Schools for Aspiring Public Health Professionals: How to Choose

Dec 09, 2019

Public health programs teach aspiring professionals how to research, assess, monitor and implement health care programs to ensure that they meet community needs. These professionals also learn to investigate how social, behavioral and economic factors impact health care standards in different cultures.

Public health programs are offered by 4-year colleges and universities; the three degree options are a Bachelor of Science in Public Health, a Master of Public Health and a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health. Some schools offer a joint program that allows students to earn both a bachelor's and a master's degree at the same time.

Top 10 Public Health Schools

The following list includes a number of public and private schools that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in public health.

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition* (2018-2019)
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate Undergraduate $53,740; Graduate $53,740
Harvard University Cambridge, MA 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral Graduate $46,384
University of North Carolina - Charlotte Charlotte, NC 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $6,853; Out-of-state Undergraduate $20,287; In-state Graduate $4,337; Out-of-state Graduate $17,771
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor Ann Arbor, MI 4-year, Public Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate In-state Graduate $23,128; Out-of-state Graduate $46,678
Columbia University New York, NY 4-year, Private Master's, Doctoral, Graduate Certificate Graduate $46,216
University of Washington Seattle, WA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $11,207; Out-of-state Undergraduate $36,588; In-state Graduate $15,510; Out-of-state Graduate $27,801
Emory University Atlanta, GA 4-year, Private Master's, Graduate Certificate Graduate $41,800
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Master's, Graduate Certificate In-state Graduate $17,064; Out-of-state Graduate $26,412
University of California - Berkeley Berkeley, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral In-state Undergraduate $14,184; Out-of-state Undergraduate $43,176; In-state Graduate $11,442; Out-of-state Graduate $26,544
Boston University Boston, MA 4-year, Private Bachelor's/Master's joint degree program Undergraduate $53,948; Graduate $52,816

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

School Selection Criteria

A bachelor's degree program offers a broad education on the subject of public health while master's and doctoral degree programs typically offer students the option to focus their studies on public health issues such as nutrition, health service management and policy, global health, clinical effectiveness or quantitative methods.

There are a number of things to consider when selecting an academic program.

  • Some schools offer combined bachelor's and master's degree programs that permit students to complete both degrees' requirements in five rather than six years, and some schools offer dual degree programs and award students two degrees, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or Juris Doctor (J.D.) in addition to a degree in public health.
  • Some Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs are designed for people who hold a master's degree in a related subject, but some admit students who've earned only a bachelor's degree.
  • Ph.D. and master's degree candidates should ensure that the degree program conforms to the requirements set by the Council for Education in Public Health (CEPH), such as obtaining field experience through an internship.
  • Some schools offer international opportunities that may be attractive to a student interested in working in international public health.

Bachelor of Science in Public Health

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) programs in public health typically require four years of study and consist of general education requirements in addition to public health coursework. Typically, students are also required to complete an internship.

Bachelor of Science and Master of Public Health Dual Degree

Combined B.S. and Master of Public Health (MPH) programs permit students to earn both degrees in fewer years than if they were taken separately. In addition to completing general education bachelor degree requirements, students receive graduate-level public health instruction during a fifth year of study. Many programs allow students to choose a concentration for their studies. Internships, research projects and oral presentations of a student's research project are common program components.

Master of Public Health

MPH programs usually take two years to finish, though 1-year accelerated degree programs are available for students already in possession of a degree in a related field. Students in these programs usually need to complete and present a thesis on a topic in their concentration prior to graduation. An internship may be required as well.

Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health

Ph.D. programs in public health require students to complete 45-70 credit hours and a dissertation. Most programs take at least four years to finish. Students are often permitted to select a concentration for their studies and dissertation, such as cross-cultural socialization, health policy or environmental epidemiology.

Public health programs are available at public and private institutions throughout the United States, and students can choose between pursuing a bachelor's degree, master's degree, doctoral degree, or graduate certificate. Some schools offer joint bachelor's and master's degree programs, which may allow students to finish their studies in less time.

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