Publication Details

Houghton, S., Braunack-Mayer, A. & Hiller, J. E. (2002). Undergraduate public health education: a workforce perspective. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, 26 (2), 174-179.


Objective: To describe the career paths of students who majored in public health at the undergraduate level and to assess the skills and knowledge these g raduates believed were most useful to them in the public health workforce. Method: A telephone survey was conducted of all graduates from Adelaide University's Bachelor of Health Sciences degree from 1992-99 who had majored in public health (124 graduates). Results: The response rate to the graduate survey was 71 %. Using the definition of public health functions from the National Delphi Study on Public Health Functions to delineate the public health workforce, 59% of respondents were employed in public health. Graduates working in public health valued generic skills such as communication and collaboration more highly than more specific public health skills and knowledge areas. However, they also believed their undergraduate course would have been improved by a more practical orientation. Conclusions: A high proportion of graduates from this generalist degree who major in public health find employment in the public health workforce. They greatly value the generic skills associated with their undergraduate public health education and believe their entry into the workforce would have been further facilitated by stronger links between their academic program and the working environment of public health professionals. Implications: Studies of workforce training programs in public health must differentiate between the educational needs of undergraduate and postgraduate students. In particular, strategies need to be developed to provide stronger links between undergraduate students and the public health workforce.