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Explore the Best Associate Degrees in Public Health Online for 2024

Want to make a difference in your community or around the world? An associate degree in public health is the first step. In this guide, you’ll discover top online programs, find answers to your burning questions, and discover resources to help you along the way.

Author: Jenna Tidd
Editor: STEPS Staff

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Two workers in high-visibility vests, hard hats, and protective masks and gloves work outdoors. One associate holds a sample jar with water, inspecting it closely, while the other observes. The background includes trees and a blurred sky, suggesting an open environment.

Are you considering a career in public health but don’t want to spend the time and money earning a bachelor’s degree? An associate degree in public health can be completed in just two years, and it opens the door to positions in hospitals, clinics, environmental organizations, and government agencies.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for public health workers is growing. Community health worker jobs will increase at an impressive rate of 14% over the next decade, which is more than four times the average for all jobs.

A convenient, affordable way to enter the field is by earning an associate degree in public health online. In this guide, we explore three quality programs, highlight their key features, and explain the types of courses you’ll take. We also answer your top questions and share a list of valuable resources for public health students and professionals. Keep reading to learn how to begin your public health career.

Spotlight on Online Public Health Associate Degree Programs

To help you search for the best associate degree in public health online, we put together a short list of schools with quality programs. We examine important factors in each, such as tuition, program length, and format, as well as any standout support services the school provides for students. (Think: financial aid, student advisors, and no extra fees.)

These programs aren’t ranked. Each is an equally valid option to add to your list or to use as an example of what to look for when choosing the online associate public health program that’s right for you.

For those in search of an affordable associate degree in public health, the College of Western Idaho offers a Health Science and Public Health Associate of Science with budget-friendly tuition. Classes are available online or onsite at three different campus locations. The program can be completed in two years of full-time enrollment. Students gain a foundation in health science and public health through classroom instruction and hands-on experience, where they also develop critical thinking skills. In addition to low tuition costs, the college also has many options for scholarships and other forms of financial aid.

  • Credits: 60
  • Mode: Online (asynchronous format) or on-campus
  • Enrollment: Full-time
  • Length: 2 years
  • Financial aid: Idaho LAUNCH program (up to $8,000), work-study programs, scholarships, grants, student loans, and aid for military personnel and veterans
  • Tuition: $139 per credit hour (in-district Idaho residents)
    $189 per credit hour (out-of-district Idaho residents)
    $306 per credit hour for non-residents
  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

St. Paul College in Minnesota offers a Public Health Associate of Science degree program available in online, hybrid, and onsite formats. The curriculum provides an introduction to public health systems and public health preparedness, biometric and social determinants of health, as well as population health challenges with emphasis on cultural competency, communication, and the interpretation of qualitative and quantitative research.

During the program, students get hands-on experience through applied learning and community service opportunities. Upon completion, they will be prepared to work in federal, state, or non-profit agencies, hospitals, clinics, and academic institutions in possible jobs such as health educator, field investigator, food-safety inspector, or emergency preparedness specialist, among others.

  • Credits: 60
  • Enrollment: Full-time
  • Mode: Online, hybrid, or on-campus
  • Program length: 2 years (four semesters)
  • Tuition: $204.20 per credit ($20 per credit for senior citizens 62 years of age or older who register after the first day of classes)
  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)

The University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky offers an Associate of Science in Public Health program that allows students to build a strong academic foundation in health on a streamlined schedule. This program opens the door to positions in hospitals, fitness, and human services. It’s a good starting point for a career as a health education specialist, dietician/nutritionist, community health worker, or medical records specialist. Required courses include nutrition, substance abuse, foundations of health science, public health administration, and community and environmental health.

To give students a more personalized and rewarding school experience, the university provides access to a success coordinator. You’ll also benefit from an all-inclusive tuition that makes the program more affordable for students.

What You’ll Learn in an Online Associate Degree in Public Health

Although individual courses will vary between different public health associate programs, the general topics typically remain consistent. In essence, you’ll learn how to promote health on a mass scale. This involves learning about global health, the environment, lifestyle, and nutrition. Programs may also include healthcare topics like medical terminology.

Below, we take a closer look at five courses you’ll most likely study while earning an associate degree in public health online. You’ll learn what each one focuses on and how they form a solid foundation that will equip you for a career in public health.

Common Courses in Associate in Public Health Programs

Introduction to Health Systems

In this course, students get an overview of the development, structure, and trends of the American healthcare system. This includes how services are organized and delivered, the impact of healthcare policy decisions, the relationship between healthcare costs and benefits, and allocation of resources. With this knowledge, students learn to use critical thinking to shape healthcare policy.

Lifestyle Diseases and Global Burden

As the name suggests, students learn about the connection between human behavior, environmental factors, and health policy when assessing the global and socioeconomic impact of diseases caused by certain behaviors and environments. They also explore risk factors and ways to promote better public health, such as diet and exercise.

Fundamentals of Nutrition

Because diet is a major factor in lifestyle diseases, nutrition plays a large role in public health and is therefore included in most curricula. Through lectures, activities, and discussions, this course provides students with an understanding of the scientific principles of nutrition, how the body digests and converts food, and why diet is so important.

Global Health

In this course, students learn about important concepts, tools, and frameworks used when studying global health. Topics include the burden of global disease, health policy, health disparities, and potential obstacles to global health interventions. Students also explore ways to address global health through multiple avenues, such as social-behavioral sciences, humanities, and policy.

Public Health and Health Science

Students receive a broad introduction to both public health and health science by exploring the different systems of healthcare and public health in the U.S. Topics may include health promotion, disease prevention, and social determinants of health, as well as epidemiology and environmental health. The role of government in public health may also be addressed.

Accreditation for your Online Public Health Program

A critical factor to consider when researching public health associate programs is accreditation. Accreditation ensures that a school or curriculum meets basic quality standards set by non-governmental organizations and verified by peer-led evaluations. The two types of accreditation are institutional and specialized (also called “programmatic”). Institutional accreditation applies to an entire university and all of its programs. Specialized accreditation refers to an individual program or course that’s accredited, sometimes by a different body than the institutional accrediting body.

Any discussion about accreditation begs the question: Why is this so important? An accredited program ensures you are receiving a quality education for your money. Advanced education is a significant investment, and accreditation gives you confidence that you won’t waste your time or money. It also shows potential employers that you are competent to do the job, increasing the likelihood of employment.

When changing schools or pursuing additional degrees, you can typically transfer credits from accredited programs/schools, which helps you avoid repeating courses. Accreditation is also a stipulation for receiving federal financial aid. Because accreditation is so important, most schools clearly state this information on their websites.

FAQs About an Online Associate Degree in Public Health

Below, we’ve collected and addressed top questions and concerns of prospective students considering an associate degree in public health, including earning potential, additional certifications, tuition costs, and program duration. If you still have questions about earning an associate degree in public health online, you may find the answers and more below.

How long does it take to earn an associate in public health degree online?

It typically takes about two years of full-time enrollment to complete public health associate programs. Full-time enrollment means taking at least 12 credits per semester, or 12 to 15 hours of class per week. Students who enroll on a part-time schedule will take longer to complete the program. That said, curriculum details and requirements vary between programs, so it’s important to check with the school for an accurate estimate of the time requirements.

How much does an online public health associate degree cost?

Tuition for public health associate programs ranges from $125 to $500 per credit, depending on your residency. Some schools offer generous financial aid options, all-inclusive tuition, or discounted tuition, and you may qualify for scholarships for public service students or scholarships for online students. You may even qualify for loan forgiveness through acts of public service. You can find more information about funding your education in our financial aid guide. In the table below, we share the tuition costs of three more schools to give you a better idea of what you can expect to pay.

School Name# of CreditsCost/CreditsTotal Tuition
Mid Michigan College63-64$155 (in-district)
$258 (out-of-district)
$347 (out-of-state)
Montgomery County Community College61$166 (in-county)
$332 (out-of-county)
$498 (out-of-state)
Anne Arundel Community College60$125 (in-county)
$293 (out-of-county)
$425 (out-of-state)

What are the admissions requirements for online public health degrees?

Details will vary between schools, but in general, admission requirements for online public health associate degree programs include filling out an application, paying an application fee, and submitting a copy of your high school diploma or GED, along with official school transcripts. Some schools may require an essay or statement of purpose describing your reasons for enrolling in the program, letters of recommendation, and standardized test scores (although these last two aren’t as common in associate degree programs).

Can I earn my associate in public health 100% online?

Yes, many schools offer associate degree programs in public health that are completely online, with no campus visits required. Most of them utilize an asynchronous format, meaning that lectures are prerecorded to be viewed at your convenience, instead of attending live classes at set times. With online learning, all lectures, exams, and activities occur online via forums, chat rooms, and virtual classes. This allows people with full-time work schedules and family obligations to pursue their education.

How much can you make with an associate degree in public health?

Depending on the position, annual salaries for positions in or related to public health typically range from $45,000-$50,000 per year, although this number may fluctuate depending on location and experience level. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, medical records specialists earn an average of $48,780 per year. A community health worker earns a median wage of $48,200 annually, and administrative assistants earn about $46,000 per year. Health education specialists earn just under $63,000 annually, but this position usually requires a bachelor’s degree.

Are there any certifications or licenses that you need to work in public health?

Certification and license requirements for public health depend on the individual state, position, and/or employer. Healthcare positions often require additional certification, but an associate degree will prepare you for entry-level positions that don’t necessarily require it.

Public health professionals who want to advance their career may earn specific certifications to show their expertise in certain areas, such as becoming Certified in Public Health (CPH), Certified in Infection Control (CIC), or a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). These certifications typically require a bachelor’s degree.

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Additional Resources for Public Health Students and Professionals

Looking for more public health information? We’ve put together a list of 10 top resources for both students and professionals. From global organizations to one-minute soundbites, you’ll find a treasure trove of knowledge to guide you through school, finding a job, and staying up to date on the latest issues.

  • American Public Health Association
    The APHA offers public health professionals and students the latest research, news, resume and career advice, books, and webinars. Members enjoy opportunities to network with other health professionals, listen to scientific research presentations, attend the annual expo, and receive 50% off continuing education.
  • Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health
    A good resource for prospective public health students, this website provides information on accredited public health programs, as well as a step-by-step guide that takes students from exploring the possibility of a public health career to finding their first job.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
    As the nation’s health protection agency, this science-based organization focuses on supporting, promoting, and protecting public health. Its website addresses many important issues like the social determinants of health, which public health professionals would consider when providing health education.
  • Essential Skills for Public Health Students
    What will you need to succeed as a public health student? A combination of hard, soft, and online skills will help you in your journey to a degree. This guide also offers expert insights from a public health student.
  • NPR’s Shots Health Blog
    NPR’s health blog shares a wide range of health topics, addressing ways to improve personal well-being, as well as health issues around the world. Within the blog, the public health section contains audio pieces on bird flu, Medicaid coverage, abortion, and much more.
  • Public Health Foundation
    Located in Washington D.C., this non-profit organization offers tools for professional development, the latest news on health issues, and an extensive resource for professionals — Core Competencies for Public Health Professionals. This lays out foundational knowledge and skills that are critical in a public health career.
  • Public Health Insider
    Published by the Seattle and King County Public Health department, this blog covers public health news, trends, and insights in an easy-to-read format. From “forever chemicals” to climate change to measles, the blog makes important health information more accessible to experts and lay people alike.
  • Public Health Minute
    Featuring bite-sized, one-minute episodes, this public radio program provides cutting-edge news and research on public health issues using short expert interviews. It provides a convenient, on-the-go way for students and professionals to stay up to date on important information.
  • Public Health Resources & Scholarships
    This guide from the Student Training & Education in Public Service website (STEPS) equips and empowers public health students through comprehensive lists of scholarships and other financial aid options. You’ll also find resources for support, both as a student and a professional specializing in public health.
  • World Health Organization
    A must for anyone interested in public health, the World Health Organization website has a wealth of information on many health conditions and their impact around the world. They also provide up-to-date news on emerging diseases and outbreaks.