Public health is the science of preventing disease, prolonging life, and promoting well-being for human populations. It involves researching diseases and disease prevention, reducing health disparities, recommending policies, implementing educational programs, and more. Public health professionals work to promote the quality, accessibility, and equity of healthcare.
With a Doctor of Philosophy or Doctor of Public Health, you’ll be a leader in this important field. You’ll be prepared for leadership roles in government, nonprofit organizations, and private settings. You may also choose to teach and conduct research at the university level. Whatever you do, you’ll make a positive impact on the health of our society.
And here’s the best part: Earning your degree doesn’t have to break the bank or throw off your schedule. The programs listed here are online, making them flexible and customizable. They’re also affordable, so you’ll get a great return on your investment.
What kind of PhD in Public Health should you get?
For many public health careers, a PhD is not required. However, you may choose to pursue a PhD or a DrPH if you’d like to dive deeper into research and academia. A terminal degree also develops vital skills and can lead to a more advanced position within the field.
In most programs, you can choose a specialization or customize your plan of study to fit your interests and goals. Additionally, different programs are designed for different levels of experience. In the descriptions below, we’ve identified specific requirements for each program, if applicable.
Of course, you can earn your doctorate online or on-campus. Online programs, however, give you the flexibility to continue working while pursuing your degree. You can work from wherever you are, whenever it fits into your schedule. If you’d like to explore affordable online degrees in other fields, browse our list of the Most Affordable Online Colleges.
How much money do people make with a PhD in Public Health?
There are several possible career paths for people with a PhD in Public Health. Your salary, of course, will depend on which path you choose. Here are a few options and their median salaries, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Medical and health services managers: $99,730
- Biostatistician: $88,190
- Professor: $78,740
- Epidemiologist: $69,660
Each of these careers are growing as fast or much faster than average. Demand for statisticians, for example, is expected to increase by 30% over the next decade. A PhD in Public Health opens the door to in-demand careers offering solid salaries.
What can you do with a PhD in Public Health?
Many graduates with a PhD in Public Health go into academia, teaching and conducting research at universities.
You can also work in public health-related leadership positions in government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and private settings. You’ll be able to research and analyze public health issues, implement and evaluate public health policies and programs, and ultimately make a positive impact on the health and well-being of populations.
What are the requirements for a PhD in Public Health?
Most of these programs require a master’s degree, preferably in public health or a related area. Some programs allow you to earn your master’s degree as you work toward meeting PhD or DrPH requirements. Application requirements may include GRE scores, letters of recommendations, a resume, and a statement of purpose.
Once admitted to the program, you’ll complete coursework on research methods, statistics and data, evidence-based practice, program evaluation, health policy analysis, and more. You may be required to write research papers, create a portfolio, and/or complete and defend a dissertation.
Most programs require at least one visit to campus, while others require 3-4 visits over the duration of the program. On average, expect to spend 3-5 years or longer completing your PhD or DrPH.
What are the most affordable online PhDs in Public Health?
Earning a PhD is tough, but finding the most affordable online PhDs in Public Health doesn’t have to be. To jumpstart the process, we’ve put together this list of 12 high-quality, highly- affordable doctorate programs in Public Health. Each program on this list is both cost-effective and accredited.
Our data comes from trusted sources including:
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- U.S. News and World Report
- Princeton Review
- College and university websites and course catalogs
If you want to advance your expertise in public health, these programs offer a convenient, affordable way to accomplish your goals.
University of North Carolina
Average Net Price: $11,100
The nation’s first public university, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was founded in 1797. Chapel Hill is the flagship of the 17-campus University of North Carolina System. U.S. News and World Report ranks it the No. 5 public university in the nation. Known for accessibility, innovation, and service, UNC Chapel Hill enrolls close to 30,000 students. UNC Chapel Hill offers an online Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership.
The Executive Doctoral Program in Health Leadership teaches mid-to-senior-level professionals to assume increased leadership, shape public health policy, conduct and implement practice-based research, and affect positive change. Students complete coursework in the first two years then spend one to three years working on their dissertation. All students are required to complete every course during the first two years. These courses include:
- Essentials of Practice-based Research
- Literature Review and Appraisal
- Program Evaluation for Health Leaders
- Fundamentals of Research Analysis
- Health Policy Analysis and Advocacy for Leaders
During the first two years of the program, students must make three campus visits annually. The first visit is for orientation. Additional visits include group discussions with leaders in health care and public health, lectures, and professional development and skills workshops. Students must also engage in one or more approved practicum experiences.
University of South Florida
Average Net Price: 11,766
The University of South Florida is a large public research university based in Tampa, FL. Between campuses in Tampa, Sarasota, and St. Petersburg, USF is home to a diverse student body of 50,000. The engaging, dynamic academic environment is designed to maximize the potential of all students, through both traditional and online programs. Students choose from more than 180 academic programs, including an affordable online Doctor of Public Health.
USF’s Doctor of Public Health prepares students for leadership roles in nonprofit organizations, health departments, international agencies, health services, and community-based organizations. Students develop expertise in evaluating, implementing, and developing evidence-based public health practices. Concentrations are offered in Advanced Practice Leadership in Public Health and Public Health and Clinical Laboratory Science and Practice. Core courses include:
- Transforming Public Health Practice
- Evidence-Informed Public Health Practice
- Writing for Scholarly Publications in Health Science
- Public Health Leadership
- Policy, Advocacy, and Public Health
Students are required to attend three on-campus DrPH Institutes over the duration of the program. Institutes are four to five days long, and dates are announced six months in advance. A Doctoral Project in Public Health is also required and will take two semesters or longer to successfully complete.
University of Illinois at Chicago
Average Net Price: $11,884
Based in the heart of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago is deeply embedded in the technological, educational, and cultural fabric of the city. It’s recognized as having one of the most diverse student bodies in the nation. 30,000 students attend classes at the public research university’s 15 campuses or online. The university is committed to expanding access to excellence and opportunity. UIC offers 94 master’s and 62 doctoral degree programs, including an online Doctor of Public Health Leadership.
The Doctor in Public Health Leadership degree at UIC develops student leadership skills specific to the public health arena. Students explore the latest in research, theory, and practice. A minimum of 96 semester hours is required, including 28 hours minimum for the dissertation. Students complete at least eight hours of elective courses designed to build skills for the dissertation. In this program, you’ll take courses like:
- Introduction to Epidemiology Principles and Methods
- Leadership in Public Health Policy Development
- Personal Leadership Development
- Public Health Leadership Tools
- Quantitative Methods for Leadership in Public Health Practice
Students may receive credit for up to 32 hours for Master’s of Public Health or related degrees. Field experience is required for students who have no prior experience upon matriculation. Several forms are acceptable for the dissertation: a traditional research study, an intervention design, an evaluation of a complex policy or program, or the formulation and analysis of policy.
Average Net Price: $12,488
Indiana University Bloomington is a public research university and the flagship institution of the eight-campus Indiana University System. Founded in 1820, the university currently serves more than 43,000 students who choose from over 550 well-regarded academic programs. Many of these programs are ranked in the Top 10 or higher nationally. Known for innovation and collaboration, IU Blooming also offers a cost-effective online DrPH.
IU Bloomington’s online program in Public Health and Global Health Leadership culminates in a Doctor of Public Health. The three-year program is designed for full-time professionals who have the ability to impact the health of populations. During the first and second year, three annual face-to-face gatherings are required. Additional degree requirements include:
- Leadership courses (15 credit hours)
- Public health courses (7 credit hours)
- Research courses (14 credit hours)
- Dissertation or field-based, culminating project courses (9 hours)
Applicants should have strong academic records, a master’s degree (public health not required), and leadership experience in a public health setting. Accepted students are divided into two cohorts based on experience: an advanced cohort of 12-15 scholars and a junior cohort of up to 25 scholars recognized as emerging leaders.
East Carolina University
Average Net Price: $13,327
East Carolina University in Greenville, NC is a public research university serving more than 28,000 students. The university’s mission is to develop tomorrow’s leaders to foster positive change and be of service to others. It is also devoted to transforming healthcare, reducing health disparities, and promoting wellness. ECU’s online programs are recognized as some of the nation’s best by U.S. News and World Report. The university counts an online DrPH among these esteemed programs.
ECU’s Doctor of Public Health program offers concentrations in Environmental & Occupational Health and Health Policy, Administration, & Leadership. The program aims to educate leaders who will transform the healthcare system into one that provides high-quality, affordable care, reduces health disparities, and improves population health. The degree requires field experience and a dissertation. Students also complete coursework such as:
- Organizational Theory and Leadership
- Quantitative Research Methods
- Ethics and Research: Humanities and Basic Medical Sciences
- Environmental and Occupational Epidemiology
- Ethics and Law in Public Health
Students who already have a master’s degree in public health can bypass the foundational course requirements. Those who do not have a relevant master’s degree will take both master’s and doctoral level courses. Relevant experience is strongly preferred.
Old Dominion University
Average Net Price: $15,213
Based in the coastal community of Norfolk, VA, Old Dominion University is ranked one of the Best Southeastern schools in the nation by Princeton Review. ODU is considered a forward-thinking public research university and enrolls more than 24,000 students. It has three extended campuses and a diverse selection of online learning opportunities. ODU’s online doctorates provide comprehensive theory, research, and practical knowledge delivered by supportive faculty. One online option is a PhD in Public Administration and Policy.
ODU’s Doctor of Philosophy in Public Administration and Policy provides a foundation in theory and research as well as the practical knowledge to lead organizations and influence decision-makers. Students learn to design and conduct research and policy analyses, make informed decisions, report research findings, assess policy issues, and teach courses in public administration and policy. A dissertation is required. Courses include:
- Policy Theory
- Public Administration I and II
- Research Design
- Quantitative Research Methods in Health Care
- Policy and Program Evaluation
The program consists of 37 hours of doctoral-level coursework and a 12-hour dissertation. To advance to candidacy, students must successfully complete written and oral comprehensive exams. Applicants must submit transcripts indicating completion of a master’s degree, GRE scores, and a 3-6 page essay outlining professional and academic goals.
Kent State University
Average Net Price: $18,156
Founded in 1910, Kent State University in Kent, Ohio is a public research university with over 38,000 students. It’s ranked a top tier university nationally by U.S. News and World Report. Kent State has earned recognition for its award-winning teaching, leadership, and personal growth. The university’s eight-campus system boasts academic sites throughout the region and across the globe as well as a variety of distance learning programs. Online offerings include a Ph.D. in Public Health.
Kent State University provides a Doctor of Philosophy in Public Health specializing in Health Policy and Management. It equips students with the interdisciplinary skills needed to meet the challenges of public health research. Students learn advanced quantitative methods and hone the ability to design and implement studies on critical health issues. The degree consists of prerequisites, core courses, requirements for HPM specialization, electives, and a dissertation. Courses include:
- Biostatistics in Public Health
- Public Health Administration
- Emerging Issues in Public Health Policy and Management
- Methods of Evidence Based Public Health
- Directed Research in Health Policy and Management
Students benefit from wide-ranging faculty research agendas, including health systems research, reproductive health, substance abuse, and access to health care. Program graduates work as leaders and scholars in policy and research institutes, academic health centers and hospitals, federal and state health agencies, health planning organizations, and other settings.
Penn State World Campus
Average Net Price: $18,194
Penn State World Campus is the online campus for the distinguished Pennsylvania State University. With an established history in distance learning and innovation, Penn State launched the World Campus in 1998. Its mission is simple: to provide the Penn State educational experience to anyone at any time. The focus is on quality, flexibility, and convenience. Online courses are the same courses offered on campus, and students choose from 150 programs. One option is an affordable DrPH program.
The Doctor of Public Health degree prepares graduates for advanced evidence-based practice and effective leadership. Students complete 45 credits of coursework, 15 credits of doctoral research, and field experience beyond a master’s degree. A comprehensive exam is required to advance to candidacy. In this program, you’ll take courses like:
- Integrative Public Health Leadership
- Statistical Methods in Public Health
- Policy Analysis and Planning
- Policy and Program Evaluation
- Health Care Law
Within their required credits, students complete specialized study in an area such as public health preparedness, social marketing, and behavior, or evidence-based public health administration. The doctoral research integrative experience consists of two publishable manuscripts and a doctoral portfolio, which includes a CV and leadership philosophy.
Nebraska Methodist College
Average Net Price: $20,836
Nebraska Methodist College is one of the nation’s top nursing and allied healthcare colleges. The private college provides expert faculty committed to student success, a highly supportive environment, and a cutting-edge education, both on the Omaha, NE campus and online. Established in 1891, the university enrolls just over 1,000 students. NMC aims to develop students who will positively impact the health and well-being of their communities through offerings like the DNP Public Health program.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice in Public Health produces nurses who are experts in evidence-based practice, enabling them to serve as mentors, consultants, and researchers who become change agents in public health policy. Nurses in the program complete at least 50 credit hours and 960 clinical practice hours. Courses include:
- Health Systems, Informatics, and Leadership
- Advanced Public Health
- Healthcare Policy
- Public Health Ethics
- Community Health Program Planning
Full-time students can complete the program in two years, while part-time students can finish in 3-4 years. One on-campus weekend is required during the program. The program concludes with a capstone project based on the application and assessment of a healthcare topic in a patient or community practice.
Johns Hopkins University
Average Net Price: $29,066
America’s first research university, John Hopkins University was founded in 1876. The private university in Baltimore continues to introduce revolutionary discoveries to the world and innovate higher education. John Hopkins is ranked one of the Top 10 universities in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. The school enrolls over 24,000 students in nine academic divisions. Students have over 260 renowned programs to choose from, including an affordable online Doctor of Public Health.
The Doctor of Public Health program at Johns Hopkins is intended for students with a Master’s of Public Healthor equivalent degree. Students should plan to pursue leadership roles as public health professionals. The program begins with foundational competencies taught through a sequence of problem-based learning classes addressing recent challenges in public health. Students then complete a concentration or a customized program of study, a comprehensive exam, and a dissertation. Courses include:
- The Opioid Crisis: Problem-Solving Seminar
- Teaching, Learning and Leading: In the Classroom, in the Workplace, and in the Community
- Effective Presentations and News Media Interviews
- Advanced Data Analysis
- Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods
It takes a minimum of four years to complete this program, with students allowed a maximum of nine years. Concentration options include Environmental Health, Health Equity and Social Justice, Health Policy and Management, and Implementation Science. Students who are not interested in these concentrations design a customized course of study with their advisor.
Average Net Price: $30,784
Northeastern University is a Boston-based private research university established in 1898. It’s a tier-1 research university and the leader in experiential learning, providing students with immersive hands-on experiences and real-world challenges. Northeastern has four regional campuses, corporate partners in 90 nations, and a robust selection of online programs. Across over 60 online programs, Northeastern offers flexibility, customization, and challenges that propel careers forward. One online degree option is a PhD in Population Health.
Northeastern’s Doctor of Philosophy in Population Health trains public health leaders and researchers who grasp the complex factors impacting the health and well-being of populations. Students complete 33 credits consisting of core research courses, a concentration, and electives and directed study courses. A dissertation is also required. You’ll take courses such as:
- Social Epidemiology
- Advanced Methods in Biostatistics
- Health Education and Program Planning
- Public Health Policy and Administration
- Qualitative Methods in Health and Illness
The program integrates topics including the five pillars of public health: social determinants of health, epidemiology, biostatistics, environmental health, and health program evaluation. Students choose a Social/Environmental concentration or a Health Services/Policy concentration. They conduct research on determinants of health like environmental risks, economic stability, education, community contexts, and more.
Loma Linda University
Average Net Price: N/A
Based in Southern California, Loma Linda University is a private Seventh-Day Adventist health sciences university. It’s made up of eight schools, and the campus is shared with six hospitals where students benefit from hands-on training. LLU enrolls over 4,400 students. Established in 1905, the university has always focused on its mission of providing teaching and healing, offering whole-person care to every patient. Loma Linda has more than 100 programs, including distance education options like an affordable DrPH in Health Education.
Loma Linda’s Doctor of Public Health in Health Education develops students’ abilities in leadership, management, writing, and research. Students learn to plan and evaluate health behavior changes, advocate and communicate, and critically analyze public health issues. The curriculum consists of coursework and a dissertation, with a visit to campus for the dissertation defense. Students also write a publishable research paper. Courses include:
- Overview of Research Methodologies
- Intermediate Biostatistics
- Health Policy Analysis and Research
- Concepts and Practical Issues of Secondary Data
- Building Healthy Systems
Applicants must have a master’s degree in Public Health, Epidemiology, or a related field. The program typically takes 3-5 years to complete. Graduates are prepared to manage and evaluate health programs and teach and plan at the university level. They typically work in leadership positions in academic, government, or private settings.