What Are Short Courses in Public Health?

Continuing education in public health is one way to stay up to date with public health developments. 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.

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George Washington University Healthcare Management Short Course

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

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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.

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Short Courses in Public Health Description

Short courses are shorter than average university degree programs, enabling 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 curricula like four-, three- or two-year degree 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 or healthcare management.

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 who have years of experience in the field.

Who Are Short Courses Designed For?

Short courses in public health are designed for a variety of people. Some are for individuals currently working in public health who want to continue their education while working full time, and others are for those who are completely new to the field. Candidates for short courses in public health include:

Newbies: Short courses serve as an introduction to the field for people who are interested in public health but aren’t sure if they want to make it their long-term career. An introductory short course can help students determine if the subject is something that will interest them in the long run.

Current professionals: People already practicing in public health may consider short courses to enrich their knowledge and provide better advice to patients and clients.

Master’s program applicants: For those who are applying to advanced degree programs, like a master’s in public health, completing additional courses can demonstrate initiative and may help a candidate gain admission into a program.

Prospective doctoral students: 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 for a longer program.

Lifelong learners: Short courses can help boost resumes and show an employer you care about continuing your education and are committed to the field. 

Benefits of Online Short Courses

A short course in public health may help you expand your professional opportunities since you’ll be able to advance your knowledge of the industry. For busy professionals juggling a full-time job or anyone eager to upskill, this path can offer a myriad of benefits, including:

Flexibility: Online short courses in public health can be completed on your own time, so professionals can attend classes and study when it suits them. With no commute time or fixed schedule, you can learn at your own pace and adjust timing on a week-by-week basis, depending on your personal and professional commitments. For busy professionals, parents or self-starters, this type of flexibility makes continuing education more accessible. 

Affordability: Public health short courses are shorter than average university degree programs, allowing students to learn more about a topic without having to commit to a full degree program that may last two to four years. For this reason, short courses in public health may also be more affordable. Your investment of time and money is generally less than it would be for a full degree program—and the quality of education is often just as high. 

Increased industry knowledge: Short courses are a great opportunity to learn about the current state of your industry. As many fields continue to evolve with new technology, you can adapt by learning relevant skills and processes specific to your career. A short course in public health during a pandemic, for example, may offer real-time insight into the significance of public health professionals and the need to adapt to new challenges quickly. 

Greater networking opportunities: Looking to meet other highly motivated professionals who want to advance in their careers? Enrolling in public health short courses might help you do that. Short courses allow professionals from various backgrounds to collaborate, connect and potentially find opportunities within the same network. 

Career advancement: Employers often look for candidates who are smart and eager to learn. A short course on your resume usually demonstrates a desire to learn and improve your skills, no matter where you are in your career. Short courses may give you a competitive edge with future employers or help you land a promotion for taking the initiative to fill in knowledge gaps and continue growing in your current role. 

Short Courses in Public Health vs. Master’s Degrees

One of the primary advantages of short courses is they require less of a time commitment compared to master’s degree programs.

However, if you know you want to advance in your career in public health, you may be ready to commit to a traditional Master of Public Health (MPH) program 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 may increase your earnings. Median annual earnings for full-time wage and salary workers over the age of 25 with a master’s degree was $80,340 in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In comparison, those with a bachelor’s degree earned a median salary of $67,860. 

A master’s degree can help expand 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. 

To employers, a degree accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) may appear more impressive than a short course. Earning your master’s degree shows you’re invested. In some cases, your employer might pay for some or all of 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 strong 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 diploma in as few as 12 months and MPH programs without GRE requirements.

Tips for Choosing the Right Short Courses For You

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

 1. Conduct thorough research.

The first step in finding a short course in public health that is right for you? Doing the research. Explore different schools or organizations, note the similarities and differences between programs, and ask questions. You can also connect with students who have completed the short course to see if it is a good fit for you. 

2. Determine your goal.

If you are thinking of ways to advance your career in public health, you can ask your employer what topics they’d recommend you study. Or, look at job descriptions for your desired role to determine what skills you need. Then, look for short courses that help meet those objectives.

Some public health employers might recommend certain courses that are relevant to the work at hand. Additionally, some employers may even pay for short course enrollment or let employees study on company time.

 3. Consider the school.

Short courses on resumes from popular, well-respected institutions can be an asset. You’ll 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 out short courses from the schools you want to apply to so you can get a feel for their programs.

4. 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 they have synchronous coursework that allows students to communicate with professors and classmates in real time or asynchronous videos that students can complete on their own schedule.

Be mindful of the benefits of a certificate. Even though it might cost money, it shows that 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.

FAQs About Public Health Short Courses 

If you still have questions about whether or not a public health short course is the right path for you, learn more from our frequently asked questions below. 

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. 

Are public health short courses worth it?

Short courses in public health are an efficient and affordable way to gain knowledge about the industry and potentially break into the field without the lengthy time commitment required for degree programs. Short courses can also be more cost effective, considering that professionals can continue working full time while maintaining a flexible learning schedule. View the other benefits of short courses in public health.  

Will I receive any proof upon completion of short courses?

Many schools provide students with a certificate of completion that they can show to future employers or share with their current employer. This document serves as proof that they completed the program successfully and signals that this individual is eager to continue learning and growing in a professional capacity. Be sure to research each short course as proof of completion varies from course to course.

Can I apply for short courses in public health without a related background?

While some courses may ask applicants to have a fundamental knowledge of the industry, requirements largely depend on the teaching objectives and goals of any given short course. Prospective students should double check with schools while they are in the research process to ensure that their professional background meets expectations. 

Do short courses accept international students?

Many short courses allow students to learn from overseas. Given the flexible nature of short courses, students can log on whenever it makes sense for them and learn at their own pace. However, be sure to double check with the school or organization you’re applying to beforehand. 

Last updated August 2021.

Sponsored

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