A guide to foundation training posts in public health

If you’re a medical student and you know you want to do public health, or simply are interested in public health and want more experience, choosing the options can be confusing. There are currently no guides available that would help with foundation programme applications for public health enthusiasts (until now!).

The general processes of applying, and factors you should consider, are outlined in depth in our webinar and article ‘Ranking Foundation Jobs‘. It’s helpful to understand this before reading this article.

What are your options?

There are three main routes of applying to foundation training. All of these offer great opportunities to learn and build skills that would be applicable to public health training applications, interviews, and the job itself:

  1. Standard Foundation Programme: The majority of applicants go via this route.
  2. Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP): This requires an application process and interviews for each deanery you apply to; Mind the Bleep has some great resources on these available here.
  3. Foundation Priority Programmes (FPP): These offer incentives (financial or funded additional training) for training in areas or jobs that are harder to recruit. It’s worth looking at the options as these vary yearly.
  4. None of the above: The other option is to not apply and go straight into a public health job. However, you need to complete FY1 and 2 to apply to the speciality programme, or have 2 years of work in public health.
Standard Foundation Training – What is best for public health?

Many people are surprised that the standard foundation training offers great opportunities for public health. Within most deaneries, there are public health jobs that you can pick. Public health consultants have also said that simply picking a range of jobs can bring huge benefits to your future public health career and applications.

A public health FY2 job

Often in FY2, these are normally 9-5 jobs without on-call commitments. They tend to be office-based and focus on working in a multidisciplinary team to gain skills in epidemiology, multi-agency working, and report writing. There are often only around 3 jobs per deanery so it’s worth checking with your chosen deanery what jobs they have available. The experiences of an FY2 doctor in public health are summarised well in this BMJ article by Karl Botham and Sundhar Rajhan Shunmugam Kanagasabapathy, and this article by Dr Yasmin Akram.

A range of jobs

If you don’t manage to get a public health-specific job, don’t panic. By simply picking a range of jobs you give yourself insight into a range of public health issues. Experience in general practice (the forefront of public health), a range of age groups (paediatrics to geriatrics) and other specialities give you a depth of clinical insight with benefits development of public health work.

Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP)

As with the normal programme, these are published yearly in Excel sheets which inform you of what these jobs are, and where they are. There are several yearly which are classed “public health”. They give you more flexibility to explore interests and pick areas of work you are interested in.

Key things to consider when picking these:

  • Job selection: Just because an academic job is not named as “Public Health”, this doesn’t mean it isn’t applicable to you. For instance, an SFP in “Respiratory” could allow you to do a project on the impact of smoking on population health, or pollution on asthma. Similarly, a “General Surgery” project could be done on population screening. Think outside the box!
  • Supervisor selection: Lots of deaneries allow you to select your supervisor. It’s worth looking at institutions and finding people who you think would suit your area of interest
  • Academia vs. clinical: It’s worth thinking if SFP is the right route for you. Academia is to a great fit for everyone and it will not necessarily be the best thing for applying to public health jobs. By picking public health, FY1 and FY2 may be the only 2 years of clinical experience you get.


Essentially, there are lots of options and none are right. Public health is a huge area and anything you do can be applied to applications and training.

Useful Resources

Faculty of Public Health Website

Written by Dr Lucy McCann (FY2 – Academic Public Health)

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