Uncover Your Curiosity
Have you ever found yourself wondering why something is the way it is? Do you want to generate new insights through cutting-edge innovations? Perhaps you strive to use recent advancements to help others or address large-scale problems? You may be a scientist in the making.
With the world at your fingertips, UCSB presents you with a number of opportunities, resources, and experts to help you build your career in Science + Health. Whether your interests lie in the life and physical sciences, health professions, biotechnology, environmental studies, physical geography, or other areas that call you, a career in Science + Health can put you at the forefront of humankind's greatest discoveries and advancements.
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Gain Experience: Public Health
For complete information on internships, student jobs, research opportunities, extracurriculars, and more, review our starter tips to Gain Experience in all careers as well as the specialized tips on this page.
To prepare for a career in public health, it is important to gain experiences outside of class. As you develop your knowledge in the classroom, opportunities such as research, shadowing, and volunteering will enable you to apply the technical skills while developing your interpersonal skills. In addition, these experiences will connect you to professionals in the field with whom you can establish your network.
Types of Experience
The experiences available to you while you are at UCSB can provide you with the foundation necessary to build your career in public health. Click the items below for tips regarding how to pursue these experiences.
Shadowing a professional is one of the best manners for you to better understand day-to-day entailments of specific roles in Public Health. What challenges does this entail? What background knowledge and skills come into play? What makes this a fulfilling career?
Most students want to know what the best way to shadow is; the answer is to simply put yourself out there. Try not to be shy, as directly contacting professionals in the field is a very effective way to set up shadowing opportunities. Know that this may require ingenuity, persistence, and research. A great way to start is by finding a mutual connection between you and someone pursuing a career of interest, and asking them to introduce you. If they do not respond, follow up!
LinkedIn is a great way to expand your network. We recommend searching the UCSB Alumni page to perform a targeted search for professionals working in your area of interest. Since you are also associated with UCSB, they are likely to connect with you. From there, if you demonstrate you are genuinely intrigued by their career, they will likely let you shadow. If all goes well, this can lead to further opportunities.
Since most careers in Public Health center around research, it is highly recommended that you participate in research during your time at UCSB. Know that your class projects can count as research experience on your resume, however implementing extra research in areas that interest you outside of the program is vital to advancing your career if you plan to attend graduate school. To pursue research, start by reviewing your professors’ and TAs’ current projects. If any subjects interest you, reach out to them via email to learn more. If possible, we recommend attending their office hours to establish a stronger connection with them. In addition, consider the opportunities listed below for implementing independent research projects.
- UC Leadership Excellence through Advanced Degrees (LEADS)
- UCSB Faculty Research Assistance Program (FRAP)
Also look for research opportunities available at other universities over the summer. You can do so by looking for RA position postings, or by pursuing professors whose work intrigues you. Oftentimes, the best way to land an RA position is by reaching out directly.
Dedicating time to volunteering at a local clinic or organization will provide you with insight into the heart of healthcare. This is especially helpful for individuals who do not have any prior connections in the public health sector and are looking to break in. While volunteering at clinical healthcare facilities, such as Cottage Hospital, is relevant and applicable to your career in public health, we also recommend checking out organizations that specialize in Public Health specifically.
Here is a list of organizations and programs in the area that we recommend checking out:
- American Red Cross
- County of Santa Barbara Disease Control and Prevention
- County of Santa Barbara Health Education and Promotion
- Direct Relief
- Sansum Clinic: Doctors Without Walls
- Santa Barbara Neighborhood Clinics
- Santa Barbara United Way / Home for Good
For more volunteering opportunities, check out the Public Health page on the UCSB Pre-Health Advising site.
Participation in internship programs is a fantastic way to gain public health experience while also establishing your foundation in the industry, as these are designed for students with little-to-no prior experience. Many health agencies offer internship programs, thus we advise you to research those in your geographical regions of interest.
Common public health agencies and associations that have active internship programs include:
- American Public Health Association (APHA)
- American Red Cross
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- World Health Organization (WHO)
Remember that this is not a comprehensive list of opportunities, and that there are many available for you. Research facilities, organizations, and regional locations that spark your interest when you are searching for internship opportunities. If you know what type of experience you want to pursue in Public Health, consider facilities with specialized departments in that area, as they will likely allow for you to hone in on that specialty. Finally, when you apply to these positions, make sure to tailor your resume and cover letter to best align with their demands.
As you pursue experience in Public Health it is common to consider pursuing clinical positions, as these can provide you with hands-on experience in the realm of healthcare that is applicable to Public Health. However, remember that many clinical positions require a certification in that specialty. Being as though each certification you gain takes more training and money upfront on your part, this can be a significant barrier to entry. Because of this, we recommend thoroughly reviewing the logistics of certification programs before deciding to pursue them.
Additionally, once you hold a certified position, you have a bigger purpose than your own to serve in the workplace. In other words, there are demands more immediate than building your resume. However, know that these experiences are often an invaluable investment; regardless of the outcome, they will gift you hands-on knowledge and technical capabilities that will carry you through your career, therefore the investment may be worthwhile.
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