Public Health Nurse Certification and Certificate Programs

Public health nurse certification is a required credential for the public health nursing specialization. Get some quick facts about the education and skills necessary to qualify for this certification.

Essential Information

Public health nurses are registered nurses who work with groups of people and communities to ensure access to health services and address public health issues. These professionals must first be registered nurses before seeking public health nursing certification. There are both degree and certificate programs that can qualify candidates for certification.

Required Education Associate or bachelor's degree
Additional Requirements Nursing license; PHN certificate; ANCC certification
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)*19% for registered nurses
Median Salary (2015)** $50,684

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; **

Certification and Certificate Program Information

To enroll in a public health nursing (PHN) certificate program, applicants must have a current registered nurse (RN) license. There are associate's degree programs that qualify candidates for the RN license, and many PHN-focused programs lead to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). To qualify for professional certification as a public health nurse, a BSN may be necessary; however,, a website sponsored by the American Dental Education Association, reported that some organizations might hire associate's-degree holding RNs to work as public health nurses.

Some states, such as California and Minnesota, have set up their BSN programs to include public health courses and can qualify graduates for public health nursing certification. In these instances, program graduates apply for a public health nursing (PHN) certificate from a nursing board upon graduation. For graduates who complete a bachelor's degree program that does not have a recognized public health nursing curriculum, institutions may offer a public health nursing certificate.

Bachelor of Science in Nursing

BSN degree programs satisfy the base educational requirements for becoming an RN or for advancing a student's nursing expertise. These 4-year degree programs combine classroom learning with clinical experience opportunities. RNs who are already licensed through other means, such as an associate degree in nursing, may be able to complete a BSN program on an accelerated track. Common courses in a BSN program include:

  • Anatomy
  • Health assessment
  • Physiology
  • Patient care focus, such as adults and children
  • Nursing clinical practicum

Public Health Nursing Certificate

PHN certificate programs are for students who have earned a BSN from a program that isn't approved for public health nursing. Courses that a student must take to meet the requirements of a PHN certificate program can vary depending on the institution and the student's academic history. If students can demonstrate that they have completed coursework with similar content to a required course, an exemption may be granted. PHN certificate programs can typically be completed in 1-2 semesters. Common courses for the certificate program may include:

  • Nursing assessment
  • Community nursing
  • Family caring
  • Multicultural nursing
  • Health teaching techniques

Professional Certification

The American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) offers certification for public health nurses in two capacities: a public health nurse - advanced or a public and community health clinical nurse specialist. Attempting to obtain certification requires a valid RN license. Candidates must pass a computerized test in order to become certified. Certification must be renewed every five years, which requires completion of continuing education.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), predicts that registered nursing jobs in general will experience a 19% growth increase over the 2012-2022 decade. reported that the median annual salary for public health nurses was $50,684 as of 2015. Multiple specializations are likely to see the most favorable job prospects.

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