Are you passionate about health sciences but aren’t sure how your career choice fits with your desire to see the world? Luckily the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and having studied microbiology instead of Spanish won’t prevent you from experiencing public health jobs abroad. Whether you’re testing samples in a medical laboratory, helping solve nutrition problems in a rural village, or bringing new ideas to a medical device firm, starting international public health careers is guaranteed to provide you with a serious resume boost, not to mention a new perspective on healthcare around the world.
Why Work in Health Science Abroad
Health science jobs aren’t hard to come by, so why would you want to pack your life in a suitcase and head out for the unknown? Working abroad will not only give you a wider perspective on your field, it will also increase your understanding of the challenges others face. For a nutritionist working in southern California, malnutrition means something quite different than it does in Tanzania. Learning how to treat and overcome these obstacles in a new environment will provide tools and strategies that you’ll be able to implement when you return home.
In addition to gaining knowledge, health sciences jobs abroad will also reflect well on your resume. Employers recognize that someone who’s lived in another country is flexible, resilient, and comfortable stepping outside of his or her comfort zone. If you choose to work in a country where a new language is spoken, you’ll likely be able to add new language skills to your CV too.
Aside from professional advancement, international jobs in health sciences will also provide an opportunity for personal growth and introspection. Immersing yourself in a new culture, language, and way of doing things is always both challenging and rewarding. You may come to understand health care in a new way after working overseas, and chances are you’ll understand yourself differently, too.
Health sciences, by its very nature, is a global field. While the needs of urban Danish residents may be quite different from those living in a rural town in Ecuador, you’re likely to find jobs in health sciences everywhere you go. Whether you want to provide dental assistance or perform audiology research, each country offers a variety of options to consider for jobs in global public health.
Working in Australia or New Zealand is a great start to global health careers for several reasons. It’s likely you already speak the language and getting work permits is a fairly easy process, especially for recent graduates. Not to mention the perks of living here: easy access to the ocean, outdoor adventures galore, and a laid-back atmosphere that’s conducive to making friends. In your free time, get up close and personal with a koala at an Australian animal sanctuary or check out an All Blacks rugby match in New Zealand.
Another English-speaking country, the green isle of Ireland boasts strong medical technology and pharmaceutical industries— a perfect launchpad for jobs in health sciences. Known for its mist-shrouded hills and convivial populace, the small country is conducive to travel, making it easy to explore other cities and villages on the weekend. Check out the mind-bending Giant’s Causeway, discover new sounds at the Cork Jazz Festival, or tour one of the country’s many whiskey distilleries.
Health sciences skills are especially in demand in developing countries, where there may be fewer trained specialists in your field. Choose a country like Nepal if you’re interested in learning about care in a resource-limited setting. When you’re not working, take part in the annual Holi celebration, learn how to play cricket, or take a crack at some high altitude trekking in the mountains. There will be a steaming hot plate of momos to welcome you back!
Jobs in Health Sciences Abroad
Science is science, so you’d expect your job to be the same anywhere you go, right? While the basic concepts underlying your job remain constant, the specifics may be quite different in another country. For example, there’s no need to test for malaria in Ontario, but you might be testing malaria samples regularly in India. As long as you treat differences as learning opportunities, you’ll be on the right track.
Global health job opportunities will be different across countries, due to a variety of factors. The country’s strength economically will make a big impact on certain fields and could affect the availability of equipment as well as the number of trained staff. Another aspect that may differ is education and training. While you may have been taught a specific process for handling specimens, a different method may be more common elsewhere. Remember to be open to new ways of doing things, on and off the job.
You’ll typically find careers in global health and development start from three different areas. First, medical and pharmaceutical companies around the globe look for experienced individuals to work in their labs and research facilities. Second, non-profit health organizations can often use assistance, either by training local staff, hosting workshops, or providing skilled labor. These positions can either be full-time or sporadic, depending on the organization’s needs. Finally, international aid organizations need employees who are available on short notice to provide assistance in emergency situations.
Just as in your home country, work schedules will vary depending on your field and position. Discussing the expectations with your employer ahead of time is the best way to ensure there are no unwelcome surprises once you begin work. This is also true for language skills. You may not be required to speak the local language for some public health jobs abroad, but for others, the ability to communicate with locals and co-workers is a necessity.
Benefits & Challenges
Accepting a job in a new country is always an exciting (and nerve-wracking) experience. Testing the waters with global health careers overseas will certainly enhance your professional skills, but more importantly, it will also expose you to a new understanding of the world. Health care is vastly different all over the globe, and the disparities you encounter will challenge you to reconsider what you think of as “normal.” It’s not uncommon for those who’ve worked abroad to return home with a newfound sense of purpose to make a difference in their community.
However, international public health jobs come with their own unique challenges. Most countries require a local or national certification to practice, and this can be difficult to obtain if you’ve not lived or studied there. Additionally, many positions are unpaid; non-profit organizations in developing countries often don’t have the means to pay top dollar for skilled workers. Instead of getting frustrated by these facts, think about what professional skills you can bring to the table. You may not be able to practice exactly as you can at home, or for the same salary, but undoubtedly your experience can be useful to the right employer.
Finding the right health science job abroad for you can take some time, but don’t give up! Not only will working abroad be personally fulfilling, but your skills and talents are likely to improve the lives of others as well. Your impact will definitely not be microscopic, so what are you waiting for?