Moving away from the lab for a career in public health

MPH Public Health student Emily Christopher decided to study a postgraduate degree after realising she wanted a job away from the lab after studying pharmacology for three years. Below, she discusses the benefits of distance learning and provides an insight into what she has learnt during her time on the course so far…


In the second year of my Pharmacology degree at the University of Manchester, I decided that after graduation I wanted to move out of the laboratory and make a difference to people’s health by addressing its wider determinants. I spent the summer before my final year researching the numerous Public Health Master’s degrees across the UK whilst interning at a local council and found that my favourite was right under my nose.

The University of Manchester’s MPH Public Health course offers the ability to dive into the basics of epidemiology and population health as well as more niche areas like global women’s health, the effect of technology on health and the basics of emergency humanitarian assistance. The varied syllabus, combined with the ability to study online from the comfort of my home in Bedfordshire, makes the course appealing to a number of individuals including other recent graduates and public health professionals at all stages of their careers.


The flexibility of Manchester’s course has meant I was able to volunteer a day a week at my local council’s public health department, giving context to the theories and systems I learn about. This volunteering position recently became a permanent position as I am now employed part-time as a Public Health Practitioner, an appointment I would not have achieved without the valuable experience and knowledge my studies have afforded me.

The most notable experience of the course so far has been the Geneva Winter School Trip, run every December for a select number of students. On this eye-opening trip, we visited the World Health Organisation, United Nations and International Society of the Red Cross, where we heard from health experts facing the front lines in global healthcare. Studying the Global Health into the 21st Century unit, whose lead organises this annual trip, meant I again had tangible examples to relate my studies to. Aside from the benefits to study, this trip meant I was able to spend time with peers I would usually only communicate with online, it allowed me to make friends on my course upon whom I can rely, much like my undergraduate lab partner who became a best friend.

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Being able to apply the deeper understanding of disease mechanisms and the inner workings of the human body I gained in my Bachelor’s, to the diverse political, environmental, social and political factors that affect health, has been invaluable. I have been able to use assignments to explore health issues I care about like the availability of and access to mental health and abortion services.

With a year left of my course I’m excited to continue learning, especially as I begin to think about my dissertation in which I hope to address some of the factors which determine the health inequalities present within the UK. I hope to combine this research with my job, as I work to provide drug and alcohol services across three local authorities, especially where a number of service users experience mental health problems alongside their addiction issues.

I couldn’t recommend this course enough. With great flexibility to study the units you choose over a time period that suits your needs, it fosters great discussions between students via frequent discussion boards and the freedom to apply learning to your individual setting, bringing the real world in line with your studies.

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