Best Online Master’s Degrees in Public Health: 2016

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Advanced Public Health Programs, Careers & Salaries

With the pursuit of a graduate degree in public health, students will find a broader field of opportunities in which to grow their careers. From assisting in public policy recommendations, to health education to institutional administration, a master’s in the field not only facilitates new opportunities, but greater growth potential where is concerns salary as well. Learn what it takes to earn a master’s in public health and see where the degree can lead.

Timeline of an Online Master’s in Public Health

Getting in: The Application Process

Choosing the best schools is the first step; getting in is the second. That requires an application and all the completed requirements, as set forth by the particular online master’s program in public health. Many programs turn to SOPHAS, or the Schools of Public Health Application Service, to make life easier for prospective students who want to apply to multiple programs. This centralized application process allows students to upload transcripts, complete essays, include letters of recommendation and seamlessly submit other sections of the application.

In addition to the information requested by SOPHAS, students can expect to provide the following:

  • GRE scores.

    Students entering a master’s program are expected to take the Graduate Record Examination and have their scores sent to the schools of their choice.

  • Personal statement.

    This essay is a great opportunity for applicants to explain why they want to earn a public health master’s degree, as well as why they should be admitted out of the competitive field of qualified applicants.

  • Letters of recommendation.

    Three letters are usually required. These should be written by former professors, work colleagues and the like, especially those well-acquainted with a prospective student’s experience in the field of public health. Letters should lay out why the applicant would be a great fit for the master’s program.

  • Resume.

    Some schools require a certain amount of experience in the public health field or related positions. The resume should detail all work and volunteer experience.

  • Transcript.

    Those entering the program should already have a bachelor’s degree and must provide transcripts that show courses pertaining to public health, the grade earned in each and the overall GPA.

  • Interview.

    Many schools have an interview process that requires a potential student to meet with an admissions panel. Applicants for online master’s in public health programs can usually conduct the interview via Skype, phone or similar means.

Year 1

During the first year of the public health program, students can expect to take core courses in the field, including leadership and community health. Students who have already earned a graduate degree or who have several years of experience in public health might be able to waive these courses and move straight into the concentration courses, which could allow them to complete a master’s degree in one year.

Year 2

Once the core courses are completed, students in public health move on to the concentration courses — for most students, this will constitute their second year. These courses are strongly targeted toward a particular focus, such as research, epidemiology or nutrition. Students might also complete a capstone project that rounds out their master’s degree experience.

Please note that this timeline does not include dual or joint degrees, such as those that combine a master’s in public health with a degree in law, medicine or nursing. Dual and joint degrees follow a different format and usually take more than two years to complete.

Testing & Graduation Requirements

In addition to satisfactorily finishing the expected courses, students must also complete graduation requirements. The list below includes the typical requirements for most schools, but keep in mind that each school is different and might require something not listed here.

  • Capstone project.

    Also known as a research project, this year-long project is dedicated to showcasing what a student has learned over the course of the degree program, usually in the form of original theories and research.

  • Thesis.

    The master’s thesis is much like the capstone project, in that it requires original research and theories. However, it differs in that it typically must be presented to a panel, who will then ask questions about the thesis — the student will be expected to field all questions and answer them in a sufficient manner.

  • Comprehensive exam.

    This requirement is quite common among online public health master’s programs. The exam, usually multiple choice, helps ensure that a student has learned and retained what was taught during the degree program.

  • Internship.

    Some schools require students to demonstrate hands-on learning and training during the degree program through an internship, although this might be waived for those who are already well-established in the field.

Search Online Master’s Degrees in Public Health

In addition to a comprehensive list of online master’s in public health programs, we also offer this convenient search tool. Students can narrow down the long list of schools by searching based on school type, population, location, degree level, and even the amount of tuition.

Student Population:
School Type:
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Careers & Salary with a Master’s in Public Health

Students who enter an online public health master’s program can choose from a wide variety of concentrations, all designed to put them on a targeted path to a career. Below are the most popular concentrations, as well as the careers that a student might pursue after graduation:

Concentrations
Epidemiology

This concentration dives in-depth on topics regarding disease incidence and distribution, and explores ways to control diseases and other illnesses in a large population. Courses in biostatistics, probability, infectious disease control and research methods are common across online schools teaching this concentration.

Career:
Epidemiologist
Epidemiologist

Plans and directs studies that focus on particular health or societal issues, then analyzes the gathered research and forms conclusions about how to improve public health.

Biological Technician
Biological Technician

Works in laboratories, hospitals, offices and similar facilities. Technicians conduct experiments and analyze the results, then report those results to biological scientists, medical scientists, epidemiologists and other colleagues.

Infection Control Specialist
Infection Control Specialist

Assesses, diagnoses and treats infections. Infection control specialists are typically physicians, and they might also help pinpoint the source of an infection, determine if and how it is spreading, and alert the proper healthcare bodies to the issue.

Food, Nutrition and Health

What goes into our bodies has a great deal of influence on our health, disease risk, susceptibility to illness and even our recovery time from injury. This concentration features courses in nutrition, probability, statistics, physical activity and chronic disease, all of which emphasize the links between public health and nutrition.

Career:
Nutritionist
Nutritionist

Helps clients lead healthier lives through better nutrition. Nutritionists might work in private practices, gyms, schools, hospitals, businesses or other organizations with a vested interest in keeping everyone healthy.

Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse

Focuses on patient care via assessment, diagnosis and treatment. RNs with a degree in public heath might take on roles as public educators or work in a public capacity, perhaps at a health department.

Health Care and Prevention

The focus of this concentration is exactly what it sounds like — providing excellent healthcare while preventing disease and illnesses. Courses in the concentration might involve nutrition, public health outreach, infection prevention or advanced nursing skills.

Career:
Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse

Focuses on patient care via assessment, diagnosis and treatment. RNs with a degree in public heath might take on roles as public educators or work in a public capacity, perhaps at a health department.

Infection Control Specialist
Infection Control Specialist

Assesses, diagnoses and treats infections. Infection control specialists are typically physicians, and they might also help pinpoint the source of an infection, determine if and how it is spreading, and alert the proper healthcare bodies to the issue.

Biological Technician, Nutritionist
Biological Technician, Nutritionist

Works in laboratories, hospitals, offices and similar facilities. Technicians conduct experiments and analyze the results, then report those results to biological scientists, medical scientists, epidemiologists and other colleagues.

Leadership and Public Health Practice

This concentration is for students who want to move into administrative positions, including hospital administrator, lobbyist or insurance specialist. Courses focus on human resources, management, ethics and the like. Students can also use this concentration as a stepping stone to a doctoral degree.

Career:
Public Health Lobbyist
Public Health Lobbyist

Analyzes and researches new legislation, then persuades Congress and other government actors to vote in a certain way to appease a particular group or organization.

Health Insurance Specialist
Health Insurance Specialist

Works in various healthcare facilities to process insurance claims, ensure the proper medical coding has been applied, and maintain patient records.

Nursing Home Administrator
Nursing Home Administrator

Oversees everything concerning a nursing home, including staff, the facility itself, and compliance and regulatory issues. Administrators work closely with patients’ families to ensure the health, safety and happiness of residents.

Administrative Services Manager
Administrative Services Manager

Plans, directs and coordinates the administrative services at healthcare organizations, hospitals and other facilities. Administrative services managers’ responsibilities vary widely depending upon where they work, but, ultimately, their job is to keep everything running smoothly.

Women’s and Reproductive Health

This concentration educates students about ways to keep mothers and their children as healthy as possible. Course titles might include Statistical Analysis, Reproductive and Perinatal Epidemiology, Family Planning, Adolescent Health and Research Methods.

Career:
Registered Nurse
Registered Nurse

Focuses on patient care via assessment, diagnosis and treatment. RNs with a degree in public heath might take on roles as public educators or work in a public capacity, perhaps at a health department.

Maternal and Child Health Specialist
Maternal and Child Health Specialist

Sees to the health and well-being of mothers and their children by providing reproductive services, prenatal care, assistance during and after childbirth, or growth and development tracking.

Potential Salary Increases with a Master’s Degree

Those who earn a master’s degree in public health could see a substantial boost in income as well as many job opportunities. Though a bachelor’s degree will often be enough for an entry-level position, advancement might be tough without a graduate degree. For instance, federal and state health agencies often require health educators to hold a graduate degree.

In terms of long-term earning potential, workers with a bachelor’s degree in public health reported on PayScale.com that they earned anywhere from $29,860 to $85,000 annually, while workers with a master’s in public health reported earning $40,268 to $96,098. The salary potential of a master’s degree in public health can be seen in the difference between earnings for community health workers and health educators, who perform similar job functions. The former only have to hold high school diplomas and are compensated at an average annual rate of $34,870, whereas the latter have bachelor’s or master’s degrees and make an annual salary of $50,430.

Growth potential 19%
Average salary $50,430

Additional Resources & Links

The following resources can be quite helpful to those in the realm of public health, whether they are aspiring students or have several years of experience behind them.

Best Online Master’s in Public Health Degrees

With so many online public health master’s degrees to choose from, how can students narrow down the options? Checking out each school and finding all the nitty-gritty details can be an exhausting task. Fortunately, we have made this much easier through the Best Online Master’s in Public Health Degrees for 2015-2016 rankings. Want to know how we chose these schools as the best of the best?

Check out our methodology to learn more.

RANK COLLEGE SCORE TEACHER/STUDENT RATIO COST GRADUATION RATE
1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 100.00 13:1 90%
2 University of Southern California 96.25 9:1 91%
3 University of California-Berkeley 95.50 17:1 91%
4 University of Florida 95.00 21:1 88%
4 Tulane University of Louisiana 95.00 9:1 83%
4 East Carolina University 95.00 18:1 59%
7 Nebraska Methodist College of Nursing & Allied Health 94.75 12:1 66%
8 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University 94.50 15:1 40%
9 University of Vermont 94.00 15:1 76%
9 University of South Carolina-Columbia 94.00 18:1 73%
9 University of Minnesota-Twin Cities 94.00 17:1 78%
9 New Mexico State University-Main Campus 94.00 17:1 46%
9 Michigan State University 94.00 17:1 79%
14 Cedarville University 93.75 13:1 70%
15 South Dakota State University 93.25 17:1 57%
16 The University of Montana 92.75 18:1 48%
16 SUNY at Albany 92.75 18:1 66%
18 Loyola University Chicago 92.50 14:1 73%
19 Concord University 92.00 15:1 34%
20 University of Alabama at Birmingham 91.75 18:1 56%
21 University of Memphis 91.50 14:1 44%
21 University of Illinois at Springfield 91.50 14:1 49%
23 University of South Florida-Main Campus 91.25 25:1 67%
23 Idaho State University 91.25 16:1 33%
25 University of New England 91.00 13:1 57%
26 Oklahoma State University-Main Campus 90.50 20:1 61%
27 Indiana Wesleyan University 90.25 16:1 63%
27 Benedictine University 90.25 13:1 51%
29 West Virginia University 89.75 21:1 57%
29 University of Missouri-Columbia 89.75 20:1 69%
29 Pennsylvania State University-World Campus 89.75 12:1 25%
32 University of North Dakota 89.00 19:1 55%
32 University of Alaska Anchorage 89.00 19:1 25%
32 The University of West Florida 89.00 23:1 51%
32 East Tennessee State University 89.00 18:1 43%
36 Nova Southeastern University 87.00 16:1 46%
37 Jacksonville State University 86.50 19:1 93.75%
38 Liberty University 86.00 18:1 50%
38 Independence University 86.00 25:1 72%
40 University of Akron Main Campus 85.25 19:1 42%
41 National University 83.25 20:1 40%