What Are Short Courses in Public Health?

Continued education in public health is one of the best ways to stay up to date on public health developments, which are often changing and evolving. You may be wondering about short courses in public health and whether they’d benefit your professional growth and work. Compared to other education options like a master of public health, are short courses worth it?

Use this guide to navigate your options as you advance your career with online short courses in public health.


Explore Public Health Online Short Courses

Harvard University Global Health Delivery Short Course

Join a network of leaders as you learn to leverage innovative approaches to global health delivery.

  • Flexible Structure
  • 10 weeks, Entirely Online

George Washington University Healthcare Management Short Course

Learn to plan strategically and respond to changing medical environments in the Healthcare Management online short course.

  • Led by thought leaders
  • 8 week online short course

Stanford Center for Health Education Nutrition Science Short Course

Unpack the various debates surrounding nutrition in order to learn the fundamentals of a good diet.

  • Flexible learning with personalized support
  • 8 weeks, Entirely Online

University of Cape Town Occupational Health and Safety Short Course

Gain the skills to effectively conduct risk assessments, and manage hazards and incidents in your company.

  • 10 weeks, Entirely Online
  • 7- 10 hours per week of self-paced learning online

Short Courses in Public Health Description

Short courses are shorter than average university degree programs and enable students to learn more about a topic without having to commit to a full degree program.

Often, short courses are offered by reputable universities and colleges or professional organizations. Some have curriculums like four-, three- or two-year programs. The difference is, you’re only getting a snippet of the larger topic. A short course in public health might focus on one area of a larger course, or it might condense a broad topic into a high-level overview of public health, such as health informatics, health care management, etc.

After you finish a short course, you may be offered a certificate of completion. Some short courses are free with the option to pay a fee if you want a certificate with the institution’s logo to verify your achievement, while some include certificates of completion in the tuition costs.

There are also executive short courses designed for working professionals in the field with years of experience.

How long does it take to complete short courses?

Short courses in public health can take several hours to several weeks to complete and may include quizzes and tests, just like typical college courses. Some courses are designed by the same professors teaching at a university, so you’ll have access to similar learning materials, like videos and multimedia resources.

Who Are Short Courses for?

Short courses in public health are designed for a variety of groups. Some are for people currently working in public health who want to continue their education while working full-time.

  • Short courses are a great introduction to people who are interested in public health but aren’t sure if they want to make it their career. An introductory short course can help students determine if the subject is something that will interest them long-term.
  • Professionals already practicing in public health may consider short courses to enrich their knowledge and provide better advice to patients and clients.
  • Short courses can boost resumes and show an employer you care about continuing your education and being the best you can be in the field.
  • Short courses can help people who are thinking about committing to a long-term public health program, such as a doctorate in public health, determine if they’re ready to go back to school in a longer program.
  • For those who are applying to higher education programs, like master’s or doctorate in public health, completing additional courses can demonstrate initiative and help a candidate get into a program.

Benefits of Online Short Courses

Online short courses give individuals the freedom to learn on their own time. All that’s needed to access an online course is a web-connected device. You can take classes on a device as small as a smartphone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer.

Online short courses don’t require students to be in a classroom at a certain time. Students don’t have to uproot their lives to attend class at the school of their choice.

You can search for online short courses in public health to get a feel for the type of education and program the school of your choice offers. That way, you can check out the school before committing to a full-time program or having to move where the school is located. If you like the short course, you might be more interested in the full program from that school.

Online short courses are great for professionals who want to learn while continuing to work full-time with minimal disruption to their schedules.

Master’s Degrees vs Short Courses in Public Health

The primary advantage of short courses is they require less of a time commitment compared with master’s degree programs.

However, if you know you want to grow a career in public health, you may be ready to commit to a traditional MPH or an online MPH program. These can take 18 months to three years to complete, depending on whether you’re a full- or part-time student.

A master’s degree can increase your earnings. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, median annual earnings for those with a master’s degree were $12,272 more than those with a bachelor’s degree in 2018. A master’s degree expands the jobs you’re able to apply for in your field, and some positions, especially leadership and management jobs, require a master’s degree.

A master’s degree program will provide a comprehensive understanding of public health issues, strategies and tactics. You’ll be able to form relationships with professors and classmates, even if your program is online. And you’ll likely be in the same cohort throughout your program, providing opportunities to network and collaborate.

On a resume, a Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) accredited degree is far more impressive than a short course. If you want to grow in your current position, getting your master’s shows you’re invested. In some cases, your employer might pay for some or all your graduate education.

In addition, there are many scholarships available for master’s degree programs, while short courses typically aren’t eligible for financial aid and scholarship awards.

If you want a stronger background in public health and time commitment is your only concern, other options include online accelerated MPH degree programs that allow students to earn a degree in as short as 12 months, and MPH programs without GRE requirements.

Tips for Choosing the Right Short Courses

If you are interested in taking a short course, here are some tips to make the most of your time and financial commitment.

1. Determine your goal.

If you want to advance your career in public health, ask your employer what topics they’d recommend you study. Or, look at job descriptions for your ideal role and see what skills you are lacking. Then, look for short courses that help meet those objectives.

Some public health employers will recommend certain courses to employees that are relevant to the work. Some employers may pay for short course enrollment or let employees study on company time.

2. Consider the school.

Short courses on resumes are more impactful when they’re from well-respected, recognizable institutions. You also want to make sure it’s a worthwhile course by researching the school or organization. If you’re considering a master’s or doctorate in public health, check short courses from the schools you want to apply to so you can get a feel for their programs.

3. Make sure all the details fit.

Other considerations with short courses in public health include curriculum, format, price and length. You’ll want to take courses that work for your budget and schedule. If the courses are online, check if it’s synchronous coursework that allows students to communicate with professors and classmates in real time, or asynchronous videos students complete on their schedule.

Be mindful of the benefits of a certificate. Even though it might cost money, it shows you completed the course. You can add the certificate to your resume and LinkedIn profile.

To determine whether a short course in public health is right for you, or a longer program like an online MPH degree is a better fit, consider your career goals and the time commitment you are prepared to make.


Explore All Public Health Degree Programs

Baylor University Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH online in as few as 18 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

George Washington University Master of Public Health

Earn your MPH online in as few as 12 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 45 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

Tufts University Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH online in as few as 20 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

University of North Carolina Master of Public Health 

Earn your MPH Online in as few as 20 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CEPH

Simmons University Master of Public Health

Earn your MPH online in as few as 21 months  

  • No GRE required
  • 45 credits
  • Live, online classes

University of North Carolina Master of Public Health/Registered Dietitian 

Earn your MPH in as few as 28 months

  • No GRE required
  • 42 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by ACEND

George Washington University Master of Health Administration 

Earn your MHA online in as few as 24 months 

  • No GRE required
  • 50 credits
  • Live, online classes
  • Accredited by CAHME

Tufts University Master of Health Informatics & Analytics

Earn your MHI online in as few as 20 months

  • No GRE required
  • 36 credits
  • Live, online classes