The PhD in Public Health Online

Online PhDs in public health give students in the field a flexible way to earn an advanced degree. Read everything from admissions to the dissertation process, see what the best schools have in common, and get in-depth information on accreditation, cost, quality, and more.

Last Updated: 02/27/2020

FAQs for the Online PhD in Public Health

Earning an online PhD in public health is a major achievement. It takes time, energy, determination, and some good ol’ fashioned elbow grease. Before applying to programs, however, make sure you do your homework. Learn the basics of the schools and programs out there, and make sure you fully understand what you’re getting yourself into. An informed student is a prepared student, and a little preparation can make your higher education experience a successful one. Read through these popular questions and answers straight from aspiring public health PhD students just like you.

How Many Years Is a PhD in Public Health Online?

Students should expect to spend a minimum of 4 years beyond their bachelor’s degree, or 2 to 3 years beyond their master’s, to complete an online PhD in Public Health degree program. Your specific program, however may allow significantly more time for completion, as long as 8 years total in some cases. Most online programs consist of 2 years of coursework followed by a dissertation process lasting between 2 and 6 years. Factors that determine total degree completion time include the specific school, chosen specialization, choice of full-time or part-time study, and program starting point (with either a previously-earned bachelor’s or master’s degree.) Students attending part-time should realistically budget 5 to 6 years to complete their degrees.

What Can I Do with an Online PhD in Public Health?

A PhD in Public Health prepares degree holders for professional careers in advanced research and academia. Common employers include:

  • Colleges and universities (in both teaching and research positions)
  • Research facilities (both public and private)
  • Governmental agencies (federal, state, local)
  • Public policy organizations (primarily non-profit)

Specific job titles vary depending primarily on the degree holder’s chosen area of specialization or concentration. Most academic (teaching) positions carry the job title of professor. Non-academic job title examples include:

  • Behavioral scientist
  • Biostatistician
  • Epidemiologist
  • Director of Clinical Trials

Those interested in advanced public health careers in administrative or practice-setting positions will want to pursue the Doctor of Public Health (DrPH) degree. For more information on career options for PhD in Public Health degree holders, check out our What Can You Do with a Public Health Degree? page.

Should I Get a PhD in Public Health? Should I Earn It Online?

A PhD in public health can be a great choice for just about any research-minded public health student or professional. And programs that include online coursework may be the best way to earn it. But online learning may not be for everyone. Here are 6 important questions that every potential student should answer before pursuing an online PhD in public health.

  1. Are my professional interests definitely centered in the field of public health?
  2. Am I interested in a career in either advanced scientific research or post-secondary academics? If not, a public health bachelor’s or master’s degree may be sufficient to reach your professional goals.
  3. Am I a self-starter and self-disciplined? Both are required for success as an online student.
  4. Am I good at time management? Excellent time management is another crucial skill for any successful online learner.
  5. Am I computer/internet proficient? You don’t need to be a computer scientist to be a good online learner, but a solid proficiency and comfort level with word-processing software, web browsers, and online media platforms is necessary.
  6. Am I comfortable interacting with professors and peers almost entirely online (including submitting papers, chatting, and receiving feedback)? If you’re someone who needs face-to-face interaction to learn, then an online degree program is probably not for you.

Can I Earn a Public Health PhD Fully Online?

Unfortunately, there are very few PhD programs in public health that are fully online. However, many public health-related PhD programs include didactic coursework that can be completed either fully or partially online. Also, the dissertation processes for many programs typically requires some in-person contact between the degree candidate and his or her professors or advisors, as well as meetings with program cohorts. Students may additionally be required to defend their completed dissertations in-person. Individuals are strongly advised to understand all on-campus and in-person requirements of any degree program under consideration prior to enrollment.

What Are the Admissions Requirements?

As you might expect, admissions requirements for any public health-related PhD program will depend on the particular degree sought. Therefore, it’s important to review the specific requirements for each program you’re considering. You can expect, however, that most programs will include requirements identical or similar to these:

  • Previously-earned degree. Master’s degree (although some programs require only a bachelor’s degree) typically a in public health or closely-related field, and awarded by a properly-accredited college or university. Degree must be earned with a stated minimum GPA.
  • Competitive GRE scores. Minimum score requirements vary by program.
  • Written personal statement or statement of purpose.
  • Letters of recommendation.
  • Resume or CV.
  • TOEFL scores. For students whose native language is not English. Minimum score requirements vary by program.

Can I Afford an Online Public Health PhD?

There are two basic elements to the cost of any degree program: time and money. Earning a PhD in public health requires a major commitment of both, so it is critical that potential students weigh carefully both the total costs involved (tuition, fees, books and supplies, room and board, etc.) against the total benefits (professional advancement, increased income, etc.) of earning their degree.

Degree costs vary widely from program to program depending on a number of important factors, including specific degree and specialization sought, type of school (public or private), in-state or out-of-state residence of the student, total length of program, and transferable credits allowed. Below are a few examples of public health-related PhD programs and their corresponding costs:

School Name Degree Title Delivery Method No. of Credits Cost/Credit Total Cost
Northern Illinois University (public) PhD in Health Sciences Traditional on-campus with some online coursework 45 credit hours
$882.18 (in-state and out-of-state) $39,698.10 (not including additional fees, books and supplies, or room and board)
Rush University (private) PhD in Health Sciences Fully-online coursework 54 semester hours $897 in-state and out-of-state $48,438 (not including additional fees, books and supplies, or room and board)
Texas Woman’s University (public) PhD in Health Studies Traditional on-campus with some online coursework 96 credit hours * Includes credit hours required to complete masters’ degree coursework. $276.30 (in-state); $698.30 (out-of-state) $26,524.80 in-state; $67,036.80 out-of-state (not including additional fees, books and supplies, or room and board) *Totals include costs for credit hours needed to complete master’s degree coursework.
University of Florida PhD in Biostatistics Traditional on-campus with some online coursework 90 credit hours (beyond the bachelor’s degree)
$29,060 (estimated annual cost, including tuition, fees, books and supplies, on-campus room and board, and other living expenses.)
University of South Dakota PhD in Health Sciences Online course delivery with limited in-person requirements, including dissertation defense Minimum 75 credits (beyond the bachelor’s degree) $486.80 (in-state and out-of-state) $36,510 (not including additional fees, books and supplies, or room and board)

Is an Online PhD in Public Health Accredited?

The simple answer is yes. But it’s crucial that anyone considering any PhD in public health confirms that the program is fully accredited by the Council for Education in Public Health (CEPH), and that the college or university offering the degree is accredited by 1 of the 6 Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) regional accrediting organizations. Both program and institutional accreditation is essential because proper accreditation assures that the degree program has gone through a rigorous process of self-evaluation and meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality. Further, schools must be properly accredited for its students to be eligible for federal student aid.