Studying Public Health

Stakeholders' expectations of graduates

How do potential employers in public health fields of work select applicants? What requirements are associated with such fields of work? How do employees evaluate the competencies they have acquired during their studies in public health? These questions were the subject of a workshop of the Teaching Commission of the DGPH, which took place in the context of the congress "Poverty and Health" on December 3, 2010 in Berlin, moderated by the speakers of the Teaching Commission of the DGPH, Dr. Monika Hey (BSPH) and Prof. Dr. Beate Blättner (HS Fulda).

The representatives of the Robert Koch Institute (Dr. Thomas Ziese), the Medical Center for Quality in Medicine (Dr. Susanne Weinbrenner), the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association (Dr. Gisela Schott), the German AIDS Aid (Armin Schafberger) and the Family Planning Center BALANCE (Sybill Schulz) unanimously mentioned a good knowledge of the structures of health care as a prerequisite for daily work.

Methodological competencies in the assessment and evaluation of studies were named as a very important requirement in which public health graduates clearly differ from other applicants. While institutions that primarily generate and disseminate new knowledge emphasize the depth of required competencies here, as well as additional in-depth knowledge of potential data sources, epidemiological methods, and biostatistical procedures, more interventional institutions tend to require the breadth of knowledge that is typical of public health. In addition, for organizations more involved in implementation, access to identified target groups and conceptual skills in prevention were primarily significant.     

The expectation of being able to present complex issues in a clearly structured and understandable way for different target groups was unanimously formulated, as was the communicative and linguistic ability to represent the institution in international contexts. The target groups identified were, in particular, politics, health care and patients. Practical skills such as writing press releases or preparing applications for third-party funding are helpful. In addition, personal skills such as the ability to work in an interdisciplinary manner, flexible time management and independence were considered important.

A better transparency of the competence differences between bachelor and master graduates was desired by all stakeholders. The connection with the primary qualification is often an important consideration in hiring. However, lateral entrants are not fundamentally ruled out.

How does one get a suitable job? In response to this question, reference was first made to the difference between the world of job advertisements and the world of contacts. Those who prove themselves within smaller projects, master's theses and internships improve their chances of being hired. However, enthusiasm for the respective position and the degree of prior information about the work of the respective institution are also important.