Ahead of A Level results day 2023, we spoke to Lindsay Shaw, Course Director for the Environmental Health BSc at Ulster University and Lecturer in Environmental Health, Mark Hardwick, Programme Co‑ordinator for the BSc (Hons) Environmental Health Practitioner, and the BSc (Hons) Public and Environmental Health at University Centre Weston, and Dr Henry Dawson, a Lecturer in Housing and Health at Cardiff Metropolitan University.
We asked them some of the important questions prospective students should be asking if considering a career in environmental health.
Why study environmental health?
As Mark and Lindsay explain, a career in environmental health touches on every aspect of our lives and offers a vast range of experiences and opportunities.
Lindsay: "Environmental health is a brilliantly rewarding career. It allows you to make an impact to people's lives by protecting and improving their health.
It is also wide-ranging by covering five core areas of Food Safety, Health and Safety at Work, Environmental Protection, Housing and Public Health. Those working in Environmental Health often say no two days are the same – and that is true!"
Mark: "Qualified Environmental Health Practitioners are constantly in demand, both in the public and private sectors. There has been a shortage of appropriately qualified practitioners for years, and this continues to be so. Career prospects are therefore extremely good.
Aside from the attractive career prospects, Environmental Health courses are in themselves interesting and cover a wide range of subjects, which are oriented around the professional facets of food safety and control, pollution control, housing standards, health and safety at work, and health promotion. All of these subject areas are directed by a need to understand principles of law, science, and professional practice."
Henry builds on this by discussing the positive impact that environmental health has on protecting public health, making it a meaningful and impactful career choice.
Henry: "Environmental health professionals protect the health of the public and they look after our environment. The profession is also a part of our Public Health structures, so focuses on protecting people’s health by stopping them from getting sick in the first place, rather than trying to heal them when they are already unwell."
What can you expect from an environmental health degree?
Before deciding on your degree and which university to study at, it is important to do your research into the individual courses and universities to get a flavour of what to expect. There are seven UK universities offering our accredited environmental health degree courses.
Find out more about the University Centre Weston from Mark:
"University Centre Weston offers both an apprenticeship degree and a non-apprenticeship degree. The University Centre is small compared to some other universities. This gives the centre a less formal feel. Relationships between students and lecturers are easy to cultivate, meaning tutorial support is generally strong. There are also very strong academic and pastoral support services available to students.
The Environmental Health courses benefit from a well established student community, as well as frequent interaction with practising EHPs who provide guest lecturers and practical activities."
Henry also shares an overview of what studying environmental health at Cardiff Metropolitan University entails:
"Most of the learning is scenario-based to get people used to doing the sorts of tasks expected of them in industry. It makes it all seem relevant and keeps you interested. The course isn’t too big either so everyone gets to know each other really well, and they tend to stay in touch for a long time after graduating. I find that Environmental Health is a community, and you tend to get to know everyone who works in your discipline area, particularly in Wales.
During teaching, I really like bringing in graduates as guest lecturers and taking field trips to building sites, incinerators, water treatment plants, etc. It really brings the subject to life. I also love getting involved in overseas work, setting up funded trips for our staff and students."
And Lindsay introduces the University of Ulster:
"Environmental Health at Ulster University is taught by a small core team most of whom have worked in local authorities/industry. The teaching team maintains strong connections with the environmental health profession allowing a range of guest lectures and visits. This all adds to a rich learning experience.
Placement in Year 3 of the course is a core feature of the course at Ulster University and students benefit from the experience in developing their learning but also in developing key employability skills making them more prepared and ready for employment on graduation."
What do course leaders want you to know when choosing a degree?
Thinking about your future career and choosing a particular degree course can be overwhelming but there are plenty of resources and advice out there, and as Mark, Lindsay and Henry explain, picking something you are genuinely interested in is the most important thing.
Henry: "You should pay close attention to the employment prospects you have when you finish your course. Choose something vocational and something which ties in with what drives you as a person. Don’t try to fit yourself to a job you have heard of. You only know about a limited number of well publicised professions. Go and find out about other jobs and courses. You will always do better in something which fits you as a person. Remember, you will spend more time in your job than you will spend out of it, so you might as well choose something you will enjoy."
Lindsay: "You need to choose something you have an interest in and enjoy. I would also strongly advise you to look at the National Student Survey (NSS) Student Satisfaction score for the course you are thinking of applying for and the employability after graduation. These are available for all courses on the Discover Uni website. Environmental Health courses score highly."
Mark: "Choose something you feel you are going to enjoy, and that will keep you interested for its duration.
Visit the university if possible and meet as many lecturers and support staff as you can. Also talk to other students.
If you know exactly what you want to do with your career then choose that, if you are a bit more uncertain then choose something which offers a variety of options."
To find out more about environmental health, the types of work environmental health professionals are part of, and how to become an EHP, visit our what is environmental health hub today.