Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs of 2022

An online doctorate in public health prepares graduates for potentially lucrative and meaningful work in a rapidly growing field.

portrait of Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.
by Juliann Scholl, Ph.D.

Published on January 26, 2022 · Updated on April 25, 2022

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People in public health work to protect and advance community health and safety as health educators, administrators, technicians, scientists, and analysts. A doctorate in public health reflects the highest level of academic achievement and qualifies an individual to perform high-level work in this field.

Doctoral students in public health can expect to pay between $17,000-$53,000 in total tuition. Costs depend partly on a student's state residency and the school's private or public status. Many online programs charge a flat tuition rate regardless of state residency.

Students typically take three or more years to complete a doctorate in public health, with part-time learners usually taking longer. Some online students enroll in accelerated programs or transfer some of their credits from other schools to finish their coursework in a shorter amount of time.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs for epidemiologists will grow 30% between 2020-2030. Public health professionals who work in state or local government can earn salaries that exceed $68,000, while the highest-earning 10% of epidemiologists earn more than $126,000 a year.

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

Successful doctoral students in public health can demonstrate prior knowledge or experience in the field. Some individuals enjoy statistics and working with data to solve problems. People pursuing careers in consulting or policy often exhibit excellent communication and interpersonal skills.

Most students pursuing an online doctorate in public health should expect to take 3-4 years of classes, which include 40-60 credits hours. Students who thrive in self-paced online courses may be able to complete their credit requirements in less time.

Some programs offer a general public health doctorate, while others offer specializations. Individuals interested in research or data can concentrate on epidemiology, biostatistics, or lab research. Other students can specialize in healthcare policy, public health management, food and nutrition, community outreach, or global health.

In addition to coursework, students pursuing an online doctorate in public health typically engage in independent research and complete a dissertation, both of which can require extensive time for travel and data analysis. Some graduates need to obtain a certification for employment, depending on their occupation.

Most students earn a doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in public health, which qualifies them to seek employment in diverse sectors. However, some students pursue a doctor of education (Ed.D.) or doctor of public health (DPH).

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Popular Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?

Introduction to Biostatistics

Biostatistics applies statistical methods to solve problems, identify trends, and answer questions related to medicine, infectious disease, and public health. This course covers probability distributions, types of error, significance levels, and other statistical concepts.

Introduction to Epidemiology

Epidemiology focuses on identifying and controlling incidences of disease and other public health threats. Students learn how to calculate risk and perform techniques that control for error and bias in statistical analyses.

Healthcare Policy

This course teaches students to use controlled testing and scientific data to develop and evaluate public health policy. Students learn about the U.S. healthcare system and how current political and economic systems impact the efficiency and effectiveness of healthcare provision.

Preventive Medicine

A course in preventive medicine can benefit graduates pursuing administrative positions in public health. Students learn how issues related to preventive services influence the management of clinical prevention programs.

Public Health Management

Students learn principles of finance and organizational development relevant to public health and medical services. A public health management course can prepare individuals seeking jobs as healthcare administrators, public health managers, and medical records technicians.

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?

In-person and online doctorate in public health programs do not differ significantly in their admission requirements. Applicants should check with prospective graduate schools to learn about specific admission requirements.

Doctorate in public health programs seek applicants with master's or bachelor's degrees in the same field. Many also accept individuals with nursing, communication, statistics, and related backgrounds. Professionals who lack the appropriate educational background can make up for it with relevant work experience.

Application

Students applying to an online doctorate in public health program typically complete an application form, often available online on a centralized application system. Applicants should expect to pay a fee, which some programs waive for students who demonstrate financial need.

Test Scores

Programs offering an online doctorate in public health typically require GRE or GMAT scores, but they can vary in what they consider acceptable minimum scores. Aspiring doctoral students should allow enough time to take their entrance exams and submit their scores before application deadlines.

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation provide information about applicants that GRE scores, transcripts, and GPAs cannot. Letters from former professors, mentors, and employers can highlight an applicant's strengths, suitability for graduate school, and the likelihood of success in their chosen career path. Applicants will usually need to submit 2-4 letters to prospective programs.

Resume and Work Experience

Some doctoral programs prefer students with prior work experience in public health or related fields. Even if a graduate school does not require a resume or curriculum vitae, students should still submit this document to showcase previous jobs, volunteer experience, and awards and honors. Applicants should quantify their accomplishments as much as they can in their resumes.

Essays

Applicants to a program offering an online doctorate in public health should expect to submit a personal statement that outlines their career goals, academic interests, and readiness for doctoral study. Effective essays tend to grab the reader's attention, use precise language, present the candidate with authenticity, and conclude on a strong note.

Official Transcripts

Applicants typically submit academic transcripts from their bachelor's and master's programs. Institutions place importance on transcripts because they contain a student's previous courses and grades they received. A transcript also specifies the degree the student earned. When considering programs offering a doctorate in public health, students should consider schools that accept transfer credits from previous institutions.

What Can I Do With an Online Doctorate in Public Health Degree?

Career Outlook

There continues to be a high demand for public health professionals, and job opportunities tend to increase for individuals with graduate degrees. For example, according to the BLS, jobs for epidemiologists are projected to grow 30% between 2020-2030.

Salaries vary depending on geographic location, occupation, employer, and work history. Professionals in leadership positions tend to earn higher wages. The BLS reports that epidemiologists earned a median salary of $74,560 as of May 2020, though the top 10% of professionals in that role earned more $126,040.

Graduates with an online doctorate in public health can obtain work as epidemiologists or public health researchers who analyze large amounts of data. Others interested in research and teaching can become university professors. Occupations in public health policy, community outreach, and administration also exist.

A doctorate in public health can prepare you for diverse career paths. Learn more about public health careers.

Career Paths

Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists conduct research and report on trends and causes of infectious disease, illness, and injury. They plan and oversee studies of public health problems to identify the factors that can reduce or prevent their incidents. Their work generally contributes to the development of public health policy and community education programs.

Median Annual Salary: $74,560

Health and Safety Engineer

These professionals design systems and create protocols that safeguard people from injury and illness. They apply their expertise in engineering and health and safety to protect people and property from environmental and occupational threats.

Median Annual Salary: $94,240

Biostatistician

Biostatisticians use research methods to solve public health problems. They develop new statistical and computational models and collect and analyze data, reporting their findings to colleagues, supervisors, policymakers, and other stakeholders. Some of these professionals work as research scientists in higher education and government, presenting their findings at conferences and publishing their reports in academic and professional journals.

Median Annual Salary: $93,290

Postsecondary Professor

Public health professors teach undergraduate and graduate courses in colleges, universities, and medical schools. Many serve in faculty committees and direct master's theses or doctoral dissertations. Professors also conduct research, pursue grant funding, present their work at academic conferences, and publish their findings in peer-review journals.

Median Annual Salary: $99,090

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Continuing Education

Depending on the position, some hiring organizations require employees to obtain a public health certification, such as the Certified in Public Health (CPH) and Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credentials. Many conferences and professional meetings offer credits toward certification for attendees.

In addition to certifications, graduates can seek continuing education opportunities through online courses, in-person workshops, and self-paced classes. Continuing education enables public health practitioners to stay up-to-date in their discipline and acquire skills to advance their careers.

How Do I Choose an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?

Cost

Tuition and fees for a doctorate in public health depend on a school's public or private status, location, and online course offerings. While online students save money on housing and transportation, they might have to pay additional technology fees. Some graduate programs charge in-state tuition rates for out-state students.

Program Format

Part-time students with demanding work schedules might prefer asynchronous courses, which allow them to progress through material and assignments at their own pace. In contrast, synchronous courses allow for real-time interactions among instructors and cohorts, providing an enriched learning experience often occurring in a traditional classroom.

Location

Many online degree programs can remove geographical and economic barriers to education. However, aspiring doctoral students should decide if they need to enroll in a program close to where they live. Some departments might require students to attend guest lectures or give a research presentation on campus.

Accreditation

Students should enroll in nationally or regionally accredited programs, which have demonstrated academic excellence and adherence to educational standards. Aspiring doctoral students can check with the U.S. Department of Education and the Council on Education for Public Health to see whether their prospective public health program holds the proper accreditation.

Student Support

Students should research whether their prospective online doctorate in public health program provides student services. Such programs connect individuals with mentors, publicize fellowship and internship opportunities, and provide academic advising. Many students finishing their dissertations can also take advantage of writing assistance and career services.

Best Accredited Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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How We Ranked the Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

We are committed to helping students find the program that best fits their needs, and we know that is different for every student. To help students get started with their search, we feature the top online doctorate in public health programs in alphabetical order. To learn more about our different rankings, read our ranking methodology.

#1 Online College in Illinois

University of Illinois at Chicago

School Information
Location Chicago, Illinois
Admission Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 61%
Accreditation Yes Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 24% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $967

Out of State | $967

Credits to Graduate

96

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Education for Public Health

UIC designed its online doctorate in public health degree for mid-career professionals. The program provides graduates with the skills needed to pursue jobs as public health practitioners and leaders. Most courses run synchronously. Students complete classes such as personal leadership development and public health leadership tools. 

Applicants need a master's degree from an accredited school of public health. They also need at least three years of professional experience in a public health leadership position or in mid- to senior-level management positions. 

#2 Online College in Maryland

Johns Hopkins University

School Information
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Admission Rate 11%
Graduation Rate 93%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 46% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $1,233

Out of State | $1,233

Credits to Graduate

64

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Education for Public Health

Johns Hopkins offers a doctorate in public health that runs mostly online. The program features concentrations in areas including environmental health, global health, and implementation science. Full-time learners can complete the degree in 5-7 years. Part-time students can take up to nine years. 

Students must complete weeklong, intensive onsite institutes in January and June. Online learners must also complete a practicum and a dissertation project. Applicants need a master of public health or related master's degree. They also need three years of full-time professional experience.

#3 Online College in North Carolina

East Carolina University

School Information
Location Greenville, North Carolina
Admission Rate 79%
Graduation Rate 66%
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 48% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit

In State | $264

Out of State | $994

Credits to Graduate

50-74

Program Information

Program Accreditation | Council on Education for Public Health

ECU offers an online doctorate in public health that features two concentrations. Learners choose from environmental and occupational health or health policy administration and leadership. Both concentrations emphasize health needs of the rural, poor, underserved, and multicultural populations. This practice-focused program requires a dissertation and a practicum/field placement. 

Applicants need experience in public health practice. They also need a master of public health or a related degree from an accredited program. Prospective students must submit official transcripts, GRE or MCAT scores, and a resume. Additional application materials include a statement of interest and three recommendation letters.

Frequently Asked Questions About Doctorate in Public Health Programs

Is a doctorate in public health worth it? true

A graduate degree can expand a person's earning potential and job prospects. A doctorate in public health can equip graduates with public health knowledge and strong research skills that make them attractive to employers. This degree allows professionals to work in the non-profit sector, government, or higher education.

Moreover, many professionals in this field find meaning and fulfillment in work that improves the health and safety of their communities or informs public policy surrounding healthcare. A doctorate in this field can also lead to relatively secure jobs with lucrative pay and attractive benefits.

What can I do with a doctorate in public health? true

Many high-level public health positions require a terminal or advanced degree. Graduates with an online doctorate in public health can pursue one of several fulfilling career paths.

Some of the most common professions include epidemiology, scientific research, and medical and health services management. Other individuals work as college professors and public policy analysts. The doctorate prepares individuals for employment in healthcare, private industry, higher education, or administration in government.

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

Earning a doctorate in public health takes most students three to six years depending on their schedules and full- or part-time enrollment status. In addition to completing 40-60 credit hours, most students write and defend a dissertation and take comprehensive exams.

Some learners who do not hold an outside job work as teaching or research assistants to help finance their education. Individuals with transferable credits and relevant experience may be able to finish in less time.

How much money can I make with a doctorate in public health?

According to the BLS, epidemiologists made a median wage of $74,560 in 2020, while postsecondary teachers with health specialties made a median salary of $99,090 in the same year.

Because of the wide variety of jobs available to people with doctorates in this field, salaries vary depending on location, employer, position, and prior work experience. For example, epidemiologists and statisticians who work in scientific research tend to earn more than their counterparts in government and higher education. Pay tends to be higher for managers who work in government.

What are the highest paying jobs with a doctorate in public health?

Individuals with some of the highest-paying jobs in public health earn more than $100,000 a year.

Professionals in public health who do not hold leadership positions can make more money when working in scientific research or pharmaceutical manufacturing than individuals in government or higher education. Doctoral graduates seeking management jobs can earn higher salaries working for state or federal government agencies.

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