Earning a Ph.D. in Public Health Online

Learners who want to advance their career in public health and policy can earn their Ph.D. in public health online. While exploring leadership and decision making concepts, students can advance their public health knowledge through coursework. Graduates from these programs can work in many different industries, particularly those anchored in areas like public relations and policy.

Earning your Ph.D. online can be a great way for working professionals to complete coursework and earn their doctorate without attending in-person classes. An online Ph.D. in public health can allow individuals to further their education while continuing to work.

What Can You Do With a Ph.D. in Public Health?

Graduates of accredited online doctoral programs in public health can enjoy different career opportunities, including teaching at colleges and universities. Some students may choose to become public health directors, while individuals in programs that emphasize biology may pursue careers as epidemiologists.

Public Health Director

Annual Median Salary: $82,012
Projected Growth Rate: 20%

Upon earning a graduate degree, community health workers can become public health directors. These directors plan, manage, and implement public health programs for a community, organization, or business. A master's degree often serves as the minimum requirement for this position and obtaining a doctorate can increase earning potential.

Postsecondary Teacher (Health Specialties)

Annual Median Salary: $76,000
Projected Growth Rate: 15%

A doctorate degree grants you the credentials to teach at the postsecondary level. Those with a Ph.D. in public health teach courses within that field to both undergraduate and graduate students. Postsecondary teachers may also serve on departmental boards and other committees for administrative services.


Annual Median Salary: $69,660
Projected Growth Rate: 9%

Epidemiologists look into emerging patterns of disease, illness, and injuries among members of the general public or within specific communities. These professionals work as researchers, seeking methods for preventing, understanding, and controlling outbreaks and the spread of disease. They may work for government agencies, in hospitals, or in laboratories.

The Top-Paying Industries for Community Health Workers

Real Estate

  • Employment: N/A

  • Percent of Industry Employment: N/A

  • Annual Mean Wage: $70,570

Scientific Research and Development Services

  • Employment: 420

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.07

  • Annual Mean Wage: $66,590

Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services

  • Employment: 390

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.03

  • Annual Mean Wage: $54,690

Specialty (Except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals)

  • Employment: 220

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.08

  • Annual Mean Wage: $51,290

Other Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services

  • Employment: 120

  • Percent of Industry Employment: 0.02

  • Annual Mean Wage: $50,540

Traits of a Successful Public Health Professional

Professionals in public health possess a variety of skills, traits, and abilities that help them find success within their careers. For example, those who work in public health must think critically, make important and informed decisions, and demonstrate fair judgement on a daily basis. This profession requires strong oral and written communication skills and a wide knowledge of public policy, public relations, and various aspects of education and training. Keep reading to learn more about the most critical skills for public health professionals.

Active Listening
Active Listening: Working in public health often requires a great deal of interpersonal communication with other public health staff and the general public. Professionals must practice active listening in order to best serve their team and community.
Complex Problem Solving
Complex Problem Solving: As a public health administrator or manager, you can face issues requiring quick resolutions. Solving complex problems and making decisions can help you come up with the most effective solutions for your workplace and community.
Critical Thinking
Critical Thinking: Public health professionals must possess the ability to think critically about a wide variety of issues faced each day within the workplace. A Ph.D. in public health online program often emphasizes these skills within the curriculum.

Salary by Experience Level

Earning potential as a public health director or other advanced employee in the public health industry can increase the longer you work in that position. Education also contributes to income levels. According to PayScale, those with more experience tend to earn increasingly higher salaries those in entry-level positions, as public health professionals often progress to more advanced and higher-paying positions.

Pay by Experience Level for Public Health

  • Entry-Level (0-5 Years):

  • Mid-Career (5-10 Years):

  • Experienced (10-20 Years):

Source: PayScale

Certifications and Licenses a Ph.D. in Public Health Prepares For

  • Certification in Public Health: Provided by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, this certification distinguishes recipients by their expansive knowledge of public health policy and issues. Students from Council on Education for Public Health-accredited programs may take the exam. Those with extensive work experience may also qualify for certification testing.

  • Individual State Licensure: Some states may require or offer a state license or certification for practicing in certain public health occupations. The requirements for these licenses can vary by state but generally include meeting education requirements, potentially sitting for an examination, and/or meeting work experience requirements.

  • Master Certified Health Education Specialist: For those looking to go into postsecondary teaching after earning an online Ph.D. in public health, this certification can bolster your resume. This additional certification, provided by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, requires an exam and the completion of graduate education that suits the commission's requirements.

Steps to Earning a Ph.D. in Public Health Online

Although the steps for applying to doctor of public health programs online and earning your degree may differ between programs and schools, the following list includes common aspects you can expect to encounter throughout the process.

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Find the Right Program for You

Selecting the right accredited online doctoral program in public health depends on a variety of factors. When choosing an online program, establish whether coursework occurs entirely online or involves on-campus elements. In addition, find out if the online program requires proctored exams and whether you can complete coursework asynchronously.

number two


Applications to Ph.D. programs often entail a great deal more than undergraduate and master's degree requirements. These applications comprise the same basic elements: a standard application form, official transcripts from all schools attended, GRE test scores, and an application fee. You may also need at least two or three professional letters of recommendation and a detailed statement of purpose, generally under five pages in length.

number three

Dissertation or Capstone

Accredited doctor of public health online programs require a culminating project following the completion of required coursework. This may include a capstone seminar course, formal dissertation, or thesis project. Most commonly, students complete a formal dissertation that consists of a proposal and the implementation of a research project within the field. The dissertation is evidence of the student's understanding of coursework.

number four

Fellowship or Internship

The fellowships and internships commonly integrated into on-campus graduate public health programs can include working as a teaching assistant for an undergraduate public health course. Online students generally do not complete these internships and fellowships in the same way, if they are offered at all. Learners may obtain placement at an internship within their local community or participate in a research-based fellowship under the supervision of a professor.

Curriculum for an Online Ph.D. in Public Health

Although courses differ by school and program, the following list includes a few common courses you may encounter during your Ph.D. in public health online studies.

  1. Epidemiology: This introductory course to epidemiology emphasizes foundational knowledge in the spread of disease, including risk factors, examining ongoing studies, and gaining a broader understanding of the promotion of health and preventing disease in communities.

  2. Research Design: Ph.D. programs generally emphasize research in various forms, and students often complete more than one research discipline. For example, one course may cover qualitative methods and another course may cover quantitative methods.

  3. Ethics in Public Health: Public health workers interact with a variety of different populations. This course examines the ethical issues faced by professionals on a day-to-day basis. Students explore the ethics involved in human subject research, the implementation of public health programs, and the falsification of data in research.

  4. Public Health Data Analysis: Students must learn to interpret and analyze data collected in public health research. This course covers methods of analysis, including the use of specialized computer software, the protection of human subject confidentiality, and proper methods for communication or presentation of data.

  5. Biostatistics: Since much of the research conducted in public health includes biology elements, many Ph.D. programs in public health require a course in biostatistics. This course covers fundamental principles of biostatistics, including models of regression and multivariate methods, and applications for the use of these models and methods in public health research and analysis.

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