Common Career Questions
The answers to the following questions can only be general guides since there are wide variations in practice even within the UK. If you are interested in working outside the UK it will be necessary to make further enquiries.
What sort of specialist health promotion jobs are available?
Posts which require specialist health promotion skills can operate at a number of levels, as specified on the NHS Careers website. There are differing skills emphases at each level.
- Organisational: helping organisations to be more health promoting: e.g. schools, hospitals, workplaces etc.
- Strategy development: developing a strategic approach to improving health and ensuring local, regional and national policies that can affect public health do so in a health promoting way;
- Community development: developing communities to be more health promoting;
- Personal development – develop personal emotional and social skills and abilities of lay and professional people in order for them to maximise their own health and build health promoting capacity
- Health information: developing ways of providing appropriate and accurate information about people’s health, about social and behavioural factors that can affect their health and what can be done to improve health;
- Project management: managing specific health promoting projects in order to ensure they are ethical, effective and efficiently delivered.
Posts may be specified as ‘health promotion’ or carry a variety of titles related to the level of operation, or the specific content of the post. The term ‘health promotion’ is used throughout this section but in recent years the term has been used less frequently in some countries. In England, for example, a range of roles and jobs which would previously have been labelled as health promotion have been re-badged. Opportunities to promote and improve health are many and varied. Anyone searching for a job in health promotion (or experience in the field) should not limit themselves to those posts which specifically state health promotion in the title. (The case studies in Career Pathways give a flavour of the range of job titles that people have held). Many skills in common will be required by the various job titles. A good sense of the skill set associated with health promotion can be gained from looking at the Pan European Accredited Framework for Health Promotion by following the ‘Accreditation ‘option at the drop down menu at: http://www.iuhpe.org
Where are jobs located?
They can mainly be found in:
- Health Organisations
Until recently in all four UK countries health promotion was commissioned in the context of public health. Since 2013, public health in England has transferred back to local authorities. A new body Public Health England was created and each council area has a Health and Wellbeing Board. Health promotion activities, within the public health area, can include development of policy, planning and delivery of specific health promotion programmes, building health promoting partnerships, helping to deliver on the agenda for reducing health inequalities, developing and delivering training, providing specialist advice and resources to other agencies etc. In England some health promotion posts will continue in hospitals and primary care
- Local Authorities
Prior to the 2013 change in England and also in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, there were a variety of health promotion posts in local authorities e.g. smoking cessation specialists; exercise coordinators; health trainers, work and health advisors; health and wellbeing coordinators etc. Most of these posts are now likely to fall under public health but while the process of change is still ongoing they may continue to exist within other parts of local authorities. There are also posts that are organised jointly between health and local authorities.
- Voluntary and Community Sector
A variety of posts can be found in this sector including: nutrition advisors, sexual health workers, health trainers, walking for health coordinators, heart disease prevention and rehabilitation advisors, mental wellbeing specialists, drugs and alcohol workers, workplace health promotion advisors, community health project workers and more.
Schools may have teachers with responsibility for Personal, Social and Health ( PSHE). For those with appropriate knowledge and experience there are also lecturing posts within further and higher education.
For those with postgraduate health promotion qualifications there are some suitable research posts
- Private sector
Fitness, exercise, leisure, wellness positions etc.
Frequently asked questions about career development in health promotion and education include:
What qualifications are needed for health promotion jobs?
To a large extent this depends on the type of job and the level of knowledge and skills required. In the public health workforce jobs at level two will require higher qualifications than those at level one. It used to be possible to state with greater certainty than now what qualifications are needed. A careful reading of job advertisements and the further details on job specification will give a good idea of what is being looked for.
Is it possible to get health promotion jobs with only a first degree?
Although for many years the general expectation was that postgraduate training was needed for specialist practice people were actually appointed with first degrees and were seconded later for training. The likelihood of appointment to posts depends on the nature of the specific job and the degree that is held. Degrees such as health studies or health psychology, for example, which contain a significant proportion of content related to health promotion are more marketable than ones that contains no such content. Many people with relevant degrees can be successful in gaining health promotion jobs although they may still wish to proceed to postgraduate study at a later date. Some people take one or two single modules related to health promotion to complement their existing degrees. Nothing is lost by applying for jobs and finding out if an existing degree qualification is acceptable.
Can I get a health promotion post if I do not have a degree?
There are health promotion jobs within the full public health workforce that may be obtained without a degree. If you want to progress within health promotion you are strongly advised to acquire qualifications at some stage.
What are suitable first degrees for acceptance on postgraduate health promotion and MPH training courses?
Again it is important to check what individual courses specify. Some accept a wider range of first degrees than others do. Because of the multidisciplinary nature of health promotion a variety of first degrees will contain some elements which are relevant to specialist health promotion study e.g. psychology, health psychology, sociology, health studies, marketing, nutrition, exercise, community work, nursing etc. First degrees which contain a strong element of research training also form a good basis for postgraduate health promotion study. Where demand for places on courses is high the relevance of the first degree is likely to be a more significant factor in securing course acceptance. There has been a history of non-graduates entering PG training courses by demonstrating their capacity to join such courses on the basis of prior learning and work experience. Individual universities will offer advice on such entry.
Is it necessary to have health promotion practice experience in order to join a postgraduate health promotion or MPH course?
It is important to look at the admissions criteria for a course you are interested in applying for. It used to be difficult to get on to courses without relevant practical experience but this is now not so strictly required. It should be emphasised that the study experience can be richer when you have relevant practical experience to draw on. Gaining some voluntary experience is relatively easy. Over the years many courses included practical placements as part of PG Diploma courses and these benefited students who lacked prior practice experience. Placements have become more difficult to organise now that the diversity of practice has increased and the well-established structure of health promotion departments has also changed.
Where are health promotion posts advertised?
- The national as well as local press carry advertisements. The Guardian newspaper and the Health Service Journal are a good starting point.
- There are also websites: http://www.jobs.nhs.uk (health authority posts) and www.local.gov.uk (local authority) or the websites of specific local authorities ; websites of specific voluntary bodies and health topic areas. The official graduate website ‘Prospects’ also carries useful guidance on health promotion careers. http://ww2.prospects.ac.uk. There are also the websites of the national agencies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
I have a first degree in a subject relevant to health promotion but can’t afford to do a postgraduate course at the moment. I have applied for lots of jobs at levels 1 and 2 without success. What can I do?
Even though it’s disheartening do keep trying. At the same time look for ways to strengthen your existing CV. One of the best things to do is to get some relevant voluntary work experience. Look what health promotion related activities are going on in your area and see if you can get involved. Lots of projects are regularly looking out for volunteers. While you may not feel able to take a full PG health promotion course at the present time many courses do provide the opportunity to take single modules. You can be given the credit for this study when later taking a full degree. For example, if you are especially interested in mental health promotion some courses do offer specialist modules in this which can lead you to success in gaining a mental health promotion post. Similarly for working with young people in health promotion, workplace health, sexual health promotion etc. Be willing to take on temporary posts that can arise from short term funding or from secondment of existing post holders. Such posts, even if you have to take on several before gaining a more permanent position, are very valuable in building up skills and experience.