The Careers Adviser: 'What jobs could I do with a social science degree? Where can I do a public health PhD?'

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I'm taking a combined social science studies honours degree. The focus is on media studies and I'm not sure what jobs I could do with this degree. I chose it because I enjoy it and am good at the subject, but now need guidance about career opportunities or maybe the experience I should try to get.

You were right to study what you enjoy, as students do better in subjects they are passionate about. Now, though, you need to do some research in this very competitive area into precisely which aspect of it interests you. It's worth looking up Skillset (www. skillset.org/careers) the sector skills council for the audio visual industries, dealing with broadcast, film, video, interactive media and photo imaging. They offer storyboard guides to jobs in these areas plus job profiles, case studies and media glossaries, so it's a good place to start. Skillset also offers free email and helpline advisory services and a one-to-one careers advice for a fee including advice for recent graduates on action plans and developing an effective CV. Once you have identified a role you want to aim for, things may become clearer. You do absolutely need to find work experience – one of the problems with the media jobs is that it can be difficult to get paid work, and you may have to offer to work unpaid at least in the first instance. Graduates still have to start at the bottom of the ladder. Make sure the work is beneficial to you as well as the company and don't stay if you feel exploited. You will have to be very determined and persistent. Take advice from your course tutors and your university careers service about local opportunities. Don't forget university magazines or radio stations – work for these outlets shows motivation and will kickstart your portfolio. Students graduating from your course have gone on to do work in the public sector and teaching, too.

Matter of health

I am a Ugandan working in my home country. I would like to take a PhD in public health in the UK. I have 10 years' experience doing social work including health programmes, education, humanitarian work, child protection, community development and HIV/Aids/STI work. I have a BA in political science. Can I do this and which schools can I apply to?

It would be possible for you to apply to take a PhD in Britain. You need to contact the relevant departments in universities directly. You can identify departments and potential supervisors in several ways. Do an advanced search using "research programmes" and "public health" on www.prospects.ac.uk/links/pgdbase. This brings up around 30 possible universities. Or try www.findaphd.com, again search on public health. Concentrate on social science rather than science alone, as the research on offer there will fit more with your previous experience. And you may already be aware of the PubMed site at www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez. Here you can find abstracts of recent publications and author lists of those working in your area of interest. The last person on the list is usually the group leader whom you could contact. These groups might not want a PhD student in the near future but it is worth a check. Send them a brief summary of your background and interests and say why you would be keen to work with them. Once you have identified where you would like to study, contact the International Office at that university for details about how to obtain a student visa and for any other help you may need.

Careers adviser: Deborah Fowlis, consultant, Graduate Prospects.

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 chaydon @blueyonder.co.uk

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