Professional Development For Public Health Consultants: Where To Go and What To Do?


When you start consulting, you might miss one thing about your previous employer: paid travel and professional development opportunities! When you make your business budget, do not forget to include money for professional development, including any conferences or trainings that are essential for your work. Conferences are pricey if you are paying for your own travel and registration, plus you are losing time for paid client work.

So you want to be strategic about the opportunities you pursue and think ahead about your goals for attending.

Are you looking to:

  • Build specific public health skills or content knowledge within your niche?

  • Network with potential collaborators?

  • Network with potential clients?

  • Deliver your signature training or present about your work?

  • Earn continuing education credits (e.g., Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) or Certified in Public Health (CPH)?

Maybe you are looking to do all of the above?!

In most cases, it’s difficult to achieve all your goals with one conference or opportunity. So I recommend writing out a plan for the year that addresses your professional development goals related to your niche, business skills, and continuing education credits if applicable.

Below are examples of opportunities you may want to explore:

(1) General public health and health education conferences:

These conferences will offer the opportunity to network with national and international audiences on a broad range of topics and communities of practice.

American Public Health Association (APHA) Annual Meeting

Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Annual Conference

(2) Professional development within your niche:

Whether your business has a topic niche (e.g., nutrition policy) or skill niche (e.g., grant writing), you should be able to find opportunities to learn within that specialty.

Data Visualization: Check out Ann Emery’s 2019 round up: The Complete Listing of Data Visualization Conferences

Grant Writing: Grant Professionals Association (GPA) Annual Conference

Health Communication: National Conference on Health Communication, Marketing and Media

Health Policy & Advocacy: Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) Annual Advocacy Summit

Epidemiology: Society for Epidemiologic Research (SER) Annual Meeting

(3) Professional development for business skills:

Whether you are new to consulting or a seasoned veteran, there is always more to learn about business planning, leadership, budgets, etc.

Biz Chix Live: Leadership Conference for Women Entrepreneurs

Bank of America + Cornell Women’s Entrepreneurship Program

SCORE Business Mentoring and Education: Workshop examples from my area in Pennsylvania

(4) Budget friendly professional development options:

If national conferences (e.g., APHA) are too expensive for your budget, check out local and online learning opportunities.

Conferences and trainings held by state and local affiliates are often quite affordable, require little/no travel, and can give you great access to local collaborators and clients! E.g.,

I’ve also enjoyed a number of online trainings to build my knowledge in particular public health areas + earn my continuing education units (CEUs). For example, Region V (Michigan) Public Health Training Center offers a variety of free/low cost online trainings- many of which offer CHES CEUs.

Another budget friendly option is to get yourself on the speaking circuit. As an invited speaker, you have the potential to receive partial/full paid travel. This can be an affordable way to benefit from a conference’s learning and networking opportunities. Plus you may be able to feature your consulting expertise in your training/presentation and bio, which extends your reach to potential collaborators and clients.

I’d love to hear from readers:

  • What professional development conferences/meetings/trainings are you attending this year?

  • Favorite tips to make it budget friendly?

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