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Online Master’s Programs in Public Health

Updated on: 09/20/2018

If you’re already working in a health profession or have a bachelor’s degree in a health-related field, you may be interested in pursuing a master’s degree in public health to expand your ability to provide public health education, epidemiology, community health programs and health support services. An online degree program allows working professionals to expand their practice. It can also be the pathway to a new career, such as at a government agency or community health program. Learn more about online MPH degrees, including the top schools, what you can expect from the program and possible career paths.

Best Online Master’s in Public Health 2018-2019

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Get Seal Methodology 2-Year Schools

To create our rankings for the best online master’s degrees in public health, we rely on information provided by the U.S. Department of Education and the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. We also collect information from published materials from the colleges and universities included here. Each of the ranked schools has been accredited to ensure it provides a quality education.

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Rank School Name Location Tuition Financial Aid Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate # of Online Programs Credit for Experience Placement Services Counseling Services University Information
1 Mississippi College Clinton, Mississippi$10,20699%49%54%1No Yes Yes School website
2 Independence University Salt Lake City, Utah$15,61679%-100%1Yes Yes Yes School website
3 University of Alabama at Birmingham Birmingham, Alabama$7,58877%58%59%1Yes Yes Yes School website
4 University of Illinois at Springfield Springfield, Illinois$8,62485%65%52%1Yes Yes Yes School website
5 East Carolina University Greenville, North Carolina$4,65642%70%61%3No Yes Yes School website
6 University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, California$11,22053%17%93%1No Yes Yes School website
7 University of South Florida-Main Campus Tampa, Florida$8,35069%47%71%1No Yes Yes School website
8 South Dakota State University Brookings, South Dakota$7,51657%91%60%1Yes Yes Yes School website
9 Kent State University at Kent Kent, Ohio$11,09079%85%58%1No Yes Yes School website
10 North Dakota State University-Main Campus Fargo, North Dakota$5,57041%93%58%1Yes No Yes School website
11 National University La Jolla, California$11,2324%-50%1Yes Yes Yes School website
12 University of Massachusetts-Amherst Amherst, Massachusetts$13,52465%60%77%1Yes Yes Yes School website
13 University of South Carolina-Columbia Columbia, South Carolina$12,39859%68%74%3No Yes Yes School website
14 University of Montana Missoula, Montana$4,13552%92%53%1Yes Yes Yes School website
15 University of Missouri Columbia, Missouri$8,46264%75%71%1No Yes Yes School website
16 University of Maryland-College Park College Park, Maryland$11,71852%48%85%1No Yes Yes School website
17 San Jose State University San Jose, California$6,73834%53%61%1No Yes Yes School website
18 Cleveland University-Kansas City Overland Park, Kansas$11,500--100%1No No No School website
19 Jacksonville State University Jacksonville, Alabama$8,90461%53%34%1Yes Yes Yes School website
20 Concord University Athens, West Virginia$7,60062%81%36%1Yes Yes Yes School website
21 Lamar University Beaumont, Texas$6,04820%76%38%1Yes Yes Yes School website
22 Oregon State University Corvallis, Oregon$12,15067%77%67%1No Yes Yes School website
23 University of Memphis Memphis, Tennessee$8,82044%57%46%1Yes Yes Yes School website
24 University of Vermont Burlington, Vermont$15,09692%69%76%1No Yes Yes School website
25 University of North Dakota Grand Forks, North Dakota$7,18554%84%57%1No Yes Yes School website
26 University of Arizona Tucson, Arizona$11,37274%79%63%1No Yes Yes School website
27 Idaho State University Pocatello, Idaho$6,78962%-36%1Yes Yes Yes School website
28 East Tennessee State University Johnson City, Tennessee$7,99229%92%46%1Yes Yes Yes School website
29 University of Colorado Denver/Anschutz Medical Campus Denver, Colorado$6,71445%61%45%1No Yes Yes School website
30 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Tallahassee, Florida$8,01955%31%46%1Yes Yes Yes School website
31 The University of West Florida Pensacola, Florida$7,08864%41%55%1No Yes Yes School website
32 Georgia Institute of Technology Atlanta, Georgia$13,45225%26%84%1No Yes Yes School website
33 University at Albany Albany, New York$10,87061%54%67%1No No Yes School website
34 University of Alaska Anchorage Anchorage, Alaska$9,76830%83%34%1No Yes Yes School website
35 Everglades University Boca Raton, Florida$16,80040%74%52%1No Yes Yes School website
36 University of Nebraska Medical Center Omaha, Nebraska$7,911---1Yes No Yes School website
37 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los Angeles Los Angeles, California$24,300-44%-1No No Yes School website
38 Oregon Health & Science University Portland, Oregon$20,412---2No No Yes School website

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Public Health Program?

An online master’s degree in public health typically takes two years to complete, although there is flexibility to meet students’ needs. Most require 42 to 48 credits. Courses focus on science, health and community development, giving students the skills needed to do research, work on policy, provide education and work in disease prevention. The focus is always on health as it impacts groups, communities, countries or the world population at large, so topics such as the environment or statistics are viewed through this lens.

Most students choose a specialization, so they can hone their skills to fit a particular job, such as epidemiologist or public health nurse. Experience gained through internships is a valuable component of this degree as learning hands-on skills is crucial for most public health professionals. Online public health master’s degree programs may offer fewer arranged internships and practicum opportunities than on-campus programs, or they may require students to find internship opportunities in their own communities.

What common courses are offered in a master’s in public health program?

Specific course titles vary, but some of the courses you can commonly expect to find include:

Epidemiology

This course teaches students how and why diseases spread. Students learn how to gather and analyze public health data.

Biostatistics

Biostatistics introduces students to the sensitivity and predictive value of medical tests and how to gather and interpret health data. Statistical significance and how to calculate statistical formulas are part of the coursework.

Health Services Administration

Students learn the basics of health delivery systems, leadership and executive skills, strategic planning and organizational communication.

Global Health

Courses in global health focus on exploring international concerns in the health field, including disaster response, treating and preventing pandemic diseases, providing access to health services and the social and biological factors that create global health challenges.

Environmental Health

Students learn how to identify environmental factors that have an impact on health and to develop tools that support an environment that is healthy. The course offers information on assessing risk, evaluating the impact of human activity and more.

What exams or projects should I expect?

Most courses in MPH programs require exams, papers and projects. Many programs require students to complete an internship and/or participate in practicum courses where they can actively apply their knowledge. Graduates are not required to pass a board or certificate exam, however a student can choose to apply for a Certified in Public Health credential from the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE).

What specializations are available in a master’s in public health program?

There are a variety of specialization options available for online master’s degrees in public health, particularly because public health is such a multidisciplinary field.

Epidemiology

A specialization in epidemiology focuses on tracking and analyzing trends in public health. Students learn to create and implement public health studies and investigate the origins of health problems. Courses teach how to prevent and intervene at all levels of society.

Environmental Health

MPH specialization in environmental health teaches students to identify and investigate environmental causes of disease that impacts communities and individuals. There may be an emphasis on workplace hazards and how to evaluate and reduce those risks.

Biostatistics

A biostatistics specialty track focuses on statistical models, computing, inference, probability and analysis. It also teaches data collection techniques. This specialization prepares students for careers as researchers.

Health Education/Prevention

Students who choose this specialization learn how to interact with and influence individuals and communities to improve health outcomes by providing information, teaching skills, setting priorities and implementing procedures.

Health Policy and Management/Joint MBA

It is possible to earn a joint degree with an MPH and an MBA (master’s of business administration). This type of specialization focuses on how to apply public health concepts through business models with courses on health budgeting, management of public health entities and public health laws.

What Can I do with a Master’s in Public Health Degree?

A master’s in public health opens the door to a wide variety of careers and professional opportunities.

Epidemiologist

Epidemiologists work to determine patterns and causes of illness and disease. They try to reduce negative public health outcomes using research, education, outreach and policy initiatives. An epidemiologist might work in a laboratory doing research, or in an office creating policy and procedures. Other epidemiologists work in the field collecting samples and data. Career paths are often through government agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). An MPH with a specialization in epidemiology is necessary for this type of work.

Health Educator

The goal of a health educator is to educate people about wellness. Health educators work in schools, community organizations, non-profit organizations, physician’s offices, departments of public health or other government agencies. They might teach classes, counsel people individually, plan community programs or handle intakes of patients into programs. Many health educators are Certified Public Health Specialists and focused their MPH degree on health education.

Biostatistician

Collecting and reviewing data is the main responsibility of a biostatistician. Professional biostatisticians conduct research and analyze data to answer questions about public health. They may work with other medical professionals to develop studies. A specialization in biostatistics is required as part of the MPH degree for this career path.

Disaster and Emergency Specialist

When disasters or emergencies strike, these professionals are on hand to coordinate health efforts, create plans to provide for health care and implement procedures to prevent further public health dangers. A large part of their job involves planning for and rehearsing for every foreseeable event that could have a detrimental effect on public health. Specialization in environmental public health is important for this career.

Public Health Nurse

A career as a public health nurse allows professionals to combine a nursing degree with an MPH for a specialized career path. These professionals may work in a government agency, school, correctional facility or business to reduce or eliminate public health risks. Some public health nurses do home visits with patients and refer families to needed services while also providing hands-on nursing care. Others work in the community, creating programs to improve public health or coordinating assessments to evaluate public health concerns.

Environmental Health Specialist

Work in this field focuses on exploring, analyzing, responding to and preparing for public health issues caused by environmental or occupational hazards. Professionals often work for governmental health departments or environmental agencies. Others work for companies or consultant groups who focus on workplace health concerns. Jobs might involve food safety, air quality, water contamination, waste management, noise management or radiation protection. Specialization in environmental public health is required.

Professional organizations in public health provide opportunities for networking, continuing education and advocacy. Here are a few organizations to consider joining.

American Public Health Association (APHA)

The APHA is known for its influence on national and international public health policies. The organization publishes a journal and newspaper that keeps members up to date on key issues. The annual meeting provides an opportunity for continuing education and networking. They offer student and early career memberships to help those starting out in the profession.

American College of Epidemiology (ACE)

ACE sponsors professional publications, educational opportunities and scientific meetings. The organization also advocates for policies that support epidemiology, public health and science. Admission is based on credentials and involves a promotion procedure in which members who are the most experienced receive the highest recognition.

Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE)

The focus of SOPHE is supporting health education professionals and students who work in schools, organizations, healthcare agencies and government. SOPHE advocates for health promotion policies and research. They offer conferences, publications, networking opportunities and fellowships to their network. They also certify health education specialists. Student memberships are available.

Global Health Council

The Global Health Council’s mission is to improve global health though investment and policies. It created the Women Leaders in Global Health Initiative to represent the women who make up a large majority of global health workers. They also have a global advocacy hub that provides information, tools and resources for members. Monthly salons allow members to keep in touch.

How Much Can I Make with a Career in Public Health?

The career path you choose as a public health professional will directly impact the salary you can expect to earn. Salaries increase with years of experience.

Career Lowest 10% Earned Annually Median Annual Salary Highest 10% Earned Annually Job Growth 2016-2026
Epidemiologist Less than $42,810 $69,660 More than $113,560 +9%
Health Educators Less than $25,150 $38,370 More than $64,500 +16%
Emergency Management Director Less than $38,270 $72,760 More than $141,620 +8%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018

Public health-related careers in general are growing as fast or faster than average. The field of health education, in particular, is expected to grow 16 percent which is much faster than average and likely in response to the efforts to reduce healthcare costs. In addition to having more advanced education, workers in this field who speak a foreign language may have an advantage over other job seekers.

Online Master’s in Public Health Program Accreditation

The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is an independent agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for accrediting public health schools and programs. To receive accreditation, each school and program must submit a detailed accreditation criteria report which addresses topics such as student engagement, diversity, graduation rates, ethics, guiding statements, foundational competencies, evaluation practices, applied practice experiences, faculty resources and effectiveness, community involvement, student complaints and technology resources.

The accreditation process involves intensive peer review of the school’s operating policies and practices. The decision-making body then makes the accreditation decision based on all of the findings as well as public comments, formal complaints and comments from the school. Programs that receive accreditation are periodically reviewed to ensure they continue to meet the standards of the CEPH.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Public Health Degree

There are a variety of ways students can find assistance paying for an MPH degree. Here are a few options: