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The need for public health workers is rising as the healthcare industry focuses more on promoting wellness, preventing diseases, and educating communities. Earning an online master’s in public health can open doors to exciting and high-earning jobs in this developing field.

This degree often leads to employment as an epidemiologist or public health worker who studies disease patterns, injuries, and other health concerns. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of epidemiologists will grow 27% through 2032, and the median annual salary for the position is $78,520. Other potential career paths include health educators, social and community service managers, and medical scientists.

To help students find their ideal degree program, Intelligent.com reviewed dozens of online master’s in public health programs and created this guide with answers to frequently asked questions about program cost, admissions requirements, career outlook, and what to expect from an online master’s in public health.

What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Public Health Degree?

An online master’s in public health provides students with the knowledge and experience needed to prepare them for various critical roles within this complex field. Programs typically require a minimum of 42 credits and can be completed in two years of full-time study. However, the exact number of credits needed and completion time will vary by individual school and student.

There are different options for the specific public health degree students can earn. The most common are:

  • Master’s in Public Health (MPH): This applied degree focuses on developing students’ practical skills for real-world applications in public health and usually includes an internship or capstone project component.
  • Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH): This is a more traditional master’s program that emphasizes research and scholarship in the public health field and typically requires a thesis or research project for graduation.
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Public Health: Students interested in the business and financial aspects of public health might choose to pursue their MBA with a concentration in public health.

Depending on the specific degree and program a student chooses, they may also have the option to select a specialization. Since public health is such a broad field, choosing a concentration is a way to develop in-depth knowledge about a particular area, such as healthcare administration, community health, global health, behavioral/social science, and health policy and management.

Most master’s in public health programs start with foundational courses introducing students to topics like epidemiology, public health policy, biostatistics, and environmental health. Some programs may expect students to have completed undergraduate coursework or have professional experience in these areas. Internships are also a standard component of public health master’s programs.

Online programs are delivered in one of three ways — synchronously, asynchronously, or a combination of both (hybrid program). Asynchronous programs are the most flexible option, as they have no set class meetings, allowing students to complete lessons and assignments whenever works best for them. Synchronous programs have scheduled classes that meet virtually, facilitating real-time interaction between students and faculty. In a hybrid program, students may take some classes synchronously, either online or in-person, while others can be completed asynchronously.

Best 50 Online Master’s in Public Health Programs

Best Master's in Public Health Programs Badge
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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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University of Florida
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George Washington University
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Indiana University and Purdue University at Indianapolis
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Emory University
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University of South Florida
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San Jose State University
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Liberty University
01

University of California at Berkeley
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University of New England
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Oregon State University
01

Medical College of Wisconsin
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Johns Hopkins University
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University of North Dakota
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University of Southern California
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University of Colorado
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University of Maryland
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New Mexico State University
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University of Minnesota
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University of Illinois Springfield
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Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
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Augusta University
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Michigan State University
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HSC at Fort Worth
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University of Alabama
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Tulane University
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Harvard Chan School of Public Health
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Florida International University
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University of Nebraska Medical Center
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University of West Florida
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University of Washington
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Loma Linda University
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Andrews University
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Des Moines University
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The Dartmouth Institute
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Simmons University
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Mercer University
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University of Massachusetts
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University at Albany - SUNY
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Texas A&M University
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University of Missouri
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University of South Carolina
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Northeastern University
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New York Medical College
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West Virginia University
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CUNY Graduate School of Public Health & Health Policy
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SDSU Global Campus
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University of Kansas
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University of Illinois Chicago
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Baylor University

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How we rank schools

This list features some of the best online master’s degree programs in public health in the U.S. All are offered at nonprofit, accredited institutions, either public or private, with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each degree program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, reputation, and student resources. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared our picks to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

Still Looking for the Right Fit? Discover Similar Programs

For students who are considering a career in public health or a related field, there are several different educational paths to choose from, including these degrees:

What Can I Do With an Online Master’s in Public Health?

Career outlook

Most students who earn a master’s in public health work as epidemiologists, whose primary responsibility is studying patterns and causes of health issues and using that information to reduce the risk of adverse health outcomes among different populations. Epidemiologists can work in various settings, including local, state, and federal government; hospitals; academic settings; public health agencies, and more. Employment of epidemiologists is expected to grow 27% through the next decade, according to the BLS.

Health education is another popular career path for individuals with a master’s in public health. Also known as health education specialists, these public health workers teach individuals and groups about healthy behaviors and promote wellness in various settings. The BLS projects that the employment of health educators will increase by 7% through 2032.

Students who earn an MBA in Public Health may want to apply their skills as a manager for a community health organization. This role oversees operations for programs and organizations promoting public health and well-being. Social and community service manager employment is projected to grow 9 percent from 2022 to 2032, says the BLS.

There are also opportunities for further academic development in public health. Some students may opt to earn a doctorate in public health, which allows them to focus more on research, scholarship, and teaching.

Infection preventionist

Estimated annual salary: $119,000-$133,120

An infection preventionist is responsible for providing a safe environment where risks of infection are identified and minimized for patients, employees, and visitors in hospitals and other medical facilities. This position collects, tabulates, and analyzes data on the occurrence of infection in hospital patients and employees and implements prevention and control measures based on best practices and the outcome of surveillance activities.

Research public health analyst

Estimated annual salary: $95,000-$116,000

A research public health analyst is part of a team that supports research and analytic activities and project coordination for different public health initiatives. Responsibilities in these roles include working with project directors and clients to develop systematic review protocols, organizing and documenting processes, using systematic review software to manage the review process, developing and managing budgets in collaboration with financial analysts, and managing consultants and sub-contractors.

Director of research and innovation

Estimated annual salary: $100,000-$140,000

This position provides leadership for designing and directing research and evaluation projects that fulfill an organization’s public health mission. Director roles require high-level professional experience and independent judgment to manage and oversee research projects and initiatives. They also work collaboratively with other staff to ensure all programs are evidence-based and appropriately evaluated to demonstrate impact.

How to Choose the Online Master’s in Public Health Degree That’s Right for You

Step 1: Choose your area of study

A key step in finding the online master’s in public health that’s right for you is clearly defining what your wants and needs are for your program.

Are you switching careers and looking for a program that will cover foundational and advanced concepts and skills in public health? Or are you seeking career advancement and, therefore, a program that will prepare you for leadership roles? Do you want a program that emphasizes research or applied skills? Would you prefer a general public health curriculum, or do you want to specialize in health policy or global health?

Additionally, consider your logistical needs for an online master’s in public health program. Can your schedule accommodate synchronous classes, or do you need an asynchronous program? Are you going to enroll full-time or part-time?

Establishing these parameters will make your research process more efficient, as you can focus on schools and programs that meet your specific needs and goals.

Step 2: Research schools and programs

Once you know what you’re looking for in an online master’s in public health program, you can begin exploring your options.

An excellent first step when researching schools and programs is checking their accreditation status. At the institutional level, schools should be regionally accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Accreditation guarantees that school programs meet high-quality standards and can affect a student’s eligibility for financial aid, jobs, and further education opportunities. Students should also check if the program is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH).

When researching schools and programs, it’s a good idea to keep a checklist of questions such as:

  • Who are the program’s faculty, and what are their credentials?
  • How is the program delivered (synchronously, asynchronously, hybrid)?
  • Does the curriculum include hands-on learning experiences like internships?
  • What support services does the school offer online students?
  • What types of scholarships, grants, and fellowships are available?

Schools generally include this information on their website or with marketing materials available to potential students. They also offer online open houses or information sessions where students can speak to faculty, students, and admissions counselors. Following schools, programs, and faculty on social media is another way to learn more about a program.

Step 3: Prepare for applications and tests

For any schools that you’re interested in applying to, review their admissions policies, application requirements, and deadlines. These will vary by school, so it helps to create a spreadsheet or checklist to keep track of it all.

An application for an online master’s in public health degree typically consists of the following:

  • Completed application and required fees
  • Official transcripts from undergraduate college(s) attended
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal essay
  • Resume

Depending on the program, students may also be required to submit GRE or GMAT scores. Find out if this is needed early, so you have time to prepare for and take the exams.

Contact the school’s admissions office to clarify any admissions requirements or procedures.

Step 4: Select your program

The next step is to review all the information you collected about various programs and determine which ones you’ll apply to. There’s no “right” number of applications to submit. Some students focus on one or two programs based on their specific needs, while others submit multiple applications to increase their odds of acceptance. However, students should remember that most schools charge application fees, which can quickly add up.

Step 5: Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

As they conduct their research, students should also pay attention to a program’s cost and what financial aid resources are available from the school. Contact a financial aid representative if this information isn’t clear on the school’s website.

Unless you can pay fully out of pocket for your degree, you’ll likely need some financial assistance. Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is often the first step in determining eligibility for scholarships, grants, loans, and work-study jobs. Students should also take some time to research available scholarships from local, state, and federal agencies, nonprofits, professional development organizations, religious groups, and more.

Students working while enrolled in an online master’s in public health program can check if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits. Active military service members or veterans should research their school’s military tuition discounts and GI Bill benefits policies.

Online College/Degree Scholarship Database

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Frequently Asked Questions About Online Master’s in Public Health Programs

Should I get a master's in public health degree in person or online?

Earning an online master’s in public health is a popular, convenient way to complete this degree, but it’s not necessarily the best fit for all students.

An advantage of enrolling in an online program is that it’s more flexible than attending an in-person program. Students can learn wherever and often whenever is most convenient for them, allowing students to earn a degree while juggling work, family, and other obligations.

However, students in online programs must be prepared to hold themselves accountable and manage their time to prioritize their schoolwork, as they won’t have the same level of interaction with faculty as they would in an on-campus program. Students who need extra support or prefer to learn in interactive environments may find an entirely in-person or hybrid master’s in public health program suits them best.

How do I apply to an online master's in public health degree?

The first step is to determine a program’s application process, admissions requirements, and deadlines. This information is usually available on a school’s website or by directly contacting their admissions office.

Most schools accept applications and supporting materials electronically. Some schools accept applications on a rolling basis, while others have hard deadlines. Confirm any application deadlines with the schools you’re applying to, and make sure those dates receive all materials. It helps avoid delays that can affect your admissions decision.

Before applying, you should verify that you meet all the minimum eligibility requirements for a master’s in public health program. These requirements may include a bachelor’s degree in a particular field of study, prerequisite coursework, a minimum undergraduate GPA, and/or professional experience.

What is the average cost of an online master's in public health degree?

The average cost of tuition for master’s degrees in the 2020-21 academic year was $12,394 at public universities and $26,621 at private schools, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. However, a variety of factors can impact how much a student pays for their master’s in public health degree.

In addition to tuition, students can also expect to pay fees for technical support, library resources, online learning technology, and other student services. They may need to upgrade their technology to ensure reliable hardware and internet access and purchase books and other supplies.

However, there are several ways in which attending school online can save students money, including eliminating transportation costs such as gas, parking, or public transit fees. Flexible online programs make it easier for students to work and have a steady income while enrolled in their program. Students can also choose to live in a more affordable location than where their school is located.

How long does it take to complete an online master's in public health degree?

Program duration depends on how many credits the program requires and how quickly students complete them.

The average master’s in public health degree program is 42 credits and can be completed in two years of full-time study. Part-time students will typically complete the program in three years.

However, some schools offer accelerated programs for students with experience in the field, which can be completed in 12-18 months. Students should confirm the standard program duration and explore options for meeting requirements at a faster or slower pace with an admissions counselor or program representative.

Is an online master's in public health degree worth it?

From a career standpoint, earning an online master’s in public health can be a smart move for students seeking to advance in the field.

According to the BLS, roughly 800 new epidemiologist jobs will be available annually through 2032, translating to a 27% increase in employment in the field. The median annual wage for this position is $78,520, with the top 10% of earners making more than $123,430 per year.

Public health can also be a very personally rewarding career. Public health workers help protect their communities and the world through research, education, and risk management. For individuals who want to work in a healthcare-related field with a broad impact, an online master’s in public health may be worth considering.

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