10 Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs [DrPH & PhD Guide]

We’ve ranked the 10 best online doctorate in public health programs for 2020. Compare DrPH and PhD in Public Health Programs to see which one is right for you.

Online Doctorate in Public Health

In online doctorate public health programs, you can prepare to tackle some of the toughest problems in community health.


The expertise you gain through doctoral studies will help you make lasting contributions to the wellbeing of people around the world.

Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

Select the program that most interests you to jump to that section of the guide:

Although there may be some crossover between public health and health and human services careers, there are some important distinctions to consider.

Doctor of Public Health

public health consultant talking to a patient

A doctoral degree in public health can help you become a respected leader who influences health practices and policies. When you hold this advanced degree, others will look to you for guidance about disease prevention, health education, or epidemiology research.

The courses that you take may address the organizational structure of public health agencies. You’ll also study evidence-based practices, wellness education, behavior modification, healthcare research, and financial management.

You may be able to pursue a concentration in laboratory science, global health, epidemiology, health law, or another subset of this field.

This degree can qualify you for leadership positions in public health agencies at the local, state, or national levels. You could also work as a public health consultant or lobby for policies that benefit community health.

If you perform research or work as a college faculty member, you may influence public health practices for years to come.

PhD in Health and Human Services

health and human services professional talking to senior couple

The field of health and human services is dedicated to helping people through situations involving hardship or crisis. As a health and human services professional, you might oversee programs and policies to encourage healthy choices and community wellness.

During your program, you’ll study administration topics like finance, leadership, and employee relations. These skills will be useful in employment settings like public health departments, nursing homes, and nonprofit organizations.

Other courses may address cultural sensitivity, healthcare ethics, quality management, and health informatics.

With this doctorate, you could head up educational programs or wellness initiatives in community agencies or public health departments. You might also be involved in setting the direction for public health policies at the state or national level.

Your work may focus on improving health for a particular demographic, such as adolescents, senior citizens, or people with mental health disorders.

Doctor of Public Health Careers & Salaries

Doctor of Public Health Careers & Salaries

With a Doctor of Public Health degree, you may hold a leadership role in an agency that delivers health services to individuals or communities.

This may include places like public health departments, nonprofit community organizations, or human services agencies. It can also include outpatient or residential facilities like nursing homes or drug rehabilitation centers.

In these organizations, you could be the executive director, the community health manager, or the program coordinator. You might supervise a team of employees who use evidence-based practices to deliver information, education, and support to medical practitioners and community members.

According to PayScale, the average Doctor of Public Health salary is $85,000 per year.

Careers Average Annual Salary
Chief Science Officer $171,000
Environmental Health and Safety Director $141,000
Senior Researcher $131,000
Executive Director $129,000
Clinical Laboratory Director $108,000
Infection Control Director $102,000
Research Scientist $86,000
Public Health Analyst $79,000
Epidemiologist $76,000
Assistant Professor $70,000

Your personal doctorate in public health salary may be higher or lower than the averages listed above. Often, people with the most professional experience have the highest earning potential.

Jobs may be available in county or state agencies, or you might work for a national health organization.

You could also be an analyst who evaluates health and safety measures. This might involve providing oversight and making recommendations to improve workplace or environmental wellness.

Epidemiologist researching in a laboratory

Public policy is often shaped by health experts. You could spend your career advocating for laws that increase medical access for underserved communities, protect health and safety, or fund research initiatives.

You could be a researcher who administers surveys or conducts trials to help practitioners learn more about fostering health and wellness. As an epidemiologist, you might study disease trends and patterns. You could also be the director of a lab facility.

With a PhD in Public Health online degree, you’d also be qualified to work as a faculty member in a college’s school of public health. By teaching classes to undergraduates or grad students, you might leave a lasting legacy in this field. Some professors conduct research in addition to teaching.

Choosing a Doctoral Program in Public Health

public health student studying on his laptop

It’s important to select the right school of public health so you receive a doctoral education that meets your needs and contributes to your professional goals. There are many good schools out there, but not all of them will be the best choice for you personally. By considering which characteristics are most important to you, you can start to narrow down your search.

For an online PhD in public health, it’s worthwhile to look into the school’s philosophy on online education. You may want to ask questions like:

  • Will I ever need to come to campus?
  • Do I need to log in at certain times?
  • Will I move through classes with a group, or can I advance at my own pace?
  • Are courses offered year-round or on a two-semester schedule?
  • What technology do I need?

You may also want to see what internship requirements there are. Some schools may have set locations for their internships, but others may let you look for opportunities with a local organization.

Doctoral Program in Public Health student studying online

Doctoral programs often include a good deal of liberty to study topics of particular interest to you. To get the most out of your program, you may want to enroll at a school with faculty whose own research aligns with your area of interest. Read faculty bios and survey the curriculum to see whether a school’s offerings will contribute to your professional goals.

The final project is another characteristic to consider. Some schools require dissertations, and others encourage doctoral research projects. You’ll have to decide for yourself which approach you’d prefer.

Finally, don’t forget to think about practical considerations like accreditation and cost. If you’re like most students, you want a degree that’s reputable, but you’d rather not break the bank to earn it.

Doctorate in Public Health Curriculum & Courses

Public Health doctor studying in her office

For a Doctor of Public Health or a PhD in Public Health online, you’ll take some classes focused on public health issues and others that address research methods.

  • Assessing Population Health – Before you can develop the best programs for your community, you’ll need to conduct assessments to learn about the most pressing healthcare needs.
  • Biostatistics – You’ll work with statistics in this class so you’ll be ready to design public health experiments and analyze your findings.
  • Dissertation Preparation – Under the supervision of your program’s faculty, you’ll begin to develop an idea and a research approach for your dissertation or doctoral project.
  • Finance and Budgeting – This course will prepare you to manage the financial affairs of government and nonprofit agencies.
  • Health Equality – You’ll discuss the disparity of healthcare access among various socioeconomic groups.
  • Health Marketing – By studying communication techniques and behavioral science, you’ll learn how to put out health messages that catch people’s attention.
  • Informatics – This course will go into depth on the collection and management of healthcare data
  • International Health – As you study global health, you’ll discuss ways to apply public health concepts in various cultural contexts.
  • Modern Healthcare in America – You and your classmates may debate the strengths and weaknesses of systems used for healthcare delivery and reimbursement in the U.S.
  • Research Foundations – This course will help you become a better researcher who designs informative, ethical studies and knows how to interpret the results.

A PhD program is likely to have a greater emphasis on research, and a DrPH program will probably spend more time on practical knowledge for the workforce. Either program may require a dissertation or a major research project. However, more and more doctoral programs do not require the PhD dissertation, but instead, allow you to complete a final project.

Admissions Requirements

Doctorate in Public Health student studying at home

You’ll have a better chance of getting into your program of choice if you submit a stand-out application. Your admissions packet may need to include the following components.

  • Resume – Some programs require work experience, which you can demonstrate by providing a thorough resume.
  • Statement of goals – Admissions committees want to get to know you, and they also want to understand whether your interests align with the faculty members’ research areas.
  • Test scores – It’s not uncommon for schools to request GPA scores, which they may use to determine your suitability for a doctoral-level program. You may be able to request a waiver.
  • Transcripts – All doctoral programs require bachelor’s degrees, and most require master’s degrees as well. Your transcripts show not only the programs you’ve completed but also the grades you’ve earned.

Schools may also ask for letters of reference, proof of English fluency, an online or in-person interview, and an application fee.

Employment Outlook for a Public Health Doctorate Graduate

Senior Researchers working in laboratory

Public health is an in-demand specialty. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that, by 2028, there will be 11% more positions for health educators and community health workers than there were this year.

Jobs in the field of life, physical and social sciences are growing at a rate of about 7%. That sector includes public health roles like epidemiology, medical research, and environmental science.

Accreditation

Doctorate in Public Health Accreditation

When looking for a public health school, it’s a good idea to confirm whether a college has regional accreditation. Schools with accreditation have proven their ability to give students a good education.

The U.S. has approved seven agencies that can give out regional accreditation. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintains the list of these organizations. They include the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Accreditation is important for

  • Being considered by hiring committees
  • Qualifying for government financial aid
  • Transferring credits to another school

Attending a regionally accredited school will give you confidence about the quality of your education. Employers appreciate accreditation, so completing your studies at a regionally accredited school may lead to a higher doctorate in public health salary after graduation.

CEPH Accredited Online DrPH Programs

doctoral student in public health studying online

Programmatic accreditation lets you know that a program excels at educating students in a certain field. The accreditor holds the school accountable for meeting standards of academic excellence and workforce preparation.

In the field of public health, programmatic accreditation is granted by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). Selecting a school that is approved by this organization means that you can count on receiving a thorough, top-of-the-line doctoral education.

Pursuing CEPH accreditation is optional for schools of public health. It’s possible that you could have a satisfactory experience at a non-accredited school, but accreditation provides assurance that the program you’ve chosen is among the best. Attending an approved university may increase the respect that employers and educational institutions hold for your degree.

Public Health Professional Organizations

Public Health Professionals in a meeting

Professional associations are useful sources of information on the latest developments in public health. Connecting with these groups may give you access to conferences, articles, books, classes, and online forums. These resources can help you develop as a leader in public health.

  • American Public Health Association – APHA provides knowledge, support, and representation for more than 25,000 public health professionals in the U.S. and around the world.
  • Council on Education for Public Health – On a mission to promote educational excellence, CEPH grants programmatic accreditation to schools of public health.
  • National Environmental Health Association – Through certification programs, continuing education, publications, and networking opportunities, NEHA serves professionals who work in the field of environmental health.
  • United States Public Health Service – Known as the Commissioned Core, this federal team of health professionals, including doctors, nurses, and scientists, provides medical services for at-risk populations throughout the U.S.
  • World Health Organization – This international organization is committed to improving lives by creating safe environments, reducing the spread of infectious diseases, and encouraging healthy behavior.

Some of these organizations offer membership opportunities, which may grant you access to exclusive resources and discounts. These vary among groups but may include career tools, industry news, and opportunities to associate with like-minded professionals.

DrPH vs. PhD in Public Health

Public Health Professionals in a meeting

You can receive a terminal degree in public health by getting either a PhD in this field or a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH). Both focus on public health leadership, but they approach it in different ways.

PhD in Public Health Doctor of Public Health
Doctor of Philosophy degree Professional doctorate
Research-focused Preparation for professional advancement
For academics and scientists For practitioners
May be able to enroll right out of school May require professional experience
May need to have only a bachelor’s degree Usually need to have a master’s degree before enrolling
Requires a dissertation Requires a dissertation or a doctoral project
May take four years or more May be completed in three to four years
Career options include epidemiologist, professor or medical research scientist Career possibilities include public health director or administrator

Either degree option is a reputable way to garner respect in the field of public health, increase your influence, and further your career. Your professional goals should be the main factor that you consider when deciding which type of degree to earn.

Financial Aid & Scholarships

financial aid for doctor in Public Health students

University programs can be expensive, but financial aid from state and federal government programs may help you afford your degree.

Financial aid determinations are made based on the information provided on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Filling out this form is an important step in figuring out your school budget.

Many students qualify for government loans. With a loan, you borrow money for tuition while you’re working on your doctorate and pay it back after graduation. Interest is charged, but the rates are kept low.

If you face significant financial need, you may also receive grants from the government. These free financial gifts don’t need to be repaid after graduation.

Sometimes, grants come with certain stipulations, such as needing to work in an underserved population for a period of time after completing your degree.

Doctorate in Public Health student receiving a scholarship

You can also look for financial assistance from non-government sources. Scholarships and fellowships can provide beneficial funding. These monetary gifts can help cover your tuition, your research, or other aspects of your education.

Some universities issue funding packages to doctoral students. This money may cover at least part of your tuition costs and provide a stipend on which you can live. In exchange, you may need to work as a research or teaching assistant.

Your employer may contribute to your expenses as well. If getting more education will improve your job performance, consider asking the human resources department if funding is available.

Can You Get a Doctorate in Public Health?

Public Health researchers working in a laboratory

Yes, there are doctoral degrees in public health that can equip you with expert-level knowledge in community health and disease prevention. With this expertise, you may lead health-focused organizations or conduct research that contributes to the wellbeing of communities around the world.

You can even get your degree online. There are two different types of degrees available – an online PhD in public health or a Doctor of Public Health professional doctorate.

Is a PhD in Public Health Worth It?

A leadership career in public health can pay well. The average Doctor of Public Health salary is $85,000 and some positions boast salaries well above that figure.

More than that, though, public health can be a rewarding career. The work that you do will help people live long, healthy lives.

Your contributions to research, health education, public policy, and infection control may make a lasting difference for entire communities.

How Many Years Is a PhD in Public Health?

doctor of public health working in her office

Your PhD program will probably take you at least four years. In most cases, students need more time than that — often five to seven years. The majority of that time may be spent working on your dissertation.

DrPH programs are usually shorter. You may be able to complete the coursework in 18 to 24 months, and then you’ll work on your final project after that. Some students wrap everything up in less than four years.

What is the Difference Between DrPH and PhD in Public Health?

A DrPH is a professional degree. Getting your DrPH online will prepare you to take leadership roles in public health practice. If you want to run health departments or be a consultant, this might the academic path for you.

A PhD is a research degree. If you want to be a research scientist or a college professor, this academic track will prepare you to conduct original research that shapes the field of public health.

Are There Any Online DrPH Programs No GRE Required?

Doctorate in Public Health student studying online

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) has been used for many years to determine candidates’ suitability for master’s and doctoral programs.

Today, though, some schools are moving away from this requirement. As a result, you may be able to get into a DrPH online program without ever submitting a standardized test score.

Even at schools that do consider GRE results, waivers are sometimes available. Professional experience or a high GPA may qualify you for a waiver.

Are There Any Prerequisites for a DrPH Program?

You may need to have worked in this field for several years before you can enroll in a Doctor of Public Health program.

Also, you’ll probably need to hold a master’s degree. Some schools stipulate that your graduate studies must have been in public health.

PhD programs often have different requirements. You may not need professional experience, and a bachelor’s degree may be the only educational prerequisite.

Is it Possible to Work While Getting My Doctorate in Public Health?

Doctorate in Public Health student studying while working

Online DrPH studies are often designed with working professionals in mind. The courses may be presented in a flexible format that allows you to access your course materials whenever it works for your schedule.

If you need additional flexibility, you may want to consider public health schools that allow for part-time enrollment, self-paced courses, or several years to complete the dissertation.

Universities Offering Public Health Doctorate Degree Programs Online

Each of the universities included below are regionally accredited and offer Public Health doctorate degree online.

#1  East Carolina University

East Carolina University campus

East Carolina University is a public research university founded in 1907. This school of 29,131 students is located in Greenville, North Carolina. ECU is comprised of nine undergraduate colleges, a graduate school, and four professional schools. Students can pursue a variety of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs.

  • DrPH in Environmental and Occupational Health
  • DrPH in Health Policy, Administration and Leadership

East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#2  Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University campus

Johns Hopkins University of Baltimore, Maryland, is a private research university that was founded in 1876. The school has a total enrollment of 26,402 students today. It leads all universities in the United States in research and development expenditures.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the JHU Bloomberg School of Public Health first in the nation. John Hopkins offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs.

  • Doctor of Public Health

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

#3  Kent State University

Kent State University campus

Kent State University is a public research university with a student enrollment of 35,883 located in Kent, Ohio. The school was founded in 1910. It currently offers 250 bachelor’s, 50 master’s, and 23 doctoral degree options across 300 degree programs. Students can also pursue a number of honors and interdisciplinary programs.

  • PhD in Public Health

Kent State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#4  Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University campus

Loma Linda University is a health services university located in Loma Linda, California. LLU has an affiliation with the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Founded in 1905, the school has an enrollment of around 3,500 today. More than 100 degree programs for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students are available.

  • DrPH in Health Education
  • DrPH in Health Policy and Leadership
  • DrPH in Preventive Care

Loma Linda University is accredited by WASC: Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

#5  Pennsylvania State University – World Campus

Pennsylvania State University campus

Penn State World Campus is the online arm of Pennsylvania State University. It was launched in 1998 to bring Penn State’s long-honored tradition of distance education into the modern world.

More than 14,687 students enrolled at World Campus study through 150 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs that are offered in collaboration with Penn State’s academic units.

  • DrPH in Community and Behavioral Health
  • DrPH in Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • DrPH in Health Systems Organization and Policy

Penn State World Campus is regionally accredited by Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

#6  Samford University

Samford University campus

Founded in 1841, Samford University is a private Christian university located in Homewood, Alabama. Current enrollment covers 5,692 students from 28 countries and 46 states. The school is known for its small class sizes and high instructor-to-student ratio. Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs are available throughout Samford’s 10 schools of study.

  • Doctor of Public Health

Samford University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#7  University of Illinois – Chicago

University of Illinois Chicago campus

The University of Illinois at Chicago is a public research university in Illinois with a main campus located near the famed Chicago Loop. Established in 1982, UIC currently enrolls 33,000 students across its 16 colleges. Robust degree options are available for bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral students.

  • Doctor of Public Health Leadership

The University of Illinois at Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

#8  University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill campus

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is distinguished for being considered a Public Ivy institution. It is the flagship institution of the University of North Carolina system. UNC-Chapel Hill was established in 1789.

Its more than 30,000 current students pursue bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees representing 70 courses of study spread across more than 13 separate professional schools.

  • Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership

UNC is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

#9  University of South Florida

University of South Florida campus

The University of South Florida is a public research university in Tampa that was founded in 1956. USF is a member of the State University System of Florida. Current enrollment stands at 50,755. USF offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs. It is classified as one of the country’s R1: Doctoral Universities for its very high level of research activity.

  • DrPH in Advanced Practice Leadership in Public Health
  • DrPH in Public Health and Clinical Laboratory Science and Practice

USF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools’ Commission on Colleges.

#10  Walden University

Walden University campus

Minneapolis-based Walden University is a private university offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs across its five colleges. Students enrolled in Walden University are able to complete all degree options offered by the school fully online. Walden was founded in 1970. Current enrollment is just under 50,000.

  • Doctor of Public Health

Walden is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Doctorate of Public Health Degree Online

Doctorate of Public Health Degree Online studying at a cafe

If you’re ready to set yourself apart as an expert in public health, now is the time to apply to doctoral programs. By earning a Doctor of Public Health or a PhD in Public Health, you’ll gain the leadership and research skills that will help you rise to the top of this field.

Not only can earning a doctoral degree be a good career move, but it can also help you make a lasting contribution to global community health.

Your expertise may be the key to containing infections, improving lifespans, increasing healthcare access, or lobbying for safe policies.

Isaac Collins
WRITTEN BY
Isaac Collins