Tips for starting an MPH qualification

So you’ve decided an MPH is for you, here are my tips to help you get through it:

 

  1. Do your research

Before starting I researched a lot of different universities and courses before I found the one I wanted. Each university does the course slightly differently so looking at the course modules is really important. Some prefer a full-time taught course, others prefer an online-based programme, the important thing is finding the course right for you.

 

  1. Get experience first

Having the ‘real-world’ experience is really invaluable when studying at postgraduate level. Gaining an understanding of how public health services work and the issues faced by people in maintaining good health. This insight helps your understanding of course topics but also helps you contribute in taught sessions. If you don’t have the experience before your studies, I’d recommend volunteering a couple of hours of your time a week alongside your studies to practice transfering the skills you’re learning in a public health setting.

 

  1. Connect, connect, connect!

The course is likely to have guest speakers from experts in their field. My advice would be to get chatting to them, ask for their email address. If their lecture is of particular interest for your career, you never know they might be able to give you guidance for your future. You also must mingle with your course mates. Everyone comes from such different backgrounds; doctors, nurses, dentists, podiatrists, vets, pharmacists, researchers, anthropologists, and more! These people will be your friends and a great source of support to help get you through it, honestly.

 

  1. Take care of your own health

I learned this one the hard way. Studying for an MPH is TOUGH. You can spend so much time learning how to protect the public’s health that you can easily neglect your own. Learning will take up a lot of your time but finding time for your own health really is important and something I talk about regularly on this blog under the category of self care. Set time for yourself when you can, eat well, make sure you get a good night’s rest and take breaks from that computer screen!

 

  1. Have confidence

I remember at the start of the year consistently thinking “I’m never going to pass this”, and it showed. Early in the year I gave minimal contributions in class and didn’t do as well in my grades. When I became more confident in myself and my capabilities, I felt myself learning more and performing better academically. The quote “believing in yourself is secret to success” is key here!

 

Where can I find more information about careers in public health?

The Faculty of Public Health is a great place to start, this is the UK membership organisation for public health professionals. Their website provides information about specialist public health training (that encompasses an MPH qualification), you can find more information about this here.

 

I will also answer any questions I can about the MPH at Liverpool and public health careers, you can either leave a comment below or visit my contact page!

 

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Meet Aims

Profile picture of Aimee creator of Aims On Health

Hi there!
I'm Aimee creator of 'Aims On Health'.

Here you'll find things all health and wellness but my main interests lie in public health.

My work experience involves working with vulnerable groups in society, providing health eduction and promoting positive behaviour change. I have also just completed a Master of Public Health degree at the University of Liverpool.

Feel free to contact me for advice and support by clicking on the contact page!