PhD in Public Health: Online Degree

Explore online doctoral degree programs in public health. Find information on coursework, entrance requirements and job prospects to make an informed career decision.

Essential Information

Online doctoral degree programs in public health are not common. The few available programs are designed for professionals who have many years of experience and would like to advance to leadership positions. These programs confer with a DrPH or a Ph.D. in Public Health degree.

Most coursework can usually be completed through distance learning, though short residency workshops are typically required. Also, on-campus attendance is normally necessary for comprehensive examinations, meetings with one's dissertation committee and the formal dissertation review. Exams may also be required to be taken on campus.

Students may be allowed to complete a set of electives in a chosen specialization area, such as epidemiology or community health education, although some schools may not have as wide a range of online elective choices compared to campus-based class options.

Doctoral Degree in Public Health

Courses included in online doctorate programs in public health, including the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Public Health and Doctor of Public Health (DrPH), often incorporate leadership and management, epidemiology and ethics. Through classes in these areas, students can learn how to be influential leaders in the field of public health and advance their professional academic, research or healthcare careers. Students interested in this program may also be interested in an online Ph.D. program from a related area, such as public policy and administration.

Learning Environment

Many online Ph.D. and DrPH programs allow for the majority of the coursework to be completed online. However, some components of the program may have an on-campus requirement, such as the dissertation presentation and defense. Most programs also require students to pass a comprehensive exam or complete a doctoral dissertation. Some schools organize students into defined groups or cohorts who work together during their academic career.

Common Coursework

Online doctoral programs in public health do not typically have general education requirements. Students may conduct research, as well as learn about health policy, public politics, leadership and other related areas.


Students will study disease patterns in communities through research and analysis. Students may utilize computer modeling to define patterns and facilitate investigation. Some classes focus on specific diseases or specific populations.

Law and Ethics

Students will examine the legal system in the United States and how it applies to healthcare. Ethics surrounding patient care and management are often explored in such classes. Students will also consider various health insurance companies, as well as their ethics and legality.

Leadership and Management

Students will learn how to develop effective collaboration between groups and individuals to enhance company efficiency. Classes also explore change management. In addition to face-to-face interactions, students will also explore social networking and other technologies.

Career Information for Graduates

Graduates from doctoral degree programs in public health may seek careers as health educators or medical and health service managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that between 2014 and 2024, employment opportunities for health educators would increase by 12%, while medical and health service managers would see a 17% increase ( In 2014, the BLS reported that health educators earned an average salary of $56,690, while medical and health service managers averaged at $106,070.

Amongst health educators, the BLS reports that individuals with a doctoral degree can pursue careers teaching at the postsecondary level. As of May 2015, there were 178,900 health specialties teachers at the postsecondary level who earned an average salary of $114,510.

Continuing Education

Many in the health services and education field seek professional certification to advance their career, such as the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential offered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. Medical and health service managers can work toward a Registered Health Information Administrator (RHIA) certification administered by the American Health Information Management Association.

Professionals who wish to further their careers may opt for an online doctoral degree in public health, which typically covers leadership and management, epidemiology and ethics. Graduates may become educators or medical and health service managers.

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