Postgraduate Degrees for the Global Health Sector 

Global health is an expansive and everchanging sector. While people initially think of healthcare workers and medical staff, the sector requires interdisciplinary and intersectoral collaboration in its advocates, policy makers, program managers, researchers and social scientists, and communications experts. 

Pursuing a Master’s degree can help young professionals develop and hone specialty skills, while grasping what the global trends are and how global health practitioners understand key issues. 

As someone without a biomedical background, I was nervous about entering this field. I had assumptions that biomedical, epidemiological, and quantitative data analysis skills are valued above others in the sector. However, I started building my professional network as a Master’s Student in International Development and realized the potential for other competencies. 

The global health sector employs folks of diverse, inter-disciplinary backgrounds:

  • Degrees in law public administration, and public policy provide foundational skills necessary for policy research and analysis.  
  • Studying international affairs gives students an opportunity to study the global system and its stakeholders while understanding how markets and security may impact global health issues. 
  • The global health sector needs political scientists, who understand the political landscape in which global health programs and policies are implemented, including differences in power, governance structures, and the role of civil society.  
  • Social scientists, such as anthropologists and sociologists, provide policymakers and practitioners in-depth knowledge on essential aspects, like how gender and other social norms and determinants influence health outcomes. 
  • Finally, communication and marketing experts protect the reputation of the organization, create its brand identity and online presence while crafting compelling messages and ensuring that they end up in front of the right audiences.. 

The global health sector requires new and fresh perspectives, ones that reimagine what can affect the most change. 

While there are plenty of options for folks without traditional biomedical backgrounds, attending graduate school can come at a massive expense and requires sacrifices in terms of finances and time. There are essential skills that one can grasp outside of a traditional academic setting. If I have any advice, do not pigeonhole yourself. Be open to the opportunities that arise and take advantage of your colleagues’ skills; the world will be richer for it. 


November 29, 2021


Frances Walker