Public health internships: benefits & what to expect
Looking for a rewarding career that's all about improving the health of communities and populations? Public health is an incredibly diverse field that tackles everything from studying diseases and crunching data to dealing with environmental health issues, creating health policies, providing critical health services, and educating people about how to stay healthy.
As a student at a school of public health or a recent graduate ready to start your career, internships and fellowships are real-world training grounds where you can put all that college knowledge to the test. You'll work on cool projects that actually make a difference, see firsthand how public health strategies are implemented, and get a glimpse into the daily challenges faced by professionals in the field. Plus, experienced mentors can show you the ropes and dish out some priceless advice.
So, if you're serious about making a difference in public health, don't underestimate the power of internships.
10 types of public health internships
Public health offers a wide range of exciting opportunities for interns. Unsure where to start your public health journey? Here are some areas you could explore through a public health internship program:
- Epidemiology focuses on studying patterns and causes of diseases in populations. You may assist in data collection, analysis, and research projects to understand and track diseases like COVID-19 or the flu.
- Biostatistics uses statistical methods to analyze health-related data, like birth and death rates or the prevalence of a specific disease. You may assist in designing studies, analyzing data sets, and interpreting statistical findings.
- Environmental health concentrates on assessing and managing environmental factors impacting public health, such as air and water quality, hazardous substances, and occupational health. You may participate in research, inspections, and policy development.
- Health policy focuses on the development and implementation of government health policies. You may assist organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in conducting policy research, analyzing legislation, and advocating for public health initiatives.
- Health education and promotion involves designing and implementing programs to promote health and wellness in communities, like vaccinations for children. You may work with a public health nonprofit to develop educational materials, organize health campaigns, and conduct workshops.
- Global health focuses on public health issues and initiatives on a global scale. You may work on projects related to infectious diseases, health disparities, or healthcare systems in different countries.
- Community health works directly with communities to address their health needs. You may work with a health department to engage in community outreach, health screenings, health education workshops, and collaborating with local organizations.
- Public health research offers opportunities to contribute to research studies that aim to improve public health outcomes. You may assist a health sciences organization in data collection, literature reviews, and analysis under the guidance of researchers.
- Public health program management provides experience in managing and coordinating public health programs like mental health awareness or health equity awareness. You may assist in program planning, monitoring and evaluation, and supporting program implementation.
- Health communications focuses on developing effective health communication strategies. You may work with a hospital or health system to create health campaigns, write health-related content, manage social media platforms, and evaluate communication efforts.
5 benefits of public health internships
Interning in public health unlocks a world of personal and professional growth, setting the stage for a thriving and rewarding career in the field. Let's look at how an internship makes this exciting journey possible.
Networking with professionals in the field
A public health internship is your ticket to networking with experienced public health practitioners. You'll have the chance to connect with leaders, policymakers, and other professionals passionate about public health. By building these connections, you'll gain mentors who can guide you, offer valuable advice, and even hook you up with job opportunities down the road.
A major benefit of a public health internship is the chance to gain real-world experience. Through hands-on involvement in public health projects, you can apply your knowledge and skills to tackle practical challenges. An internship exposes you to the complexities and nuances of working in the field — valuable insight you can’t learn in a classroom.
Exploring your future career
A public health internship gives you the chance to explore the work as a potential career path. You’ll gain firsthand exposure to the day-to-day responsibilities and challenges public health professionals face. Through your internship, you can determine whether the field matches your interests, skills, and long-term goals.
Developing career skills
Internships provide a supportive environment for learning and growth, allowing you to polish your existing skills while learning new ones. Depending on your specific internship focus, you can hone your skills in data analysis, research methodology, program planning, community engagement, policy analysis, or health education.
Enhancing your resume
Employers love seeing practical experience gained through internships and recognize the value of internship experiences in shaping well-rounded public health professionals. It also shows you are proactive about your professional development and committed to the field.
Why should you get a public health internship?
Many top-notch public health employers want applicants who can prove they've got the skills and know-how from real-world work experience. They want to see that you're not just all talk and that you can put your knowledge into action.
Including a public health internship on your resume shows employers that you're committed to the field and have what it takes to tackle real-life situations. Internships also demonstrate that you can work well with others in diverse teams and handle the fast-paced and ever-changing world of public health.
So, if you're passionate about making a difference in the health of communities, take advantage of internship opportunities to gain the necessary experience, skills, mentorship, and confidence to excel in the field.
What can you expect with a public health internship?
Your internship experience will vary based on your area of focus within public health, but here's a general idea of what to expect from the journey:
- You will have the opportunity to work closely with experienced professionals in the public health field. Under their guidance, you'll observe how they approach their work, participate in team meetings, and gain insight into their decision-making processes.
- You’ll be asked to assist with ongoing projects and initiatives. This may involve conducting research, data collection, and analysis, assisting in program planning and implementation, or contributing to health education campaigns.
- Internships in public health allow students to develop essential skills in real-world applications, such as data analysis, research methodology, communication, teamwork, and problem-solving. You'll have the chance to refine these skills and receive feedback to further enhance your abilities.
- You’ll gain exposure to the broader field of public health; develop a better understanding of the different roles, settings, and challenges within public health; and learn how they contribute to improving population health outcomes.
Are public health internships competitive?
Great question. This varies depending on several factors, like your location, your target organization, and how many job and internship openings are available.
Regardless, boost your chances of snagging a public health internship by starting early and being proactive in your search. Pay close attention to application deadlines, eligibility, and enrollment requirements. And don't be shy about networking; reach out to professionals in the field, tap into your connections, and see what internship openings they know about. Hit up career fairs, take advantage of volunteer opportunities, get in touch with human resources at public health organizations, and don't forget to seek guidance from your professors or career services at school.
Persistence is key. Be prepared, show off your passion for public health, and keep pushing forward. With the right mindset and a little bit of luck, you'll find a valuable internship experience that'll set you on the path to success.
Which public health companies are hiring on Handshake?
Get the public health internship of your dreams
Ready to embrace the opportunities a public health internship has to offer and set yourself on a path to a successful and fulfilling career in public health? Get started today!
Head over to Handshake or download the app and set up your profile. Whether you are looking for a part-time, full-time, or summer internship, you can explore public health internship opportunities, view job postings, and learn about the qualifications and skills employers are seeking. Take charge of your future and land that dream internship in public health.