Top Online Doctor of Public Health Programs

Public health is an interdisciplinary field that spans a variety of career paths. Public health professionals may conduct research and/or work directly with the public to improve community health and wellness through disease prevention and healthy living initiatives. These professionals may also perform advocacy that increases community access to quality healthcare.

Doctor of public health (DrPH) programs prepare graduates for diverse careers. Many graduates with a DrPH pursue careers as government or nonprofit administrators, health educators, or community health workers. Salary data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that in 2019, health educators and community health workers garnered a median annual salary of $46,910. According to the BLS, these professionals also enjoy an 11% projected job growth rate during 2019-2029.

1University of North Carolina
2Northeastern University
3Johns Hopkins University
4University of South Florida
5University of Illinois at Chicago
6East Carolina University
7The University of Southern Mississippi
8Loma Linda University
9Old Dominion University
10Penn State World Campus

What Is a Doctor of Public Health?

More practice-oriented than the research-oriented online Ph.D. in public health, a DrPH can help graduates land public health practice and leadership positions in community organizations, government agencies, and public health-related institutions.

Many DrPH programs include both core and concentration courses. All DrPH core curricula emphasize practical experience and cultivate competency in six primary skill areas, including leadership, management, communication, and analysis. Enrollees also learn public health policy, ethics, program design, and assessment.

Why Get a Degree in Public Health?

Pursuing a doctor of public health online can generate many personal and professional benefits such as increased knowledge, career advancement, salary raises, and diverse employment opportunities.

  • Advanced Skills and Expertise: Considered a terminal degree, this professional doctorate builds both general skills in public health management and expertise in specialized areas.
  • Career Advancement: Obtaining a DrPH can help health professionals qualify for various medical and health services positions related to public health.
  • Diverse Employment Opportunities: DrPH graduates can choose from many possible fields, roles, and employment contexts.Administrative, research, and teaching careers for public health doctorate-holders exist across government, industry, and nonprofit sectors.
  • Salary Increase:PayScale salary data indicates that doctor of public health program graduates earn an average of $86,897 annually — over $20,000 more than the average salary of graduates with public health master’s degrees.
  • Professional Connections: Doctoral programs usually attract cohorts of accomplished professionals, who may form networks that prove useful during the job search.


What can you do with a doctor of public health?DrPH graduates qualify for most public health administration positions. They can also pursue teaching or research careers.
What is the difference between an online Ph.D. in public health and a DrPH?DrPH programs typically include more practice-oriented courses and capstone projects. Ph.D. programs often take longer to complete and focus more on research.
How much does a doctor of public health make?

DrPH-holders who obtain positions as medical and health service managers can earn over six figures, though salaries depend on factors like location, experience, and employer.

Are DrPH called doctors?Yes, as a terminal professional degree, the DrPH warrants the title of doctor.

Accreditation for a Doctor of Public Health

Prospective public health students should check institutional and programmatic accreditation statuses before deciding where to apply. Only students at accredited schools qualify for federal financial aid, and many schools only accept degrees and transfer credits from accredited institutions.

Schools may hold national or regional accreditation, with regional accreditation generally considered the more prestigious of the two. The Council of Higher Education Accreditation oversees several regional accrediting bodies across the United States.

Programs within a school may also receive accreditation. Prospective public health students should look for programs accredited by the Association of Accredited Public Health Programs or the Council on Education for Public Health.

Students can search the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs to verify a program or school’s accreditation status.

Courses for a Doctor of Public Health

Focused on producing adept practitioners and administrators, public health doctoral programs develop management, research, analysis, and communication skills. Some programs include a dissertation or other final project that allows students to apply these skills in a real-world setting. Many DrPH programs comprise 64 credits, including research project credits. Candidates with a related master’s degree often finish within four years’ full-time attendance.

“Focused on producing adept practitioners and administrators, public health doctoral programs develop management, research, analysis, and communication skills.”

Students typically choose a concentration to specialize their skills in areas such as health policy and management, health equity and social justice, global health, and environmental health. The sample courses below are found in many DrPH programs.

Foundations of Doctoral Success in Public Health

A comprehensive introduction to the discipline of public health, this course discusses public health philosophies, ethics, and practice. Enrollees also survey recent public health scholarship trends and methodologies. Learners develop skills in public health research, writing, and time management. New program enrollees often take this foundational course during their first semester.

Public Health Leadership, Evaluation, and Interventions

In this course, learners practice identifying, planning, and implementing solutions to systemic public health problems. The course also emphasizes multicultural leadership and analysis skills and asks students to reflect on important leadership attitudes and abilities, such as consensus-building. This course typically appears in the core curriculum of DrPH programs.

Global Public Health Issues

This course examines methods for measuring, analyzing, and addressing significant global health problems, such as global industrialization, pollution, urbanization, and wealth inequality. Students analyze population-based policies and practices aimed at increasing health knowledge and access. This interdisciplinary course synthesizes economic, ecological, sociological, and public health-related information to reveal public health issues’ complex causations.

Capstone Project

Often part of a sequence that supports doctoral students’ progress in completing their doctoral capstone project, this course offers guidance in research, writing, and professional development. Public health doctoral capstone projects usually focus on a student-chosen public health problem or practice. The doctoral project typically requires the successful completion and oral defense of a written document describing and analyzing a practical research study or project. Doctoral students usually publish their doctoral study.

Public Health Communications and Marketing

Essential learning for aspiring public health organization leaders, this course familiarizes students with the field’s social marketing and communications practices. Enrollees study the theory and practice of producing culturally appropriate and informative public health campaigns and communications. This course prepares students to create initiatives that increase health literacy and establish community partnerships. Learners often complete a course project that utilizes health research and produces a public health campaign.

How Much Do Public Health Majors Make?

According to the BLS, median annual salaries for public health careers range from $47,000 to $101,000. Medical and health services managers top the scale, making a median annual salary of $100,980 as of 2019. To qualify for these top-level positions, candidates need substantial public health experience. Doctoral degrees and/or public health professional certifications also increase candidates’ competitiveness in the job market.

At the bottom of the salary range cited above, health educators earned a median annual salary of $46,910 as of 2019. However, salaries vary depending on factors like sector, employer, credentials, and position level. For example, health educators in hospitals made a median annual wage nearly $20,000 higher than the median for all health educators.

“Given the ongoing health industry boom accompanying an aging U.S. population, many public health professions are projected to experience strong growth in the coming years.”

Public health professors and researchers often make more money than public health educators and community workers. As of 2019, postsecondary teachers earned a median salary of $79,540, while epidemiologists took home a median salary of $70,990.

Given the ongoing health industry boom accompanying an aging U.S. population, many public health professions are projected to experience strong growth in the coming years. The BLS projects jobs for medical and health services managers to grow by 32% from 2019-2029.

Career and Salary Outlook for Public Health Majors

Many public health jobs exist across government, for-profit, and nonprofit sectors. Students interested in research can pursue careers as epidemiologists or public health analysts. Meanwhile, graduates focused on providing healthcare guidance or leadership can work as health educators, public health specialists, or health services managers. Doctoral public health degrees can also qualify candidates for academic teaching careers in universities and colleges. See below for descriptions of common career paths for DrPH graduates.

  • Health Educator: Often employed in community centers and organizations, these professionals educate the public regarding various health and wellness matters. Health educators often design and/or participate in programs or interventions that raise awareness and encourage healthier lifestyles. These educators typically assess community needs, analyze data, perform advocacy, and supervise other staff.
  • Epidemiologist: These scientists conduct research that detects and analyzes disease and injury trends and origins. This research often shapes public health policy and practice by inspiring new interventions. Conducting research in labs or at field sites, epidemiologists play an important role in community disease prevention and health improvement.
  • Medical and Health Services Manager: Experienced public health professionals sometimes obtain managerial positions in health-related departments and organizations. These careers require advanced skills in public health leadership, organization, and communication. Common duties include goal-setting and budgeting, personnel management, reporting, and compliance assurance.
  • Postsecondary Teacher: Employed by higher education institutions, postsecondary teachers usually serve as college professors who conduct scholarly research and teach courses. Most full professors hold doctoral degrees and contribute to their fields through conference presentations and journal publications.

CareerMedian Annual SalaryProjected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Health Educator$46,91013%
Medical and Health Services Manager$100,98032%
Postsecondary Teacher$79,5409%

Source: BLS

Scholarships for a Doctor of Public Health

Attending a doctoral program requires a significant financial investment, but students can take advantage of financial aid opportunities to help offset the cost of a degree, such as loans, scholarships, and grants. Students may qualify for scholarships based on factors like academic merit, financial need, commitment to a career path, or identity. See below for some scholarships available to DrPH students.

Association of Accredited Public Health Programs
Who Can Apply: Graduate students enrolled in public health programs at AAPHP-affiliated schools and involved in an approved community public health project may apply. The public health projects may include program-approved practica, internships, dissertations, or community health initiatives.
Amount: $1,000

Indian Health Professions Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Recipients must demonstrate membership to American Indian or Alaska Native tribes and enrollment in health profession-related degree programs. Upon graduation, recipients must plan to work full time in clinics serving tribal communities.
Amount: Varies

Laurence R. Foster Memorial Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Eligible applicants must be attending public health-related graduate programs at four-year schools. Students interested in epidemiology may receive special consideration, but learners studying health-related science, education, or management may also qualify.
Amount: Up to $10,000

Lucille and Edward R. Roybal Public Health Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Hispanic students pursuing public health-related degrees may apply. Eligible applicants must demonstrate financial need, a 2.5 minimum GPA, and a commitment to assist underserved Latino/a communities. They must also submit a resume, two recommendation letters, and official transcripts.

Richard P. Covert Scholarship for Management Systems
Who Can Apply: Funded by the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS), this scholarship goes to qualifying healthcare information management students who belong to HIMSS but do not work for the organization or serve on its boards. Applicants must submit a resume and two recommendation letters.
Amount: $5,000 scholarship, $200 honoraria, and travel and accommodations for the HIMSS Global Health Conference and Exhibition

Top Online Doctor of Public Health Programs

1. University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina is one of the most highly respected colleges in the nation. The university has the distinction of being the first public college in the country, earning its charter in 1789 and opening to students in 1795. The university offers courses taught by the finest minds in the field with staff members being Pulitzer Prize winners, Rhodes Scholars and Nobel Prize laureates. The University of North Carolina’s distance learning programs for healthcare professionals have been ranked within the top 100 from well-known publications including U.S. News & World Report and Forbes Magazine.

The UNC Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership (DrPH) prepares healthcare professionals for top leadership roles. Offered by the Gilling School of Global Public Health – the nation’s highest-ranked public school of public health – UNC’s distance learning degree requires three years of study for conferment. The university includes campus visits three times a year for the first two years of study as part of the curriculum. The campus visits can be done in North Carolina or at sister sites around the globe. The DrPH degree at the University of North Carolina has been responsible for training many of the nation’s top administrators from public health agencies, making it one of the best online doctor of public health programs anywhere.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

2. Northeastern University

Northeastern University is a highly competitive school with a large student body of more than 25,000 in Boston, MA, the nation’s most crowded and accomplished higher education hub. The private university offers specialized training to students in person or through a blend of distance learning programs. Health degrees earned at Northeastern University carry a lot of weight in the medical field due to the college’s distinction of being one of the top research facilities in the world.

The PhD Program in Population Health at Northeastern University is focused around teaching students strategies to find the causes of public health issues. To earn a degree, students must take 33 credits of core courses along with selecting a concentration. Concentration choices include Health Services/Policy and Social/Environmental. A dissertation is also a requirement for graduation from the doctorate program. A key benefit of the PhD program at Northeastern University is assistantships are available to graduate students with tuition costs covered and an annual stipend given.

Format: On-Campus/Hybrid
Cost: $$$$$

3. Johns Hopkins University

Johns Hopkins University was named for its distinguished founder, who started the college in the year 1876. The university is very selective with a mere 14 percent acceptance rate. The college has an established rate of success with students—93 percent of the student body graduate from the university. The Bloomberg School of Public Health has the distinction of being the first public health school in the nation, and is home to the university’s graduate public health programs, including the Doctor of Public Health degree that ranks among the best online doctor of public health programs in the world.

The Johns Hopkins University Doctor of Public Health program is set up to advance the careers of students who already have a Master of Public Health degree or an equivalent. Healthcare policies, medical ethics, health leadership, communication methods and public health analyses are part of the curriculum of the Doctor of Public Health degree at Johns Hopkins University. Besides the core courses, doctorate students will need to choose a concentration from the college’s four choices: Environmental Health, Implementation Science, Health Policy or Health Equity. A major draw for students pursuing a DrPH degree from Johns Hopkins University is the ability to create a customized track for the distance learning program.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

4. University of South Florida

The University of South Florida is a public research college located in the heart of Tampa. The college is part of the State University System of Florida and has an enrollment of almost 49,000 students. There are 14 colleges offered through the university including the distinguished College of Public Health. The College of Public Health has a number of graduate degree programs including Master of Public Health, Master of Science in Health, Master of Administration and Doctor of Public Health.

The University of South Florida Doctor of Public Health program prepares students for leadership roles in public health agencies around the globe. More emphasis is put on the development and implementation of policies versus research techniques typically taught in the Master of Public Health program. The courses for Doctor of Public Health can be taken completely online with an on-campus option available to those who may live in the Tampa area. The Doctor of Public Health degree at the University of South Florida has a proven track record of offering a high return on investment to all graduates of the program.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

5. University of Illinois at Chicago

Located on the West Side of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus is found within one of the world’s most thriving cities. The public research university has appeared year after year in the top 100 public universities ranking given by U.S. News & World Report. The University of Illinois at Chicago is well known for offering generous scholarship and grant opportunities based on merit. The School of Public Health at UIC was established as a way to fill more leadership roles at the doctoral level within the healthcare field. That includes one of the top online doctor of public health programs in the nation.

The UIC online Doctor of Public Health degree program is laser-focused on leadership training in the field of public health. Research, practice and theory are all studied in depth as part of the degree program. Most graduates with the degree will pursue jobs in public health agencies. To be considered for admission, applicants will need a Master’s degree and a minimum of three years of experience in a public health leadership role. Courses can be taken on a part-time basis with an average completion time of six years. The Doctor of Public Health program at the University of Illinois offers high value at a low tuition rate.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

6. East Carolina University

First founded in 1907, East Carolina University is a public doctoral institution located across a sprawling 1,600-acre campus in Greenville. The university is the third largest in the state and is classified as a NCAA Division I school. The school has continuously expanded their graduate degree programs to include a number of online options. Online graduate degree programs are available in English, Education, Software Engineering, Nursing, Public Health and more.

For the ECU online Doctor of Public Health degree program, graduate students will need to choose a concentration of either Environmental and Occupational Health or Health Policy Administration. Applicants for the program should have a Master of Public Health Degree and job experience in public health practice. The degree program is done completely online with the curriculum obtaining approval from the University of North Carolina System. With the low tuition cost and high rate of post-grad job placement, the Doctor of Public Health degree at East Carolina University is a solid choice for grad students.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

7. The University of Southern Mississippi

Formally called Southern Miss, the University of Southern Mississippi has been consistently ranked by the U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s best public universities. With a rolling application deadline and low in-state tuition costs, it has continued to expand its student body year after year. Southern Miss has recently focused on reaching even more students around the world by offering degrees that can be earned mostly online. The doctoral online programs from the University of Southern Mississippi typically only require no more than seven on-campus meetings with students annually.

The University of Southern Mississippi’s International Development PhD program follows a hybrid program which includes online classes and seven calendar year seminars at the Mississippi campus. For full-time students, the doctoral program can be completed with three years while part-time students may take up to four to five years. The program also offers a limited number of assistantships to graduate students as a way to waive tuition costs and receive an annual stipend. The University of Southern Mississippi’s International Development PhD degree offers the chance to expand career options with graduates landing consulting jobs, university professor positions or promotions within a public health sector job.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

8. Loma Linda University

Loma Linda University has a central campus located in California along with a large catalog of online classes. The university is made up of a total of eight schools and includes more than 100 undergraduate and graduate degree programs. The university is considered a health sciences university and is part of the Seventh Day Adventist education program. Distance learning programs are offered through the School of Nursing, School of Religion, School of Public Health and School of Allied Health Professions. The online doctor of public health programs from the School of Public Health are all 100 percent done virtually with no face-to-face meetings required.

Loma Linda University’s online Doctor of Public Health program focuses on tackling public healthcare issues by using advanced evaluations and techniques. The education is faith-based with many the disciplines taught being approved by the church. The courses found at Loma Linda University will prepare students for leadership roles within public health agencies on both a national and international level. The accredited Doctor of Public Health degree from Loma Linda University has a high graduation rate and superior post-grad job placement rate.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

9. Old Dominion University

With close to 25,000 students, Old Dominion University has one of the largest student bodies in the entire state of Virginia. Old Dominion University was founded in 1930 as part of the College of William & Mary. Today, the public university has one of the highest levels of research activity in the nation. The school has close to 100 graduate degrees available, including 35 doctoral programs. The college’s distance learning program, titled the Online Experience at ODU, features live classroom sessions that can be viewed virtually.

Old Dominion University’s online PhD in Public Administration and Policy is available online with class times following a regular schedule, but viewable through the school’s virtual portal. To receive the doctoral degree, a total of 49 credits are required with 37 credits from coursework and 12 credits from a dissertation. The PhD in Public Administration and Policy from Old Dominion University offers career advancement opportunities at a low tuition rate for both in-state and out-of-state students.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$

10. Penn State World Campus

Penn State World Campus is the virtual campus for the Pennsylvania State University. Penn State was founded in the mid-19th century as an agricultural school. Today, the university has a total of 24 campus locations and more than 160 degree programs. Between campus enrollment and virtual enrollment, there are close to 100,000 Penn State students. Penn State World Campus was initially launched in 1998 and uses a blend of technologies for course completion. Students may be required to view live seminars, upload video essays, participate in chat room discussions and more.

The Penn State online Doctor of Public Health Program has the mission of providing advanced educational opportunities to public health officials. The Doctor of Public Health degree is intended to prepare graduates for careers in private and public health sectors, the field of academia or non-profit organizations. The degree requires 45 credits for coursework and 15 credits for a student’s dissertation. Virtual class times are frequently scheduled during evenings and weekends to accommodate work schedules. With funding available through scholarships and apprenticeships, the Doctor of Public Health degree from Penn State is a solid investment.

Format: Online
Cost: $$$$$