Top 8 Best Online Public Health PhD Degree Programs (Doctorates)

Top 8 Best Online Public Health PhD Degree Programs (Doctorates)

We rank the best online public health degree programs for a PhD.

Key Takeaways

  • The demand has never been higher for qualified public health professionals.

  • Students seeking an online public health PhD program have a number of excellent options to choose from.

  • An online doctorate in public health can lead to opportunities for public health educators, health services managers, and careers in environmental and occupational health.

Featured Programs

Students interested in health education, public health, community health, and public health leadership may benefit from the online doctorate in public health. Many public health professionals will pursue the public health online PhD program as a pathway into various careers in global health leadership, occupational health education, health policy consultation, and much more.

An online PhD is considered a terminal degree, which means it is the highest degree that you can earn in the field of public health. The online doctorate in public health can lead to opportunities for health systems administration, health policy consultation, research for federal government agencies, and post-secondary public health education.

Online public health PhD candidates are typically already working at a high level in their field. This means that students seeking their doctorate in public health must balance existing work and personal responsibilities with a challenging course of education. For many graduate students, online courses and fully online programs provide a way to achieve this balance.

For a look at how these public health online doctoral programs stack up against traditional on campus programs, prospective students can check out our look at the Best Graduate Schools Ranked for Prospective Students.

Or learn more with a look at our List of College Rankings.

 

Otherwise, read on and learn more about how you can earn an online PhD in public health through a top-ranked online doctorate program.


About Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs

Quality and credibility are important when it comes to finding an online PhD. The best online doctorate in public health programs will have proper accreditation:

  • Institutional Accreditation: Accreditation is vital for online doctoral programs. It signifies that the online PhD programs offered by the online school are in compliance with the standards of a Department of Education-approved accrediting body. A school must also be accredited in order to offer federal financial aid to its online doctorate candidates.
  • When looking for an online doctoral program, seek out options with accreditation from a colleges and schools commission in your region. This stamp of approval is critical for ensuring the quality and credibility of your online program.

  • Programmatic Accreditation: In addition to institutional accreditation, be sure that you prioritize online doctorate degree programs with programmatic accreditation. Programmatic accreditation in public health is granted by the Public Health Accreditation Board (PHAB), and can be an indication that your online doctorate in public health is compliant with current standards and best practices in the field of public health.
  • Carnegie Classification: The Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education, or as it is more commonly known, the Carnegie Classification, is a framework for categorizing all accredited, degree-granting institutions in the United States. Originally formulated in 1970 by The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and administered through the University of Indiana’s Center for Postsecondary Research since 2014, the Carnegie Classification is “the leading framework for recognizing and describing institutional diversity in U.S. higher education.”
  • Under this classification, top research universities for doctoral degrees and PhD candidates are identified as either R2: Doctoral Universities for “high research activity” or R1: Doctoral Universities for “very high research activity.” Look for these classifications when considering options for your online Phd programs.

Key Point: Be sure that you only consider online PhD programs with proper accreditation.


Public Health Program Admission Requirements

Schools that offer online doctorate programs in public health have different admission requirements. However, most online doctoral programs will carry the same basic threshold for admission:

  • A completed online application
  • Official undergraduate college transcripts
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 3.0
  • GRE scores, MAT scores, or GMAT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Personal interviews
  • Personal statement or essay
  • Plan of study

Key Point: In most cases, you’ll be eligible to enter a doctoral degree online after earning a bachelor’s degree. However, some specialized online PhD programs may require you to have earned a related master’s degree as well.

Curriculum and Courses

As with other advanced degree and graduate programs, research is the central component of your online public health doctorate program. This is true for fully online doctorate degrees as well as hybrid degrees combining online education with traditional on-campus courses. Regardless of whether you complete a traditional, hybrid or online doctoral program, the typical time to completion is three to six years.

The typical components of your online public health PhD program may include:

Foundational Courses

Foundational online doctor of public health courses will be focused on your specific concentration.

Such concentrations may include:

  • Health services management
  • Disease prevention
  • Public health policy
  • Advanced practice leadership

Additional courses will focus on developing research skills, practicing research methods, and modeling experimental design. You may be able to complete many of these requirements through online classes.

Examinations for PhD Candidacy

Many online doctoral students are required to complete certain examinations to enter into online PhD candidacy. This will typically occur after you’ve completed one to two years of foundational courses.

Dissertation

In most cases, the central component of your online PhD program will be the completion of your dissertation. After gaining status as an online PhD candidate, you will typically work closely with a professorial advisor or mentor to develop an original research question and conduct research around this question.

This research question will form the basis of your dissertation—an ongoing project designed to address this research question through applied research. While you will work closely with your advisor or mentor, much of your dissertation will be rooted in independent research. This is especially true for students pursuing an online PhD.

Oral Defense

Upon completion of the written portion of your dissertation—which will typically present the findings from your original research project—you will be expected to defend your findings. This “oral defense” will typically be conducted by a commission of professors and experts in your field. PhD candidates in some online degree programs may be able to conduct this defense via teleconferencing.

Teaching Requirements

Some online PhD programs will also include a teaching component, which will require you to work as an adjunct professor or teacher’s assistant in an undergraduate or graduate school. It may be possible for students in the online doctoral degree program to also serve teaching requirements by instructing online students.

Practicum

In addition to your own research projects, some public health programs may require you to take part in fieldwork such as applied public health research.

Key Point: The online public health PhD is a research-focused degree. Your dissertation will be a central part of your online doctoral degree program.


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Careers for Students Who Complete Their Online Doctorate in Public Health

Accredited online doctoral programs are generally terminal degree programs. This means that students who complete credible online doctoral programs in their field are generally eligible for top positions and opportunities in their field.

The BLS reports that the top 10% of health and medical services administrators earned more than $119,000 in 2021.

The BLS also notes that public health professionals who conduct research on epidemiology for government agencies earned more than $130,000 in 2021.

These higher earnings reflect the high demand for public health researchers, public health policy consultants, and public health educators. Working professionals who earn an accredited online doctorate in public health may be eligible to work in the following public health careers.

  • Public Health Outreach
  • Population Health Research
  • Community Health Manager
  • Epidemiologist
  • Post-Secondary Public Health Education
  • Public Health Policy Consultation
  • Medical Services Management

Key Points: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, students who complete public health doctoral programs will be eligible for top scientific research and health education professions.

What’s the difference between online doctoral programs and online PhD programs?

Technically, a PhD is a type of doctorate degree. This means that all online PhD candidates are doctoral students. By contrast, not all doctoral students are PhD candidates.

The primary distinction is that doctoral students are primarily focused on putting existing theories into practice. Depending on your chosen field, your online doctoral degree may require participation in an educational leadership program, engagement in clinical practice, work as a resident in a nursing program, and much more.

By contrast, online PhD students are focused on creating new knowledge in their area of study. This usually means that online PhD candidates are focused on introducing new theories, creating research projects around these theories, and presenting new findings that demonstrate a mastery of existing knowledge and the insight to introduce new ideas into the field.

Today, more working professionals than ever before are pursuing both online doctoral degrees and online Phd programs.


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The Best Online Public Health Doctorates (PhDs)

The best public health online program for earning a PhD will depend on your professional goals. Each public health program online offers different areas of emphasis. The public health online programs identified here are ranked based on influence, with weighting for graduation rate and full-time online enrollment.

  1. #1

    Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore , MD
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $59K

    Acceptance

    8%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    27K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1515/35

    What do we love about Johns Hopkins University?

    Johns Hopkins University was formed in 1876 and, in addition to being the oldest research university in the U.S., Johns Hopkins is actually the oldest research institution in the western hemisphere! In fact, Johns Hopkins was considered a groundbreaking institution from its very formation for its innovation merging of research and teaching.

    Based in Baltimore, Maryland, Johns Hopkins serves more than 26,000 students today.

    Noted for its topflight research opportunities, Johns Hopkins offers an innovative Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program geared toward early- to mid-career domestic and international public health professionals. Described as a flexible, part-time program delivered through online and intensive, week-long on-site courses in summer and winter institutes, students are expected to remain in relevant public health employment throughout their studies.

    • Johns Hopkins University is great for students who:

      Are looking to conduct research at the graduate level. The vast majority of Johns Hopkins students–well over 20,000–are pursuing advanced postgraduate degrees.

    • Johns Hopkins University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are seeking a social campus experience. Many students at Johns Hopkins are primarily focused on the rigorous academic experience.

  2. #2

    Texas Tech University

    Lubbock , TX
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $12K

    Acceptance

    68%

    Graduation

    63%

    Student body

    36K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1155/24

    What do we love about Texas Tech University?

    Texas Tech University began life as the Texas Technical College with its founding 1923. Based in Lubbock, Texas Tech is considered the primary institution among the five schools making up the Texas Tech University System.

    Taking its present name in 1969, Texas Tech University would become the sixth-largest institution in the state of Texas. Today, there are more than 40,000 students earning degrees at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels at the public research university

    Texas Tech is particularly noteworthy as a destination for prospective PhDs. Texas Tech is classified among R1: Doctoral Universities, so noted for their very high research activity. For instance, Texas Tech offers a unique online Family and Consumer Sciences Education PhD program. This is an excellent advanced degree for students pursuing careers in areas like public policy, consumer sciences research, and post-secondary education on issues critical to public health.

    • Texas Tech University is great for students who:

      Like a college with strong school spirit. Students repeatedly note that the school spirit is a major feature of campus life, which can make Texas Tech feel like one big community.

    • Texas Tech University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking for a small campus. Like a lot of other things in Texas, Texas Tech is a sprawling campus. Students note that the sheer distance of walking between classes can sometimes be exhausting.

  3. #3

    East Carolina University

    Greenville , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $7K

    Acceptance

    94%

    Graduation

    66%

    Student body

    24K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1095/21

    What do we love about East Carolina University?

    Eastern Carolina University was founded as a teacher training school in 1907. Today, the public research institution is the fourth largest in North Carolina with more than 29,000 students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    East Carolina University’s excellent in-state tuition rate makes it an attractive and affordable destination for many local students, with 90% of the student population coming from in state.

    Students interested in pursuing a Doctoral in Public Health (DrPH) have two online concentrations to choose from at ECU—Environmental and Occupational Health (EOH) and Health Policy Administration Leadership (HPAL).

    • East Carolina University is great for students who:

      Are interested in its top-flight degree programs in areas like nursing, psychology, public health, and more.

    • East Carolina University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Don’t enjoy a “party school” atmosphere.

  4. #4

    Loma Linda University

    Loma Linda , CA

    Tuition + fees

    $36K

    Student body

    3K

    What do we love about Loma Linda University?

    Loma Linda University was formed in 1905. Beginning its history as a sanitarium, Linda Loma quickly evolved into a medical college with an evangelical affiliation.

    Based in Loma Linda California, the private University retains an affiliation today with the Seventh-day Adventists as well as a focus on health sciences. Loma Linda serves a little over 3000 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

    Loma Linda’s online graduate degree options are quite varied. Linda Loma’s School of Public Health offers an extremely wide selection of both fully online and hybrid public health doctoral concentrations, including an online DrPH in Health Education and a hybrid Health Policy and Leadership.

    • Loma Linda University is great for students who:

      Are seeking post-graduate degrees. More than two-thirds of current enrollees are enrolled in advanced degree programs.

    • Loma Linda University might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are not affiliated with the evangelical faith. Many programs are taught from a faith-based perspective.

  5. Tuition + fees

    $16K

    Acceptance

    84%

    Graduation

    73%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Nebraska Methodist College known for?

    Nebraska Methodist College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    What do we love about Nebraska Methodist College?

    Nebraska Methodist College was founded in 1891 and is, today, a private institution that places an emphasis on healthcare degrees at every level. Based in Omaha, the Nebraska institution is modest in size but offers a refined focus in advanced healthcare and health education degrees.

    Nebraska Methodist College today serves a little more than 1000 students at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels.

    Nebraska Methodist College is particularly noted for its health-related doctoral programs in areas like nursing and allied health professions. This makes it a particularly strong draw to PhDs in fields like public health policy, and education and leadership in healthcare.

    For instance, the school offers a fully online Public Health Policy Doctorate Degree (EdD).

    • Nebraska Methodist College is great for students who:

      Are looking for a supportive learning environment. Students report that advisors and professors go above and beyond to support their learning goals.

    • Nebraska Methodist College might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are seeking scholarships. Students note that the number of scholarships offered by Nebraska Methodist is comparatively small.

  6. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $11K

    Acceptance

    85%

    Graduation

    81%

    Student body

    41K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1235/27

    What do we love about Indiana University Bloomington?

    Indiana University Bloomington was founded as State Seminary in 1820 and evolved into Indiana College within the decade. The Bloomington campus is the flagship institution in the state public university system.

    Indiana University Bloomington is noted for its high level of research activity, and has been referred to as a “Public Ivy.” With top-ranked programs in areas like environmental policy, public finance, and nonprofit management, Bloomington serves more than 45,000 undergraduate and graduate students today.

    Graduate students seeking online doctoral in public health options can access Indiana University Bloomington’s Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) with a concentration in Global Health Leadership.

    • Indiana University Bloomington is great for students who:

      Like to get involved in campus life. With more than 700 groups and clubs, Bloomington offers an incredible variety of social and recreational opportunities.

    • Indiana University Bloomington might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a small campus atmosphere.

  7. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $9K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    25K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1385/30

    What is University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill known for?

    University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    Most Influential Alumni

    What do we love about the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill?

    University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is considered a “Public Ivy,” a school with state funding that offers the prestige and educational experience akin to those at a private Ivy League school.

    The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is the flagship campus for the broader University of North Carolina system and began enrolling students in 1795. This makes UNC the only public school in the U.S. to both teach and graduate students in the 18th Century!

    UNC Chapel Hill also distinguished among R1: Doctoral Universities. Its very high level of research activity makes Chapel Hill a strong draw for PhD candidates. For example, doctoral students in public health can access the Gilling’s School of Public Health’s online Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) program in health leadership degree fully online.

    • The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill is great for students who:

      Desire a well-rounded education. All students are required to complete a liberal arts education on the way to their chosen major. Popular majors include biology, business administration, and psychology.

    • The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill might not be the best fit for students who:

      Prefer a more conservative environment. Many students at UNC note that the campus culture tends to lean to the liberal side of the political spectrum.

  8. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $6K

    Acceptance

    49%

    Graduation

    75%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1240/27

    What do we love about the University of South Florida?

    University of South Florida was founded in 1956, which makes it the first state university in Florida to be established in the 20th Century. One of 12 schools in the State University System of Florida, the public research university is based in Tampa with satellite campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota.

    With an enrollment of roughly 50,000 students at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels, University of South Florida is the fourth largest institution in the state of Florida.

    USF is noted for its very high level of research activity, which has earned it a place among R1: Doctoral Universities.

    The College of Public Health at the University of South Florida offers a fully online Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree with concentrations in both Advanced Practice Leadership in Public Health and the Doctor of Public Health.

    • University of South Florida is great for students who:

      Are looking for a lot of options. USF offers more than 240 undergraduate, master’s and doctorate degree programs across 14 colleges.

    • University of South Florida might not be the best fit for students who:

      Are looking for an intimate academic experience. The Tampa campus alone serves more than 41,000 students across over 1500 acres of land.

Other Options for Aspiring Public Health PhDs

Students considering an online doctoral in public health should also check out the best on-campus options to compare features like cost, curriculum, acceptance rate, and more.

  1. #1

    University of Michigan

    Ann Arbor , MI
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $17K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    44K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

  2. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $14K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    43K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1420/32

See the complete List of Online Programs.