Doing a Masters in Public Health without a science background

I don’t come from a background in science – my Bachelor’s is in History and I’ve spent the past five years working in marketing – so I often get asked how I’m coping with doing a science degree like Public Health.

And the answer is: not too badly, so far. At least judging from my results for term 1, especially statistics and epidemiology.

Part of this is definitely down to pure elbow grease: extra hours rewatching lectures, consulting YouTube tutorials and making sure I got all the homework done. But thankfully, it’s also because postgrad education is more about the application of technical knowledge to the real world than whether you can memorise formulas. For our assessments, for example, formulaic calculations only accounted for a small percentage. Instead, we were mostly tested on how we would apply what we’d learned to given healthcare scenarios.

The truth is that in Public Health, the science is often only the beginning. Healthcare issues typically involve a huge variety of stakeholders whose interests aren’t always scientific. Finding solutions to these problems depends on people being able to go beyond the science.

Over the past few months, we’ve learned that knowing how to plan a social marketing campaign can be just as important as understanding a disease model. Engaging stakeholders over a cup of coffee can be what determines the success of a health promotion programme. Last week, a concept from operations management – the Moving Range – was introduced as a way to understand hospital quality.

So if like me, you’re wondering if you’re cut out for it without a science background, don’t worry. The fact is that public health (and perhaps other science disciplines) needs people from all over for it to work.

I’m glad I gave it a go and I’ve learned loads in the process.

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