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How training works

How long does training take?

The typical training programme for specialising in public health is normally five years full time. This usually includes undertaking either one year full time, or two years part time to complete an academic course to provide the essential knowledge for the discipline.

Those who already have the necessary knowledge base, or who have already completed a Masters in Public Health may be able to reduce their total training time. 

How is it organised?

During training, Specialty registrars will rotate through various placements in different settings and public health areas. This allows trainees the opportunity to develop the skills to meet their chosen career aims.

Training is organised by deaneries which are in charge of all medical training in a demarcated geographical area. Training placements will usually be within one deanery, but may be across deaneries in special circumstances.

How do I apply?

There is one round of recruitment  in public health specialty training per year, with the application process starting in winter of each  year for posts to be taken up in August of the following year. 

The process is run through a UK-wide system; job descriptions and timetables should be found on individual deanery websites and posts will also be placed on the MMC website.

What exams will you need to sit?

Trainees will be required to sit the Faculty of Public Health’s Part A membership exam between one and two years after starting the programme, and the Part B exam six to nine months later.

The Part A tests trainees’ knowledge of the skills they need to specialise, while the Part B exam requires trainees to demonstrate that they can translate their knowledge effectively into practice. Trainees are also supported through ongoing assessment in the workplace.

See the Exams section of the FPH website for further details.

Specialist registration

Once  a registrar has passed both exams and has satisfactorily shown that they have gained all the skills required by the curriculum, they will be eligible for specialist registration.

 Specialty registrars from a medical background will then be able to register with the General Medical Council as specialists, while registrars from backgrounds other than medicine will be able to register with the UK Public Health Register.

At this point all are eligible for consultant level posts (or equivalent) in public health.

How flexible is training?

Training in public health is very flexible and encourages registrars to shape their training around their own interests. This involves identifying their interests and skills, even if embryonic, and finding the best ways to develop them.

Part-time training is also possible and registrars may apply for time out of training to work abroad to gain further experience.

The training curriculum

The training curriculum is available on the FPH website. The curriculum sets out the knowledge, skills and specifically outlines the individual learning outcomes required to be achieved during the training programme.


"Public health is a very diverse area, and so there is a lot of variety in my work. I really enjoy making links between people and organisations – for example, looking at reducing environmental tobacco smoke involved working with people in the primary care trust and in the city council, and with people from all around the UK.

I chose public health because I wanted to look at how best to keep people healthy, and was interested in evidence for the effectiveness of treatments.

I have a geography degree and a background in physiotherapy and NHS management. My job before becoming a public health trainee was as Cancer Services Manager for an acute hospital trust."

Alison Coulter, Trainee

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