5 answers

What is the career path to a successful career in international health care?

Asked New York, New York

I want to work internationally, and I work to work in health care. What are the different options, and how should I prepare myself so that I am successful? #healthcare #health #career-paths #international #career-options

5 answers

Joe’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

Now, more than ever, our career paths in the 21st century have become a patchwork of different experiences across a number of job sectors and fields. No longer do we speak of our career in terms of the single job/single organization mentality. In a many respects, we are all becoming independent contractors, marketing our skills and services for use in projects and endeavors as opportunities arise.

In the field of international healthcare, the 'independent contractor' lifestyle certainly holds true. If you are interested in working on improving health in developing countries, you will probably spend your career working with a number of different employers in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Examples of employers in international healthcare include: The World Health Organization (WHO), Doctors Without Borders, the US Government, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the United Nations. International healthcare workers spend their time developing solutions to some of the world's greatest health challenges, such as HIV/AIDS, malaria and child malnutrition.

The international healthcare field is comprised of specialists from a variety of different backgrounds. The three most typical educational paths to a career in international healthcare are as follows:

1- Become a doctor.

2- Become a public health specialist

3- Become an international affairs professional

Each of the above paths into the field of international health development are unique. As many of you know, becoming a doctor can be a very challenging yet very rewarding career path. To do so, you will need exceptionally good grades at a four-year undergraduate university to get into a four-year medical school. Public health and international affairs specialists require a similar path through college, but instead of going to medical school, students will pursue masters degrees from public health and international affairs schools. While a doctorate or master's degree is not required to enter the field of international healthcare, the field is very competitive and great value is placed on developing technical healthcare skills throughout your education.

If you're interested in helping to improve the health of those living in some of the world's poorest countries, the field of international healthcare development may be for you. The field demands innovative thinking, hard work and a passion for healthcare. All in all, a career in international healthcare development offers you an unprecedented opportunity to positively affect the world you live in.

Sandra’s Answer


For me, the path is: study hard in high school, take the professional medical training, and (realistically) explore what i am interested in by doing. In high school or even in medical school, i thought the only way of working on health was to be a doctor. so i worked hard to get myself in medical school. but during my residency, i found i don't really like being a doctor. it is a respectful profession, but would i like to spend all my lifetime to specialize my skills to see patients of one category of diseases? definitely i hope some of my friends from medical school or the others like to be specialist, devoting themselves to improve our understandings and health. but i feel that's not what i am interested in. i started looking for something else, but related with medical science (this is why i said realistically). i know any kind of work requires a certain level of skills. if i want to switch, at least i have to convince one employer with my potential learnings. i justified in having the skills required for a public health job, and i started working on public health programs, in rural communities at beginning, and at national level and at the policy level later. It is exciting because public health is everywhere: change people's behavior of washing hands, eating healthy, fastening the seat belt etc etc. I sort of regret that, i should have taken more classes and learned more of other disciplines, such as sociology, political science and economics.

Robert’s Answer

Updated Woodstock, Georgia

There is certainly not just a single career path to take for International healthcare. You should probably first look at the market components and decide which you want to try to jump into. The way I see it there are two primary segments (1) Providers – delivery (i.e. doctors and hospitals. (2)Payers- While this is really the business only side (i.e. Insurance Cos.) of the market, it is still based on the healthcare industry. Even if you have an academic degree (i.e. marketing, business management, etc) rather than a medical degree- you can still look for opportunities in the international provider space - some very common examples of this: Pharmaceutical companies (Sales, Marketing, trial Project Managers, etc)- is a huge and diverse industry segment. ISVs (Independent Software Vendors)- these are the guys that are at the cutting edge of medical technology and typically have a wide global footprint. (Think EMR technology for example). Get into the company, even in one of their landing countries- and then identify the group/position that acts internationally for the organization. Remember- there are a lot of blue chip companies that are not headquartered in the US.
Hope this helps.- rbt

Suzanne’s Answer

Updated Carmel, Indiana

You might also want to explore the ideas of healthcare engineering and/or (global) healthcare technology design. Many healthcare technologies and interventions are expensive, which means that poorer countries often have less-than-ideal access to them. However, designers and engineers are inventing new, cheaper, and easy-to-distribute technologies that could make huge differences in international health. Innovations in International Health's website is one of many related online resources: http://iih.mit.edu/index.html


Julie’s Answer

Updated New York, New York

As I move forward in my career, meeting and working with new colleagues every day, I confirm my belief that career paths are rarely direct. You may have heard this before, or read this in other posts, but there can be so many ways to gain experiences and skills that lead to a successful career. That is certainly the case for international health care. Following a path that fosters open and innovative thinking, however that may look, is something that shouldn't be dismissed. Along with a more "globalized" world comes a more complex set of global health issues. In order to address the challenges we all face in strengthening health care it's important that we bring a mindset to match. Collaboration is essential. Developing yourself to be a strong contributor can come many ways, so focus on what you love to do and how where you want to improve, and follow that path.