Online Degrees In Public Health

Public health professionals work to affect positive changes in the health and well-being of people, engaging in everything from national campaigns to promote healthy eating to community initiatives to increase access to affordable healthcare.

A strong resolve to improve health worldwide is a trait common to professionals working in the public health sector. According to CareerOneStop, people working in the field of public health need to be sensitive enough to notice developing problems, see hidden patterns and have good interpersonal skills.

An online public health degree program can help you develop these vital abilities. Whether you are a recent high school graduate, a professional working in healthcare or are looking to change fields, an online public health degree program can help you gain the skills you need while allowing you to stick to your other commitments.

The difference between clinical and public health:

The distinction between clinical health careers and public health professions is that clinicians treat individuals, while public health professionals work with specific populations, focusing on disease prevention and education about healthy living. From establishing vaccination programs to teaching children how to live healthy lives, employees in the public health profession can make a powerful difference in the lives of people.

In 2016, 10 states, representing about 25% of the U.S. population, began using new electronic messaging to simplify notifiable disease reporting to CDC.

There are plenty of public health careers to choose from depending on your interests, educational level and where you want to work. Some occupations in the field of public health and their related duties are listed below.

Health educators and community health workers typically focus on:

  • Developing programs, materials and running events to educate people about health topics
  • Teaching people to manage existing health problems
  • Helping people find health services and information that they need
  • Advocating for new health services and policies as needed

Epidemiologists mainly concentrate on:

  • Conducting studies of public health problems to find methods to prevent and treat them
  • Communicating their findings to policy makers and other members of the health community
  • Managing public health programs and looking for ways to improve them

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), overall employment of healthcare professions is expected to grow 13 percent from 2019 to 2029 adding nearly 2.4 million jobs. The public health career outlook also predicts an increase in employment, largely due to efforts of governments, healthcare and social services providers to improve health outcomes and reduce costs by educating people about healthy behaviors and encouraging them to use healthcare services.

Here’s a sample of the degree level requirement for epidemiologists based on a 2017 O*Net survey:

Education Level Required & Percentage of Respondents
Source: 2018 Occupational Information Network (O*NET), U.S. Department of Labor,

The following table uses data from the BLS and lists the occupations related to this field along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2016 to 2026.

Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Community Health Workers58,950$40,36012.5%
Health Education Specialists58,590$55,22010.3%
Health Specialties Teachers, Postsecondary201,920$97,32023.2%
Medical and Health Services Managers394,910$100,98017.6%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals

There is a wide range of online public health degree programs available — associate to doctoral degree levels. Completing each level of postsecondary education can help you pursue a different variety of public health careers, although the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) recommends that professionals earn at least a master’s degree in public health.

The sections below discuss what you can expect to study and what jobs you can get with a public health degree at different levels.

Health officials monitor diseases and conditions that can cause serious illness or a significant public health concern.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

Associate degree programs in public health can provide the fundamental knowledge necessary for entry-level careers in the field.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Students can expect to learn how different organizations and governments work toward achieving better health in local communities and how this may be applied on a global scale. Students can also learn how this can be achieved through various programs and public education. Some courses you can expect to take are:

  • Introduction to healthcare administration
  • Public health in America
  • Foundations of disease prevention
  • Introduction to epidemiology
  • Introduction to global health

You may also have to complete a capstone project as a part of your public health degree program.

What can I do after earning an associate degree in public health?

An associate public health degree may allow you to obtain entry-level positions in different settings, including government agencies, educational institutions, advocacy groups and more. Potential occupations are:

  • Community health worker
  • Health coach
  • Health educator
  • Health teacher
  • Public health worker
Cloud-based technology and analysis tools allow local and state users to visualize and share information from an increasing number of health facilities.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

Public health bachelor’s degree programs build on the knowledge imparted in associate degree programs and encompass a broad range of topics from how public health wellness programs are developed to fighting infectious disease outbreaks.

Typical duration: Up to four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Students can gain insights into the different aspects of healthcare programs and their administration, healthcare law, epidemiology and more. Some courses you may take are:

  • Introduction to epidemiology
  • Behavioral and cultural issues in healthcare
  • Planning public health programs
  • Environmental health
  • Healthcare economics from a population health perspective

You may also have to complete a capstone project or an internship as part of your degree program.

What can I do after earning a bachelor’s degree in public health?

Graduates of a public health bachelor’s degree program may find job opportunities in a number of different roles across a variety of organizations and agencies in the field of public health. Some potential occupations are:

  • Community outreach coordinator
  • Health officer
  • Policy analyst
  • Public administrator
  • Public health emergency preparedness coordinator
  • Public health program specialist
Working with the latest innovations is key to being part of the health data landscape at large.

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Students of an online master’s degree program in public health typically study topics encompassing a wide range of disciplines, including social work, nutrition, urban planning, health services, environmental science, and education.

Typical duration: Up to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree

Typical coursework: Core curriculum in the master’s program focuses on health, problem solving and social and behavioral sciences. Below are some examples of topics students can expect to study:

  • Principles of epidemiology
  • Biostatistics in public health
  • Health behavior and public health
  • Public health leadership and administration
  • Fundamentals of health budgeting and financial management

You may have to complete a practicum as a part of the requirements for your online master’s degree program in public health.

Possible electives: AIDS epidemiology; environmental disaster and human health; health promotion in culturally diverse communities

What can I do after earning a master’s degree in public health?

With a master’s degree in public health, graduates might find work in government laboratories, health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, nonprofit organizations, humanitarian aid organizations, universities, hospitals, health departments, social services or a variety of other health-oriented settings. Some potential occupations are:

  • Disease investigator
  • Environmental health specialist
  • Epidemiologist
  • Medical and health services manager
  • Public health policy coordinator

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Students can choose from two different public health doctoral degree programs:

  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in public health is designed for students who wish to pursue a career in research, academia or upper-level administrative positions in health services.
  • Doctor of Public Health (Dr.P.H or D.P.H.) is tailored for professionals who plan to use their education to pursue executive management and leadership positions in public health enterprise organizations.

What can I expect to learn in an online doctoral degree program?

Doctoral degree programs can prepare students for high-level roles in the public health system by inculcating leadership and research skills through topics that examine various issues in public health.

Typical duration: Four to seven years of full-time study depending on research topic and individual abilities

General prerequisites: Master’s degree

Typical coursework: Coursework requirements for your degree program vary based on your chosen institution and specialization. Some courses you may take are:

  • Design and implementation of public health strategies
  • Evaluation and interpretation of data in healthcare
  • Applied methods in epidemiology
  • Public health leadership and systems thinking
  • Communications, marketing, and public relations for public health leaders

Online doctoral degree programs in public health may require short residencies at a campus location, and these residencies may be spaced throughout the entirety of the program or they may be concentrated during the dissertation writing period, depending on the school. Some online programs in public health also include a clinical externship, although this may be waived for students with sufficient work experience in the field.

Dissertation: Online public health doctoral programs culminate in a dissertation on a topic relevant to your chosen specialization. A faculty advisor oversees the dissertation research, which typically takes place during the final year or two of a program.

What can I do after earning a doctorate in public health?

A doctorate in public health can prepare you to research diseases, manipulate raw data and develop empirical solutions to public health policy problems. It can also prepare you for positions in research and academia. Some potential job titles include:

  • Biostatistician
  • Chief public health advisor
  • Director of disease prevention and control
  • Health department director
  • Health research analyst
  • Public health analyst

Specializations in Public Health

You may be able to choose from a number of different specializations during the course of your online public health degree program. This can allow you to specialize in areas of the subject that interest you the most. Some possible specializations are:

  • Applied epidemiology
  • Health services administration and health promotion
  • Global health
  • Health policy and management
  • Biostatistics
  • Community health education


The accreditation status of an online public health degree program is an important factor to consider while choosing a school. Accredited programs go through rigorous quality checks at regular intervals to demonstrate they offer education that meets or exceeds professional standards. The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is an independent agency that accredits schools of public health as well as individual public health degree programs.

Attending an accredited school or program can play an important role when applying for federal funding, grants or scholarships and can be a prerequisite for professional certifications as well.


Professional certifications may not be mandatory, but they can serve to demonstrate competency in the field of public health. According to the BLS, some employers may require health educators to hold the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). You may become eligible for more advanced professional certifications as you gain more work experience or continue with your education.

Certifications typically need to be renewed periodically in order to remain valid.

Employment Statistics


Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • State Government, excluding schools and hospitals
  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Specialty Hospitals
  • Grantmaking and Giving Services
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts
  • Maryland
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN
  • Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

Health Educators

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Grantmaking and Giving Services
  • Other Ambulatory Health Care Services
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • General Medical and Surgical Hospitals
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
  • New Haven, CT
  • Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV
  • Savannah, GA
  • Santa Maria-Santa Barbara, CA

Community Health Workers

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Community Food and Housing, and Emergency and Other Relief Services
  • Grantmaking and Giving Services
  • Social Advocacy Organizations
  • Outpatient Care Centers
  • Individual and Family Services
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • New York
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Massachusetts
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
  • Manchester, NH
  • Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade, CA
  • Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT
  • Santa Rosa, CA

Source: 2020 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Apart from federal funding and grants, there are plenty of public health scholarships available for eligible students. These scholarships may be tied to a particular school, program, region, or minority group or they may be available to all. It can be a good idea to check with your college to see what programs you may be eligible for. Listed below are some public health scholarships to help you get started.

Professional Organizations for Public Health Workers

  • Aetna 2018 Health Care Trends Report, Aetna Inc., 2018,
  • BS in Public Health, Walden University,, accessed November 2018
  • CDC Public Health Surveillance Strategy Report: 2014-2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),, accessed November 2018
  • Doctor of Public Health, Capella University,, accessed November 2018
  • Epidemiologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,, accessed November 2018
  • Epidemiologists, Occupation Profile, CareerOneStop,, accessed November 2018
  • Health Educators and Community Health Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook,,accessed November 2018
  • Master of Public Health (MPH), Walden University,, accessed November 2018
  • Master of Public Health Degree (MPH), Purdue Global University,, accessed November 2018
  • Online Bachelor’s Public Health Degree, Southern New Hampshire University,, accessed November 2018
  • Online Master of Public Health, Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work, Florida International University, FIU Online,, accessed November 2018
  • PhD in Public Health, Walden University,, accessed November 2018
  • Program Overview | MPH Degree, University of Arizona,, accessed November 2018
  • Public Health Associate in Applied Science Degree, Northampton Community College,, accessed November 2018
  • Public Health: Associate of Science, American Public University,, accessed November 2018

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