The Path to Public Practice – 3.0 Postgraduate course work or: How I learned to stop worrying and love the study

[If you haven’t already done so, have a read of parts 1.0 and 2.0 – Guy]

So you’ve done your time in clinical practice and now you want to take the next step.

Many of us, including the team behind, have gone into postgraduate study. The decision to undertake (yet again) more study is for a couple of reasons:

  1. To develop new skills – As professionals, we are constantly learning and we need to stay up to date with the latest studies and data out there.
  2. To have a formal qualification to enter into a new field – Many of the jobs out there require postgraduate training.
  3. To stay competitive – with the number of veterinary graduates out there, there is a need to get the step up that will improve your chances for employment.

So in the world of veterinary public practice, what courses are on offer out there?

I have had a scour around of Masters programs that are on offer in Australasia for veterinarians that are looking towards public practice. Many of these programs offer flexibility for part time study or even distance education.

Full disclosure, I am finishing off my Masters within one of these institutions. I, or the team from Veterinary Careers, do not get any kickbacks from any of these institutions (although, if any of them would like to advertise with us, point them towards this page)

The lists below is certainly not definitive, it seeks to act as a platform for further investigation and research. Unless stated, the list below is made up of primarily Masters programs from Australia and New Zealand. Some of these programs can be undertaken as a Graduate Certificate or Diploma. Additionally, I am primarily focussing on universities that have a Veterinary school or are recommended by veterinarians in public practice.

The University of Queensland (QLD)

  1. School of Veterinary Science
  2. School of Public Health

James Cook University (QLD)

  1. College of Public Health, Medical and Veterinary Science
    • Master of Public Health and Tropical Medicine
    • Master of Public Health – Generic; Communicable Disease Control; Biosecurity and Disaster Preparedness
    • Master of Tropical Veterinary Science

The University of Sydney (NSW)

  1. Faculty of Veterinary Science
  2. School of Public Health


Charles Sturt University (NSW)

  1. The School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences

Australian National University (ACT)

  1. Research School of Population Health

The University of Melbourne (Vic)

  1. Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences
  2. The School of Population and Global Health

Murdoch University (WA)

  1. School of Veterinary and Life Sciences

Massey University (NZ)

  1. The Institute of Veterinary, Animal and Biomedical Sciences
  2. The School of Public Health

I’d consider this list as the tip of the iceberg in terms of what is on offer out there – there are plenty of universities abroad that are offering similar courses.

Ultimately, the course you chose is dependent on what you would like to gain out of the training. I personally like the broad approach that I get in my Masters program that allows me to build my overall skills in veterinary public health, while there are others who would like to get into the meaty side of Epidemiology, Conservation Biology or Policy.

Each Masters program has its strengths and weaknesses. Many of the distance education programs are reliant on discussion board, peer-peer learning – there are benefits of such a system to allow space and opportunities for everyone to have a voice compared with a physical classroom, however for those of us who are extroverts, these online classrooms can be a curse.

Does one institute provide more opportunity than the other? Generally speaking – no. Some courses provide opportunities for placements or access to networks or researchers that may not be universal, yet there is no way to truly quantify between the institutions. The universities will market themselves to get you (and your money) enrolled, so I encourage that you do your homework:

  • What do you see yourself upskilling in?
  • Are you seeking a career in driving policy, field work, management or consultancy?
  • Look around at current jobs out there and see what the selection criteria are for required education and skill sets.
  • Will the course-work match in with my work/lifestyle?
  • Am I ready to give up my spare time for this?

I personally spent 6 months hunting around the different institutions and ultimately settled on a Master of Veterinary Public Health with The University of Sydney – it certainly has been a good fit for me for my lifestyle, yet I have friends who swear by many of the other coursework Masters out there.

Best of luck and stay tuned for the next in this series – in a title I have yet to figure out!