Best Online Doctorate in Public Health 2021

by TBS Staff
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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.

Featured Online Doctorate in Public Health

The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

East Carolina University true View School Profile $$ Greenville, NC 65% 55% 45% East Carolina University is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1907 as the East Carolina Teachers Training School, ECU currently teaches nearly 29,000 students.

ECU offers an online doctorate of public health program with two concentrations: health policy administration and leadership, and environmental and occupational health. Sample courses include advanced medical geography, applied environmental and industrial hygiene, and environmental risk communication.

Students must complete 50 to 74 credits and a dissertation to graduate.

Applicants must already hold a master's degree in public health or a graduate degree in a closely related field. The application requires transcripts, GRE or MCAT scores, a resume, a statement of interest, and three letters of recommendation.

Johns Hopkins University true View School Profile Baltimore, MD 93% 32% 43% Johns Hopkins University is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

Funded by a $7 million bequest made in its namesake's will, Johns Hopkins officially opened in 1876.

Johns Hopkins offers an online doctorate of public health program with four concentrations: environmental health, health equity and social justice, health policy and management, and implementation science. Although faculty teach courses online, the program also includes two week-long onsite courses each January and June. Most students finish the program in 5-7 years.

Students must complete 64 credits, a practicum, and a dissertation to graduate.

Applicants must earn a master of public health or other health-related master's degree, as well as at least three years of professional public health experience. The application requires GRE/GMAT scores.

Loma Linda University true View School Profile Loma Linda, CA 62% 16% Loma Linda University is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and Universities Commission (WSCUC).

Founded in 1905, LLU teaches from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective.

LLU offers an online doctor of public health in health education degree program. Faculty teaches online courses synchronously, and students do need to visit campus to defend their proposals and dissertations. Most students finish the program in three years.

Students must complete 62-65 credits and a dissertation to graduate.

Applicants must already hold a master's degree in public health or a related field.

Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health View School Profile Omaha, NE 63% 68% 57% The Nebraska College of Nursing & Allied Health is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Founded in 1891, NMC began awarding two- and four-year degrees in 1985.

NMC offers an online doctor of nursing practice in public health policy program. Faculty teach courses both asynchronously and synchronously. Students can complete the program in two years. Students must also attend one weekend-long intensive learning experience on campus.

Students must complete 50 credits and 960 clinical practice hours to graduate.

Applicants must hold a bachelor of science in nursing and a master's degree in nursing, public health, or a related field. The application requires transcripts showing a GPA of at least 3.0, a resume, a Registered Nurse license, a written statement, and an interview.

University of Illinois at Chicago View School Profile $$ Chicago, IL 59% 43% 21% The University of Illinois at Chicago is regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

Formed when several local medical colleges merged, UIC currently teaches more than 33,000 students.

UIC offers an online doctor in public health leadership degree program. Faculty teach most courses synchronously during the day or early evening. Most students complete the program in four to six years.

Students must complete 96 credits and a dissertation to graduate.

Applicants must submit a personal statement, resume, three letters of recommendation, and transcripts. Applicants must hold a master's degree in public health or a related field and demonstrate at least three years of professional, full-time work in a public health leadership position.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill View School Profile $$ Chapel Hill, NC 89% 27% 14% The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Established in 1789, UNC-Chapel Hill opened its School of Public Health in 1936.

UNC-Chapel Hill offers an executive doctoral program in health leadership taught through a mix of online coursework and brief on-campus visits. Required courses include health policy and advocacy for leaders, program evaluation for health leaders, and population perspectives for health.

Students must complete 45 credits and a dissertation to graduate.

Applicants must hold at least a master's degree, preferably in public health, and demonstrate at least five years of professional work experience. Applicants must submit transcripts, three letters of recommendation.

University of South Florida View School Profile $$ Tampa, FL 73% 39% 54% The University of South Florida is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

Founded in 1956, USF currently teaches more than 50,000 students.

USF offers a doctor of public health degree program taught via both online courses and on-campus visits. The two concentrations include advanced practice leadership in public health, and public health and clinical laboratory science and practice. Students can finish the program in three years.

Students must complete 43 credits to graduate.

Applicants must hold a master's degree in public health, health administration, or another relevant field with a minimum GPA of 3.0. USF also requires applicants to demonstrate at least two years of work experience in public health, and those interested in the laboratory concentration must currently work at a health laboratory. The application requires three letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and a resume.

Best Online Doctorate

Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs Ranking Guidelines

We ranked these degree programs based on quality, curricula, school awards, rankings, and reputation.

Our Methodology

Here at TheBestSchools.org, we take the trust and welfare of our readers very seriously. When making our school and program rankings, our top priority is ensuring that our readers get accurate, unbiased information that can help them make informed decisions about online education. That's why we've developed a rigorous ranking methodology that keeps the needs of our readers front and center.

Our proprietary, multi-criteria ranking algorithm analyzes key data indicators — as collected by the federal government — for each school or program. What data we use depends on the focus of each specific ranking, but in all cases, our ranking methodology is impartial: Schools cannot buy better rankings at TBS.

While specific criteria under consideration can vary by ranking, there are a few data points that we value most highly. They are affordability, academic quality, and online enrollment. Below, we break down our algorithm to help you understand what you're getting when you use one of our rankings.

  • Academics
  • Affordability
  • Online Enrollment

Data Sources

The data used in TBS rankings comes primarily from the federal government, and much of it is provided by the schools themselves. We aggregate and analyze this data to build our rankings.

The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) is our primary source. Its data comes from annual surveys conducted by the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Every college, university, or technical school with access to federal financial aid must participate in these surveys, which include questions about enrollment, graduation rates, finances, and faculty qualifications. This is publicly available data, which you can access yourself through the College Navigator.

Additionally, because we value a personal touch and the professional experience of our staff and Academic Advisory Board, we vet all results and adjust rankings as necessary based on our collected knowledge of schools and degree programs. Depending on the ranking, we may obtain additional input from AcademicInfluence.com, subject matter experts, prior TBS ranking lists, or other sources we deem relevant to a particular ranking.

Breakdown of Our Rankings Methodology

About Our Ranking Factors

Here at TBS, we value what you value: quality education, affordability, and the accessibility of online education. These factors guide all of our program rankings.

Each of these factors are further broken down into weighted subfactors. For example, retention rates are weighted more heavily than availability of program options because they are a better indicator of student success.

We chose the following factors for our rankings because of their influence on learning experiences and graduate outcomes. However, students should always balance our rankings against their personal priorities. For instance, a learner who needs a fully online program may prioritize online flexibility more than our rankings do. Our rankings are designed to help you make a decision — not to make a decision for you.

Academics - 75%
Affordability - 15%
Online Enrollment - 10%

In all our school rankings and recommendations, we work for objectivity and balance. We carefully research and compile each ranking list, and as stated in our advertising disclosure, we do NOT permit financial incentives to influence rankings. Our articles never promote or disregard a school for financial gain.

If you have questions about our ranking methodology, please feel free to connect with our staff through contact page.

We thank you for your readership and trust.

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

  • Public Health and Healthcare: Here, students delve into theories, practices, politics, and organizations that shape public and private healthcare services in the United States. By understanding the forces that influence the structures of delivery systems, students use qualitative and quantitative methods to propose alternatives that address cost, quality, and access disparities among different populations. This course provides important training for all public health specialists, particularly those driven by statistical research.
  • Public Policy Analysis: This course analyzes the historical framework for political decision making. Students then use interdisciplinary tools to assess the feasibility of alternative policies with respect to equity, efficiency, and institutional feasibility. By understanding these concepts and pursuing their own investigations, students prepare for work with community and government organizations as advocates and leaders.
  • Strategies in Public Health Leadership: Building on students' individual leadership styles, the course provides feedback and further development through a range of simulations and exercises. Additional topics include team context, managing group dynamics, and organizational strategies, like the nature of a project cycle, design theories, and implementation.
  • Health Communication: The course provides tools to effectively inform individuals and entire organizations about significant health issues, thereby influencing policy and motivating positive changes. Students also learn to create and manage public health campaigns. Additional topics include disease prevention and community health promotion communication. This class is especially important for public health advocates, including educators and epidemiologists.
  • Global Health Priorities: How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Doctorate in Public Health?A mainstay for anyone working with government or international health organizations, this course examines and analyzes health issues in developing and industrialized countries, particularly those facing growing challenges. Students also locate data sources to define the nature and impact of health problems in select geographical areas, and with respect to their particular cultures and delivery systems.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Epidemiologist
Median Salary: $69,660 Projected Job Growth: 9%

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).

Medical Scientist
Median Salary: $82,090 Projected Job Growth: 13%

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.

Postsecondary Teacher
Median Salary: $76,000 Projected Job Growth: 15%

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.

Health Service Manager
Median Salary: $98,350 Projected Job Growth: 20%

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.

Biostatician
Median Salary: $84,760 Projected Job Growth: 33%

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.

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.

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
Source: PayScale

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.

Header Image Credit: Hiraman | Getty Images

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