How to Become a Public Health Consultant
Public health consultants are highly trained, experienced professionals who use their expertise to enhance the health of UK residents. Open to people from many different backgrounds, this challenging career requires dedication, hard work and excellent interpersonal skills.
Are you ready for a career challenge? Then read on to find out how you could become a public health consultant.
What Do Public Health Consultants Do?
Public health consultants lead the planning and delivery of health policies and community health programmes that boost the health of UK residents. Their evidence-based advice ensures that all commissioned health services are high-quality, safe, cost-effective and will reduce health inequalities across primary, secondary and social care.
To become a public health consultant you’ll first need to train as a public health specialist. The great news is that you don’t necessarily need to come from a medical background, as a wide range of people applies for training. These include:
Consultants in public health have usually undertaken speciality training in a particular area of public health, such as epidemiology, health protection, health improvement, policy or dental public health. They’re mainly employed by local authorities and Public Health England, although some work for universities, defence medical services and non-profit organisations.
What Qualifications Will I Need to Become a Public Health Consultant?
To become a public health specialist, you’ll need to commit to 4-5 years of full-time training or longer if you choose the part-time option.
Entry criteria with a medical background
Applicants must have either:
If you have a medical degree you must be eligible for full registration with the GMC at the start of training and have a licence to practise. You’ll also need at least two 2 years of postgraduate medical experience as well as evidence of current employment in a UKFPO affiliated foundation programme. Alternatively, you could provide evidence that you’ve worked for 12 months following full GMC registration, plus evidence that you’ve achieved foundation competency.
Entry criteria with a non-medical background
Applicants will need 60 months of Band 6 work experience. At least 24 months of this must be in an area related to population health practice.
Skill Set Required for a Public Health Consultant
Regardless of educational or professional background, all applicants will need to demonstrate the following skills:
Written and verbal communication skills
Life support skills
Evidence of professional development
Understanding of relevant legislation
Flexibility and time-management
Willingness to understand other cultures
If you’re an aspiring public health specialist you’ll be required to possess technical knowledge, which includes an understanding of public health concepts and political awareness. You’ll also need clinical experience and academic research skills.
Essential personal skills for this role include communication skills, the ability to solve problems, organisational skills, the ability to cope well under pressure, people management skills and the ability to think conceptually. In addition, you’ll need to demonstrate professional integrity and a commitment to your specialism.
Assuming that you meet the above requirements your next challenge will be an assessment, which includes numerical and critical reasoning tests as well as situational scenario-based tests. These can be taken online at UK wide test centres. If your results are good enough, you’ll then be invited to a half-day assessment that will include a face to face interview.
The final decision regarding your application will be based on your selection centre tests results, your assessment day performance and how well you match the person specification.
What Does the Public Health Specialist Training Involve?
Once you’ve accepted a place you’ll be known as a speciality registrar and you’ll spend one year on an academic course as well as 48 months in speciality training posts. These will involve gaining experience in at least two different training locations.
The public health specialist training programme covers 9 competency areas, which relate to the 3 domains of public health:
When you complete your public health training you’ll be eligible for specialist registration. If you’re from a medical background you’ll register with the General Medical Council (GMC) or the General Dental Council. If you’re not from a medical background you’ll register with the UK Public Health Register (UKPHR).