The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs of 2019

The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs of 2019

Best Online Doctorate

A doctorate in public health online program helps you gain the specialization necessary to earn a research position within the medical field or to gain employment in the highest levels of the sector as a research director or an administrative manager. As a specialist in public health, you can expect to gain the knowledge you need to help organizations implement optimal administrative practices, including the coordination and design of systems to improve patient-doctor relationships, to facilitate benefits for medical personnel, and to train new and seasoned professionals in the latest in medical service organization standards. The skills learned in a doctoral program in public health are extremely valuable to modern health organizations of all types and levels of complexity. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a medical and health services manager earned a median annual salary of $96,540 in 2017, a number the BLS projects to grow by 17% over the next seven years.

Choosing a Program


Institutions design their doctor of public health online programs to equip graduates with the highest level of expertise in the field. Most programs take a multidisciplinary approach, offering courses in management, communications, and leadership alongside courses with a more medical focus. Collaborative learning environments help students develop the nuanced thinking they need to successfully address the complexities of public health policy and lead organizational change. Programs typically feature faculty with significant background in the field, ensuring a hands-on manner of instruction.


Top online public health doctoral programs expect applicants to already possess a bachelor’s or master’s degree in health sciences or a related field, such as business, health care, psychology, economics, medicine, or biology. In addition, schools expect applicants to have gained between two and fours years of experience as a full-time public health employee. The best-prepared candidates for the top public health doctoral programs typically possess experience in a wide selection of public and private areas of health care.


The “right” doctor of public health program is different for every individual. Depending on what areas you already have a background in and what specializations you have a desire to carry forward in your career, the doctoral programs in public health that you consider should reflect your specific interests. Most higher learning institutions can answer any questions you may have about leveraging your experience to pursue a doctoral program, so talking to the consultation staff at your alma mater first is always an excellent idea.


Doctoral programs in public health are usually tailored to fit the needs of mid-career medical health professionals seeking to broaden their knowledge base and training in order to effect organizational change as an administrative or medical professional. The broad community of peers that online learning fosters allows for a high degree of collaborative learning. Students in doctoral programs have already gained experience working in the field, and online programs are designed to be flexible enough that students can continue to work while they pursue their degree.

What Are The Best Online Doctorate in Public Health Programs?

School Location Cost Description Toggle

University of Illinois at Chicago

Chicago, IL



A public research institution located near the Chicago Loop, UIC’s online degree options include a doctor of public health in leadership for experienced professionals. Beginning in the fall semester, the part-time program enrolls mid-career public health specialists who want to enhance their leadership skills and experience. UIC’s doctor of public health online emphasizes practice-based research, public health policy, and directorship in the broader public health community.

Requiring 96 credit hours in total, UIC’s Ph.D. public health online program includes 28 core course credits, eight credits in a focus area, and a 28-credit dissertation project. Students may also transfer up to 32 credits of graduate-level coursework from a master’s in public health. During the dissertation project, distance learners contribute original information to the larger public health evidence base. Candidates may choose to complete a research-based project, design an intervention project, evaluate a complex program or policy, or formulate an original policy.

Prospective students should hold a master’s degree from an accredited public health school or public health training program and three or more years of full-time professional experience in a public health leadership position or in a mid- to senior-level management position. While UIC may admit students without a master’s degree, these applicants must complete additional foundational coursework. Applicants should provide transcripts, a resume or CV, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. UIC does not require GRE scores but encourages applicants to submit them as supplemental material.

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Public Health in Leadership
Tuition: $830/credit
Credit Requirements: 96 credits
Program Length: 4-6 years

Format: Online
Instruction style: Synchronous and asynchronous

Admission Requirements
Standardized Tests: GRE optional
Work Experience: 3 years in a public health leadership position or a management leadership position

Phone: (312) 996-6628
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

Chapel Hill, NC



Founded in 1789, UNC is North Carolina’s flagship institution. The university’s online doctor of public health in health leadership is a three-year executive doctoral program that combines online coursework with required semesterly campus visits. The doctor of public health online program admits working healthcare professionals with at least five years of managerial or supervisory experience in a healthcare setting.

Working within a cohort, students complete 45-51 course credits and six on-campus residencies over a two-year period. The public health doctorate curriculum includes classes in population perspectives for health, practice-based research, program evaluation for health leaders, and health policy analysis. Doctoral candidates spend their third year composing a dissertation on a current or historical issue or problem related to healthcare, health policy, or organizational development. Prior to graduation, all students must pass written and oral comprehensive exams.

Prospective students may hold a master’s or doctoral degree in any field. UNC prioritizes candidates who demonstrate leadership skills and a history of full-time employment in the health field. Applicants should boast at least five years of professional experience with management or leadership responsibilities. Applicants are expected to provide transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, GRE or GMAT scores, and an essay describing their career goals and reasons for applying to the program.

UNC’s online Ph.D. public health programs feature fall semester start dates. The university offers a tuition discount for North Carolina residents and sponsors need- and merit-based scholarships.

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Public Health in Health Leadership
Tuition: $742/credit in-state; $1,548/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 45-51 credits
Program Length: 3 years

Format: Online

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT
Work Experience: 5 years managerial or supervisory experience in healthcare

Phone: (919) 966-7391
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

University of South Florida

Tampa, FL



A public research university with over 50,000 students, the University of South Florida ranks as one of the state’s largest public universities. Distance learners enrolled in USF’s online doctor of public health program may pursue a concentration in advanced practice leadership in public health or public health and clinical laboratory science and practice. This practice-based doctorate in public health emphasizes applied skills, preparing candidates for leadership roles in health departments, nonprofit organizations, international agencies, and health services organizations.

The 43-credit curriculum includes 13 core course credits, 12 credits within the student’s concentration area, and 12 elective credits. Students also complete six credits of culminating coursework, including applied practice experiences, a qualifying examination, and a public health doctoral project. The leadership concentration introduces advanced concepts in developing, implementing, and evaluating public health practices. The public health laboratories emphasis instills the applied skills needed to excel in laboratory leadership positions. All distance learners must attend three on-site residencies at USF’s Tampa campus.

Prospective students must hold a master’s in public health, master of healthcare administration, or a related master’s degree from an accredited institution. Candidates must also demonstrate minimum 3.0 GPA in graduate coursework, at least two years of advanced work experience in a public health field, and provide current GRE scores. USF waives the standardized test score requirement for applicants with a minimum 3.5 GPA or those who hold a terminal or advanced professional degree. Applicants should also submit a resume, three letters of recommendation, and a personal statement.

Program Overview
Program Name: Doctor of Public Health
Available Concentrations: Advanced practice leadership in public health; public health and clinical laboratory science and practice
Tuition: $431/credit in-state; $877/credit out-of-state
Credit Requirements: 43 credits

Format: Online

Admission Requirements
GPA: 3.0 minimum
Standardized Tests: GRE
Work Experience: 2 years advanced experience in public health

Phone: (813) 974-6505
Social Media Accounts: Facebook; Twitter

What Else Can I Expect From an Online Doctorate in Public Health Program?

Educational institutions design their doctorate of public health programs around the needs of experienced health professionals who have already obtained a master’s in public health or a similar program. These programs generally involve a number of potential specializations. Students can expect to self-direct their research and participate in a hands-on curriculum.


Some doctor of public health programs may have more of a focus in research areas, while others may have more of a focus in management practices. In order to get a better idea of what courses an online doctorate in public health may feature, consult the list below.

Topics in Health and Wellness: This course typically covers the role of a physical therapist in health and wellness for both communities and individuals. The course explores public policy, community accessibility, and health behavior, along with the role of intervention, assessment strategies, and outcome evaluation. Enrolled students choose a concentration topic, such as integrative care, preventative care, or adaptive technologies.

Advanced Clinical Practice: In this course, students integrate skills they have learned in clinical foundation courses with the advanced theory of medical protocol through case studies and fellowships to prepare medical professionals involved with clinical work. Students pick a topic of interest based on their clinical practice history and research according to their instructor’s curriculum framework.

Healthcare Systems Organization, Delivery and Economics: A focus on healthcare systems organization, delivery, and economics allows students to discuss the structural and economic foundations of the medical system, including health care delivery, the financing of health technology, and the structure of health organizations. The course explores health policy and various methods of health care delivery within a seminar context in order to facilitate a student’s understanding of contemporary issues in the implementation of health care as an administrator.


A PhD program is typically among the most time-intensive academic tracks in the public health field, and can take learners as long as five or six years to complete, depending on the amount of professional experience an applicant has or the level of specialization of the public health doctorate a student pursues. In addition, the pace at which a learner progresses along their degree path may vary according to whether they are full or part-time students.

Public health doctor degrees take less time than most other doctoral programs, with full-time students completing all requirements within two to four years on average. Some online doctoral programs in public health may structure their degree path according to a cohort model, which requires applicants to enter the program together as a group in order to properly facilitate online discussions, testing, and forum usage. In general, a public health PhD requires that students complete about 60 credits of coursework, as well as a dissertation on a public health topic related to their specialization, but requirements may vary from school to school.

Accreditation for Online Doctorate in Public Health Degrees

Successfully passing the accreditation process is important for schools. Accreditation maintains a high standard of education in a given institution of higher learning by providing a basis for differentiation between accredited schools and those that have not met a minimum standard. Regional accreditation is a process undertaken by a college or school to conform to that standard through inspection and evaluation by a third party organization. National accreditation is a separate but necessary requirement of any college attended with received federal grants or aid. There is no specific accreditation required in addition to regional or national accreditation regarding the best online doctoral program in public health, but some programs work directly with employers and may offer exclusive fellowship opportunities. In addition, public health programs have their own accreditation bodies, such as the CEPH (Council on Education for Public Health) and the AAPHP (Association of Accredited Public Health Programs).

The United States Department of Education (ED) is a federal agency established in 1979 to regulate policies concerning all schools and colleges within the United States, to coordinate federal assistance for education, to gather data about schools, and to enforce federal laws regarding education. The ED works to promote the success of education within the United States and has no direct hand in the accreditation process itself.

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (CHEA) and similar bodies work to maintain educational standards and keep universities in the United States competitive, and with institutions of higher learning around the world. Interested applicants may look for one of the seven organizations that make up the CHEA. The ED makes a list of universities with national accreditation available to the public.

Employment Outlook for Doctorate in Public Health Graduates


Although a master’s degree can help prepare you for top administrative and teaching positions, a doctorate from an accredited online doctoral program in public health conveys an additional level of certification. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that individuals employed in top positions in public health services, such as in management and administration, stand to see a salary increase of 17% from a median annual income of $96,540 in the next seven years. An advanced degree in public health policy can help give candidates for these positions a leg up in terms of job placement and have led to increasing enrollment in these programs in recent years.


In addition to natural variation between workplaces, the level of professional experience of a graduate or PhD-holder impacts the annual earnings of a position within the public health industry. The following table features data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics regarding states with the highest-paying salaries for the position of health and medical services managers.

State Employment Employment per thousand jobs Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage
California 33,160 2.08 $59.04 $122,800
New York 26,010 2.86 $65.21 $135,640
Texas 21,840 1.86 $50.36 $104,740
Ohio 15,540 2.91 $47.60 $99,000
Pennsylvania 13,640 2.37 $47.72 $99,260

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics


The career paths that an online doctorate in public health prepares for include the highest levels of public health administration and management. Detail-oriented individuals might find satisfaction in a research position at a medical school or as a professor of public health theory and practice. More generalist-oriented individuals might find themselves gravitating towards an administrative position within a hospital or a similar medical organization. Whatever your inclination, earning your online doctor of public health provides you with the highest education levels of expertise and preparation.

Health and Safety Engineers

A health and safety engineer helps to design systems and develop procedures that prevent people from getting injured or sick and prevent damage to property. They combine a thorough knowledge of engineering and safety standards to ensure that medical technology, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals will not cause undo harm.

Median Annual Salary – $86,720
Projected Growth Rate – 6%

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

An environmental scientist or environmental health specialist uses their background in the natural sciences to help protect the integrity of a given ecosystem and the health of humans in the environment. They work to clean up pollution, provide advice to policymakers, and work within medical industries to reduce waste.

Median Annual Salary – $68,910
Projected Growth Rate – 11%

Medical and Health Services Managers

Sometimes working under the titles of healthcare administrators or healthcare executives, medical and health services managers coordinate, plan, and direct the logistics of medical and health organizations. They could be tasked with managing a hospital, a specific area or department of a clinic, or a group of physicians. Medical and health services managers work to ensure that establishments conform to regulations in healthcare laws and technological standards.

Median Annual Salary – $96,540
Projected Growth Rate – 17%


Statisticians use health data and advanced statistical methods to gather and analyze problems facing the medical industry. Public health issues are often put in perspective with other areas of economic activity through these statistical methods.

Median Annual Salary – $80,500
Projected Growth Rate – 34%


An epidemiologist is a public health professional who investigates the causes of injury and disease in humans and works to find patterns in their presentation. They work to reduce the prevalence of negative health outcomes through the creation of new policies, practices, and educational standards.

Median Annual Salary – $70,820
Projected Growth Rate – 6%


Leading organizations in the field of public health policy know how to help emerging professionals and recent doctoral graduates gain access to networking opportunities, attend conferences, and obtain career services. These organizations, such as the American Public Health Association and the United States Public Health Service, offer continued learning opportunities and training in the field of public health policy.

Financing Your Online Doctorate in Public Health Program

Students should do research on FAFSA loans in order to understand funding opportunities like scholarships, grants, loans and work-study. Many low-interest rate funds exist with banks and lending partners in education. Certain bodies also exist to further the scholarship, grant, and fellowship opportunities for online doctoral programs in public health, such as the Center for Disease Control’s Public Health Fellowships program. Because of the way doctoral programs in public health are tied to established degree tracks in master’s programs and through medical organizations, many such bodies may also create employment funding opportunities for qualified professionals.


Approximately two-thirds of today’s college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.


Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.


Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you’ll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn’t always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.


Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family’s financial future. We’ve compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.


Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.

Last Updated: April 29, 2019


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