Postgraduate degree workforce entry

In today’s competitive job landscape, postgraduate qualifications give you more control over a rewarding and long-term career in public health. Undertaking a Master's degree can give you the opportunity to manage a small research project, learn advanced critical thinking skills and broaden your knowledge-base to include managerial skills required for advancement into senior roles. Postgraduate qualifications can help you be more selective in roles you undertake, and expand your horizons.

A PhD equips you with project management and analytical skills that can be applied to middle- and senior management roles in research, government, NGOs and industry.

Here you’ll find career profiles from our Masters and PhD graduates, learn about their daily job activities, get pointers on the types of organisations you should be keeping an eye on, and the types of roles you should consider applying for.

Career profiles

These graduates have used postgraduate study as a launchpad to amazing careers at renowned organisations here and overseas. Click through to read detailed interviews describing how they got their first jobs, the type of work they’ve done since, why they love public health, and their advice to students.

Dr Jessica Harding, Research Fellow

Course: PhD
Graduated: 2017
Passion: Reducing the global burden of diabetes

Victoria King, Clinical Trials Program Coordinator

Course: Master of Public Health
Graduated: 2013
Passions: Intensive care research; diversity in everyday workload

Joanna Schwarzman, PhD student

Course: Master of Public Health
Graduated: 2013
Passion: Improving health equity through prevention and empowerment

Dr Melita Giummarra, Director of Research Programs at the National Disability Insurance Agency

Course: PhD
Graduated: 2011
Passion: To identify, generate, and apply evidence to bring about changes that will improve social, economic, justice, health and disability outcomes

Fields of work

Health Promotion: The WHO defines health promotion as the process of enabling people to increase control over, and to improve, their health. It moves beyond a focus on individual behaviour towards a wide range of social and environmental interventions. If you’re community-minded and enjoy interacting with your fellow humans, this could be a fitting career. Postgraduate qualifications open the door to roles involving project planning and evaluation.

Research: A postgraduate degree in public health can make you more competitive when applying for research roles in teams specialising in a huge variety of clinical domains. With a higher qualification, you can work your way up to project management roles and consider a PhD if you really want to take charge of your research career.

Government: Local councils, state governments, statutory authorities and the Commonwealth government all employ public health professionals. Some roles around policy development are heavily research based – involving literature reviews and writing – whilst others are more hands-on, rolling out community based projects. With a postgraduate degree under your belt, you may find it easier to break into policy work and be involved in program planning and evaluation.

Health Communications: You can combine your degree with a passion for communications in a variety of roles within research projects, health service or research institutes, or even communications agencies specialising in healthcare. Health communicators ensure the most important health messages are communicated effectively across web, social media, pamphlets, publications, videos and more.

Biostatistics: Biostatisticians are a highly sought-after commodity with plenty of well-remunerated job opportunities across research, industry and government. You need to be great with numbers, but also be able to communicate complex statistical concepts to those less numerate than you. Job opportunities in this field really open up with higher degrees.

Occupational and Environmental Health: From assessing workplace safety compliance through to investigating impacts of environmental contaminants on exposed communities, this is a diverse field with plenty of job options. Much like biostatistics, opportunities in this field are often reliant on specialist postgraduate qualifications.

Global Health: Want to improve healthcare in developing nations? A career in global health is both challenging and rewarding, and is far more complex than the romanticised notion of an aid worker providing disaster relief. If you’re interested in learning about other cultures, and advocating for basic human rights across healthcare, this might be for you. This field is popular and highly competitive, so postgraduate studies are recommended.

Health Data Analytics: This is an exciting and growing employment field that applies analytical and biostatistical techniques with cutting-edge machine learning to solve problems in healthcare provision. With a wide variety of applications from large healthcare data set analysis to wearable tech and health apps, it’s perfect for people interested in improving patient care, health research and driving efficiencies in healthcare.

Education: Passing on your skills and knowledge to others is the most sustainable way to build understanding of health concepts and ensure the future of public health. Learn how you can combine your knowledge with basic teaching qualifications.


Don’t know your Research Assistant from your Research Fellow? Project Manager or Project Officer? Unfortunately, there is no industry standardisation here, but these criteria should help you identify jobs for which someone with Masters or beyond would be a realistic candidate:

  • Positions requiring a specific postgraduate degree and minimal (<2yrs) work experience
  • Typical salary range $70,000+
  • Job descriptions including project management skills, stakeholder management skills, budgets, involvement in grant applications, interaction with regulatory bodies, project evaluation and analysis. Also includes jobs that include management of portfolios or themes of research or projects.
  • Apply for contract roles, as well as permanent. Many employers want to try you out first before making a permanent offer of employment. Taking on short-term roles gives them a chance to get to know you, and if you’re a good fit, they may encourage you to apply for other roles internally.

Employer types

Health advocacy groups and charities: Groups promoting awareness of disease states and advocating for those with disease will sometimes have entry-level roles in research, health promotion or communication. National groups tend to have more funding and so more plentiful opportunities. Examples: Cancer Council Australia, Kidney Health Australia and Heart Foundation.

Universities and research institutes: University medical faculties may have public health research schools, as well as independent medical research institutes with a strong focus on international and public health. Examples: Monash SPHPM, Burnet Institute, Baker Institute.

State or Commonwealth health departments: The Victorian Department of Health and Human Services is a major employer, and can provide you with the opportunity to be involved in large public health projects and contribute to policy development. At a Federal level, most Department of Health jobs are Canberra-based, but interstate opportunities do arise.

Statutory authorities: These are planning and management agencies that often run in parallel to state health departments. There may be significant cross-over between their roles and traditional public health roles. Examples: Worksafe, VicRoads, VicHealth, Environmental Protection Agency.

Primary care partners and local councils: Some local councils prioritise public health in their strategic plans, and engage in local health promotion programs. Government affiliated groups may require people with public health knowledge for data analysis. Examples: Hume City Council (VIC), Mitchell Shire Council (VIC), Primary Healthcare Networks, Medicare.

Pharma, health tech and private health insurers: These groups may need people with public health knowledge to inform communications, data analysis, research projects and health promotion programs. Examples: GSK, Telstra Health, Medibank, BUPA.

Health service providers: Both public and private health service providers will have roles suitable for new graduates, potentially in research and communications. These can range from hospitals through to private GP networks and aged care services. Examples: Alfred Health, private hospital groups, Bolton Clarke, Monash Health, St John’s Ambulance.

Multinational health providers or planners: Field work in overseas aid camps is highly competitive, but NGOs may have local job openings that can get your foot in the door. Examples: MSF, Red Cross, WHO, AusAID.