Best Online MPH Programs For 2021
Written By: Editorial Staff @ NursingProcess.org
The COVID-19 crisis has reemphasized the importance of effective public health measures. While medical science has been grappling with the development of therapeutics and vaccines, it has fallen upon public health initiatives to contain and control the pandemic. In fact, many of the advances in health and quality of life over the past century and a half, including immunization campaigns, the reduction of tobacco use, an increase in motor vehicle safety and increased workplace safety have been achievements that are directly the result of the science of public health. In public health, the emphasis is upon prevention rather than treatment. Most professionals who work in the public health field have at least a master’s degree. Online MPH degrees make this field of study accessible to individuals who are juggling job and family obligations. If you’re interested in learning which schools offer the best online MPH programs for 2021, please keep reading.
What Exactly is the Goal of a Master of Public Health (MPH) Degree Program?
Public health master’s degree (MPH) programs are designed to train professionals who are interested in working with the health needs of populations or communities. These professionals are involved in efforts that will directly promote better health outcomes through their own career efforts; they are also likely to influence policymakers whose efforts will affect future generations. A good public health education will give you access to a set of tools that will allow you to address issues like disease prevention, consumer and environmental safety, and social and cultural barriers to health, which can have deleterious effects on the health status of specific populations.
Who Accredits MPH Online Programs and Why Accreditation is Important?
The Council on Education for Public Health
is the agency the U.S. Department of Education has entrusted to carry out the accreditation of all academic public health programs, including public health schools affiliated with universities, public health programs unaffiliated with public health schools, and online master of public health programs. Accreditation is a formal review that ensures a curriculum meets certain, consensually agreed-upon standards of excellence. Think of accreditation as a quality assurance process. It’s unwise to attend any master of public health online program that is not accredited.
Types of Concentrations Offered in Online MPH Programs
The five core public health disciplines offered through online MPH programs are:
• Health policy and management:
Health policy and management is a multidisciplinary field that applies quantitative and qualitative research to the oversight of delivery, quality, and costs associated with healthcare distribution.
• Social and behavioral health:
Social and behavioral health focuses upon identifying the social determinants associated with positive and negative public health behaviors. It’s also concerned with identifying and decreasing risk factors.
Epidemiology is the data-driven study of disease determinants and disease distribution within a given population.
Biostatistics is the development of statistical models and the application of those models to medical and biological data.
• Environmental health:
Environmental health studies the ways factors in the external environment affect community health.
Five Advantages of Online MPH Programs Over Traditional MPH Programs
In the early days of online learning, it was often assumed that an education acquired through online classes was somehow inferior to the education one might acquire in a classroom. That assumption was dispelled long before the COVID-19 pandemic compelled many universities and colleges to switch to a virtual learning model, however. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Planning
published a study that concluded that distance learning is actually more effective than traditional face-to-face classroom learning.
Online MPH degree programs have the following advantages over traditional classroom MPH programs:
1. Self-paced learning:
With master’s in public health online programs, you have the flexibility to proceed at your own pace, lingering over materials until you’re certain you’ve mastered them and speeding through materials that come more easily. So long as you meet your deadlines and respond appropriately to whatever expectations exist about your online participation, you have total control over your learning process.
2. Lower costs:
Although costs vary among online MPH programs, on the whole, they are less expensive than traditional MPH programs. Your tuition fees are likely to be lower, and you will not be out of pocket for housing, food, and transportation.
3. The comfort of home:
Do you feel like spending the day studying in your pajamas? Try doing that if you’re expected to show up in a classroom! It’s easy, though, when you’re enrolled in an online degree program.
4. Multiple communication channels:
Instead of waiting for scheduled office hours, you’ll have the opportunity to communicate with your online professors through email, electronic chat, video conferencing, instant messaging, social media, and other venues. Your professor will probably have a preferred channel of communication, and that’s the one you should go with.
5. Easily transferable credits:
So long as you attend an accredited MPH program, the credits you earn should be easy to transfer should you decide to switch schools. Some programs will not allow you to transfer more than 30 to 50 percent of your total credits, though, so always check with the Admissions Advisor at your new school.
How Long are Online MPH Programs?
An online MPH program typically takes one to three years to complete. Full-time students will be able to finish the online master’s degree program associated with Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health
in 11 months while the MPH programs associated with the School of Public Health at University of California at Berkeley
will take 27 months to complete. George Washington University’s Milken Institute of Public Health
offers both two- and three-year options.
Keep in mind, however, that online MPH programs are designed to accommodate part-time students. Typically, curriculum requirements are listed in terms of total credits, and you have control over the total number of credits you take each semester. Many online MPH schools do require that you complete all necessary credits for your degree within five years at the most.
How Much Do MPH Online Programs Cost?
The costs of online MPH programs run the gamut from approximately $15,000 to approximately $90,000. The University of South Florida’s online epidemiology concentration, for example, will set you back $20,500 if you’re a Florida resident and $25,000 if you’re from out of state. Similarly, an online MPH degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham will cost $23,000 if you’re a resident of The Yellowhammer State and $46,000 if you’re not. The University of Illinois, on the other hand, charges prospective MPH candidates approximately $35,000 whether or not they hail from The Land of Lincoln.
Online MPH programs typically charge by credit. Some of these programs may charge more for the first credit hour than for subsequent credit hours as an incentive to get students to take more credits per semester. Students will also be responsible for paying mandatory fees as well as the costs for all books and other study materials.
Though your MPH coursework will largely be determined by your area of concentration, certain core classes are common to all five public health specialties. Such coursework typically includes classes in public health fundamentals such as determinants of health, analytical skills used in public health research, and the implementation of public health interventions. Students are introduced in this manner to all five concentrations within public health. Some online MPH programs require one or more campus sessions to complement online learning and to give students and professors the opportunity to network face-to-face.
The Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University, for example, has a core curriculum
that consists of 17 public health course credits. Courses include Fundamentals of Health Policy, Fundamentals of Program Evaluation, Biostatistical Applications for Public Health, and Principles and Practice of Epidemiology.
The University of Southern Florida requires MPH candidates to complete 12 core public health course credits
. These classes include History and Systems of Public Health and a two-part Population Assessment course that is basically an introduction to the quantitative methods used in public health research and analysis.
at Emory University’s Rollins School of Public Health include Introduction to the U.S. Health Care System, Introduction to Biostatistics, Applied Epidemiology, and Perspectives in Environmental Health.
Admission criteria for Online MPH programs vary by school. You will have to complete an application, and you may have to pay a nonrefundable fee to submit that application.
You’ll need to have completed your bachelor’s degree before you can be admitted into any graduate program, and most schools require you to have maintained a minimum grade point average (GPA) throughout your undergraduate work. Schools will verify your GPA by requesting your undergraduate transcripts. These transcripts must be sent from the undergraduate school or schools you attended. Some schools may require you to take the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Most programs will also require classes in human biology and algebra as a prerequisite for admission. Most schools require letters of recommendation and a resume as well.
For admission into the MPH program at the University of California at Berkeley
, you will need a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0. Admission candidates are encouraged to take the online GRE. You will have to make arrangements to have your transcripts sent, and you will also have to write two essays: a statement of purpose that will describe how an MPH can help you meet your professional aspirations and a personal history. You will have to submit at least three letters of recommendation.
The School of Health at the University of Illinois at Chicago uses a process similar to UC Berkeley’s. The University of Minnesota requires the same basic information, but that information must be submitted through SOPHAS, the centralized application service for public health.
Ways to Pay for Your MPH Education
As a graduate student in an online MPH program, you may be eligible for federal grants, scholarships, and loans, so make sure to submit a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)
by its deadline. You may also be eligible for state loans and other forms of state-subsidized financial aid depending upon guidelines in the state where you live. Additionally, some colleges and universities offer grants and loans to distance-learning students in addition to needs-based and merit-based scholarships.
Loans from private lenders are another option, although typically, these carry higher interest rates than federally backed or state-backed loans. If you apply for a school loan through a private bank or financial institution, they will run a credit check and base the interest they charge you on the results of that credit check.
Seven Things You Need to Do to Get Accepted into the Top Online MPH Degree Programs
Admission into the best online Public Health Master’s degree programs is a highly competitive process, and you will have to plan accordingly. Here are seven tips for getting ahead:
Make a list of your favorite schools. Once you make up your mind to attain an online MPH degree, get right down to researching schools so that you can figure out which ones are most suitable to your goals.
Beginning applying to your favorite schools as early as possible. Find out their prerequisites and admission requirements and determine whether you have enough time to fulfill them all.
Make sure to complete any coursework that’s a prerequisite for admission. You’ll be able to take these classes online or at a local community college.
If your admission depends upon attaining a certain score on a standardized test, consider taking a prep course.
Get some volunteer experience. Community outreach and engagement with organizations like the American Red Cross, the Peace Corps, and AmeriCorps can go a long way toward establishing the seriousness of your commitment.
Spend time crafting your statement of purpose. Your statement of purpose is what’s going to help you stand out from a crowd of admission candidates with similar qualifications. Include why you’re interested in public health and any experience you may have in the field, your academic and professional history to date, and what you plan to do once you’ve earned your MPH.
Many online MPH schools require an interview. Make sure you’re prepared to communicate your genuine interest in the field of public health confidently and effectively.
Following are the 10 Best Online MPH Programs for 2021
Programs Offered: One-Year MPH
, 18-Month MPH
, and Customizable MPH
Global Health, Health Policy, Environmental & Occupational Health, Epidemiology & Public Health Research Methods, Health Communication, and Program Planning & Evaluation
Health Policy & Management, Community Health Sciences, Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Spatial Data Science, and Global Health
3) University of Minnesota - Minneapolis, MNConcentrations: Public Health Administration & Policy
, Maternal & Child Health
, and Public Health Practice
, Global Disaster Management & Humanitarian Relief
, Health, Safety & Environment
, Infection Control
, Public Health Administration
, Public Health Practice
, Social Marketing
, and Nutrition & Dietetics
5) University of Illinois - Chicago, ILConcentrations: Community Health Sciences
, Health Policy & Administration
, and Public Health Informatics
6) University of Alabama - Birmingham, ALConcentrations: Population Health
, Environmental & Occupational Health
, Health Behavior
, Health Care Organization
, and Maternal & Child Health Policy & Leadership
Concentrations: Public Health Practice
& Social & Behavioral Sciences
, & MPH/RD
Concentrations: Applied Epidemiology
, Applied Public Health Informatics
, & Prevention Science
View Ranking Methodology
Recommended Certifications for MPH Graduates
As yet, no nationwide certification process exists for public health graduates, but there are a number of certifications that may help convince prospective employers that you are the right person for the job they’re filling.
1. CPH (Certified in Public Health):
This certification is offered by the National Board of Public Health
and tests your knowledge of all five core competencies. The exam costs $385 Individuals who successfully pass the test must earn 50 recertification credits every two years in order to be recertified.
2. CHES (Certified Health Education Specialist):
The Council on Education for Public Health offers this credential
, which focuses on quantitative standards in the field of public health. In order to sit for the exam, you must have three years of professional public health experience as well as a graduate degree. The CHES exam costs $220 for students and $270 for non-students. Individuals who pass the test must renew their certification every year; renewal involves a $60 fee. Additionally, every five years, individuals who pass the test must be recertified, which involves the completion of 75 continuing education credits.
3. MCHES (Master Certified Health Education Specialist): The MCHES exam
is an advanced practitioner test that is also administered by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing. The exam fee is $285 for individuals who are CHES-certified and $335 for individuals who are not CHES-certified. Recertification takes place every five years and requires 75 continuing education credits.
4. REHS/RS (Registered Environmental Health Specialist/Registered Sanitarian):
As the name of the credential implies, the REHS/RS attests to an individual’s knowledge of environmental health. The exam is administered by National Environmental Health Association
, and costs $95 for members and $130 for non-members. The certification can be renewed every two years by submitting a fee—$130 for members and $345 for non-members—and completing 24 hours of continuing education units.
5. CPHA (Certified Public Health Administrator) and CERC (Certified Emergency Response Coordinator):
The Public Health Practitioner Certification Board oversees both the CPHA and CERC certifications
. The former certification is a recognition of professional competency while the latter speaks to expertise in emergency preparedness. Neither certification requires an exam. The application fee for each certification is $175. Each certification must be renewed every three years and requires 90 hours of continuing education units.
Career opportunities are plentiful for MPH graduates. Career options will depend upon on the public health concentration you choose to focus upon.
As a health policy and management specialist, you will be able to find employment as a healthcare policy analyst with a government agency, nonprofit or corporate consulting firm; or as a healthcare administrator in a medical facility. Epidemiologists work for governments, healthcare providers, and academic institutions, performing fieldwork and analyzing data. Specialists in social and behavioral health may work as community health educators or outreach coordinators, while biostatisticians design experiments and surveys that collect information used by the research and development arms of commercial companies in the private sector. Environmental health specialists may help design the safety protocols used in factories or help draft regulations on behalf of government agencies that are used to fight air, soil, and water pollution.
Once you get some experience under your belt, you can work as a public health consultant or project manager in your area of expertise.
Average Earnings for MPH Graduates
On average, MPH graduates earn approximately $31 an hour, which comes to $5,370 a month or $64,398 annually. The most highly paid public health-related occupations are health administrators, followed by public health engineers, biostatisticians, and epidemiologists. Professionals whose public health degree complements another skill set—nurse educators, for example, or public health attorneys—also tend to be at the top of the public health-related pay scale.
Job Market for MPH Graduates
The demand for public health specialists is growing. The Bureau for Labor Statistics projects that within the next 10 years, the need for epidemiologists will increase by 5 percent, the need for health educators by 13 percent
, and the need for health administrators and managers by 32 percent
. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic emphasized the vital importance of the public health workforce, the Association of Schools of Public Health estimated the nation was facing a shortfall of 250,000 public health workers. The job market for MPH graduates is strong and likely to remain strong for the foreseeable future.
Useful Organizations & Associations
MPH graduates can enhance their professional opportunities by affiliating with the following organizations:
• Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH):
ASPPH is an advocacy organization that represents schools and programs that are accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health.
• American Public Health Association (APHA):
APHA is a membership organization open to all public health practitioners. It publishes a monthly, peer-reviewed journal called “The American Journal of Public Health” as well as a monthly newspaper called “The Nation’s Health.” Its annual meeting is attended by thousands of people, eager to share the latest public health-related research with one another.
• Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE):
SOPHE is a membership organization for academics in the public health field and other educators and researchers. Many of the group’s 4,000 members hold CHES certifications.
• American School Health Association (ASHA):
ASHA is an organization for public health professionals involved in elementary school and secondary school education.
• Eta Sigma Gamma:
Eta Sigma Gamma is the public health honor society, which celebrates excellence in the field of public health education.
• National Board of Public Health Examiners (NBPHE):
NBPHE is the organization that administers various voluntary certification examinations and oversees the resulting certification program.
Obtaining an online MPH degree is not easy. The process requires organizational skills, determination, and a lot of hard, hard work. If you have a passion for health science, however, and you think the furtherance of wellness and disease prevention are worthwhile ends, this may be the avenue for your ambitions. Public health can increase the quality of life for individuals in every walk of life, living in every part of the world, in the present and for generations to come. Online MPH programs can help you be instrumental in achieving these important aims.
Frequently Asked Questions Answered by Our Expert
1. How Many Accredited Online MPH Programs Are There in the U.S.?
Currently, there are 253 educational institutions in the U.S. offering online MPH degrees, and that number is increasing. The growth in the number of programs, as well as the number of students eager to enroll in them, testifies to how dynamic and diverse the field of public health has become.
2. Does it Matter Where You Get Your MPH From?
So long as the educational institution you enroll in is accredited by the Council on Education for Public Health, you’re okay going to the school that best meets your individual needs rather than one you’d be tempted to attend purely on the basis of a prestigious name. Accreditation ensures that your education will meet professional standards.
3. Is it Hard to Get into an MPH Program?
As more and more individuals apply to MPH programs, acceptance rates are likely to go down. Even top-ranked Johns Hopkins, however, currently has an acceptance rate of 50 percent, which means that one out of every two people who apply will be accepted. Online MPH programs generally have higher rates of acceptance than traditional campus programs. Make sure the application form you submit is as polished as it can be and that you have fulfilled all the required prerequisites for admission.
4. How Many MPH Programs Should I Apply To?
You can apply to as many programs as you like, but keep in mind that most schools require an application fee. Perhaps the best way to go about applying to MPH programs is to utilize the same strategy you used when applying to college. Dream big with a prestigious school or two; include a few schools that are a perfect fit for your test scores and transcripts; and always include a handful of safety schools that you know you’ll get into no matter what.
5. What Is A Good GRE Score for MPH Programs?
The top MPH programs are generally looking for candidates whose scores fall into the 75th percentile or higher.
6. How Can I Get into MPH With a Low GPA?
If your undergraduate GPA is below average, don’t give up hope. Many MPH programs will pay more attention to your grade point average in your last two years as an undergraduate, particularly if you have a convincing explanation as to why your grades were low in your freshman or sophomore year. Other schools may be willing to admit you into their programs on a probationary basis.
With a low GPA, it’s extremely important for all the other parts of your application to be strong. Make sure that your essays dazzle the admissions office and that your recommendations portray you in the very best light. Aim to get a high score on your GRE. Unusual volunteer or professional experiences that show off your intelligence and commitment will command attention as well.
7. How Can I Get into an MPH Program With a Low GRE?
Many MPH programs these days have stopped using GRE scores as one of their admissions criteria, recognizing that standardized tests may not be an objective measure of student performance or potential. That said, if you scored low on the GRE, and you can afford to retake the exam, you should probably do so, and if you can afford to invest in a prep program that will boost your scores, you should do that, too. If you can’t afford to retake the exam, then make sure the rest of your application is as strong as you can make it. The GRE is only one of the factors the college admissions committee will review in evaluating your application.
8. Why Get an MPH as an MD or a Nurse?
Many healthcare professionals are opting for dual degrees. Your professional medical or nursing education has already equipped you with the clinical skills you need to address the health needs of individuals; your public health education will give you a scientific understanding of the health and wellness needs of communities. These two perspectives are complementary. As a clinician with an MPH, you will have a multitude of career options in research, health education and health services administration as well as in the delivery of clinical care.