Earn a Bachelor's in Public Health
Public health professionals promote healthy lifestyles, help prevent injury and disease, and strive to prolong life among communities and societies. Students who pursue a public health degree learn about food security, vector- and water-borne diseases, and social disruption and displacement brought about by extreme weather conditions. Public health graduates can work in many roles, including community health educator, social program administrator, and environment researcher.
Schools may offer a bachelor of arts (BA) or a bachelor of science (BS) in public health. A BA program typically includes more social science coursework, while a BS focuses on natural or hard science. Some colleges offer a bachelor of applied science in public health composed mostly classes in the major.
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Q. What can you do with a bachelor's in public health?
Graduates of an accredited bachelor's in public health program can work in many diverse roles, including as health educators, community service managers, and occupational health specialists.
Q. Is a BA or BS in public health better?
One degree type is not better than the other. A BA program generally focuses on social sciences, while a BS program includes more classes in natural sciences.
Q. How long is a bachelor's in public health?
Most on-campus bachelor's in public health programs take four years to complete. Online programs often follow accelerated delivery schedules, so enrollees may finish sooner.
Q. Is public health a hard major?
As with other majors, the difficulty level of a public health program depends on enrollees' willingness to invest the effort to fulfill program requirements.
Why Get a Degree in Public Health?
Public health practitioners work with diverse client groups, often depending on their specialization and professional interests. Accredited public health programs prepare graduates for the demands of this multifaceted professional arena. See below for some reasons students choose to pursue a public health degree.
A well-developed curriculum in public health includes coursework in the field's latest research developments and findings.
Although most master's in public health programs accept applications from students with a degree in an unrelated field, schools typically prefer applicants with a health-related bachelor's degree.
Public health leadership positions and many well-funded research projects often go to practitioners with at least a bachelor's degree.
A bachelor's degree, especially in a field like public health, presents the holder as a knowledgeable and ethical professional with skills honed through four years of study.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, bachelor's degree-holders enjoy a lower unemployment rate (2.2%) compared to associate-trained workers (2.7%), and employees with some college but no degree (3.3%).
How Much Does a Public Health Major Make?
Graduates of public health bachelor's programs often qualify to work as community health workers or social and community service managers. Completing a master's in the field can lead to more prominent and high-paying positions such as epidemiologist and survey researcher. Public health majors who cannot commit to pursuing a master's degree can earn a graduate certificate in the field to update or expand their knowledge and improve their earning potential.
Bachelor's in Public Health Program Requirements
A BS in public health may require applicants to show completion of prerequisite science coursework such as chemistry and biology. Prerequisite courses for a BA program may include social sciences and humanities classes. Some programs also require applicants to meet a minimum GPA.
Public health bachelor's programs often include an internship or practicum component to allow enrollees to apply classroom knowledge in real-world situations. Because public health is a broad field of study, graduates often pursue further study in specialized areas. Research directorship and other top leadership positions in public health require at least a master's degree and often a doctorate.
Courses in a Public Health Bachelor's Program
A well-developed bachelor's in public health program includes foundation courses such as public health data analysis, community health program planning, and environmental health. Students also enroll in classes in research methodology, grant writing, and communication.
Some of the best public health bachelor's programs offer specializations in fields like healthcare administration, biostatistics, and disaster management. Most public health bachelor's programs require enrollees to complete an internship experience prior to graduation.
Healthcare Delivery SystemsThis course covers topics such as healthcare regulations and financing, technological advances in modern healthcare delivery, and state and federal policy-setting procedures that impact healthcare access. Students also explore the use and management of electronic health records and learn how to identify aspects in healthcare delivery systems that may put patients at risk.
Environmental HealthStudents explore foundational topics such as toxicology, environmental risk assessment methods, epidemiology, and risk management and communication. Case studies and fieldwork enable enrollees to explore issues such as susceptibility and inequality factors in environmental health, emerging environmental hazards, and exposure assessment.
Introduction to EpidemiologyEnrollees examine the causes, effects, and patterns of diseases and health conditions in different populations and locations. Students learn how to use this information to address public health issues, develop and implement effective community healthcare programs, and craft policies and regulations that improve health conditions across specific population segments.
Scholarships for Public Health
Many colleges and universities offer need- and merit-based scholarships, which do not require repayment. Students can also research scholarships from professional associations, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies with vested interests in public health education. See below for three scholarships available to students seeking a bachelor's in public health.
Scholarships for Public Health
||Who Can Apply
|Varies for each scholarship (up to $5,000)
||The American College of Medical Practice Executives welcomes applications from undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a program related to medical practice management, including public health.
James M. & Erma T. Freemont Foundation Scholarship Program
||This program accepts applications from high school seniors, undergraduates, and graduate students planning to pursue or currently enrolled in a program in health and medical sciences with a history of volunteerism and community involvement.
Vivian Drenckhahn Student Scholarship
||The Society for Public Health Education opens this scholarship to members enrolled full time in an undergraduate or graduate program in an eligible field, including public health. Applicants must demonstrate financial need.
Best Online Public Health Degrees 2021
Eastern Washington University
A public college near Spokane, EWU offers one of the Pacific Northwest's top public health degrees. The public health BS highlights health inequities and social justice's role in public health. Students explore major health behavior theories and gain skills to design and assess health promotion programs. The degree prepares graduates for the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing exam.
The curriculum comprises 88-114 credits and includes core courses, supporting courses, and electives. Core classes build broad knowledge in areas including epidemiology, medical terminology, and health behavior change. Support courses develop relevant statistics, public speaking, and publication design skills. Electives let candidates explore professional interest areas, such as health communication, suicide prevention, and tribal governance.
Degree candidates can also select a related academic minor. Typical choices include addiction counseling and prevention, race and culture studies, and health services management.
Texas A & M University-College Station
College Station, TX
One of the country's largest public colleges, Texas A&M serves over 71,000 students from its College Station campus. Following disease prevention and health promotion principles, the public health BS explores strategies to improve health conditions. The public health program focuses on four key themes: health determinants, data and information, health challenges, and public health design.
For candidates interested in graduate study, Texas A&M offers a 3+2 program in epidemiology. The accelerated pathway lets students earn a public health bachelor's and an MPH in epidemiology in just five years total. Qualified public health students apply for the intensive program during their junior year. Admitted students begin taking graduate courses during their senior year.
Rutgers University-New Brunswick
New Brunswick, NJ
Serving students throughout New Jersey, Rutgers offers one of the state's top-ranked public health degrees. The public health BS highlights public health's role in disease prevention, health management, and public planning. Degree-seekers benefit from Rutgers' proximity to major health organizations, including two academic hospitals and Johnson & Johnson's headquarters.
Public health degree-seekers complete 46 major credits, including global health perspectives and health disparities courses. Candidates select from several additional electives exploring various specialized health topics. The program includes a six-credit, 225-hour public health internship.
Rutgers offers an accelerated BA or BS/MPH pathway. The program lets qualified students begin their MPH earlier and graduate faster than traditional programs.
A major public college in Tucson, UofA hosts one of the Southwest's top public health degrees. The public health BS holds accreditation from the Council of Education for Public Health, the only program in Arizona to do so.
The public health curriculum includes core, internship, and emphasis courses. Core classes build foundational skills in physiology, epidemiology, and health education and promotion. Candidates complete six internship credits, giving them experience in a real-world public health environment.
UofA's public health program offers emphases in global health, health promotion, and health systems. Students customize their degree through their emphasis choice, preparing them for different professional outcomes. The global health track, for example, focuses on international approaches to public health.
University of Missouri-Columbia
The flagship campus of the University of Missouri system, Mizzou educates over 30,000 students from its Columbia campus. The bachelor of health science emphasizes health promotion and protection for individuals and communities. Graduates commonly pursue careers in epidemiology, health education, and environmental health.
Candidates complete a public health major core, diversity courses, and a culminating requirement. Diversity courses explore public health approaches to issues such as autism, chronic diseases, and infectious diseases. The culminating course features two options: a digital storytelling capstone or an emerging public health issues course.
The public health degree follows a 100% online format with no required campus visits. Mizzou allows both full- and part-time enrollment. The degree options offer a practical choice for working professionals needing to balance school with other obligations.
University of Southern Mississippi
A major public college in Hattiesburg, Southern Miss hosts one of the South's top public health degrees. The public health BS offers three concentrations: health education, health policy and administration, and allied health. Southern Miss hosts the public health and health policy concentrations at its Hattiesburg and Gulf Park campuses. Students earn the allied health concentration exclusively online.
Candidates in all concentrations complete core courses in personal wellness, introduction to epidemiology, and introduction to health systems. The health education and health policy tracks comprise 48-51 major credits. The allied health track requires 30 major credits. Health education and health policy majors complete additional required courses including medical terminology and introduction to information literacy.
During the program's final semester, health education and health policy majors complete a three-credit practicum. The experience gives learners hands-on practice in a public health environment. Southern Miss maintains connections to over 100 practicum sites statewide.
Delaware State University
One of Delaware's top public colleges, Dover-based DSU offers a BS in public health. Combining healthcare, science, and theory, enrollees focus on enhancing community well-being. The public health degree emphasizes programming planning and evaluation, management, and policy analysis. Graduates commonly pursue careers with public health agencies and health promotion offices.
Degree-seekers complete 122 credits, typically graduating in four years of full-time enrollment. Common courses include infectious disease and injury prevention, principles of epidemiology, and school and community health education. The curriculum builds broad skills in health advocacy, resource policy management, and health promotion service coordination.
During the final semester, candidates complete a 12-credit practicum experience in a professional public health environment. Participants write a significant fieldwork reflection paper and present their findings in an oral report.
California Baptist University
A private college with Southern Baptist Convention affiliation, CBU operates a main campus in Riverside. Public health BS students identify and address community health problems and advocate for local and global health promotion. The public health program offers concentrations in environmental health or health education and promotion.
All candidates complete 45 core credits, covering topics such as U.S. healthcare delivery and healthcare policy. The environmental health concentration requires 35 additional credits. The health education and promotion concentration entails 15 additional credits.
Health education and promotion students must also complete a three-credit culminating requirement. Learners choose between a practicum or capstone. The practicum requires a supervised community internship. The capstone requires candidates to prepare a presentation reflecting on their overall learning experience.
Central Washington University
Based in Ellensburg, CWU hosts one of the Pacific Northwest's top-ranked public health degrees. The public health BS gives students the tools to prevent disease and address social inequities. Graduates build public health policies and programs to enhance community wellness. The public health program offers both on-campus and online enrollment options. Students can begin in the fall or winter.
The 66-credit curriculum covers cross cultural practice in public health, infectious and non-infectious diseases, and public health ethics. All candidates complete a 400-hour internship at an approved public health organization.
CWU offers optional specializations in population health and pre-nursing. The tracks require 24 and 49 additional credits, respectively. Pre-nursing candidates should note that CWU does not offer a nursing degree. However, the curriculum prepares graduates to transfer into nursing programs statewide.
Youngstown State University
A public college in Youngstown, Ohio, YSU offers a bachelor of science in applied science in public health. Focusing on disease prevention and health education, the degree prepares graduates for the Certified Health Education Specialist credential. YSU offers all public health degree courses fully online.
Learners concentrate in environmental health or health promotion and protection. The environmental health track includes 128-130 credits. The health promotion and protection track entails 121-123 credits. YSU also offers complimentary minors in environmental health and safety or community health planning and evaluation.
For candidates interested in graduate study, YSU's 4+1 program lets qualified bachelor's students earn an MPH in just one additional year. Candidates apply to the 4+1 program after completing 78 undergraduate credits with a minimum 3.3 GPA.