Doctorate in Public Health Program Guide

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By Staff Writers

Published on August 18, 2021

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Public health officials provide vital services to communities worldwide. Aspiring public health administrators and community health workers need a doctorate in public health to perform scientific medical research, promote public health, and prevent outbreaks. Epidemiologists, medical and health services managers, and public health professors often hold a doctorate in public health.

A terminal degree represents the pinnacle of academic achievement for public health officials. Doctoral programs in public health develop strong independent research skills and emphasize advanced leadership through years of field experience.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects faster-than-average job growth from 2019-2029 and salaries above the national average for medical and health services managers and epidemiologists.

The following guide explores the many benefits of earning a doctorate in public health.

Should I Get a Doctorate in Public Health?

Doctoral programs in public health tend to attract mid-to-late-career healthcare workers looking to switch careers, or aspiring senior scholars in the public or private sector. Like any doctoral degree, this program typically takes several years to complete, though an online doctorate in public health can offer more affordable tuition rates and faster paths to graduation.

Generally, this program suits students with an academic background in public health or a related field and years of relevant work experience. Schools offer concentrations in areas, such as public health management, healthcare policy, and biostatistics.

What Can I Expect from a Doctorate in Public Health Program?

Most students seek a terminal degree in public health through a doctor of philosophy, or Ph.D. Others may seek a doctorate in public health through a doctor of education (Ed.D.) degree or a more direct doctor of public health (DPH) program. Most degrees require 40-60 credits over 3-4 years.

A doctorate in public health typically requires core coursework in subjects like preventive medicine, epidemiology, health policy, and biostatistics. Additionally, doctoral degrees in this field often culminate in a dissertation or independent research requirement. Graduates can pursue professional certification in their area of expertise.

Concentrations

Biostatistics
Biostatistics involves the collection and analysis of biological data. Aspiring bio statisticians and scientific data analysts may choose this concentration to learn to investigate public health outbreaks, surveys, response, and mortality rates.
Epidemiology
This concentration naturally suits epidemiologists, as well as health educators and environmental specialists and scientists. Students learn to make projections about epidemic disease control based on historical and trending infectious diseases.
Public Health Management
Aspiring public health managers, medical records technicians, and healthcare administrators can benefit from pursuing this concentration. Coursework explores financial management, organizational development, and human resources management specific to the healthcare field.
Research
Some students aspire to a career on the technical side of public health. Performing public health research may involve designing case studies, preparing samples, and recording results. Students in this concentration may become medical scientists, epidemiologists, or postsecondary healthcare professors.
Healthcare Policy
This concentration prepares students to develop strategic, forward-thinking public health policy based on scientific data and controlled tests. Professionals like healthcare lobbyists, occupational health and safety specialists, and environmental protection technicians help raise awareness of and advocate for public health policy issues.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.

How to Choose a Public Health Doctoral Program

Prospective doctoral students must consider several factors, including coursework, concentrations, and cost of the degree. Students should seek out a doctorate in public health that meets their individual needs and includes online and both full-time and part-time enrollment options.

An online doctorate in public health may offer the same career benefits as an on-campus program, but with additional flexibility and accelerated completion options.

Programmatic Accreditation for Doctorate in Public Health Programs

Students should seek out a doctorate in public health from an institution with national or regional accreditation. The process of earning accreditation through the Department of Education ensures that a school meets the highest levels of quality and offers legitimate academic and professional programs.

In addition to institutional accreditation, some doctoral programs in public health receive programmatic accreditation through the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH), which accredits multi-level postsecondary public health programs.

Find the top online doctorate in public health programs.

How to Get Into a Public Health Doctoral Program

Many doctoral programs in public health share similar admission requirements. While programs may vary slightly, most programs attract candidates with relevant academic and professional experience. Applicants should hold a bachelor's or a master's degree in public health, though some programs also accept degrees in closely related majors.

Most programs require a minimum 3.0 GPA, GMAT, or GRE scores; letters of recommendation; and an interview.

Read Our Guide to Graduate Admissions

What Can I Do With a Doctorate in Public Health?

Earning a doctorate in public health qualifies graduates for careers in advanced research, science, and education occupations. Degree-holders may become epidemiologists or biostatisticians, performing research in a lab or medical-science facility. Graduates can also use their leadership and public health administration skills in medical and health services management or community health work.

A doctorate in public health also qualifies graduates for careers in education and advocacy. Degree-holders may become college professors or community health educators. Others may pursue careers as public health lobbyists, managers, or outreach organizers.

Popular Career Paths

How Much Money Can I Make With a Doctorate in Public Health?

Graduates with a doctorate in public health can earn high salaries in advanced fields. Many epidemiologists and some medical scientists hold a doctorate in public health. Graduates may also become community health workers, medical and health services managers, and public health professors.

The BLS projects a broad range of salaries for public health occupations. Health education specialists earn a median annual salary of $48,140, epidemiologists make a median annual salary of $74,560, and postsecondary teachers make nearly $81,000 per year.

Certifications and Licenses a Doctorate in Public Health Prepares For

Certified in Public Health
Employers often require CPH certification. This credential is awarded to graduates of a CEPH-accredited master's program with at least five years of professional public health experience. The CPH exam covers core CEPH content areas and emphasizes emerging public health issues.
Certified Health Education Specialist
The most popular certification offered through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC), the CHES credential is awarded solely on academic merit. Applicants must hold a bachelor's, master's, or doctoral degree from an accredited institution with a major in health education and log at least 25 credits in the NCHEC's Seven Areas of Responsibility and Competency for Health Education Specialists.
Master Certified Health Education Specialist
Another NCHEC certification, the MCHES credential suits health educators with a master's degree seeking career advancement. Applicants must hold CHES certification and at least five years of experience working as a certified health education specialist.
Public Health and General Preventive Medicine Certification
Public health professionals aspiring to practice medicine can earn public health and general preventive medicine certification through the American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM). Candidates must hold a medical license and a medical degree from an ABPM-approved institution and complete at least 15 credits of graduate coursework in a relevant discipline.
Certified Public Health Administrator
Aspiring public health administrators may seek CPHA certification through the Public Health Practitioner Certification Board. Candidates must hold a bachelor's degree and at least three years each of supervisory and administrative experience in public or private healthcare. CPHAs may include this acronym after their professional name.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Public Health Programs

What is public health? true

Public health refers to services that promote and protect community health and wellness. Public health occupations typically focus on preventive health programs and include administrators, specialists, scholars, and technicians.

How much does it cost to get a doctorate in public health? true

The cost of doctoral programs varies by school and program. While doctorates typically offer more limited federal financial aid options than undergraduate programs, an online doctorate in public health may offer flexible enrollment and set or in-state tuition rates.

How long does it take to get a doctorate in public health? true

Earning a doctorate in public health typically takes three years, though some online programs offer accelerated paths to graduation. Program length also depends on the experience and qualifications of each applicant.

What can you do with a Ph.D. in public health?

A Ph.D. in public health can lead to a variety of positions in healthcare, scientific research, and postsecondary education. Graduates qualify for senior positions that require a terminal degree and advanced field experience across public and private health sectors.

Is public health a good career?

Public health careers can offer generous salaries with significant job growth over the long term. For example, the BLS projects 5% job growth between 2019 and 2029 for epidemiologists, who earn a median annual wage of more than $74,000.

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