25 Best Online Master’s Degrees in Public Health in 2021

Public health has become a hot topic over the years — especially in light of recent events. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in interest in public health and a need for more experts in this field. 

Students interested in pursuing careers that focus on disease prevention, public health policy, nutrition, and global health should consider exploring a master’s degree in public health. A master’s in public health will introduce you to a wide range of topics, from biostatistics, epidemiology, disease control, policy development, and the cultural factors of public health. Tuition for public health master’s programs can range from about $18,000 to $70,000, depending on the type of university you attend, the program you choose, and where you live.

Career prospects for graduates with MPH degrees also vary depending on the chosen concentration area and career path. Because the majority of MPH programs hold epidemiology as a core component, graduates may go on to work in epidemiologist positions. According to the most recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), epidemiologists earned a median wage of about $74,560 per year in 2020, and the field had a projected job growth that was faster than the national average.

Accredited Online College Programs

Best Online Master’s Degrees in Public Health in 2021

  1. University of California-Berkeley
    Location

    Berkeley, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of California, Berkeley offers Grad School Hub's top-ranked online master's program in Public Health. Students can choose between specializations in Community Health Sciences, Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Health Policy & Management, and Spatial Data Science. The interdisciplinary curriculum includes six required core courses, including Epidemiologic Methods, Health and Social Behavior, and Health Policy and Management.

    Founded in 1868, Berkeley is the flagship institution of the 10 research universities in the University of California system. The public university is a founding member of the Association of American Universities and is counted among the nation's "Public Ivies."

    • Graduation rate: 92%
    • School status: Public
    • City location: Berkeley, CA
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required 
    • Contact: online.mph@berkeley.edu 
    • Website 
  2. University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    Location

    Chapel Hill, NC

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Gillings School of Global Public Health involves live, interactive online courses each week. Students can choose from three concentrations: Epidemiology, Leadership in Practice, Nutrition, and a Registered Dietitian program. All students must also complete an applied field practicum experience and integrated learning paper. The Leadership and Nutrition concentrated programs can be completed in 20 months of full-time study or 28 months part-time. The Registered Dietitian concentration can be completed in 28 months full-time, or 36 months part-time.

    Established in 1789, UNC is one of three schools allowed to claim the title of the oldest public university in the United States. It is the flagship institution of the 17-campus University of North Carolina system. The public research university is counted among the nation's "Public Ivy" universities. It operates its own hospital, UNC Health Care, which specializes in cancer care.

  3. Harvard University
    Location

    Cambridge, MA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Harvard University offers a Master of Public Health in Epidemiology through its Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology. The department was rated the most prolific research department in the world by the National Research Council. The program is designed to be completed on a part-time basis within a blended classroom format. Students can expect to earn two-thirds of the program's credit requirements through online case studies, interactive exercises, and video sessions. Online courses include Decision Science for Public Health and Design and Conduct of Trials in Preventive Medicine. The program also includes two intensive on-campus sessions and a self-designed, faculty-mentored, year-long practicum experience. The field experience culminates in a research project and presentation. The 45-credit degree program spans two years.

    Established in 1636, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. A private Ivy League research university, it is considered one of the most prestigious universities in the world based on its history, influence, and wealth. The university has a main campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and additional campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area.

    • Graduation rate: 98%
    • School status: Private
    • City location: Cambridge, MA
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required (the 2021-2022 academic year only)
    • Contact: +1 (617) 432-1031
    • Website 
  4. University of South Florida
    Location

    Tampa, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of South Florida offers several online programs leading to a Master of Public Health Degree. All applicants should have at least three years of full-time health-related work experience. Students can concentrate in Epidemiology; Global Disaster Management, Humanitarian Relief & Homeland Security; Health, Safety & Environment; Infection Control; Nutrition and Dietetics; Public Health Practice; or Social Marketing. Students must complete a supervised field experience, written report, and comprehensive exam.

    Founded in 1956, USF is a member institution of the State University System of Florida. Located in Tampa, it is the fourth-largest public university in Florida by student enrollment. USF Health researchers conduct significant research in fields including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, heart health, and prosthetics.

    • Graduation rate: 74%
    • School status: Public
    • City location: Tampa, FL
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: GRE is required for MSPH
    • Contact: preadmissions@usf.edu 
    • Website 
  5. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Southern California awards a Master of Public Health through its highly-ranked Keck School of Medicine. The program has no residency requirements and can be completed entirely online, with the exception of the field practicum, which can be completed in students' own local communities. Students can choose from six concentrations: Biostatistics and Epidemiology, Community Health Promotion, Generalist, GeoHealth, Global Health, and Health Services and Policy. The Generalist concentration requires four core courses: Foundations in Health Education and Promotion, Health Service and Delivery in the U.S., Principles of Biostatistics, and Principles of Epidemiology. Students may complete the degree through an accelerated format, which involves a 40-hour-per-week course workload throughout one academic year.

    Founded in 1880, USC is the oldest private research university in the state of California and the largest private employer in Los Angeles. A sea- and space-grant institution, USC has a very high level of research activity. The university's technological developments include antivirus software, DNA computing, and the Domain Name System.

    • Graduation rate: 92%
    • School status: Private
    • City location: Los Angeles, CA
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required 
    • Contact: admissions@mphdegree.usc.edu 
    • Website
  6. Johns Hopkins University
    Location

    Baltimore, MD

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Johns Hopkins University offers a Master of Public Health through its Bloomberg School of Public Health. The online program is designed to be completed on a part-time basis. It requires about one to two weeks of on-campus residency each year, which can be completed in Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; or Barcelona, Spain. Course offerings include Fundamentals of Health, Behavior & Society; Pharmaceuticals Management for Underserved Populations; and Problem Solving in Public Health.

    Founded in 1876, JHU is considered the nation's first research university. The university's research centers include the Berman Institute of Bioethics, the Center for a Livable Future, and the Space Telescope Science Institute. JHU operates learning facilities in Maryland and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, as well as in China, Italy, and Singapore.

    • Graduation rate: 94%
    • School status: Private 
    • City location: Baltimore, MD
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required (this year only), 69-89% Verbal (GRE), 57-77% Quantitative (GRE)
    • Contact: mphprog@jhu.edu 
    • Website 
  7. Florida International University
    Location

    Miami, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Florida International University offers an online program leading to a generalist Master of Public Health degree. The 45-credit interdisciplinary curriculum covers areas such as epidemiology and distribution of diseases, social and environmental health factors, and effective policy development for diverse populations. Core MPH courses include Health Behavior and Public Health and Public Health Statistics. General core courses include Community Health Promotion Planning and Research and Health Demography.

    Established in 1965, FIU has since grown into the fourth-largest university in the United States in terms of student enrollment. It is also the largest university in South Florida and the second-largest in the state. The public university is classified by the Carnegie Foundation as a research university with "highest research activity."

    • Graduation rate: 67%
    • School status: Public
    • City location: Miami, FL
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required
    • Contact: 855-299-9177
    • Website 
  8. San Diego State University
    Location

    San Diego, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    San Diego State University offers a fully online program leading to a Master of Public Health in Health Promotion & Behavioral Science. Prospective applicants must also have a minimum of three years of full-time work experience and be currently employed full-time, preferably in a public health-related profession. The 51-unit curriculum includes courses in Environmental Determinants of Human Health, Health Communication, and Motivating Health Behavior. All students must complete a 180-hour field placement experience and complete a capstone project.

    Founded in 1897 as a teacher training school, SDSU is the third-oldest member of the 23-campus California State University system. A public space-grant research university, it is categorized by the Carnegie Foundation among doctoral universities with high research activity. In addition to its main campus in San Diego, SDSU operates two branch campuses: the Imperial Valley Campus in Brawley and Calexico, California, and the SDSU-Georgia campus in Tbilisi, Georgia.

    • Graduation rate: 76%
    • School status: Public
    • City location: San Diego, CA
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required (this year only)
    • Contact: (619) 594-3376
    • Website  
  9. University of Minnesota
    Location

    Minneapolis and Saint Paul, MN

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    The University of Minnesota offers an executive program leading to a Master of Public Health in Public Health Practice. The degree program is offered in a hybrid on-campus and online format, combining Web-based instruction and on-campus summer courses. Qualified applicants are professionals with an advanced degree such as an MS, JD, or MD. The program also considers public health professionals with significant work experience who have completed the university's Public Health Core Concepts Certificate. Individuals in the program can choose a focus area, such as food safety, global health, or public policy. The average completion time is three to five years. Students in the program receive in-state tuition rates.

    Founded in 1851, UMN is the flagship institution within the University of Minnesota system and the system's oldest and largest campus. A land- and space-grant institution, UMN is classified as a doctoral university with "highest research activity" by the Carnegie Foundation.

    • Graduation rate: 84%
    • School status: Public
    • City location: Minneapolis, MN
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required
    • Contact: mill3394@umn.edu 
    • Website 
  10. Emory University
    Location

    Atlanta, GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Emory University provides an Executive Master of Public Health through its Rollins School of Public Health. The EMPH is completable online, although, EMPH students are expected to attend two residential sessions for their degree requirements. Incoming students begin their EMPH in the fall semester and are expected to have a minimum of three years of work experience in the healthcare industry.

    Overall, the EMPH consists of 42 credits and provides three different concentrations for Public Health majors to choose from. Among these concentrations are Prevention Science, Applied Epidemiology, and Applied Public Health Informatics. All EMPH students are required to study classes such as Applied Public Health Informatics or Strategies and Resources for Online Learning.

    • Graduation rate: 90%
    • School status: Private
    • City location: Atlanta, GA
    • Standardized test scores/requirements: Test scores not required (this year only), 154,160 Verbal (GRE), 155,163 Quantitative (GRE)
    • Contact: sphepidept@emory.edu 
    • Website 

  • Our Methodology, Explained


    Grad School Hub compiles rankings based on public data released from educational, commercial, and government databases. Sources such as the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics play a significant role in how we source our educational data. After collecting insight for each institution, we organize information into five weighted categories.

    Metric Data Used Percentage
    Academic Quality Full-time faculty percentage, student-to-faculty ratio, student retention and graduation rates 30%
    Affordability Tuition rates, median student debt, and financial aid 10%
    Reputation Admission and enrollment rates 30%
    Program Offerings Number of program options 20%
    Online Enrollment Score Portion of learners taking at least one online course 10%

    A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible on our Ranking Methodology page.


Answering Your Questions About Master’s in Public Health Graduate Degrees

  • Is a master’s in public health worth it?

    It can be! A master’s degree in public health can cost anywhere from about $18,000 to $70,000 in total. The average annual salaries for graduates also range quite a bit, and are typically in the ranges of $40,000 to $110,000, though what you earn will depend on your experience, specialization, education level, and other factors.

    Ultimately, whether a master’s degree in public health is worth it to you will depend on the financial decisions you make and the career you choose, as well as your own definition of worth.

  • What can you do with a master’s in public health?

    There are many careers you can apply a public health degree toward. For example, you can pursue jobs in epidemiology, global health, infectious disease prevention, nutrition, policy making, or another related field. You could work at a local level in a school’s nutrition program or on a global level for the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • How long is a public health master’s degree?

    Most master’s degree programs take about two years to complete if you attend full time, though it does vary depending on what you study, where you study, and whether you specialize within your field. Some public health programs have an accelerated curriculum that allows you to finish in one year, while others have flexible part-time master’s programs that can take up to five years to complete.


Master’s in Public Health Overview

A master’s degree in public health will guide students in exploration of topics like biostatistics, epidemiology, disease control, policy development, and the cultural factors of public health. MPH online programs tend to be non-thesis programs that require field practicum experience. Some offer concentrations or specializations in a specific area of public health, such as epidemiology, community health, global health, nutrition, or policy development.

While some master’s in public health programs require individuals to study full-time, many online programs can be completed on a part-time basis. Students typically take anywhere from 2-5 years to graduate with their master’s degree in this field.

Admissions Requirements

Each program will have slightly different requirements for admission, as will the colleges or universities you’re applying to, but there are some common admissions requirements you can expect to see from program to program. 

To earn admission to a master’s program, you will need to show proof of a bachelor’s degree, and it may need to be in a related field to the program you’re applying for entrance into. Some programs will ask for a GPA minimum, usually between a 2.5 to 3.0, though GPA requirements typically vary greatly depending on the competitiveness of the program. 

You’ll also likely need to submit letters of recommendation and a personal essay for admission into any program. Many universities will require GRE scores, but some will offer options to waive the test or allow you to compensate for a lower score with a high GPA. 

Concentrations in Public Health 

Many master’s in public health programs offer specific concentrations that allow you to specialize your studies. Choosing a concentration can help equip you with knowledge and skills for real-life and career-specific scenarios. There are a wide variety of concentration options within public health, but they will vary by university. Some of the most common include:

Epidemiology

Epidemiology is a scientific concentration that focuses on statistical techniques to discover health trends, determine causes of disease, and evaluate the efficacy of new treatments. This concentration is ideal for students skilled in quantitative subjects and those who are passionate about causes and prevention of disease. Careers related to this concentration include epidemiologist, infection control, research analyst, data science researcher, and pharmaceutical. 

Global Health/Disaster

Degrees with this concentration will focus on the impacts of globalization and culture on public health issues. You’ll study ethics, human rights, global policies, and international relief, all through the lense of public health and disease. Careers related to this specialization are global health consultant, health systems analyst, and community specialist at organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCl)

Nutrition/Dietitian: overview

If you’re passionate about nutrition, you can choose this concentration to apply that passion and newfound knowledge at a public health level. You’ll learn about community health, developing dietary guidelines, and the effects of diet culture. 

This concentration will prepare you to work for government agencies, nutrition marketing, media companies, public health nutrition programs, and wellness companies. 

Health Policy

Public health majors who choose a health policy concentration will study laws, regulations, and policies related to health care. You’ll learn about policy-making and implementation at the local and federal levels. This concentration will prepare you for careers as a health policy analyst, legislative associate, regulatory affairs manager, and patient resource specialist. 

Career Outlook for Public Health Graduates 

Public health graduates can choose from a myriad of careers to pursue. Your education can be applied to careers in public health policy, global health communities, data and program analysis, and healthcare. 

According to the BLS, the annual salary for these fields tends to range between $48,000 to $104,00. Each career is also expected to grow at above-average rates over the next 10 years. 

CareerAverage Annual SalaryProjected Growth (2019-2029)
Epidemiologists$74,5605%
Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers$48,14013%
Dietitians and Nutritionists$63,0908%
Medical and Health Services Managers$104,28032%

What Is the ROI for a Public Health Master’s Degree? 

Tuition costs for a graduate program in public health can range anywhere from about $18,000 to $70,000 on average. There are a lot of factors that influence tuition costs, like the university’s reputation, the competitiveness of the program, your residency status, and the type of program. If you attend a private Ivy League university and live out of state, for example, your tuition price will likely be on the high end. 

According to the BLS, a career as a medical and health services manager or epidemiologist will likely result in the best return on investment. The average annual salary for a medical health service manager was about $104,000 per year as of 2020 and the field is expected to grow by about 32% over the next decade. 

Certifications and Licenses

Whether or not a certification or license is required to work in this field will depend on the career you pursue with your public health degree. If you wish to become a registered dietitian, for example, there are professional licensing requirements. If you wish to work in health education or policy analysis, you generally won’t need a license. 

That said, there are some general certifications you can get once you finish your public health education. They can give you a leg up when looking for a job and help to legitimize your expertise within the industry. Many certifications also come with memberships that allow you to network with other professionals and stay up to date on new education opportunities. These include:

Scholarships, Grants, and Financial Aid for Public Health Students 

AHIMA Foundation Merit Scholarships, $1,000-$2,500. This is a scholarship from the American Health Information Management Foundation for students pursuing a degree in information management education or health informatics. 

Foster G. McGaw Graduate Student Scholarship, $5,000. The Foundation of the American College of Healthcare Executives offers this scholarship for graduate students in their final year of a healthcare management program. The deadline for applying is March 31st. 

HOSA Scholarships, amount varies. HOSA-Future Health Professionals offer a wide variety of scholarships for students pursuing public health degrees. The application deadline is April 15th for most scholarships. 

NEHA/AAS Scholarship, $1,000. This is a scholarship from the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA) and the American Academy of Sanitarians (AA) for students pursuing a graduate degree in public health or environmental health. 

Who Can Apply For This Scholarship? 

Scholarships are available to any student — regardless of financial need or academic excellence. If you need help funding your education, seek organizations that target specific communities and demographics you’re a part of, that will increase your chances of scoring funding because the applicant pool is restricted. 

Why Should I Get a Master’s in Public Health? 

Increase salary potential
According to the BLS, master’s graduates in the healthcare and social service industry can earn an average of 30-35% more per year than bachelor’s graduates. Completing a master’s in public health can increase your annual earning potential and provide leverage for negotiating raises
Career advancement
Typically, the more education you have, the more qualified you are for senior positions in your field. A master’s in public health can set you up to enter the workforce at a higher level or help fast-track a promotion.
Expand expertise
Graduate degrees dive deeper into the subject matter and can help you become an expert in your field. If you choose a concentration, your education becomes even further specialized. You’ll graduate with advanced skills and knowledge that you can apply to your career field.

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Public Health Graduate Degree Growth

The number of graduate public health degree conferrals increased more than 300% from 1992 to 2016. 247,909 degrees have been awarded since 1992 according to the research article, “Trends in the Conferral of Graduate”.

Source: Data set from National Center for Education Statistics and the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health

A more comprehensive evaluation of how each category is determined and scored is accessible through our Ranking Methodology page.

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Danika Miller

HIGHER EDUCATION REPORTER

Danika Miller is an education reporter at Grad School Hub who covers higher education news and trends, as well as paying for college. Her writing has also appeared in Best Value Schools, Affordable Colleges Online, and Her Campus, and her financial expertise has been featured in The Simple Dollar and CreditCards.com.

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Angelica Leicht

Angelica Leicht is an editor for Grad School Hub. A proud University of Houston alum (go Cougs!), she previously served as an education reporter at Kearney Hub, and an editor at the Dallas Observer and Houston Press. Her writing has appeared in Affordable Colleges Online, Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and elsewhere.

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