When asked what kind of career they see themselves in after graduation, most prospective students aren’t too sure. You might know your desired end goal: That you want to help people, improve livelihoods or ensure equitable access to public resources – but exactly what career puts you on the path to achieving this?
You might be surprised to know there is actually a discipline that includes all of these things, and it’s called public health.
Public health looks at environmental, social, political, behavioural, biological and economic factors that impact people’s health and the healthcare they receive, and works towards finding society-wide or even global solutions to the challenges that are limiting people’s well-being, quality of life or lifespan.
At the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems, you will learn how these factors affect public health, understand the challenges facing health in the modern world, learn how public health and health care operates as an integrated system and how much-needed services can be implemented as a progressive network.
Committed to solving real-world problems and producing graduates hungry for change in areas needing reforms, the school has drawn up nine core research, training and services areas in collaboration with their partners in public health: the prevention and management of chronic diseases; food and water safety, security and governance; sustaining global and international health; ensuring health for ageing populations; maintaining healthy environments; developing and using emerging information technologies to support and improve community health; supporting brain health; evaluating health systems and policy to ensure efficacy and equity; and maintaining healthy workplaces.
Students will learn why these areas are crucial to economic, social and personal growth, how current health systems are not adequately nurturing these aims and what can be done to work towards these domains through a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses on offer in the faculty.
Beyond the classroom, students have the unique chance to live in Waterloo, Ontario, the heart of Canada’s own “Silicon Valley”. Home to many high-tech firms, including the Canadian headquarters of Google, as well as internationally renowned research and scientific institutes such as the Canadian Institute for Governance Innovation, the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, and the Water Institute, Waterloo is a vibrant and trendy community that offers the best of big city living without the hassles and expense of major urban centres. And yet, for those wanting a big city fix, Waterloo is only a short trip by train or bus to Toronto.
The innovative culture that is at the heart of Waterloo often spills onto campus, particularly through the ‘co-op’ scheme that allows students to integrate paid work experience with their studies, earning up to two years of industry experience by the time they graduate through four-month paid work placements combined with four-month study semesters.
The School of Public Health and Health Systems allows students following the Bachelor’s of Public Health and Bachelor’s of Science in Health Studies programmes to take the co-op route, which allows them to graduate with industry-relevant skills combined with necessary academic theory needed to hit the ground running.
With 98 percent of students who followed the co-op initiative finding employment within six months of graduation – almost 10 percent higher than the national average – and 79 percent of co-op students earning upwards of CA$50,000 (US$38,445) within two years of graduation, the option is clearly learning-by-doing at its more effective.
The four pillars of the school further ensure students are ready to enter the professional world of healthcare.
The school is committed to: conducting rigorous trans-disciplinary research in collaboration with other academic institutions and external partners; providing research and training opportunities in national and global challenges within the field; providing greater opportunities and easier access for students to participate in ‘hands-on’ problem-based learning environment; and, cultivating networks and partnerships to foster research-to-practice-to-policy opportunities.
These core missions open up a world of opportunity after graduation, as students can take their dynamic academic knowledge and hands-on industry experience into a whole range of career paths as they influence the health sector.
Alumni from the school have gone on to be physicians, public health planners, pharmacists, university faculty, and health science researchers, showing the breadth of career doors that open to you with a degree in public health and health systems.
Wherever your passion for people’s wellness and global solutions takes you, you will be part of a thriving industry that will always have a place in society. You will not only enjoy high job security, you are also actively and effectively improving people’s lives.
In fact, the demand for specialists in this field will only increase as we tackle new challenges in ageing populations and environmental risks such as high pollution levels and increasing natural disasters, for example.
That means students in the field are likely to be highly sought after throughout their professional careers, and with a degree from one of Canada’s top 10 universities, according to the QS World University Rankings 2019, graduates from the school have a unique expertise to offer the industry.
If you’re interested in life as a public health student and graduate opportunities in the evolving sphere, find out more here.