The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health

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Through innovative research, education, and policy leadership, public health specialists prevent disease and ensure that people possess the information and tools needed to lead healthy lives. A Ph.D. in public health online program prepares you for careers in education, research, and management. These professionals can also work with small towns and communities, international nonprofits, and government agencies to advance health initiatives.

Jobs in public health and related fields continue to grow, particularly those in statistics and data analytics. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 13% increase in jobs for medical scientists and an exceptional 33% growth rate for biostatisticians through 2026. If you want to teach at the postsecondary level, the BLS also projects there will be ample opportunities for future health educators, with 15% growth predicted in this field during the same time period.

Whatever your goals, exciting and flexible distance education opportunities await. The following guide will help you search for accredited online doctoral programs in public health that fit your academic, professional, and financial ambitions.

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The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Degree Programs

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4

Loma Linda University 

Loma Linda, CA

About this school

Founded by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Loma Linda University offers over 120 degree and certificate programs. The university's school of public health launched in 1948 and offers 14 degree options. Loma Linda's DrPh in health education emphasizes community health and practicing healthful lifestyle behaviors. Students complete this program in seven years.

The doctor of health education curriculum consists of synchronous learning, online and blended courses, and visits to the Loma Linda campus for research and graduation. Students defend their proposals and dissertations in person. Learners of this online DrPH carry out research using basic statistical concepts, demonstration of leadership in policy development, and the application of theory and models for health education interventions.

5

Nebraska Methodist College 

Omaha, NE

About this school

Affiliated with the Nebraska Methodist Health System, Nebraska Methodist College serves more than 1,100 students and offers over 40 certificates and degrees in nursing, allied health, and health professions.

The DNP in public health policy, a terminal degree for industry professionals, requires 50 credit hours of coursework and 960 in clinical practice. While full-time students complete all requirements in 24 months, part-time students take up to four years. Candidates who fulfill their clinical hours through a local preceptor experience must visit the Omaha campus for one intensive weekend of coursework. Unlike a Ph.D. in public health online program, which emphasizes research and dissemination of results, a DNP focuses on advanced nursing practice and the development of leaders. The curriculum integrates scientific knowledge and practical experience, with intent to influence project development outcomes across all levels.

6

University of Illinois at Chicago 

Chicago, IL

About this school

Founded in 1965, UIC now serves over 30,500 students and holds the highest Carnegie designation for a research university. UIC offers a 64-credit, online DrPH with synchronous coursework. The curriculum revolves around six core competencies that include learning practice-based research and influencing public health policy. During August of their third year, all DrPH candidates attend a three-day summer institute. Part-time students allow up to six years to complete all requirements. Applicants must have a master's degree from an accredited school of public health or a public health training program, plus three or more years of full-time professional experience in the field. Prospective candidates with an MPH can apply up to 32 credits toward the program.

7

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill 

Chapel Hill, NC

About this school

Designed for working healthcare professionals, the executive online DrPH requires 45-51 credits of coursework, which students complete within three years. Unlike the research-based focus of an online Ph.D. in public health, the DrPH emphasizes practice and leadership skills. The program admits an incoming class of 12-15 students each year, with sessions beginning in the fall. The DrPH curriculum splits into leadership, public health, and research domains, with the third year dedicated to doctoral dissertation work. Students engage in at least one applied practice experience and visit the Chapel Hill campus in the fall, spring, and summer semesters during their first two years.

8

University of South Florida 

Tampa, FL

About this school

Through campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Sarasota-Manatee, USF serves over 50,000 students. The university's college of public health offers 25 concentrations, over 100 online courses, and four graduate degree programs.

The DrPH prepares practitioners for both leadership and advocacy in public health. The doctoral degree takes a scientific, interdisciplinary approach to examining public health problems in the U.S. and abroad. Students choose between two concentrations: advanced practice leadership and clinical laboratory science and practice. The DrPH program includes three evidence-based deliverables and demonstrates DrPH competencies across all curriculum domains. The hybrid program requires students to visit Tampa at least three times for condensed sessions or institutes. Prospective DrPH candidates must have an MPH, MHA, MSPH, or relevant master's degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA.

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What Else Can I Expect from an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?

Students enrolled in doctor of public health programs online may go by several nomenclatures, such as DPH or Ph.D., depending on the focus of individual colleges and universities. To maintain accreditation, schools standardize certain aspects of their curricula, like core classes and practicum requirements. However, outside of these similarities, doctoral degree programs are incredibly diverse due to the specificity that comes with this advanced level of study and work.

Curriculum for an Online Doctorate in Public Health

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Public Health?

Students enrolled in a Ph.D in public health program online will have different program durations, depending on their school's curriculum. However, most programs usually feature 40-80 credits of coursework, not including hours dedicated to independent study, practicums, and dissertation work. Most doctoral candidates earn their degree in 6-8 years, but, again, this may differ as certain career-oriented programs provided accelerated tracks that only require four years of work. Other students, meanwhile, may take up to 10 years or longer due to the nature of their dissertation. Generally speaking, DPH programs cater to professionals who want to advance to practical and field-work related careers, while Ph.D. in public health online programs emphasize research and theory and are generally more suitable for consultants and analysts.

As with other distance education options, you can expect most courses to be asynchronous. However, it's rare for doctor of public health online programs to be fully remote due to research and experiential learning components. These usually necessitate residencies and close work with faculty. Additionally, some schools require you to take classes in a cohort style where you progress through the program at the same rate as your peers. If the length of a program is a concern, enroll in a school that enables you to schedule classes independently and transfer credits flexibly. Also seek out programs that let you fulfill practicum requirements where you live, preferably with your current employer.

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Accreditation for Online Public Health Doctorate Degrees

To confer valid online Ph.D. in public health and similar doctorate degrees, colleges and universities must earn accreditation at the regional or national levels, with the top schools also holding an industry-specific recognition. Regional accreditation is granted from one of six regional organizations; accreditation indicates that a school meets state academic and institutional standards. Schools earn national accreditation from organizations empowered by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) for following national educational laws and regulations.

On a practical level, you should prioritize programs that hold regional accreditation, as it is more prestigious than national accreditation. Doctor of public health programs online may also receive specialized accreditation from professional organizations, including the Public Health Accreditation Board and the Council on Education for Public Health. Attending schools that hold both of these accreditations means you can be confident that you'll receive a rigorous, industry-certified degree.

The ED and CHEA bestow national accreditation (and support regional accreditation) through their partner organizations. The ED is a government agency responsible for strengthening federal education regulations and rewarding complying schools with funding. With over 3,000 member institutions, CHEA is the most powerful private educational organization in the country. In addition to enforcing standards among its partner agencies, the council also advocates for members' rights through research and policy advancement. For additional information on nationally accredited doctor of public health online programs, visit the ED and CHEA websites.

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Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Public Health Graduates

Doctorate in Public Health Careers

An online Ph.D. in public health prepares you for advanced leadership-oriented careers in research, management, and academia. Health professionals channel their innate curiosity and attention to detail into analytical and administrative skills that propel their programs and organizations to success. With the proper experience and certification, you may work in one of many diverse settings, from government agencies and community programs to education institutions and private healthcare organizations. Whatever your career path, the public health field contains some of the fastest growing positions in the United States. Below, we've reviewed five popular career opportunities in the field.

  1. Epidemiologist: These public health experts investigate patterns of disease and their causes within a community or population. Using this information, epidemiologists reduce the risk of outbreaks and other negative health scenarios through research, education, and health policy. They may also oversee public health programs. Epidemiologists usually hold a master's degree and professional certification from the Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC).
    • Median Annual Salary: $69,660
    • Projected Growth Rate: 9%
  2. Medical Scientist: These public health professionals conduct clinical trials and other laboratory investigations to improve human health, from creating procedures that ensure food safety to standardizing drug doses and potency. Medical scientists work independently or in small teams for health departments and research organizations. A doctorate degree is a standard requirement for this line of work, though some junior or assistant positions may be available for those with a master's.
    • Median Annual Salary: $82,090
    • Projected Growth Rate: 13%
  3. Postsecondary Teacher: Teaching in colleges and universities, these instructors ensure their students understand complex theoretical and historical concepts and apply what they know through practicums. Outside the classroom, college professors pursue their own research projects and engage with organizations in their field. Though adjunct teaching positions are available for those who hold a master's, most full-time and tenured postings are reserved for public health specialists with a doctorate degree.
    • Median Annual Salary: $76,000
    • Projected Growth Rate: 15%
  4. Health Service Manager: Health service managers are responsible for the coordination and implementation of daily tasks and special projects within a medical department or entire healthcare facility. They train and supervise staff, oversee financial operations, and ensure that organizations meet business goals and comply with laws and regulations. Taking on this advanced leadership position requires at least a master's, though most managers have a doctoral degree, professional licensure, and ample work experience.
    • Median Annual Salary: $98,350
    • Projected Growth Rate: 20%
  5. Biostatician: As the title suggests, biostaticians compile and analyze medical statistics to solve practical challenges and help health organizations of all sizes make effective and ethical decisions. They also develop and conduct tests, often partnering with epidemiologists or other public health specialists to locate the source of a disease outbreak or assess the effectiveness of a drug. Biostaticians generally need at least a master's degree. Advanced research positions often necessitate an online Ph.D. in public health or similar accreditation.
    • Median Annual Salary: $84,760
    • Projected Growth Rate: 33%

Doctorate in Public Health Salary

With statistics aggregated from PayScale, the table below details five of the highest paying careers for professionals who have earned a Ph.D. in public health online or a similar degree. As in most jobs, your salary increases alongside your experience because employers recognize the value of hands-on skill development and networking efforts. How much you get paid is also contingent on your subfield. Professionals who specialize in data-assisted research and analysis enjoy access to the most lucrative positions. Certain fields reward -- and, in some cases, only allow entry to -- those who hold professional certification, such as CBIC credentials for epidemiologists.

Median Annual Salaries
Job Title Overall Median Salary Entry-Level Employees Mid-Career Employees Late-Career Employees
Public Health Analyst $60,592 $55,808 $72,188 $83,000
Epidemiologist $62,232 $58,493 $72,847 $98,633
Biostatician $75,119 $71,224 $85,471 $105,097
Healthcare Consultant $75,928 $68,190 $82,324 $99,751
Environmental Health and Safety Manager $80,189 $64,443 $77,449 $93,655

Public Health Professional Organizations

Many professionals bolster the academic and career development support available in Ph.D. in public health online programs with additional resources from professional organizations. Membership usually requires you to pay an annual fee, but in return you gain access to field-specific research and financial assistance (including academic scholarships and project grants) along with postdoctoral training, licensure, and leadership opportunities. Professional organizations also provide career guidance through networking events, such as the American Public Health Association's annual meeting and expo, as well as listings for fellowships, jobs, and partnerships.

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Paying for Your Online Doctorate in Public Health

As you search for the doctor of public health online program that best aligns with your academic interests and career goals, cost should factor heavily into your decision of what college or university to attend. Pursue all avenues of financial assistance, beginning with the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This enables you to sign up for several scholarships, grants, fellowships, and loans simultaneously, and the FAFSA calculates the funding you receive based on need -- or cost of attendance minus expected family contribution. Familiarize yourself with FAFSA, as it is an integral part of the admission process to almost all colleges and universities in the country.

You should also look for funding opportunities through private organizations such as the AfyaBora Fellowship in Global Health Leadership program for professionals who want to work in Africa, as well as opportunities through the Hispanic-Serving Health Professions Schools and Department of Veteran Affairs. Loans represent another option, but should be used sparingly due to the hefty burden that comes with escalating interest rates. If you do tap into loans to pay for your Ph.D. in public health online program, prioritize federal and state offerings over private options; the former usually come with more flexible stipulations.

Federal and state loans may also be reduced or negated entirely through governmental forgiveness programs. Opportunities include the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program for professionals working in government agencies, and the repayment programs offered by the National Institutes of Health for those who commit at least two years of research at a participating nonprofit organization.

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