Best Online Master’s in Public Health 2021

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The public health field includes research and practice efforts to prevent illness and promote wellbeing among populations. This field values social justice, accessibility, and effectiveness in healthcare and environmental health. An online master’s degree in public health usually accommodates working students’ busy schedules. Online public health program curricula vary based on specialization, but most public health master’s degree programs include coursework on epidemiology, research methods, and public health policy.

Many public health graduates serve as researchers or administrators in healthcare settings, community health organizations, or government agencies. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 17% job growth rate for social and community service managers from 2019-2029. These professionals earn a median annual salary of $67,150, but master’s degree-holders may earn more.


  • What is the difference between public health and health administration?

    Health administration focuses more heavily on business and personnel management. Public health programs emphasize research, policy, and health education.

  • What kinds of jobs can you get with a master’s in public health?

    An online master’s degree in public health can support leadership careers such as social and community service manager, research director, and health educator.

  • What does a career in public health look like?

    Public health jobs often involve research, analysis, and collaborative problem-solving. Many professionals work in research and policy, while others engage directly with the public.

  • Are public health majors in demand?

    According to the BLS, social and community service managers, epidemiologists, health educators, and medical and health services managers all enjoy above-average job growth projections.

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What Are the Goals of a Public Health Degree?

An online master’s degree in public health often attracts health professionals pursuing career transitions, promotions, and/or salary raises. The master of arts in public health (MPH) works best for aspiring public health educators and policy leaders, whereas the master of science in public health often supports research careers. Some public health students earn an MPH/MBA dual degree that includes business and management coursework.

Online public health programs usually offer several concentration options. In-demand concentrations include epidemiology, health services administration, and health education. Many programs also offer specializations and/or elective coursework in biostatistics, global health, and environmental health.

Why Get a Degree in Public Health?

An online mph degree affords many potential career and personal advantages, including the following five benefits.

Expertise and Confidence
This advanced degree may boost personal and professional confidence. MPH expertise can also improve job performance.
Career Advancement
MPH graduates can compete for high-level roles such as medical and health services manager. The specialized expertise associated with master’s degrees can help job-seekers qualify for niche careers.
Salary Advancement
Graduate degree-holders often earn more money than bachelor’s degree-holders, even when performing the same job. Obtaining promotions also typically increases salary.
Graduate students often collaborate with peers and professors, leading to professional connections that can prove helpful when seeking work.
Internships and Research Projects
MPH students typically gain professional experience through required internships. Enrollees also graduate with master’s theses or capstone projects that showcase interests, abilities, and accomplishments.

What is Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?

How to Become a Public Health Professional

Public health career steps can vary by field. However, most public health career pathways involve education, professional experience, and on-the-job training.

Community health workers lacking college degrees may qualify for some entry-level positions, but higher-ranking and better-paying jobs often require at least a bachelor’s degree. According to the BLS, health educators usually earn bachelor’s and/or master’s degrees in public health promotion/education.

Most online public health programs include internship experiences involving health education program design, implementation, and evaluation. Some graduates also earn a certified (or master-certified) health education specialist certification to qualify for certain health education jobs.

Many public health careers involve at least some on-the-job training. This training prepares participants in key competencies, systems, policies, and procedures needed for a specific role or context. Upper-level careers also typically require considerable professional experience in related roles.

Career and Salary Outlook for MPH Degree Holders

Online master’s degrees in public health can help candidates with requisite experience to qualify for various healthcare occupations, such as nutritionist or occupational health and safety specialist. These careers pay $60,000-$70,000 median annual salaries, according to the BLS. Medical and health services managers often make over $100,000.

Other highly-sought public health careers include social and community services manager, emergency management director, and epidemiologist. See below for more information about public health careers.

Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Medical and Health Services Manager $100,980 32%
Epidemiologist $70,990 5%

Source: BLS

Scholarships for Public Health Students

Like other college students, online public health program enrollees sometimes qualify for need-based and/or merit-based scholarships and fellowships. Granted by professional organizations, government agencies, private funders, and schools, these awards usually go toward tuition expenses and do not require repayment. Many scholarships serve learners from particular backgrounds and/or in specified fields. The following three scholarships support public health students.

National Environmental Health Association and American Academy of Sanitarians Scholarships

Who Can Apply: Serving undergraduate or graduate students in environmental health sciences, this NEHA/AAS scholarship goes to applicants with strong academic records and recommendation letters. Application materials include transcripts, a faculty recommendation letter, and an NEHA-member recommendation letter.
Amount: $2,500

Indian Health Professions Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Alaska Natives or American Indians pursuing health-related degrees and clinical careers supporting public health in tribal settings may apply. Qualified applicants belong to a federally recognized tribe and attend school full time. Scholarship recipients must fulfill a tribal community service commitment upon graduation.
Amount: Varies

Vivian Drenckhahn Student Scholarship

Who Can Apply: Full-time health education students may qualify for this SOPHE scholarship by demonstrating academic merit, SOPHE membership, and financial need. Applicants must have completed at least one-third of their program to qualify. Recipients must participate in SOPHE committees, initiatives, or task forces for one year.
Amount: $2,500

Best Online MPH Degree Programs 2021

  1. University of Florida

    Gainesville, FL



    Based in Gainesville, UF offers an online master of public health. Students may choose from two concentrations: public health practice or social and behavioral sciences. Courses follow a semester schedule and include weekly assignment deadlines. Prerecorded lectures allow for asynchronous learning.

    Core course topics include principles of epidemiology in public health, environmental health concepts in public health, and an introduction to the U.S. healthcare system. Students then pursue electives and requirements based on their chosen concentration. All students must also complete an applied practicum or public health internship.

    Admission into the program requires an average GPA of 3.0 calculated after the first 50 hours of undergraduate courses. Applicants must also possess a completed bachelor's degree. The school also requires students to submit GRE/MCAT scores (waived through fall 2021). Health professionals with a terminal degree in their fields may complete the program with 42 credits.

    UF is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

  2. Florida International University

    Miami, FL



    Located in Miami, FIU offers an online master of public health. The program prepares graduates for interdisciplinary careers in public health, teaching skills such as investigating the distribution of diseases and analyzing environmental determinants of health among diverse populations.

    The 45-credit program includes core courses such as public health statistics, health behavior and public health, and environmental health risk assessment. Most students must also complete a practicum in their geographic area; students with three years of relevant professional experience may request a waiver.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and possess a minimum GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 credits of undergraduate coursework. Students do not need to submit GRE scores. FIU is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

  3. University of California-Berkeley

    Berkeley, CA



    Berkeley offers an online master of public health (MPH). The program provides a practice-based curriculum for working students seeking to improve their knowledge and skills.

    The 42-credit program typically takes 27 months to complete. Students choose from three program options: epidemiology and biostatistics, health policy and management, or a customizable interdisciplinary option. The program requires two campus visits totaling about 15 days and a field practicum of 130 hours. Completion of the program also requires passing a final comprehensive exam.

    Applicants must complete at least one college-level statistics or epidemiology course with a minimum grade of "B+" before applying to the MPH program. Applicants must also possess a minimum of two years of post-bachelor's work experience.

    Berkeley is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

  4. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

    Chapel Hill, NC



    Based in Chapel Hill, UNC-Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Public Health offers an online master of public health. The 42-credit program provides three concentration options: leadership, nutrition, and a registered dietitian option that prepares graduates to sit for the national exam. Students can complete the program in as few as 20-24 months.

    Core course topics include understanding public health issues, data analysis for public health, and conceptualizing data health solutions. Students then take eight concentration-specific electives. All students must also complete at least 200 hours of practicum fieldwork and a culminating experience.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree. The school does not require students to submit standardized test scores. UNC-Chapel Hill is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

  5. University of Southern California

    Los Angeles, CA



    Based in Los Angeles, USC's Keck School of Medicine offers an online master of public health. The 42-credit program offers six concentrations, including biostatistics, epidemiology, health services, and community and global health. Students can complete the program in about two years (six semesters) or opt for an accelerated path that leads to completion in about four semesters.

    Core courses include health service delivery in the U.S., principles of epidemiology, and public health leadership and management. Students also complete a practicum experience, with more than 400 site options around the world from which to choose.

    Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and possess a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 to qualify for admission. USC is regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The school also boasts programmatic accreditation from the Council on Education for Public Health.

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