Public health to public policy

The Public Health Masters program at the University of Saskatchewan (USASK) was a clear choice for me due to its higher focus on quantitative research compared to similar programs at other universities. As an international student, I also found it a more affordable option.

At first, I honestly thought I wouldn’t make it past the foundation course but luckily I had some professors and classmates help me get through it successfully. After the first two weeks, I was pretty much on autopilot and was able to effectively manage the fast paced nature of this program. I was instantly drawn to statistics courses including bio stats and all of the epidemiology courses. Quantitative research made so much more sense than other courses in my program and when I realized that there is data analysis in every field, I was sold. As someone that didn’t have any quantitative background, I can confidently say that completing these courses is a fairly manageable endeavor and is definitely not as daunting as it appears.

As a USASK MPH alumni, I would highly recommend taking epi courses offered by Dr Waldner. Since graduates from Public Health mostly end up working for the government or its boards and agencies, I advise enrolling in courses related to public policy. I would have liked to have some background on funding models in different levels of governments, health information legislations and political influence on public policy.

During my Masters program, I had the opportunity to work as a research assistant doing a lot of literature review for my supervisor. This greatly helped shape my approach to research and was certainly a valuable add-on to my resume. You may also want to take up volunteering opportunities with bigger organizations such as a health region, the province or the city.

As for the inevitable job search, my advice would be to start early. Nothing beats good preparation and planning. I started looking at job postings when I was still in school to identify what skills are common in all the job postings. Then, I worked towards developing these skills before I graduated.

My current job involves developing information products for senior leaders in the ministry. Often, managers and higher officials do not have the time or the resources to sift through spreadsheets or even row level data to identify information that can be used in policy and decision making. I translate data into briefings to make it more consumable at the manager level.

While my current position in Alberta Education is not directly related to Public Health, it is still related to public policy and many courses that I took during my Master’s degree. Despite being inexperienced in pedagogy, I am able to confidently carry out my job responsibilities because of the strong foundation I received in program evaluation and quantitative research.

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