The Careers Adviser

I want to manage volunteer projects abroad; our daughter wants to switch to publishing
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The Independent Online

Eye care abroad

Q. I am a qualified optometrist and was recently a volunteer on a project in Ethiopia. I really enjoyed it and would like to become involved in the planning and managing of such projects. I am prepared to study part-time. Will an MSc in public health be the right choice? Or will they want qualified medics? Is the competition for these kinds of jobs fierce, as I have no foreign languages?

A. As it happens, Vision 2020, the worldwide initiative aimed at eliminating avoidable blindness by 2020, is under way, and this campaign is really expanding opportunities in just the sort of work that interests you. There is such a demand for optometrists almost anywhere in the world that it is unlikely you'd need further medical qualifications, but a masters in public health or management is likely to give you the tools - and the status - you need to plan and manage projects.

A commitment to the voluntary sector, here or abroad, and the right higher level education will also stand you in good stead in the public and voluntary sector in the UK. The fact that you are prepared to study part-time will also impress employers.

The best thing to do is to look around for the course that interests you. If you want to focus on community eye health there is an MSc in precisely that run by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (details from The International Centre for Eyecare Education ( has offices in Melbourne and is looking for optometrists in Africa, Asia and the Western Pacific, as well as indigenous communities in Australia.

Yes, there is competition, but you are well placed to compete. And because most of the current or future projects are funded and run by international bodies, lack of languages shouldn't be a problem.

A life in books

Q. Our 35-year old daughter has been unemployed since November 2004 following redundancy. She was employed in the student services department of a distance learning company, providing teaching and examinations leading to qualifications in computer programming and other IT related courses. She wants to change direction and is interested in book selling, publishing or library work.

A. There is no set entry path to a career in publishing. Many people begin simply by working in bookshops, or by offering publishers specialist knowledge. And unless your daughter is willing to move, there are few publishing companies operating out of the west Midlands. It may be that she can offer one of the larger companies specialist knowledge in the distance learning area, or, if she is happy to undertake further study, there are a handful of universities offering publishing degrees. The one-year full-time publishing course at City University, London, for example, was set up precisely to provide a way back in for those in mid-career, and offers a mid-course work placement. This is invaluable in terms of providing contacts as well as experience on the job.

Work in libraries or information management would probably need more training, but courses can be studied part-time. The term "librarian" is less used nowadays - look out for ads for information managers, internet librarians, learning advisers or knowledge assistants. The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals ( has comprehensive information on what jobs to look for.

Careers adviser: Andy Jackson, head of C2, The Careers Group, University of London.

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail to