A doctorate in public health online program helps you gain the specialization necessary to earn a research position within the medical field or to gain employment in the highest levels of the sector as a research director or an administrative manager. As a specialist in public health, you can expect to gain the knowledge you need to help organizations implement optimal administrative practices, including the coordination and design of systems to improve patient-doctor relationships, to facilitate benefits for medical personnel, and to train new and seasoned professionals in the latest in medical service organization standards. The skills learned in a doctoral program in public health are extremely valuable to modern health organizations of all types and levels of complexity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a medical and health services manager earned a median annual salary of $96,540 in 2017, a number the BLS projects to grow by 17% over the next seven years.

Choosing a Program


Institutions design their doctor of public health online programs to equip graduates with the highest level of expertise in the field. Most programs take a multidisciplinary approach, offering courses in management, communications, and leadership alongside courses with a more medical focus. Collaborative learning environments help students develop the nuanced thinking they need to successfully address the complexities of public health policy and lead organizational change. Programs typically feature faculty with significant background in the field, ensuring a hands-on manner of instruction.


Top online public health doctoral programs expect applicants to already possess a bachelor's or master's degree in health sciences or a related field, such as business, health care, psychology, economics, medicine, or biology. In addition, schools expect applicants to have gained between two and fours years of experience as a full-time public health employee. The best-prepared candidates for the top public health doctoral programs typically possess experience in a wide selection of public and private areas of health care.


The “right” doctor of public health program is different for every individual. Depending on what areas you already have a background in and what specializations you have a desire to carry forward in your career, the doctoral programs in public health that you consider should reflect your specific interests. Most higher learning institutions can answer any questions you may have about leveraging your experience to pursue a doctoral program, so talking to the consultation staff at your alma mater first is always an excellent idea.


Doctoral programs in public health are usually tailored to fit the needs of mid-career medical health professionals seeking to broaden their knowledge base and training in order to effect organizational change as an administrative or medical professional. The broad community of peers that online learning fosters allows for a high degree of collaborative learning. Students in doctoral programs have already gained experience working in the field, and online programs are designed to be flexible enough that students can continue to work while they pursue their degree.

What Are The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs?

School Location Cost Graduation Rate Description Toggle

East Carolina University

Greenville, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 65%

East Carolina University enrolls approximately 29,000 students each year, representing 47 states and 73 countries. ECU's department of public health offers a terminal professional degree designed to prepare graduates for careers in public health, evidence-based leadership, and practice-based research. ECU offers the 36-credit doctorate in public health online.

Core courses cover organizational theory and leadership, quantitative research methods, and ethics and research. Students can choose from two concentration options: environmental and occupational health and health policy, administration, and leadership. Graduation requires successful completion of a 400-hour field practicum, comprehensive exam, and dissertation.

Admission to the program requires a master's in public health or equivalent, at least two years of relevant work experience, and prerequisites. GRE scores are required unless eligible for a waiver.

University of Illinois at Chicago

Chicago, IL Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 59%

Radford University Carilion is a branch campus of Radford University located in Roanoke, Virginia. Over 1,000 students attend RUC each year, more than half of whom take at least one distance education course. Several programs offer fully online options, including the doctorate in public health.

Taking two classes at a time, students can complete the 42-credit degree in seven semesters. The program offers three focus areas: healthcare administration, education and academia, and community and public health. Students must complete and defend a final capstone project before graduating.

Prospective students must hold a master's degree in a relevant field, a competitive GPA, and four years of relevant work experience. RUC requires a personal statement, resume/CV, and online interview.

Johns Hopkins University

Baltimore, MD Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 93%

Since 1994, the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University has consistently ranked number one on the U.S. News and World Report's list of top public health schools. Today, America's first research university attracts more than 20,000 graduate students each year.

The university's primarily online doctorate degree in public health offers completion times of 4-6 years. Students gain knowledge and skills in leadership, practice, policy analysis, and program management with preparation in a specific public health discipline. The program requires a dissertation and in-person attendance at summer and winter institutes.

Applicants must hold a master's in public health or equivalent and a minimum of three years of relevant, full-time experience in public health. All prospective students submit GRE or GMAT scores.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 89%

The University of Illinois at Chicago is the largest university in the Chicago area. This major research institution houses a premier school of public health, which enrolls more than 800 students each year. Program offerings include undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs, including a primarily online doctorate in public health leadership.

Tailored specifically to mid-career public health professionals, UIC's doctoral program delivers coursework synchronously. Required courses cover public health leadership, introductory epidemiology, and public health policy development. A dissertation and a three-day residency are required.

Prospective students should hold a master's degree in public health or a related field and hold three or more years of full-time professional experience. UIC encourages students to submit GRE scores.

Radford University Carilion

Roanoke, VA Cost: $$$$$ Graduation Rate: 44%

When it opened its doors to students in 1795, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill became the first university in the nation. Now in its third century, Carolina boasts more than 335,000 living alumni and a catalog of 250 bachelor's, master's, doctoral, and professional programs.

Carolina's Gillings School of Global Public Health offers a primarily online doctorate in public health, designed for completion in three years. The 45-credit curriculum covers global health, marketing and public relations, and financial leadership. A dissertation, comprehensive exam, and attendance at six on-campus sessions are required.

Admission requirements include a graduate degree, five prerequisite courses, and GRE or GMAT scores. Applicants must have at least five years of full-time managerial/supervisory experience in healthcare.

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

Educational institutions design their doctorate of public health programs around the needs of experienced health professionals who have already obtained a master's in public health or a similar program. These programs generally involve a number of potential specializations. Students can expect to self-direct their research and participate in a hands-on curriculum.


Some doctor of public health programs may have more of a focus in research areas, while others may have more of a focus in management practices. In order to get a better idea of what courses an online doctorate in public health may feature, consult the list below.

Topics in Health and Wellness: This course typically covers the role of a physical therapist in health and wellness for both communities and individuals. The course explores public policy, community accessibility, and health behavior, along with the role of intervention, assessment strategies, and outcome evaluation. Enrolled students choose a concentration topic, such as integrative care, preventative care, or adaptive technologies.

Advanced Clinical Practice: In this course, students integrate skills they have learned in clinical foundation courses with the advanced theory of medical protocol through case studies and fellowships to prepare medical professionals involved with clinical work. Students pick a topic of interest based on their clinical practice history and research according to their instructor's curriculum framework.

Healthcare Systems Organization, Delivery and Economics: A focus on healthcare systems organization, delivery, and economics allows students to discuss the structural and economic foundations of the medical system, including health care delivery, the financing of health technology, and the structure of health organizations. The course explores health policy and various methods of health care delivery within a seminar context in order to facilitate a student's understanding of contemporary issues in the implementation of health care as an administrator.


A PhD program is typically among the most time-intensive academic tracks in the public health field, and can take learners as long as five or six years to complete, depending on the amount of professional experience an applicant has or the level of specialization of the public health doctorate a student pursues. In addition, the pace at which a learner progresses along their degree path may vary according to whether they are full or part-time students.

Public health doctor degrees take less time than most other doctoral programs, with full-time students completing all requirements within two to four years on average. Some online doctoral programs in public health may structure their degree path according to a cohort model, which requires applicants to enter the program together as a group in order to properly facilitate online discussions, testing, and forum usage. In general, a public health PhD requires that students complete about 60 credits of coursework, as well as a dissertation on a public health topic related to their specialization, but requirements may vary from school to school.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Public Health Degrees

Successfully passing the accreditation process is important for schools. Accreditation maintains a high standard of education in a given institution of higher learning by providing a basis for differentiation between accredited schools and those that have not met a minimum standard. Regional accreditation is a process undertaken by a college or school to conform to that standard through inspection and evaluation by a third party organization. National accreditation is a separate but necessary requirement of any college attended with received federal grants or aid. There is no specific accreditation required in addition to regional or national accreditation regarding the best online doctoral program in public health, but some programs work directly with employers and may offer exclusive fellowship opportunities. In addition, public health programs have their own accreditation bodies, such as the CEPH (Council on Education for Public Health) and the AAPHP (Association of Accredited Public Health Programs).

The United States Department of Education (ED) is a federal agency established in 1979 to regulate policies concerning all schools and colleges within the United States, to coordinate federal assistance for education, to gather data about schools, and to enforce federal laws regarding education. The ED works to promote the success of education within the United States and has no direct hand in the accreditation process itself.

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (CHEA) and similar bodies work to maintain educational standards and keep universities in the United States competitive, and with institutions of higher learning around the world. Interested applicants may look for one of the seven organizations that make up the CHEA. The ED makes a list of universities with national accreditation available to the public.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Public Health Graduates


Although a master's degree can help prepare you for top administrative and teaching positions, a doctorate from an accredited online doctoral program in public health conveys an additional level of certification. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that individuals employed in top positions in public health services, such as in management and administration, stand to see a salary increase of 17% from a median annual income of $96,540 in the next seven years. An advanced degree in public health policy can help give candidates for these positions a leg up in terms of job placement and have led to increasing enrollment in these programs in recent years.


In addition to natural variation between workplaces, the level of professional experience of a graduate or PhD-holder impacts the annual earnings of a position within the public health industry. The following table features data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding states with the highest-paying salaries for the position of health and medical services managers.

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
California 33,160 2.08 $59.04 $122,800
New York 26,010 2.86 $65.21 $135,640
Texas 21,840 1.86 $50.36 $104,740
Ohio 15,540 2.91 $47.60 $99,000
Pennsylvania 13,640 2.37 $47.72 $99,260

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


The career paths that an online doctorate in public health prepares for include the highest levels of public health administration and management. Detail-oriented individuals might find satisfaction in a research position at a medical school or as a professor of public health theory and practice. More generalist-oriented individuals might find themselves gravitating towards an administrative position within a hospital or a similar medical organization. Whatever your inclination, earning your online doctor of public health provides you with the highest education levels of expertise and preparation.

Health and Safety Engineers

A health and safety engineer helps to design systems and develop procedures that prevent people from getting injured or sick and prevent damage to property. They combine a thorough knowledge of engineering and safety standards to ensure that medical technology, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals will not cause undo harm.

Median Annual Salary - $86,720
Projected Growth Rate - 6%

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

An environmental scientist or environmental health specialist uses their background in the natural sciences to help protect the integrity of a given ecosystem and the health of humans in the environment. They work to clean up pollution, provide advice to policymakers, and work within medical industries to reduce waste.

Median Annual Salary - $68,910
Projected Growth Rate - 11%

Medical and Health Services Managers

Sometimes working under the titles of healthcare administrators or healthcare executives, medical and health services managers coordinate, plan, and direct the logistics of medical and health organizations. They could be tasked with managing a hospital, a specific area or department of a clinic, or a group of physicians. Medical and health services managers work to ensure that establishments conform to regulations in healthcare laws and technological standards.

Median Annual Salary - $96,540
Projected Growth Rate - 17%


Statisticians use health data and advanced statistical methods to gather and analyze problems facing the medical industry. Public health issues are often put in perspective with other areas of economic activity through these statistical methods.

Median Annual Salary - $80,500
Projected Growth Rate - 34%


An epidemiologist is a public health professional who investigates the causes of injury and disease in humans and works to find patterns in their presentation. They work to reduce the prevalence of negative health outcomes through the creation of new policies, practices, and educational standards.

Median Annual Salary - $70,820
Projected Growth Rate - 6%


Leading organizations in the field of public health policy know how to help emerging professionals and recent doctoral graduates gain access to networking opportunities, attend conferences, and obtain career services. These organizations, such as the American Public Health Association and the United States Public Health Service, offer continued learning opportunities and training in the field of public health policy.

Financing Your Online Doctorate in Public Health Program

Students should do research on FAFSA loans in order to understand funding opportunities like scholarships, grants, loans and work-study. Many low-interest rate funds exist with banks and lending partners in education. Certain bodies also exist to further the scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities for online doctoral programs in public health, such as the Center for Disease Control's Public Health Fellowships program. Because of the way doctoral programs in public health are tied to established degree tracks in master's programs and through medical organizations, many such bodies may also create employment funding opportunities for qualified professionals.


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Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


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