This site offers comprehensive resources and tools to learn about public health degrees, including online public health bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, in-person doctoral degree programs and industry-specific data, adding to a total of 150+ schools and 2,000+ accredited public health degrees. Many of them are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).
Public health encompasses disease prevention, monitoring health conditions worldwide and implementing policies to protect a specific community or the global community.
Why Is Public Health Important?
The importance of public health is evident. Professionals in the field help keep communities around the world safe, protected and healthy. Public health initiatives have led to countless innovations and improvements in life expectancy and the ability to recover from (and reduce or eradicate the spread of) communicable diseases, as well as a global reduction in infant and child mortality. Since 1900, the global average life expectancy has more than doubled, from 30 years to more than 70. This is a product of our advancement in public health.
Overview of Public Health in the United States
Public health in the United States is an expansive field with a long history and thousands of people working for agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration. From mitigating climate-related health risks to exploring disease prevention strategies to developing emergency response plans in times of crisis, the country’s public health professionals work across a range of industries to ensure that communities remain healthy and safe.
What Is a Public Health Degree?
A public health degree prepares prospective public health professionals to work in many industries, from environmental health and global health to epidemiology, biostatistics and behavioral and social sciences. Regardless of the type of public health degree you choose to pursue, curricula consist of basic public health theories, concepts, history and tactics for educating and influencing communities. Public health programs allow students to develop specific skills for different specializations—cultivating the appropriate expertise for the associated career.
Where Can You Get a Public Health Degree?
Public health degrees are offered at public health colleges and universities, as well as some medical schools across the United States. Some schools have public health programs that can be completed online, either in full or with some on-campus components.
Look for schools with programs accredited by the CEPH; this is a marker ensuring the quality and standards of public health education.
Careers for graduates with bachelor’s degrees are typically entry-level positions with a focus on health education, program support and data collection. Careers for graduates with master’s degrees lean more toward data collection setup and analysis or community organization, with responsibilities often suited to roles in research, academia, statistics, epidemiology and health policy. As experts in their fields, graduates with doctoral degrees may be called upon by organizations to help solve issues at the forefront of the industry.
There are different types of public health degrees you can choose from. To find a public health degree that’s right for you, consider your long-term career goals and areas of interest.
Public Health Degrees by Education Level
Undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate—there are public health degrees available at all these levels.
Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health
A bachelor’s degree indicates you have established a foundation of knowledge and learned about general public health topics at an introductory level.
Most public health undergraduate programs offer electives so you can explore new areas to potentially specialize in later. Options for a bachelor’s degree program in public health are available on campus and online. Learn more about bachelor’s degrees in public health.
Department of Public Health
Bachelor of Science in Public Health
Women with 17+ prior college credits or an associate degree: Complete your bachelor’s degree in a supportive women’s online public health BS program.
Up to 96 transfer credits accepted, plus credit for life experience
Degree programs are designed for working professionals and can be completed part time
Master’s Degree in Public Health
A master’s degree indicates you have built upon your foundational knowledge and are focused on advancing your understanding of public health on a local and global level. Apart from Master of Public Health, there are also MPH/RD programs for students who want to become registered dietitians (RDs), master’s in healthcare administration programs that prepare students for healthcare leadership roles by covering the regulations and policies that affect healthcare service providers, master’s in health informatics degree programs that combine technology, analytics and healthcare to help improve patient outcomes.
Most public health master’s degree programs offer specific concentrations so you can specialize in an area of interest, such as epidemiology or community planning. Learn more about master’s degrees in public health.
A doctoral degree in public health indicates you have achieved a high level of expertise in the industry. This terminal degree prepares you to qualify for some of the more advanced roles in research, academia and public policy.
Most public health doctoral degree programs offer courses that focus on leadership, policy and program management. These degree programs may also require advanced field experience.
Earning a public health degree typically involves choosing a concentration after completing an undergraduate program. Public health concentrations allow you to dive into specific subject matter and advance your knowledge and skills to excel in your area of interest.
Biostatistics students learn about the principles of statistics, biological experiments and sampling. Given the way that technology and “big data” are changing (and benefiting) the biostatistics field, this is a fast-evolving concentration. Many biostatistics programs are master’s level or above. Biostatistics graduates can work in areas such as data science, information technology and biomedical research.
Community health students learn how to identify the factors that influence health problems and analyze disparities across and within communities. Community health program graduates can work in areas such as community health education or health promotion, and help to design prevention programs, although there is no limit to the number of directions you can take this degree.
Epidemiology students learn about patterns, causes and effects of diseases and other factors relating to health. Much of the epidemiology field is based on facts, figures and case studies—among other things—to identify public health solutions and control measures. Epidemiology graduates can work in research and academia, for nonprofits, pharmaceutical or insurance companies.
Global health students learn about disparities in global public health and other health issues worldwide. Many global health degrees are at the master’s level. Global health graduates can work in education and public policy.
Environmental health (or environmental health sciences) students learn about the environment and how it affects human health. Environmental health graduates can focus on disease prevention, occupational hazards or other topics at the intersection of human and environmental health.
Occupational health students learn about health and safety in the workplace, regardless of industry. Typically, an occupational health professional educates employees on how to reduce hazards and prevent injury or illness in the workplace. Occupational health graduates can work in occupational therapy and occupational medicine.
Nutrition students learn about food production as well as the science of nutrients and their effects on the human body. A nutrition graduate also has some knowledge about the social factors that affect nutrition. Some professionals are self-employed, while others work in hospitals, nursing and residential care facilities and elsewhere.
Your preferred learning environment. Public health degrees are offered online and on campus. Consider which format matches your preferred learning environment.
Online Degrees vs. Degrees in Your State
Some MPH programs are offered on campus and some public health programs can be completed online. Your needs and lifestyle will often determine which type of program is best for you. If your desired school is outside your state, would you prefer to relocate or seek alternative offerings that allow for remote study? There are many online MPH programs available. Before selecting one of them, consider the pros and cons of completing a degree program online. Specialty areas are also important to consider during the decision-making process. Depending on your interests, you can choose to enroll in an online MHA program, online master’s in health informatics or another concentration.
Think through all your options—in-state, out-of-state, on-campus, online, full-time or part-time—to make the most informed decision based on your circumstances.
Popular Career Paths
The public health field can offer a meaningful opportunity to do something for the greater good of the population, regardless of the size of the community you serve. No matter what route you take, a career in public health requires forging partnerships and advocating for others.
Before enrolling in a program, learning about potential public health career paths can help you develop clarity and goals. Some popular public health career choices include epidemiologists, who analyze the causes and distribution of diseases across populations; biostatisticians, who apply mathematics and statistical methods to answer questions; registered dietitians, who handle issues related to nutrition and dietetics; and healthcare administrators, who manage the day-to-day operations and help medical facilities running smoothly.
There are a variety of career opportunities in public health. Employers seeking graduates with MPH degrees include colleges and universities, government agencies, nonprofits and research and development firms.
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