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Below are the the 50 most affordable schools for Public Health, according to our methodology.
Note: overall, we selected over 400 schools across the country for our rankings (see the State Rankings pages). We decided to limit the Subject Rankings pages to profiles of, at most, 50 schools offering degrees in each subject. So, while the 50 schools below are the "best of the best" in terms of affordability, there may be many other affordable schools listed in our State Rankings that offer these programs too!
The 50 Most Affordable Public Health Degrees
Public health professionals battle to keep the world healthy. In every corner of the globe, warriors work on tackling the spread of infectious disease, improving healthcare access, reducing environmental hazards, developing government policy, creating educational programs and conducting important research.
Sound exciting? We think so too. That’s why we’ve put together this quick guide to earning a public health degree. Here you’ll find detailed information about which degree to choose, what accreditations to look for and whether licensure and certification is necessary. Interested in distance education? We also profile the leaders in our list of top schools offering affordable online programs.
Online Public Health Schools
What to Look for in Online Public Health Programs
Thanks to the efforts of public health schools to improve their distance education offerings, high-quality online degree programs are now available at every level – from undergraduate to graduate. Since public health is a hands-on profession, many schools have developed hybrid degrees. Courses are completed online, but internships and fieldwork are arranged in a student’s local area.
As you’re researching offerings, check to see if your school and program have:
- Regional accreditation
- CEPH accreditation (you can search for online degrees at the CEPH Degree Database)
- Opportunities for practical experience (e.g. local fieldwork, internships, study abroad and service learning)
- Distance learning support services
- A strong “brick and mortar” reputation (Is there a school of public health? How much research does it conduct? Does it receive NIH funding? What kind of jobs do alumni hold?)
- Respected faculty who teach the same courses online as they do on-campus
Types of Public Health Degrees
Associate’s Degree in Public Health
An associate’s degree in public health is a 2-year qualification that can be used for entry-level roles in healthcare administration or as the basis for a bachelor’s degree. To give students a broad, interdisciplinary view of public health, the curriculum often includes subjects like statistics, anatomy, nutrition and community health.
- Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in Public Health: Intended for students who wish to start a career straight after graduation.
- Associate of Science (AS) in Public Health: Intended for students who are interested in earning a bachelor’s degree.
An associate’s degree won’t get you very far up the job ladder, but it may qualify you to work as a health coach, health teacher, community health educator, health promotion counselor or program coordinator.
Bachelor’s Degree in Public Health
A bachelor’s degree in public health is a 4-year program that provides a thorough grounding in the field. This degree can be used as a stepping stone to graduate work, preparation for a related career (e.g. law, medicine, government, etc.) or as the basis for entry- or mid-level jobs in public health. A typical curriculum has courses on science, psychology, statistics, social and behavioral sciences, health administration and epidemiology.
- Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Public Health: Often focuses on arts-related subjects (e.g. psychology, sociology, history, etc.) and their relation to human health (e.g. environmental health, human behavior, history of public health, etc.).
- Bachelor of Science (BS) in Public Health: Often focuses on science subjects (e.g. biochemistry, chemistry, biology, etc.) and their applications in the real world of human health (e.g. biostatistics, epidemiology, etc.).
Before signing on the dotted line, check if your program has CEPH accreditation. Good bachelor’s degrees will also require an internship and/or fieldwork.
General Bachelor Degrees & the MPH
Happily, you do not have to earn a BA or BS in Public Health to apply for an MPH. Most graduate schools will accept any regionally accredited undergraduate degree, whatever your major was. However, if you’re thinking about a master’s degree, you might consider majoring in your area of interest. For example:
- Biostatistics or Epidemiology = Science or Math major
- Health Education = Sociology, Education or Psychology major
- Health Administration = Business or Social Sciences major
Master’s Degree in Public Health
A master’s degree in public health is a 2-year program that delves into both practice and research. Master’s degrees in public health are usually grouped in 2 categories: professional and academic. Which category you choose will depend on your career goals.
Professional Public Health Degrees
- Master of Public Health (MPH): Intended to prepare graduates for practical, hands-on work in public health professions. As such, most curricula include ASPPH’s 5 core competencies: biostatistics, epidemiology, social and behavioral sciences, environmental health and health policy and management. A wide variety of concentrations (e.g. community health, global health, maternal and child health, etc.) are available.
- Master of Health Administration (MHA): Frequently earned by professionals with jobs in hospital administration, health policy and health service management. Concentrations focus on administrative challenges (e.g. health information technology, health policy, healthcare finance, etc.).
Anyone with a regionally accredited undergraduate degree can apply for the MPH. You do not have to hold a BA or BS in Public Health.
Good professional degrees will arrange internships and fieldwork opportunities (e.g. working in a hospital, public health department, non-profit or government agency). Always look for MPH programs with CEPH accreditation.
Academic Public Health Degrees
- Master of Science in Public Health (MSPH): Geared towards students interested in further graduate work, public health research and/or public health policy. Courses may emphasize quantitative methods; concentrations cover a range of public health issues (e.g. environmental health, health policy and management, occupational health etc.).
- Master of Health Sciences (MHS): Often earned by students fresh out of college. Can be offered as an academic program (for students interested in further graduate work or research careers) or as a professional program (see above). Check with each school for specific details.
Note: The MPH is not a clinical degree. However, some states will recognize MPH holders as ancillary clinical professionals. For example, this can happen in hospitals who have MPH public health staff.
Dual Master’s Degrees
Doctoral Degree in Public Health
A doctoral degree in public health is a 3-5 year program that prepares graduates for the highest level of their profession. Doctorate holders pursue careers in management, university teaching, public health policy and/or deep-level research. Like the master’s degree, doctorates fall into 2 categories: professional and academic.
Professional Public Health Doctorates
- Doctor of Public Health (DrPH): Intended for working professionals interested in practical applications such as public policy analysis, program administration and public health management. Graduates use the DrPH to advance their careers, qualify for high-level administration jobs and become leaders in public health. The MPH is a requirement.
- Doctor of Health Science (DHS): Emphasizes the application of scientific knowledge to clinical practice, delivery of health services and health professional education. Often earned by advanced practice clinicians, mid- to executive-level healthcare administrators and allied health professionals (e.g. physical therapist, paramedic, etc.) who hold master’s degrees.
Academic Public Health Doctorates
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Public Health: Intended for those interested in professorships, research in national labs or advanced fieldwork. As part of the dissertation requirement, PhD students often tackle a large public health research project in the social, behavioral or biological realm.
If you’re interested in public health doctorates, be sure that your program has CEPH accreditation.
Certificates & Executive Programs
If you don’t have the time or funds for a full-time degree, there are other options available:
- Certificates: Short non-degree programs (e.g. 6 months – 1 year) offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. Students often obtain certificates in order to specialize in area of interest and/or earn course credits. Always check that your credits will be transferable to your chosen degree program.
- Executive Degree Programs: Part-time degree programs geared towards working professionals interested in leadership positions in public health. In most cases, students must have a few years of experience in order to apply. Courses are offered at night, on the weekend and online.
- Summer Institutions: Highly focused summer programs that explore specific areas of public health. Some summer institutions offer academic credit.
We recommend your university or college have regional accreditation. This is a “seal of approval” granted to institutions by one of six regional accrediting bodies (e.g. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools).
You can learn more about the difference between national and regional accreditation in: Accreditation: Understanding the Difference Between Real Schools and Diploma Mills.
By attending a regionally accredited school, you will be able to:
- Qualify for federal financial aid and scholarship opportunities
- Transfer credits to other regionally accredited institutions (many universities won’t accept course credits from a nationally accredited school)
- Demonstrate to employers that you’re serious about your education
You will also want to look for program accreditation from CEPH.
Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH)
The Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH) is an independent, nationally recognized agency that accredits schools of public health and public health programs. It assesses everything – bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees; on-campus, online and hybrid. You can search for any CEPH-accredited degree, in any format, in the CEPH Degree Database.
There are major benefits to choosing a CEPH-accredited program. With your degree in hand, you will be allowed to:
- Take the CPH Exam
- Qualify for federal public health internships and fellowships, financial aid and student assistance
- Apply for employment opportunities that are only offered to CEPH graduates (e.g. jobs with the U.S. Military, state and local government agencies, etc.)
Licensure & Certification
Is Licensing Necessary?
Certified in Public Health (CPH) Credential
The Certified in Public Health (CPH) credential is purely voluntary. It demonstrates that a graduate of a CEPH-accredited school or program has mastered core competencies in public health.
To earn the CPH, you must:
- Pass the CPH Exam (register at the NBPHE Registration Center)
- Submit to a bi-annual certification process
You can find complete information about the certification process, details about the CPH exam and answers to common FAQs on the National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE) website.
- American Public Health Association (APHA): Publishes the American Journal of Public Health, provides professional development opportunities (including internships and fellowships) and has a great deal to say about federal policy.
- Association of Schools & Programs of Public Health (ASPPH): Represents all CEPH-accredited schools and programs. Its website has tons of helpful educational resources for newbies to the field.
- Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA): A federal agency responsible for improving access to health care services to people who are uninsured, geographically isolated or vulnerable. Offers a variety of loans and scholarships.
- National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE): Oversees and administers the CPH credential.
- Schools of Public Health Applications Services (SOPHAS): Provides a centralized application service for CEPH-accredited schools and programs. Participating schools will redirect you to SOPHAS when you apply.
- Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE): Independent professional organization that represents nearly 4,000 health education professionals and students. Offers a variety of awards and scholarships to members.