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A doctorate in public health can lead to some of the most advanced careers in the healthcare sector. These programs equip students with the skills needed to enter a variety of professions and industries, including medical services management, medical science, and government epidemiology.
Each of these careers boasts median annual salaries and projected growth rates that exceed the national averages, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). To help students find the best online doctorate in public health programs, this page explores some of the top schools in the nation.
Read on for a general program outline, considerations to keep in mind, and general career information.
2020 Accredited Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs
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 Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?
Students who wish to pursue a career directly in the healthcare industry typically choose a DrPH, while aspiring researchers and academics often pursue a Ph.D.
Students interested in earning an online doctorate in public health can choose from two major pathways: a Ph.D. or a doctor of public health (DrPH).
While both degree types can lead to the same careers, they usually emphasize different areas. Students who wish to pursue a career directly in the healthcare industry typically choose a DrPH, while aspiring researchers and academics often pursue a Ph.D.
These degree types often differ in format as well, with the Ph.D. usually requiring 60-120 credits and taking 4-7 years to complete. Most DrPH programs require 45-60 credits and take 3-5 years to complete.
Curriculum specifics vary, but Ph.D. programs generally focus on research and dissertation work, while DrPH programs emphasize practice and leadership skills. Students may be able to create their own study specialization or choose from a list of concentrations, such as environmental health, public health policy, or epidemiology and infectious disease.
Both degree types typically accept applicants with a master's degree in a related discipline. DrPH programs often require applicants to possess relevant experience.
Admission Requirements for Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs
Applicants for an online doctorate in public health typically need a relevant master's degree, although some doctoral programs accept students with only a bachelor's degree, if they take additional credits. Some programs may require a minimum GPA, test scores, and/or relevant professional experience. Additional requirements may include a research proposal or statement of purpose, a writing sample, and/or an interview.
Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs.
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?
Like many doctoral programs, the curriculum for an online doctorate in public health can vary considerably by school and degree type. Students at this level often get the opportunity to customize their training to fit their educational and professional goals. While not exhaustive, the following list highlights some of the most common courses.
- Health Management
This course focuses on the management of health organizations, covering topics in financial management and human resources development. Students learn to balance the needs of the organization with the needs of the general public. They also discuss how to evaluate, design, and implement policies and practices.
- Data and Analysis
In this course, students learn how to analyze health data. They examine the various tools and techniques used in the field, along with the applications and limitations of the practice. Additional topics include common software and technologies used by public health analysts, as well as presentation methods for delivering results.
- Issues in Global Public Health
This course explores major health concerns around the world. Covered topics include the opioid crisis, pandemics, epidemiology, health and nutrition, and environmental concerns. Students apply their training to analyze and confront these issues.
This course covers various topics in vaccinology, including the history of vaccines, mass production, and campaign implementation and rollout. Students examine the development process, including testing, safety and efficacy trials, and approval processes.
- Public Health Ethics
In this course, learners study various ethical frameworks in the field. They examine some of the major areas in which ethical dilemmas appear, such as disease prevention, patient autonomy, and resource allocation.
What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Public Health?
Doctoral graduates enjoy a choice of careers, many of which boast large workforces and strong projected growth. The BLS and Projections Central project many careers in public health to grow at rapid rates between 2019 and 2029.
While positions at this level are competitive, the workforces are large enough to support the demand for jobs. As the global interest in public health and the healthcare needs of the aging population continue to rise, the world needs more public health professionals.
Learn more about public health jobs on our career page.
- Medical Services Manager
Medical services managers oversee healthcare departments and facilities, managing staff, handling finances, and implementing policies. These professionals need an understanding of healthcare regulations and practices. According to the BLS, 33% of medical services managers work in hospitals and 12% work in physicians' offices.
Epidemiologists research and investigate common diseases in the public sphere. They strive to improve responses to these health issues through policy change, publications, and education. According to the BLS, 54% of epidemiologists work in state and local governments.
- Medical Scientist
Medical scientists research various healthcare issues, including drugs and diseases. They may conduct experiments on specific drugs or develop ways to improve public health outcomes. According to the BLS, 35% of these professionals work in research and development, 23% work in higher education, and 17% work in hospitals.
Professors educate students in colleges and universities about public health and related programs. Professors also conduct their own research and add to the discourse in the field.
Biostatisticians conduct research and studies on various drugs, diseases, and public health conditions. They look for a better understanding of symptoms, causes, side effects, and methods for improved health outcomes. According to the BLS, most of these statisticians work in pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and public health organizations.
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Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Public Health Programs
- Is a doctoral degree in public health worth it?
A doctorate in public health can lead to some of the most lucrative and in-demand positions for healthcare professionals and researchers. For example, the BLS projects 32% job growth for medical services managers between 2019 and 2029. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $100,980.
- What can I do with a doctorate in public health?
Graduates with a professional doctorate in public health typically pursue management positions or roles within the government, often serving as epidemiologists in public health departments. Those with a Ph.D. in public health may also pursue medical science careers or postsecondary teaching positions within universities and colleges.
- How many public health majors get jobs?
Available jobs for public health majors depend on the individual, their discipline, and their location. For example, metropolitan regions and the East and West Coast states employ the most graduates, according to the BLS. According to the National Science Foundation, only 2% of health science doctoral graduates were unemployed in 2013.
- How much money can I make with a doctorate in public health?
- What are the highest paying jobs with a doctorate in public health?
According to the BLS, medical services manager is the most lucrative job for doctoral graduates. The top 10% of medical services managers earn a median annual salary of $189,000.