If you're interested in influencing the health choices that people make and you are a good communicator, the role of a health promotion specialist could be for you
Health promotion specialists help people to improve their health and increase their control over it.
Roles may vary from giving face-to-face advice to individuals to producing strategic policies for health promotion. You may set up schemes promoting a healthy lifestyle, run campaigns and implement government initiatives relating to public health.
You can work in a range of settings, including:
Job titles vary so look out for roles such as health education specialist or health improvement practitioner.
It's possible to cover a number of different health-related issues, or to specialise in one area such as:
Your work could also be focused on a specific section of the community, such as elderly or disabled people or an ethnic minority group.
Due to the diverse nature of the job there is no standard role, but in general you may need to:
Salaries depend on the employing organisation (primary care trust, hospital, local authority, etc), location, specialist area and the strategic leadership level at which you're working.
Income data from Health Careers. Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are usually 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. However, flexibility is essential and some evening and weekend work may be required, especially when running community groups.
Part-time work may be possible along with job-sharing, although this would need to be negotiated locally, as would career breaks. Self-employment and freelance work are sometimes possible, for example, in writing, research or consultancy.
You can become a health promotion specialist with a degree in any subject but the most relevant degrees are biological, social and behavioural sciences.
In particular, one of the following subjects may increase your chances:
Entry with an HND may be possible if you have extensive related pre-entry experience and/or a relevant professional qualification. A one-year top-up programme in health promotion is available for those with an appropriate foundation degree or diploma.
Some health promotion jobs, such as those working directly with the public, may not require a postgraduate qualification. However, senior posts at a more strategic level, or those which involve responsibility for projects or other staff members, may ask for one in a subject such as health promotion, public health or health development. Search for postgraduate courses in public health.
Some people enter this job as a second career. They may have built up experience in areas such as:
You should have an interest in health improvement and some employers will look for previous experience in this area. Related voluntary work or work shadowing may therefore be helpful. This may include working with a local community group, at a health centre or with a particular group of people such as children or old people. Get in touch with your local NHS trust to find out about opportunities.
You will need to have:
You should also be good at building and maintaining relationships with individuals and organisations, including public, private, community and voluntary bodies.
Currently, the main employer of health promotion specialists in the UK is the NHS via primary care trusts.
Other employers include:
International opportunities exist with organisations such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) and charities working in international development such as:
Look for job vacancies at:
Think about the area of health promotion that you may wish to specialise in. You may be able to take short training courses in areas such as stopping smoking, working with patient groups and other skills-based training, for example in research, to increase your chances of getting a job.
Competition for posts varies depending on geographical location and particular specialisms. Health improvement is very much on the UK government's agenda and there are increasing opportunities for individuals with relevant skills.
It is likely that your training will be mainly on the job. External short courses are available on a range of topics including:
Various Level 2 Awards are offered by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) in subjects such as:
For more information see RSPH Qualifications.
There may be the opportunity of doing a postgraduate qualification if you don't already have one. Some employers will support this and allow a day release for study. Although most employers do support continuing professional development (CPD), the amount of support and funding varies.
You may decide to look into gaining registration with the United Kingdom Public Health Register (UKPHR). This isn't essential but will show that you've reached a certain level and may help with career progression. You should keep a portfolio of evidence of your training and experience, which can then be submitted to the UKPHR.
Career development may consist of moving on to more senior roles such as senior health promotion specialist or advanced health improvement practitioner. After this grade, further progression to assistant manager is possible.
These senior posts may involve taking on more responsibility for projects and staff, along with more strategic work.
Small health promotion units may not have much room for promotion, meaning that competition for any senior posts that do become available will be strong. You may therefore, need to take a sideways step to a different organisation, which will allow you to gain experience in other areas such as government agencies or charities.
Moving to a larger organisation will also increase the chances of there being a structured career path leading up to management level.
There may be opportunities for secondments to other departments and areas of work. It is possible to develop a career as a freelance consultant but this is usually after you have built up significant experience.