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MSc Public Health

Course Overview

Improving the population’s health is vital and important work that goes beyond the healthcare focus of dealing with individual sickness and disease. The essential focus of modern public health work is reflected in Acheson’s definition (1988);

‘Public health is the science and art of preventing disease, prolonging life and promoting health through the organised efforts of society’.

Public health work deals with complex and dynamic issues, determined and influenced by a range of social, cultural, economic, environmental, political and individual factors. This programme recognises that public health work is seen as being most effective when it acknowledges the complexity of the type and range, and the interaction between these factors, and develops its interventions accordingly. It also recognises that increasingly, improving the health of the population will require increasing equality within society. This is reflected in the particular emphasis within the programme on the inter-personal and social aspects of public health work and the wider determinants of health.

This advanced academic course in public health has been developed in alignment with the Public Health Knowledge and Skills Framework (PHKSF, 2013) and the UK National Occupational Standards for Public Health. Curriculum development and content is also informed by the United Kingdom Public Health Register (UKPHR) and the Faculty of Public Health.

Students on this academic programme will engage with a teaching team with a wide range of disciplinary backgrounds and extensive experience of working in public health practice across a variety of settings at a local, national and international level.

This multi-disciplinary team will support students to develop advanced knowledge and academic skills in understanding, developing, implementing and evaluating programmes addressing existing and new public health challenges. These challenges include issues such as changes in the population profile produced by migration and ageing, social and health inequalities, globalisation, climate change and the sustainability of resources; as well as the double burden of communicable and chronic non-communicable diseases in both developed nations and countries of economic transition.

Key information

    Course name

    MSc Public Health

    Total academic credits

    180 credits

    Qualification awarded


    Awarding body

    Birmingham City University

    Professional recognition


    Academic level

    Postgraduate (QCF_NQF Level 7)

    Study mode

    Full time – Classroom


    12 months

    Tuition fees




    Work placement


    Course location


Academic entry requirements

An honours degree (2:2 or above) in a subject associated with or of relevance to public health

Current or recent experience of working in a public health or health promotion role or capacity. (This may be as your main role or as an aspect of your role. It may also be in a paid or voluntary capacity and as a professional or non-professional).

English entry requirements

A minimum IELTS score of 6.5 is required. If you do not currently have a score of 6.5, The University’s Personal Development Department will be able to help with a preparation programme prior to the MSc.

The Preparation Programme is a full-time, 8-week summer course to help students prepare for their health-related studies at Birmingham City University. To take part in the course, you will need at least IELTS 6.0, with at least 6.0 in the writing and speaking modules.

Progression route

Further academic study of MPhil, DBA, PhD or professional career.

Career opportunities

The course will enhance your career prospects, enabling you to progress onto more senior public health roles at either operational, policy or commissioning level. The transferrable nature of the course also means you could move into a management or research post. Typical careers include National Mental Health Promotion Lead, Regional Commissioning Manager, Consultant in Public Health, Director of Public Health, public health specialist, regional mental health promotion coordinator, independent public health consultant etc.


Taught modules

  • Public Health Foundations: Models, Approaches and Practice (20 credits)
  • Public Health: From Health Protection to Community Development (20 credits)
  • Public Health in a Social Context: People, Places and Policy (20 credits)
  • Research Methods and Evaluation in Public Health (20 credits)
  • Leadership for Health and Social Care (20 credits)
  • Epidemiology (10 credits)
  • Global Context for Public Health (10 credits)
  • MSc Dissertation (60 credits)


Assessment methods

The range of assessments in the programme tests the students’ abilities in a number of areas, and using a variety of methods, partly in order to accommodate different learning styles.  These include essay-type tasks, presentations and seminar discussions, a research proposal and an examination. During the postgraduate diploma stage the student is also encouraged to engage with reflective practice. This aids the development of their self-evaluation and reflective skills, an outcome of the postgraduate programme.


Reasons for choosing this course

The aims of the programme are to:

  • Develop a range of transferable skills based on academic, professional and personal learning as a basis for continuing professional development in the multi-professional public health context
  • Develop skills in planning, implementing and evaluating public health programmes and interventions in various settings including public health departments, local authorities, the third sector, academic institutes, research organisations and community organisations at local, national and global level
  • Gain an advanced understanding of the foundations of public health practice and its philosophical and professional dilemmas in preparation for the current challenges in public health, both nationally and internationally
  • Build on existing knowledge; skills and experience to become a competent, effective and ethical public health practitioner (as benchmarked against the National Occupational Standards for Public Health and the United Kingdom Public Health Practitioner Standards)
  • Develop and conduct, with supervision, a substantive, independent research project for dissemination within the workforce or more widely by presentation or publication


Main learning outcomes

From the study of this MSc, students will be able to:

  • Explore and deconstruct public health issues and challenges in relation to wider social, political, economic and environmental processes and structures
  • Recognise and evaluate the complex nature of diverse public health challenges, and the value of a multi-disciplinary public health response
  • Evaluate and review global health governance and challenges for public health in an international context
  • Demonstrate competence in the interpretation and evaluation of evidence and the appropriate public health methods for research and to evaluate public health interventions
  • Draw on a critical understanding of the key concepts and sources of epidemiological data and its role in public health
  • Provide leadership within a public health role and act as a change agent in a specific area of public health
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of differing perspectives and theories in public health and apply them to a variety of local, national and international settings
  • Utilise the skills of reflection as part of continuous personal development and to develop an ethical position about public health practice
  • Demonstrate a range of transferable academic and professional skills appropriate to masters’ level study and a career in public health; such as communicating complex information clearly using a variety of methods, working collaboratively and managing time scales
  • Demonstrate the relevant competencies of the National Occupational Standards for Public Health in appropriate environments
  • Successfully complete a dissertation that demonstrates the application of knowledge, skills and attitudes inherent in public health practice and which contributes to the development of professional knowledge
  • Demonstrate mastery in a particular area of research methodology and a chosen public health topic