Growing up, global health careers weren't at the top of my aspirations list. In fact, despite being scared of flying, I wanted to become a pilot. Now that I have seen the light that is logic, I have explored other options available to me. When my kids are older, global health careers are at the top of my list. Despite volunteering abroad being relatively easy, getting into global health is not. If you are feeling a pull towards the humanitarian world, here are some ideas to get you started.
One of the most technically challenging global health careers is epidemiology. Diseases are everywhere, outbreaks are often unpredictable, and new challenges are hitting medicine all the time. As an epidemiologist, you can study the causes and patterns of diseases. Your work may save thousands of lives at once. Even though there is a lot of analysis involved in this job, it really can be a getting down and dirty position.
2. Obstetrician and Gynecologist (OBGYN)
Being an OBGYN isn't just a one way route into delivering chubby little cherubs under bright hospital lights. In fact, OBGYNs are one of the most sought after professions in the global health field. Organisations like Doctors Without Borders are crying out for them. Maternal health is largely neglected in some parts of the world. This means there is plenty of challenging and rewarding work for OBGYNs to do.
Logisticians aren't just fit for the army. Many global health challenges are found in areas where humanitarian disasters have occurred. This can mean natural disasters, such as the recent typhoon in the Philippines. Or, it can mean mass disease outbreaks and civil war. Being a logistician means facing dangerous situations however, your decisions can save a lot of lives, which makes this a rewarding career.
4. Public Health Specialist
Public health researchers, doctors, and nurses can bring big changes to global health challenges. From vaccination programs to rehydration policies during cholera outbreaks, the challenges you may face as a public health specialist are diverse. It helps to be a medical professional, as you can deliver a hands-on service. However, research is desperately needed in some areas of public health. Once again, maternal health is particularly badly researched, as are neglected diseases.
5. Program Directors
Organisations like USAID and the WHO often require program directors for programs within countries. Such jobs are very much office-based, but then a lot of global health positions are. You have to have a lot of experience for such positions, preferably within the country you want to work in. Many who work in such positions also have a master's or PhD in a relevant field. It is a career to keep your eye on, but don't get your hopes up too much.
Don't want to work abroad but you have a strong interest in global health? Consider entering academia then. As mentioned earlier, research is desperately needed in some areas. You may find yourself based at a university in your own country, often interacting with professionals from other countries. This does require going to college, but it is well worth it if your research discovers a policy that can help others.
7. Working with NGOs
Finally, working with an NGO using your existing skills is a great way to work in global health. In most cases, this means being a medical professional. You cannot just walk into working in the field. I've been through Doctors Without Borders criteria multiple times, and they do require some experience abroad. So go and get it, then use it to deliver great care abroad. Also, Doctors Without Borders isn't the only organisation out there offering such opportunities, so see what else is about.
Getting into global health isn't easy. You need a lot of experience, which often means volunteering before you begin applying. However, with persistence, there is no reason why you cannot make a great contribution. If you have global health aspirations, what are they?