Community Health and Health Promotion Degrees in Public Health

Community health and population health are similar public health concentrations that involve working with various sectors of the community to evaluate health patterns in specific groups. Though community health and population health professionals play different roles in the public health landscape, they share quite a bit in common—from skills to background. Professionals in either one of these fields may be tasked with developing and implementing health programs, raising awareness about important issues and putting public health initiatives in place.

On this page, we’ll dive into what population health is, how it compares to community health, what you can do as a public health professional and how to get there.

What Is Community Health?

Community health focuses on how individuals play a role in their own health and the health of those around them, while also considering how other environmental factors affect the overall outlook of a community’s population. This focus allows community health workers to obtain a multifaceted perspective of why certain health issues arise, and how to improve outcomes.

Public Health vs. Community Health

Community health can be looked at as a branch or subset of public health. Public health focuses on prolonging and improving the quality of life for the population as a whole. Community health tends to focus more on smaller groups of citizens that either share a close geographic location or live in geographic locations with similar characteristics or health circumstances like a town, city or state. 

Health Promotion vs. Community Health

Even though these fields are extremely alike, and often grouped together, there are differences between the two. Community health tends to focus on the needs of all citizens within a designated area, while health promotion focuses more on teaching specialized groups and individuals how to take better care of themselves and their families—similarly to population health—regardless of where they are in relation to one another.

What Is Population Health?

Population health by definition is an interdisciplinary field where health departments work with the public for better health practices and policies. This field syncs public health, industry, academics, government and health care. Population health provides an opportunity for health care systems, agencies and organizations to work together in order to improve and promote positive health outcomes in the communities they serve. 

Population Health vs. Community Health

The differences between population health and community health lie in their main focuses. Community health evaluates people within a specific area, while population health focuses on health issues for groups of people—or populations—that share certain characteristics. Age, socioeconomic status and diagnosed illnesses are all part of the criteria that population health professionals seek to examine. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), population health allows health departments to connect practice to policy for change to happen locally. Community health looks at citizens within an area, and population health specializes in a certain type of population.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in Community Health and Population Health 

Because community health and population health are such an integral part of the public health field, bachelor’s degree programs in community health and population health are a great opportunity to develop fundamental skills that will carry you throughout your career in public health.

These four-year programs introduce students to the development, planning, implementation and evaluation of health education programs and provide them with the knowledge to address health concerns in groups and individuals. The educational component of these programs adds the communication aspect of public health that helps create understanding among professionals and individuals in communities, which is crucial in the development of successful health education programs. Like most bachelor’s-level education, community health and population health programs require students to take courses that contribute to their overall knowledge of general education as well as core program courses. Students may build their experience through research, internships and classroom activities.

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Curriculum for a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Health and Population Health

During an undergraduate community health and population health degree program, students may be expected to take courses that are fundamental to their understanding of community health education and population health practices and policies. This can include classes that focus on disease prevention, communication methods and techniques, worksite population health and family health and wellness. Additionally, there will be courses that teach the proper methods for educating people from different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, along with classes dedicated to the health and wellness of women and children. 

As with most bachelor’s programs, these degrees typically require 120 credit hours for completion and often some form of an internship or capstone project. This may vary depending on where students attend college and the inclusion of any previously completed coursework. Here are a few sample courses:

Nutrition Across the Lifespan

This course examines the importance of proper nutrition from birth through old age. The different stages of life may be outlined in detail, providing students with a better understanding of promotional tactics that encourage better living for individuals.

Intro to Health Behavior

This course seeks to help students understand the relationship between health and psychology. Students may gain a more powerful insight into how people react to sickness and illnesses, as well as practices that can increase health and wellness from a biopsychosocial perspective.

Anatomy and Physiology

Students taking this course have the opportunity to learn about the structure and function of the human body. Bodily systems are discussed in detail, as well as how disease and illness affect the body.

Master’s Degree Programs in Community Health and Population Health 

As the public learns more about the different hazards and illnesses in the environment and how living a healthy lifestyle can benefit moods, sleep and overall well-being, fields such as community health and population health can grow even more. At the master’s level, such as Master of Public Health (MPH), or Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH), students in community health and population health degree programs may have the option of gaining relevant skills in these two disciplines as well as management techniques needed to lead a team of employees on their path to better health for all.

At the master’s level, students may get a more in-depth look into community health and population health education, which can provide more expertise. Master’s-level education may also lead to more prominent jobs, which is helpful especially for professionals working in positions concerned with public health.For students considering a master’s in public health online program, there are over 60 online MPH programs accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Curriculum for an MPH Degree in Community Health and Population Health

Master’s programs in community health education and population health provide a more thorough study of the concepts and ideas surrounding the implementation of health programs. Students who choose these concentrations for their degree can take courses specific to their area of interest and closely examine real-life scenarios.

Different perspectives of community health are touched on throughout this type of program, including widespread prevention, education and implementation of lawful public health policies. Nutrition, exercise, education and research are some of the main components of the population health degree program, which encourages students to have well-rounded mindfulness of how each of these can potentially affect public health.

These programs take one to three years to complete, depending whether students attend full time or part time. Most universities require 45 to 60 credit hours and a capstone project or thesis. However, these components vary depending on where students attend college and the inclusion of any previously completed coursework. Online programs are more prominent than ever, making this a great opportunity for interested students. 

Coursework can include these aspects:

Health Education Program Planning

This course outlines the methods and preparations for effective health education program planning. Assessing individual needs, evaluating current programs and implementing helpful and strategic programs are some of the main topics taught. Students in this course may touch on the importance of effective research methods, biostatistics and program management.

Communication Strategies

Students taking this course may be encouraged to focus on the effectiveness of communication. Different communication methods such as word of mouth, written instruction and media communication may be discussed. Through course activities and case studies, students can learn how to effectively reach the public with active communication.

Program Planning and Research

This course outlines the methods and preparations for effective health education and introduces students to research methods applicable to community health. Finding applicable research subjects, designing a research plan and analyzing results are all included in this process.

Health Policy and Management

Proper management techniques and policy analysis may be taught in this class, along with ethics, diversity and personnel management. Students are taught how to manage a public health team in terms of proper business practices and organizational concerns.

14 MPH Community Health Programs

MPH programs with a focus on community health can help to prepare you for a public health career, but each program varies to some degree. The following list includes MPH programs in the community health concentration. Each program is offered online and is accredited by the CEPH.

SchoolDegree and ConcentrationCredits RequiredLocation 
Baylor University
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MPH in Community Health42 Waco, TX
California State University, NorthridgeMPH in Community Health Education42 Los Angeles, CA 
East Tennessee State UniversityMPH in Community Health43 Johnson City, TN 
Lenoir-Rhyne UniversityMPH in Community Health42 Hickory, NC 
MCPHS UniversityMPH in Community Health42 Boston, MA 
North Dakota State UniversityMPH in Community Health Sciences18 Fargo, ND 
Purdue UniversityMPH in Family & Community Health42 West Lafayette, IN 
San José State UniversityMPH in Community Health Education42 San Jose, CA 
Southern Illinois University CarbondaleMPH in Community Health Education42 Carbondale, IL 
Tulane UniversityMPH in Community Health Sciences45New Orleans, LA 
University of Illinois at ChicagoMPH in Community Health Practice & Methods45 Chicago, IL 
University of MarylandMPH in Behavioral & Community Health45 College Park, MD 
University of San FranciscoMPH in Community & Public Health Practice45 San Francisco, CA 
University of Southern CaliforniaMPH in Community Health Promotion42 Los Angeles, CA 

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Baylor University

The Master of Public Health online program from Baylor University, MPH@Baylor, offers a specialization in Community Health. Improve quality of life in Texas communities and around the world. The program can be completed in as few as 18 months. No GRE required.

Location: Waco, TX
Minimum GPA to Apply: 3.0
GRE Requirements: Scores not required
Credits Required: 42 credits
Concentrations Available: Community Health

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California State University, Northridge

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Education
Introduction: The MPH in Community Health Education program offered by California State University, Northridge prepares students to become public health professionals ready to help improve the general health of populations all over the world. This program also helps to prepare students for health-related roles in public, private and government agencies, as well as community-level organizations. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: Los Angeles, CA 

East Tennessee State University

Program Name: MPH in Community Health
Introduction: The MPH in Community Health program offered by East Tennessee State University is a professional degree program that provides students with the preparation and tools they need to work in public health. The curriculum teaches students how to develop, implement and evaluate community-based interventions and work to improve the general health of communities all over the world. 
Credit Hours: 43 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: Johnson City, TN

Lenoir-Rhyne University

Program Name: MPH in Community Health
Introduction: The Lenoir-Rhyne University MPH program prepares students for entry into a wide range of public health professions with the general goal of improving the health of various communities and populations. This program is offered completely online and provides a well-rounded curriculum that offers instruction through open-minded inquiry and assessment, research opportunities and service learning. Courses are related to biostatistics, epidemiology, health administration and more. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online 
Location: Hickory, NC

MCPHS University

Program Name: MPH in Community Health
Introduction: The MPH program offered by the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences provides students with the opportunity to learn how to protect and improve the health of populations all over the globe. This is an online program that’s offered for both full-time and part-time students and provides a flexible education experience. Courses include health promotion and education, community health assessments and more. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online 
Location: Boston, MA 

North Dakota State University

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Sciences
Introduction: The Community Health Sciences MPH program offered by North Dakota State University provides students with an opportunity to learn to become leaders in the public health field. Upon completion of this program, students will be able to determine the health needs of various communities, and come up with solutions to address those needs. Courses include biostatistics, epidemiology, environmental health and more. 
Credit Hours: 18 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: Fargo, ND

Purdue University

Program Name: MPH in Family & Community Health
Introduction: The Family and Community Health concentration for the MPH program at Purdue University provides students with the opportunity to learn how to become leaders in the public health sphere; evaluating and determining the health needs for various communities. Graduates of this program will be prepared to research, evaluate and implement solutions to the health issues facing different communities. Students will take classes in epidemiology, biostatistics, health systems administration and more. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online 
Location: West Lafayette, IN

San Jose State University

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Education
Introduction: The MPH program at San Jose State University provides students with an education in public health that thoroughly prepares them to become public health professionals. This program is known for its practice-oriented and community-based training, giving students hands-on experience. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: San Jose, CA

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Education
Introduction: The MPH program offered by the Southern Illinois University Carbondale School of Public Health teaches students about the public health sphere, with concentrations in health and social disparities, rural health and population health. This university is located in an area dealing with noticeable health care challenges such as poor health care access, which allows for a valuable hands-on experience as students are given the chance to work with the community. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online 
Location: Carbondale, IL 

Tulane University

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Sciences
Introduction: The MPH in Community Health program offered by Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine allows students to develop knowledge and skills to work with communities, address health disparities and help improve the quality of life in certain areas. This program gives students plenty of opportunities to gain real-world experience with community-based learning and research. 
Credit Hours: 45 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: New Orleans, LA 

University of Illinois at Chicago

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Practice & Methods
Introduction: The MPH in Community Health Sciences offered by the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health provides students with a scientific knowledge base, practical public health experience and scientific research and writing experience. Other primary concentrations include global health, maternal and child health and maternal and child health epidemiology. 
Credit Hours: 45 
Program Option: Traditional, Online, Hybrid 
Location: Chicago, IL

University of Maryland

Program Name: MPH in Behavioral & Community Health
Introduction: The MPH in Behavioral and Community Health offered by the University of Maryland School of Public Health provides students with the opportunity to learn how to become public health professionals in a wide range of settings and roles including practitioners, administrators, supervisors, educators, consultants and researchers. 
Credit Hours: 45 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: College Park, MD

University of San Francisco 

Program Name: MPH in Community & Public Health Practice
Introduction: The MPH in Community and Public Health Practice program offered by the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions prepares aspiring health professionals for a variety of employment opportunities in public health. Students will be prepared to address health issues on a local and global scale—and find impactful solutions. 
Credit Hours: 45 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: San Francisco, CA

University of Southern California 

Program Name: MPH in Community Health Promotion
Introduction: The online MPH program offered by the University of Southern California is an innovative degree program designed to educate future and current public health professionals. Through collaborative online learning and courses taught by renowned USC faculty, students in the online program receive the same rigorous education as those on-campus.
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online 
Location: Los Angeles, CA

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5 MPH Population Health Programs

MPH programs in population health prepare students for public health professions centered around evaluating and improving the general health of the public. The following list includes MPH programs in population health that are all offered online and accredited by the CEPH.

SchoolDegree and Concentration Credits RequiredLocation
Colorado School of Public HealthPopulation Mental Health & Well-being42 Aurora, CO 
Loma Linda UniversityPopulation Medicine56Loma Linda, CA
Mercer UniversityDiverse Populations & Health Equity42 Atlanta, GA 
Tufts UniversityPopulation Health Promotion42Boston, MA
University of MichiganPopulation & Health Sciences42Ann Arbor, MI 
University of North DakotaPopulation Health Research & Analytics42 Grand Forks, ND 

Colorado School of Public Health 

Program Name: MPH in Population Mental Health and Wellbeing 
Introduction: The MPH in Population Mental Health and Wellbeing offered by the Colorado School of Public Health provides students with the opportunity to gain foundational public health skills regarding mental health, substance use and overall well being. This program is among the first and only accredited MPH programs in the U.S. focused on mental health. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: Aurora, CO 

Loma Linda University 

Program Name: MPH in Population Medicine 
Introduction: The MPH in Population Medicine program offered by the Loma Linda University School of Public Health gives practicing health professionals the opportunity to learn additional skills in population management. It’s designed to meet the needs of health professionals and students who may also be enrolled in clinical, practice-related doctoral degree programs. 
Credit Hours: 56 
Program Option: Traditional, Online 
Location: Loma Linda, CA 

Mercer University 

Program Name: MPH in Diverse Populations and Health Equity 
Introduction: The MPH in Diverse Populations and Health Equity program at Mercer University’s College of Health Professions gives students the opportunity to learn how to reduce health disparities and improve the quality of life for families and communities. Students are challenged to confront complex health-related issues and this university is a recognized leader in public health education in Georgia. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online, Traditional, Hybrid 
Location: Atlanta, GA

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Tufts University

Tufts University School of Medicine, top-ranked for graduate study in public health by U.S. News & World Report in 2019, offers an online Master of Public Health program with a built-in concentration in Epidemiology and Biostatistics. The program is CEPH accredited and features collaborative online classes and a real-world Applied Learning Experience.

Location: Boston, MA
Minimum GPA to Apply: n/a
GRE Requirements: Scores not required
Credits Required: 42 credits
Concentrations Available:

  • Epidemiology and Biostatistics
  • Population Health Promotion

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University of Michigan 

Program Name: MPH in Population and Health Sciences 
Introduction: The MPH in Population and Health Sciences at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health provides students with an integrative learning experience that prepares them to enter the public health field. Upon completion of the program, students will have learned how to better research, evaluate and determine the health needs of the general public so they can come up with solutions to improve general health for communities all over the world. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online, Traditional
Location: Ann Arbor, MI

University of North Dakota 

Program Name: MPH in Population Health Research and Analytics 
Introduction: The MPH in Population Health Research and Analytics offered by the University of North Dakota teaches students how to produce comprehensive, scientifically accurate information about population health. Students will learn how to evaluate the effectiveness of certain health initiatives and provide the basis for improving health policies and programs. 
Credit Hours: 42 
Program Option: Online, Traditional
Location: Grand Forks, ND

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Doctorate Programs in Community Health and Population Health

Doctorate programs focusing on community health and population health are designed for motivated students who wish to see an improvement in health and health awareness in communities, states and across the world. These programs provide students with the tools to research and evaluate programs to create accurate, helpful and efficient public health professionals. 

The doctorate program can take two to four years, depending on whether students have bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Most universities require that students have some experience working in community health or population health, while others require the completion of degree programs in these areas. There are online degree programs throughout the country providing quality education to students through innovative learning environments.

Curriculum for Doctoral Degrees in Community Health and Population Health

Doctorate programs focus on the research and application of various promotional policies. Students may also be able to choose a concentration for their degree program. Specialties for this degree program can include behavioral health, research, management, population health and global health. Students who choose a concentration for their degree program may gain more specialized knowledge in their chosen discipline, and will have focus courses in addition to some of the core courses listed below.

Some PhD programs require around 60 credit hours. Depending on the university and the concentration, the classes students take in this degree program may be different than others in similar degree programs. Doctoral degree programs usually require a lot of independent class and fieldwork, mostly in a real-life setting.

Some of the common courses for this degree program are listed below:

Foundations of Epidemiology

This course seeks to provide definitions, examples and explanations of the reasoning and biology behind various illnesses and diseases. Students will investigate case studies and draw conclusions about how illness and disease are maintained and spread throughout communities.

Economics of Public Health Systems

This course teaches the economic, financial and ethical concerns associated with the public health system. Students may learn how funding and budgeting are an important part of developing effective public health programs, as well as how these topics can promote challenges. The economic state of different areas and its effect on public health may also be discussed, which can provide students with more insight into the overall wellness of different groups.

Social Psychology

Social Psychology is a course about how people feel, act and think during social interactions. It is important that public health students understand how human interaction plays a role in the development of health-related ideas and habits. Health promotion relies on the acceptance of health education as a primary means of change, so social psychology at its core can help students understand how this information is used and transmitted throughout society.

Environmental Health

Environmental health can provide students with the knowledge to investigate the effects of pollution, biology and other environmental triggers on human health. This course examines how the environment plays a role in the development of helpful community health policies.

Career Options and Industries Outlook 

Professionals in community health and population health have a wide range of options when it comes to their careers. Their knowledge of health is applicable in multiple work environments, and there are many different ways for people in these fields to make a positive difference in a way that suits their preferences. The job outlook of community health professionals in the coming years looks bright. As you can see below, community health roles are projected to grow faster than average for all occupations. 

What Can You Do with a Community Health or Population Health Degree?

Community health and population health are important parts of society. Specialists can help provide health-conscious programs and discover evidence and information about the causes of the spread of disease or illness. There are numerous potential fields where these practitioners can find employment. 

Find examples of some of the careers and median annual salaries (as of May 2020) and growth projections (2019–2029) listed below.

Is a Community Health or Population Health Degree Worth It? 

If you’re passionate about public health and helping people on micro and macro levels, you may find a very fulfilling career following your education—especially considering the numerous career paths in this field. Whether or not the degree is worth it depends on your goals and how you see yourself applying your skills and passion for public health in the future. If the roles and importance of these professions mentioned in this article align with your career goals, a degree in community health or population health may be right for you. 

Last updated July 2021.

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