2021 Best Online Doctor of Public Health Programs [DPH Guide]

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Ready to start your journey?

If you’re a public health professional looking for more challenging career opportunities, you might consider earning a Doctor of Public Health online.

Online Doctor of Public Health Programs

Service in public health often requires knowledge related to scientific research, environmental health, social work, organizational leadership, and public policy.

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Getting a doctoral degree could be a strategic way to get the training and confidence needed to advance into more rewarding roles.

Doctor of Public Health Online Programs

Doctor of Public Health Online Programs

Online DrPH programs can prepare professionals for senior or leadership roles in diverse career pathways, such as:

  • Public health administration
  • Epidemiology and biostatistics
  • Public health program development and evaluation
  • Public health policy
  • Postsecondary teaching and academic research

In Doctor of Public Health programs, you’ll typically learn about advanced topics in:

  • Epidemiology
  • Demographic research and statistical modeling
  • Public health law and policy work
  • Public health administration and leadership

There are many degree concentrations you can choose from in order to specialize your studies.

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For example, having an emphasis in administration, epidemiology, or public policy can impact your coursework and your potential career trajectory.

Common DrPH Degree Specializations and Concentrations

Doctor of Public Health specializations

You may be looking for a program concentration that aligns with your current professional work, or you may be seeking to pivot to a new area of specialization. Here are some specializations that can be offered by online Doctor of Public Health programs:

  • Organizational Leadership. In the field of public health, leadership and management methods and practices seek to align programs and services with public policy and to help organizations operate legally, ethically, and effectively.
  • Global Health. If you’re interested in working in international public health policy, advising or leading public health NGOs, or being a world health research specialist, you may want to look for doctoral programs that emphasize global health topics and perspectives.
  • Epidemiology. If you’re looking to further your expertise in scientific research, you might consider looking for a public health PhD or doctorate program that allows you to specialize in population studies, epidemiology, or biostatistics.
  • Public Health Policy. Working in the policy arena is an important and critical branch of the public health field, and many public health programs provide pathways that emphasize public policy research, analysis, and advocacy skills.
  • Public Health Information Technology. As innovative and powerful technology tools transform the healthcare and public health sectors, you should find a growing number of online DrPH programs offering technology-focused pathways. You may help support organizations, researchers, or policymakers onboard new technologies.

These are only some of the areas of professional concentration offered by DrPH programs online. It’s strategic to look for programs that match your goals and interests.

Public Health Careers & Salaries

Public Health Careers & Salaries

Public health professionals can work in management roles related to public health program administration or in healthcare management.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, public health career pathways can lead to meaningful and rewarding jobs in quite diverse areas of specialization and practice.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Chief Executives $185,950
Political Scientists $125,350
Human Resources Managers $121,220
Medical and Health Services Managers $104,280
General and Operations Managers $103,650
Administrative Services and Facilities Managers $98,890
Postsecondary Teachers $80,560
Epidemiologists $74,560
Social and Community Service Managers $69,600
Survey Researchers $59,870

Expertise in public health can also help professionals qualify for more senior roles in public policy development, monitoring, and advocacy. PhD programs in public health can also provide training and knowledge leading to exciting careers in research and academic settings.

Public Health Doctorate Curriculum & Courses

Public Health Doctorate Curriculum

When earning a doctorate degree in public health, your coursework is likely to include technical topics in medical science as well as concepts related to public administration and public policy leadership. Here are examples of the types of courses you may come across:

  • Biostatistics: You’ll learn about methods for collecting, analyzing, and interpreting data related to medicine, population groups, and public health. You’ll also study advanced methods in biostatistical research and modeling.
  • Epidemiology: This course involves the study of infectious diseases, their prevalence, the health risks they pose, their symptoms, and their mutations. You’ll also study methods for tracking, containing, and helping to reduce or eliminate infectious diseases.
  • Preventive Medicine: You’ll explore how to improve public health by impacting lifestyle choices and environmental factors.
  • Public Health Management and Leadership: You’ll study methods and best practices for providing effective and positive administrative, managerial, and organizational leadership in the public health sector.
  • Public Health Policy, Politics, and Economics: This course explores key topics, issues, and challenges in US public health policy, including methods for researching and impacting future policy.
  • Public Health Ethics: This course provides you with a solid grounding in public health law, decision-making, and ethics.
  • Healthcare and Public Health Informatics: You’ll learn about information technologies as well as information security methods, principles, and challenges related to healthcare, disease control, and preventive medicine.
  • Research Design and Methods: This course is an intensive examination of research methods and design principles, with opportunities for you to apply course concepts to your own graduate research.
  • Global Health Policy and Perspectives: This course helps you expand your understanding of global health policies and global health organizations while exploring advanced topics related to global health perspectives.
  • Leadership and Advocacy: This course helps ensure that all doctoral candidates know how to use their public health training to impact and improve public health outcomes and policies.

While curriculum designs vary from program to program, most doctoral programs include a mix of traditional courses along with supervised research activity and symposium-type classes.

How to Choose an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program

Doctorate in Public Health Program

Here are some points of comparison you may want to consider when researching accredited schools and Doctor of Public Health programs:

  • Tuition costs. Tuition costs and related fees can vary significantly from one school to another. When comparing costs, though, it’s beneficial to balance cost savings with other critical school features, such as program offerings and study formats.
  • Academic specialization and professional orientation. Some schools may emphasize policy leadership competencies, while others may provide strong offerings in more technical research methods. Different programs can offer different specializations, so it’s strategic to search for ones that are aligned with your goals.
  • Capstone requirements. Most PhD programs require a dissertation, but many DrPH programs offer alternative capstone projects that align with more practical workplace applications.

Keeping factors like these in mind when exploring and comparing online DrPH programs can help you pick a program that’s well aligned with your needs and interests.

Admissions Requirements

Doctorate in Public Health admissions

Most doctoral health program faculty seek to enroll students who have a high-level of academic ability and are deeply committed to making meaningful contributions to the profession. Here are some common admissions requirements, though they can vary from program to program:

  • GRE or GMAT scores (only some schools require them)
  • Master’s degree in public health or related field
  • Satisfactory college GPA
  • Relevant professional experience
  • Letters of reference

It’s beneficial to check out what’s required at the schools that most interest you. You can visit a school’s website or contact their admissions office for more information.

DPH Degree Accreditation

DPH Degree Accreditation

If you stick with schools that have earned regional accreditation, you can be confident that you’ll receive high quality instruction and satisfactory student support services.

Accreditation may be required to qualify for employment with certain public agencies or private employers, and it can also be a precondition for licensing and for some forms of financial aid.

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The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides information about accreditation and finding accredited schools.

CEPH Accreditation for Public Health Doctoral Programs

In addition to considering schools with regional accreditation, it’s strategic to consider the accreditation status of online DrPH programs. Public health doctoral programs can earn recognition and accreditation by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

This kind of programmatic accreditation is designed in partnership with participating schools to help ensure public health degree programs provide the best possible training. CEPH accredited programs deliver instruction that reflects the most up-to-date standards in the field of public health.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

DPH Degree financial aid

For most people, getting a doctorate is about making an all-in commitment to a professional calling and aspiration. Students who can’t afford upfront costs may seek financial aid opportunities in order to move ahead with their educational goals.

Common forms of aid include federal and state grants and loans, scholarships, and employer-sponsored tuition assistance programs. The terms of financial aid offers can vary, so it’s beneficial to review all offers carefully.

If you anticipate seeking need-based aid, submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can be a strategic first step.

Public Health Professional Organizations

Public Health Professional Organizations

If you’re seeking to position yourself as an engaged and active public health professional, you might consider joining one or more professional networks in the public health field.

Getting connected with professional organizations like these can be a way to keep up with trends in your field and to network with other public health professionals.

Are DrPH Called Doctors?

Professionals may use the title doctor if they have earned a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) or a professional doctorate degree, such as a Doctor of Public Health (DrPH). Being called a doctor due to academic accomplishments is of course not the same as being a medical doctor (MD).

Those with a PhD or DrPH have reached the highest level of education in their field. Medical doctors have gone through medical school and completed very different academic and professional requirements.  

What Can You Do with an Online Doctor of Public Health?

Online Doctor of Public Health

What you do with a Doctor of Public Health can depend on many factors, including your areas of academic concentration and your past professional experience.

That said, professional pathways in DrPH programs can lead to:

  • Senior medical research roles
  • Public health policy work
  • Administrative roles in public and global health
  • Leadership roles in public health programs
  • Roles in academia

Professionals with advanced degrees in public health can work in diverse careers. Some work as health sector top executives, administrative services and facilities managers, medical and health services managers, and human resources managers. Some research specialists work as epidemiologists or survey researchers.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Doctorate in Public Health?

A PhD generally takes 3 to 5 years to complete, depending on the number of credit hours required and how long it takes to complete a dissertation. If no dissertation is required, a doctorate can generally be completed in 3 years with full-time study.

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The time it takes to complete a dissertation or a capstone project can also vary significantly for different individuals. If you only attend part-time, it may take longer for you to complete your doctoral degree.

What’s the Difference Between a DrPH vs. PhD in Public Health?

A Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) is a professional doctorate program, typically geared more toward those working in leadership and administrative roles. A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health is typically more research focused.

Doctor of Public Health PhD in Public Health
  • Designed for professionals who plan to work in the field
  • Can advance your professional expertise and your organizational leadership and managerial skills
  • Often offers a capstone project requirement in lieu of a dissertation
  • Designed for professionals who are seeking careers in academia
  • More focused on academic research
  • Typically requires a dissertation

Though these tracks both have a lot in common, an online PhD in Public Health program will typically place more emphasis on reviewing academic research.

Is It Worth Getting a Doctorate in Public Health?

Doctorate in Public Health

Yes, a doctorate in public health is worth it for many professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts high demand for medical and health services managers, social and community service managers, and epidemiologists over the next ten years. Employment for these positions is expected to grow by 32%, 15%, and 30%, respectively.

Getting a DrPH is also a way to develop deep policy expertise, prepare for jobs in academia, or train to be a more effective and confident agency administrator or organizational leader. 

Universities Offering Online Doctorate in Public Health Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Bay Path University

Bay Path University

Bay Path University offers a Doctor of Health Science with a concentration in Public Health. To graduate, students must complete 48 online credit hours. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher and submit official transcripts, a personal essay, an APA writing sample, and 2 recommendations.

Bay Path University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Capella University

Capella University

Capella University offers an online Doctor of Public Health program. To graduate, students must complete 60 credit hours, with the option to transfer in up to 18 qualifying credit hours. Along with the 14 online courses that are required, 2 capstone projects must also be completed. Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or higher.

Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

East Carolina University

East Carolina University

East Carolina University offers a Doctor of Public Health degree. To graduate, students must complete 50 credit hours, including 9 hours dedicated to a dissertation. A GPA of 3.0 or higher must be maintained during their time in the program. Applicants must submit official transcripts, official test scores, a letter of intent, and 3 letters of recommendation.

East Carolina University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University

Georgia Southern University offers a Doctor of Public Health degree. Students may pursue specializations in Biostatistics, Community Health Behavior and Education, Epidemiology, Health Policy and Management, or Public Health Leadership. Students must complete 60 credit hours to graduate. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher and need to submit official transcripts and GRE scores.

Georgia Southern University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Indiana University

Indiana University East

Indianan University offers a Doctor of Public Health with a specialization in Global Health Leadership. Students must complete 45 credit hours over the course of 3 years to graduate. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher from a master’s degree program, official transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, and 3 letters of recommendation.

Indiana University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University

John Hopkins University offers a Doctor of Public Health. Students may choose to add a concentration in Healthcare Management and Leadership, Quality and Patient Safety, or Public Health Informatics. Those interested in the program must have a relevant master’s degree and at least 3 years of professional experience.

Johns Hopkins University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Loma Linda Univesity

Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University offers a Doctor of Public Health in Health Education. To graduate, students must complete a minimum of 62 credit hours, including a doctoral project and a practicum. Applicants may apply online and should have a GPA of 3.5 or higher from a master’s program.

Loma Linda University is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.

Medical College of Wisconsin

Medical College of Wisconsin

Medical College of Wisconsin offers a Doctor of Public Health program. Students must complete 36 credit hours from courses and 10 credits from dissertations to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, 3 letters of recommendation, and 3 years of post-graduate experience.

The Medical College of Wisconsin is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Mercer University

Mercer University

Mercer University offers a Doctor of Public Health program with the option to choose a concentration in Epidemiology and Diverse Populations or Health Equity. Students must complete 72 credit hours to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 or higher, a personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a year of public health experience.

Mercer University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Nebraska Methodist College

Nebraska Methodist College

Nebraska Methodist College offers an online program for a Doctorate in Public Health Policy. To graduate, students must complete 44 credit hours and 6 capstone projects. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.0, an admissions essay, and an interview.

Nebraska Methodist College is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

Northeastern University

Northeastern University

Northeastern University offers a Doctor of Public Health with Social and Environmental and Health Services and Policy concentration options. Students must complete a minimum of 45 credit hours to graduate. Those interested in the program must submit an online application with official transcripts, test scores, a personal statement, and 3 letters of recommendation.

Northeastern University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Rutgers University

Rutgers University

Rutgers University offers a Doctor of Public Health. Students must complete 48 credit hours to graduate. While classes are offered online, students must complete on-campus cohort projects. To be eligible for the program, applicants must submit an online application with official transcripts from all schools attended, 3 letters of recommendation, and a letter of intent.

Rutgers is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Samford University

Samford University

Samford University offers an online Doctor of Public Health program. Students may choose to add a concentration in Health Management and Policy or Population Health Analytics and Decision Making. To graduate, students must complete 46 credit hours. Applicants must have a master’s degree from a relevant field with a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Samford University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Texas Woman’s University

Texas Woman's University

Texas Woman’s University offers a Ph.D. in Health Studies. To graduate, students must complete 96 credit hours, with the option to transfer in up to 39 qualifying credit hours. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree with a GPA of 3.5 or higher.

Texas Woman’s University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Trident University

Trident University

Trident University offers a Ph.D. in Health Science. The online program allows students to add a concentration in Global Health or Health Policy and Administration. Students must complete a comprehensive exam and 56 credit hours to graduate. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.6 or higher and GRE or GMAT test scores.

Trident University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Illinois – Chicago

University of Illinois – Chicago

The University of Illinois—Chicago offers a Doctor of Public Health degree. To graduate, students must complete 56 credit hours, including a dissertation. Those interested in the program may apply online with a personal statement, 3 letters of recommendation, and official transcripts from all schools attended.

The University of Illinois Chicago is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Nebraska

University of Nebraska Lincoln

The University of Nebraska offers a Doctor of Public Health with an emphasis in Public Health Practice that has a concentration in Epidemiology. Students must complete 57 credit hours to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a relevant master’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher, 3 letters of recommendation, and 3 years of work experience.

The University of Nebraska is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

The University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill offers an Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership. Students must complete 45 credit hours to graduate. To be eligible for the program, applicants must have a master’s degree, official transcripts, 3 letters of recommendation, and 5 years of experience in the field.

The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

University of South Florida

University of Florida

The University of South Florida offers a Doctor of Public Health degree. To graduate, students must complete a minimum of 43 credit hours post-masters. Students can choose a concentration in Advanced Practice Leadership in Public Health or Public Health and Clinical Laboratory Science and Practice. Applicants must have a relevant master’s degree with a GPA of 3.0 or higher.

The University of South Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Walden University

Walden University

Walden University offers an online Doctor of Public Health program. Students who have a master’s degree in a relevant field must complete 83 credit hours, while those who don’t have a relevant degree must finish 103. Applicants must have a GPA of 3.0 and 3 years of professional experience.

Walden is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Getting Your Doctor of Public Health Online

Doctor of Public Health Online

If you’re ready to dive deep into public health research or to move into more senior public health leadership roles, you may want to check out the many online DrPH programs available.

There are many accredited universities that now offer credible online Doctor of Public Health degree programs. Online public health degree programs tend to offer more flexible study options, allowing you to better balance your academic schedule with your professional and personal life. This means earning a public health degree is worth it for many professionals. 

If you’re ready to advance your expertise and qualifications in this growing field, you can start exploring DrPH programs today to find the ones that best match your professional interests and aspirations.

Ready to start your journey?
Keith Nickolaus
WRITTEN BY
Keith Nickolaus
Keith has a Ph.D. and Master's in Comparative Literature from the University of California - Berkeley and a Bachelor's in Literature from the University of California - Santa Cruz. A retired educator, Keith lives in Berkeley and researches and writes about trends in innovation, policy, and education leadership.