Public Health Internships: The Ultimate Guide

Clinical Intern

One of the best things you can do as you position yourself for a career in public health is to participate in an internship. An internship is a temporary position with an organization in the field, which may or may not offer payment or college credit for participation. It is meant to help you learn new skills and gain some experience in your field of expertise. Many public health programs encourage students to participate in an internship in order to get hands-on experience in their particular niche of public health work. This can be beneficial to the student, since it provides him or her with work experience, rather than having to try to get a salaried job without any non-college experience on their resume. The primary benefit of an internship is the experience and networking opportunities, as even paid internships usually only offer a small stipend, and not a full salary.

HHS Internship

Some of the types of organizations that regularly take on interns in public health positions are listed below:

  1. Government agencies help you learn about policy development. You might be involved in research, communications, or the ins and outs of public policy. It is sometimes even possible to do public health policy internships with other governments, or with U.S. government embassies and representatives abroad.
  2. Non-profit organizations intent on education and providing aid might provide internships. This includes organizations that educate the poverty-stricken on health practices, as well as organizations that provide food, health and water aid. Global humanitarian foundations can also provide internship opportunities.
  3. For-profit corporations that produce or market health products and services might also offer internships. This includes lobbying firms for the health care industry manufacturers and others.
  4. Clinics, hospitals, nursing homes, and other similar organizations might also offer internships that can provide you with a chance to learn how a clinic works, and give you firsthand experience in health administration.

Applying for a Public Health Internship

Internship application

Some internships are quite competitive, so it helps to cultivate different options. Even though internships may not be paid positions, there are often limited positions available, so you will have to go through an application process. You will need to show that you have good grades, are doing well in your public health emphasis, and that you are prepared to learn more about a career in public health. Many internship applications require you to submit a resume or curriculum vitae, cover letter, references, and letters of recommendation. It is a lot like applying for a job, or applying to attend a university program. Some public heath internships may also require a background check.

Before you apply for a public health internship, make sure that you understand which materials are required, and the due date. If you need letters of recommendation, try to get them from people who are active in a field related to your desired internship. The need for letters of recommendation is one reason that it is a good idea to develop positive relationships with your instructors, and network with professionals in your field of study. You need to be in a position to receive a positive letter from people who know you well, and who can give you an honest — and good — recommendation. Likewise, your references should be people who know you and are involved in public health. Be sure to contact your references to let them know that you are applying for an internship, and confirm that it is acceptable to list them.

Finding Public Health Internships

Public Health Internship

The first place to look when attempting to secure a public health internship is your university’s career center. Most career centers offer helpful suggestions on getting internships, and can point you in the right direction. Your department at the university might also have information on internships in your field of study. If you have an academic adviser, ask him or her for internship opportunities that might be available.

You can also look online for public health internships. A simple search can bring up a number of possibilities. Go to state and federal agency websites, or go to the sites of companies or non-profits that you are interested in working with. Many of these sites offer information on internships.

If you do not find an internship opportunity listed at an organization you are interested in, or if you are trying to find a local public health internship, you can contact the organization directly. Contact a local charity, or your local public health department, and ask if you can intern. Many organizations are willing to accommodate students who want internships — especially if they are unpaid internships. Before you do this, though, you will need to clear the organization with your school. There might also be some additional forms and paperwork to fill out in order to get the organization approved by the university.

Prominent Public Health Internships

Health care internship

If you are interested in finding an interesting and challenging internship that will provide you with great experience, here are a few places to start your public health internship search:

Volunteerism Looks Great on a Resume

Even if you can’t get money or credit for an internship, the initiative you show in seeking hands-on work in your field looks great on a job application, so get it any way you can. Organizations that don’t offer internships may still be willing to take you on as a volunteer, and while the work you do there probably won’t be your dream job, just being around other public health professionals gives you a priceless opportunity to learn. The U.S. Department of Education predicts rising rates of attendance at graduate and professional schools between now and 2018, so if you want to distinguish yourself from the onrushing crowd of workers with master’s degrees, you’ll want to get some added experience to put on your resume, and volunteering is a great way to do it.

When to Do A Public Health Internship

Pursuing an internship while you’re in school can be a lot of work, especially if you’re trying to find time for a family and a paid job as well. If you have the time, it is worth getting your schooling and internship done at once. Immersion in the subject of your studies will help you learn better and remember more of what you learn. If not, getting an internship right after finishing school is a good way to keep practicing while you look for a job in the field. A few strategies for pursuing internships while you’re in school include:

Getting Started

The above resources are a good place to start looking for a public health internship, whether you’re already in school for your Master of Public Health, or just getting started looking at options, but the best resource is sometimes your personal network. For all the research you do on the internet, make sure you’re also talking to people in your area, contacting organizations and universities, and building up your contacts in the industry, so that when you’re not sure what comes next, you’ve got someone knowledgeable to ask.

Best Online MPH (Master of Public Health) Degrees

Public health is the science of preventing disease and promoting health at the population level. Programs prepare students to become leading public health professionals capable of addressing current global public health problems. By clicking on the logos below, you can receive more information regarding your degree and school of choice.

Kaplan University Master of Public Health
MPH: Health Education
Kaplan University – Graduates of the Kaplan University MPH program are ready to take their careers to the next stage at the government, nonprofit, or private level. The online program provides students with an education on how to analyze and apply scientific research, prepare public health policies, develop health education programs, and review the impact of occupational and environmental factors. Kaplan offers several specializations within their MPH program, including health education.
Benedictine University Master of Public Health
MPH: Disaster Mgmt
MPH: Health Education
MPH: Health Policy
MPH/MBA Dual Degree
Benedictine University – Benedictine University's Master's in Public Health program features a curriculum of public health core with a focus on the needs of today's healthcare industry. Courses feature a conceptual, factual, and skill base where students are given the opportunity to apply their knowledge and skills in a professional setting. Benedictine offers areas of emphasis within their MPH program: disaster management, health education, and healthcare policy. They also offer an MPH/MBA dual degree.
Capella University Master of Public Health
MPH: Behavioral Science
MPH: Health Policy
Capella University – The MPH program at Capella University prepares students for careers in public health management, social welfare, or research. Key facets of the curriculum include the behavioral, psychological, and social factors that contribute to the health of populations. Specializations include behavioral science and healthcare policy. Courses include International Public Health, Environmental Health Concepts in Public Health, and Principles of Biostatistics.
Walden University Master of Public Health
MPA: Health Policy
Walden University – The Walden University MPH degree teaches the development of healthy individuals, organizations, and communities. The program provides core study in the public health field, using real-world teaching methodology, industry leading professors, and a capstone fieldwork practicum. Those interested in policymaking may find Walden's MPA in health policy to be of interest.
University of Liverpool Master of Public Health
MPH: Epidemiology
MPH: Health Mgmt
MPH: Intl Public Health
University of Liverpool – The University of Liverpool Master of Public Health degree provides a foundation in the science of promoting health and preventing disease. Areas of emphasis within the MPH program include epidemiology, healthcare management, and international public health. As an added convenience, the university offers a modular system that provides students the flexibility of obtaining credits at partner institutions.
Boston University MS: Health Communication
Boston University – At the Boston University online Master of Science in Health Communication program, students are taught cutting edge methods in hospital administration through a dynamic curriculum that examines current healthcare issues. The program gives students a world class education in the art of communicating health literacy.

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